These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Month: December 2014

She Remembered, Again

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I look forward to her note every year.

It arrives without fail at least a day or two before his birthday. Her penmanship is beautifully old-fashioned; filled with curls and loops and pretty letters.

Sometimes her letter is written on a separate piece of note paper, folded in half, and tucked carefully inside the card. Other times her note is written on the hard cardstock itself. No matter the form, it’s her words that matter the most to me.

Over these last 26 years, I’ve had easily ten different addresses, and yet every year she sends me a note.

Every year.

For 26 years.

For the first few years, her notes functioned as some sort of validation for me. The details of the circumstances, about which she wrote, were never discussed with my immediate family. Her letters were a warm hug; an “it’s ok” in my little world of uncertainty.

This year, she had other big family events that occurred around his birthday. Her note didn’t arrive in early October as in years past. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed, at least at first.

But then I realized I don’t really need the validation in quite the same way anymore. I was ok. I am ok. And also I’m not the center of the universe, for goodness sake.

But then…

In early November, the letter arrived.

And it totally and completely made my day.

It would be perfectly fine if she had forgotten.

But I’m so glad she remembered.

Virtual Book Tour: “Finding Zoe”

I recently read “Finding Zoe: A Deaf Woman’s Story of Identity, Love, and Adoption” by Brandi Rarus as part of an online book tour organized by Lori Holden of LavenderLuz.com.

The first half of the book provides an in-depth history of deaf culture in the United States. I learned a great deal and am embarrassed to admit I was truly unaware of the prejudices the deaf community faced for many years. I appreciate all that Ms. Rarus and her husband did (and continue to do) to bridge the gap between the hearing and deaf communities and I admire their advocacy to ensure equal rights and equal access were available to all through the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The last half of the book moves into Ms. Rarus’ family life and her deep desire to parent a girl, in addition to the boys she and her husband were raising. “Finding Zoe” is a book that was written from the heart. This is evident on every page. The love she feels for her husband, her sons, and the deaf daughter she would eventually adopt is palpable and genuine. In spite of all this goodness, I still had a tough time with this book. It left me with a lot of mixed emotions. Why? Well, maybe my answers to the questions below will offer some insights.

Each of the participants in this book tour submitted questions for discussion. I selected two (three, really – but two of the questions were quite similar, so I combined them and will answer all three).

Disclaimer: This book was difficult for me, at times. It left me with a lot of mixed emotions. I cringed at certain passages that appeared as though the birthparents were being coerced during the adoption process and that the social worker had an agenda all her own.

QUESTION:
(passage from the book): “As for Marlys (the social worker), we may never know why she didn’t tell BJ (the birthfather) that Sandy and Stephane had relinquished Celine (Zoe) and that she had gone back to foster care. While I can certainly appreciate BJ’s anguish, in a way I believe that what Marlys did turned out to be a blessing. It prevented him from fighting for Zoe all over again, saving him and his family so much extra pain and heartache. And it allowed Zoe to find where she really belonged.”
(here’s the actual question): This passage creeps me out. It colors Marlys as unethical, especially with some of her earlier pressure to get BJ to agree to relinquish. I also feel the viewpoint is somewhat dismissive of BJ as Zoe’s birth father. How did this passage strike you?

(similar question): Was anyone else curious why BJ wasn’t given more support when he clearly wanted to parent his daughter? It seemed like the Christian agency and the agency representative, Marlys, had an agenda and the biological father and his parents were not part of their plan. 

My Response: The element of coercion in the italicized passage above bothered me. But more than that, the agency and the social worker acted unethically. The birthfather can and should be a part of a decision to place his child for adoption. The birth father in this real-life situation should have been heard, and he was not.

I am of the belief that homes and families need to be found for children. Not the other way around.

When birthparents and adoptive parents come together to form an open adoption plan, I believe the best interests of the child are served. Ultimately, Zoe landed in a very loving and supportive family environment and that is most important. But as with any adoption, there is pain and grief and loss that need to be acknowledged.

By all accounts, this was a journey with a singular focus: to adopt a baby. And not just any baby; a girl. And not just any girl; a girl who is deaf. I say this with the utmost respect: we need to be extremely careful when the fulfillment of our own dreams is intricately linked with someone else’s life.

It’s worth mentioning that I believe the author’s deep desire for a daughter was in no way wrong or misguided. We all have dreams of how we would like our family to be. In this story, the author was already a parent to three sons. I admit I cringed a bit when she said she was afraid to have another biological child for fear it “might be another boy.” Rather, she says she had a dream or a vision that she would parent a daughter. I don’t dismiss her desires at all; but should her dreams supersede the desires of the baby’s biological parents?

My heart hurts for the birthfather in this story. He did not look at Zoe’s deafness as a “negative.” Would there be challenges if he were to raise her? Of course. Would it be difficult at times? Yes. Did he have every right to parent his own child? Yes.

I find it very sad and incredibly ironic that his concerns, his needs and his desires, were unable to be heard by anyone else. His choices were taken away from him and it appears as though he was unfairly coerced into making what others told him was “the best decision.” My heart aches for him; but I admire his ability to remain a part of Zoe’s life in this open adoption.

 

QUESTION: I felt like the focus on what Brandi “needed” to make her life feel complete was very one-sided and did not acknowledge the deep grief and loss issues that are inherent in adoption. Adopting a child is not a replacement for having a biological child no matter how much they resemble or are like you. I also don’t think “God’s plan” involves separating a baby from his or her biological mother. Deafness is a difference as is adoption. Both must be talked about with truth and transparency. Does anyone else agree that this story exploits Zoe who is not yet old enough to truly understand the complexities of her story – a story that is hers to tell?

My Response: I don’t feel this book is exploitative at all. As I said earlier, I do believe that Ms. Rarus and her husband have nothing but love for all of their children. However, I do agree with the sentiment that the book felt very one-sided, with little discussion about the inherent losses in adoption.

Again, I have issue with the element of coercion. The phrases “it’s God’s plan” or “it’s meant to be” indicate (to me) that people believed this young mother was just a vessel to carry Ms. Rarus’ child. I think that’s an efficient way to dismiss the role of the birthparents.

With all sincerity and respect, I believe Zoe’s deafness is irrelevant to the adoption. She was born to two young people who may not have been ready to be parents. Her deafness may have complicated things since it was clearly not something either of them had experienced. However, it does not mean that they would have been unable to parent this child. In the same way an able-bodied mother and father can learn to care for a child permanently confined to a wheelchair, a hearing mother and father can learn to care for a child who is deaf.

*************

From the Epilogue and other things I’ve read and seen online, I believe this is a very close and loving family. I wish them nothing but happiness in the future and I admire their resolve to parent Zoe in an open adoption relationship with her birthparents.

To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at LavenderLuz.com.

Where We’ve Been. Where We’re Going.

For the last few months, my family and I have been singularly focused on where we’re going. My husband was transferred and for us that means less travel for him and the chance to build a new home.

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We signed the cornerstone of our house 🙂

And so, we found a lovely small town in Delaware to build. We’ve been tracking the progress of the house. From the groundbreaking to the framing to the walls and the shingles and now the floors, carpet, and appliances. Yes, it’s all coming together. We’re within three weeks of moving in and we’re so excited.

But.

With any new beginning, there has to be an ending.

When we moved to New Jersey nearly three years ago, I never dreamed we’d grow to love this place. After all, we’d lived in the suburbs of Syracuse for the past eight years – the only home our now 10-year old daughter had ever known – and we were heartbroken to leave.

The friends we’d made had become like family.

Beak and Skiff apple orchard, 2008

Beak and Skiff apple orchard, 2008

We went to the same farm every year and rode the tractor out to the orchard to pick apples.

For eight years we ate fried dough, eagerly awaited the unveiling of the butter sculpture, and rode elephants at the Great New York State Fair.

We drove the Lights on the Lake every year, including the time about ten minutes into the drive when we quickly discovered our daughter had the flu. Don’t ask.

My point is, we grew to love Syracuse. And much to our surprise, we’ve grown to love New Jersey, too. Why were we surprised? Because this was supposed to be a stop along the way. We’d only planned to be here for a few years, before finding a more permanent place to settle. We’re not living in a traditional neighborhood; we’re renting. We’re among transients and people navigating the in-between.

First day of school, 2013

First day of school, 2013

First day of preschool, 2013

First day of preschool, 2013

And yet, community is what we found. We found friendships and unexpected kindnesses among the neighbors in our rental community in the days following SuperStorm Sandy when, like hundreds of thousands of Jerseyans, we were left without power. We found it at the bus stop where we met new friends, confronted the neighborhood bully (an eight-year old!), and waved good-bye as our little ones headed off on their first day of school. We found it at two elementary schools, two preschools, one dancing recital, two years of cheerleading, three years of Girl Scouts, mommy-and-me swim lessons, Zumba classes, library storytimes, and numerous choral concerts and school plays.

The common denominator in all of these experiences? People.

Every experience we’ve had in New Jersey has been a good one. And it’s because of the people we’ve met.

Right now, we’re filled with a weird combination of nervousness-excitement-anxiety-anticipation.

Delaware looks promising. The schools our girls will attend look terrific. Our neighborhood seems great so far.

Delaware means the end of what has largely been a nomadic lifestyle for us: my husband is from Texas; I’m from Massachusetts. We’ve both lived in Florida and Illinois. Our older daughter was born in Massachusetts; our younger daughter was born in upstate New York. And we’ve lived in northern New Jersey for the last three years.

In about 18 days, we’ll leave Jersey and drive two hours south to our new home. And we’ll take with us three years of special memories. It’s become another home in our journey as a family.

Thank you, Garden State 🙂

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