Thursday, May 6, 2010

Not going it alone

During my 1-month hiatus from writing on this blog, all manner of adoption news raced across the front pages. Most focused on Torry Hansen, the Tennessee nurse who sent her 7-year old adopted son back to Russia alone with a note declaring that she could no longer cope with the child she'd brought home, along with Russia's subsequent freeze on all adoptions to U.S. families (a freeze that was since denied/lifted).

Amidst all of the blaring headlines, panicked postings, and vilification of Ms. Hansen, I was particularly struck by this column written by KJ Dell'Antonia, a mother of three, including a little girl from China. Her discussion of the challenges faced by adoptive parents and children, including the false expectation (myth?) that all will be happiness and light when adopted parents and children come together, is one that I found particularly powerful as we go through a similar process, though on a domestic basis rather than an international one.

Like me, Hansen must have thought she was prepared. She was screened, questioned, and evaluated. She would have sat through the mandatory "adoption education" session on institutionalized children featuring descriptions of sexual and other abuses, violent anger, and unpredictable procedural delays. She would have filled out forms, she would have been evaluated by social workers, and, because of Russia's strict travel requirements, she would have traveled there twice—the first time to meet the child she would adopt, and again, after a waiting period, to confirm her commitment to parenting him and to legalize their ties. But prospective adoptive parents are either incorrigible optimists (that was me) or people of deep and abiding faith, and it does not really sink in with most of them that things might end badly—might really end badly—until it is too late.

I started writing this blog, separate from my other "regular" blog, because I wanted a place to share my experience as a prospective adoptive dad. It's a perspective that I found to be rather rare in the blogosphere, at least compared to the avalanche of brilliant (and some not so much) blogs written by adoptive moms (here's where I insert a shameless plug for my wife's phenomenal blog) and birth moms.

But writing this blog and reading the others out there has also introduced me to a growing virtual community that helps me get a better understanding of what other people are going through, how they cope, how their lives have changed, and what we might expect. This is a powerful resource we need to take full advantage of if we're to move through this journey as smoothly as possible.

I wonder what Torry Hansen had in the way of support. Did she have resources to help her and her child? Perhaps they did but the difficulties eventually became just too overwhelming. I feel for Hansen as well as for the troubled son she put on a plane to Russia. I'm approaching our adoption in the "incorrigible optimist" camp but do so knowing that we have a remarkable support network of family and friends (both real and "virtual") who will be there to aid, advise, and encourage. I can't imagine trying to do this alone. Thankfully, we won't have to.

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