These are all questions that I have been asked over and over and over again–including by complete strangers.
Q: Why did you adopt from Ethiopia?
A: Because Selam lived in Ethiopia
Q: No, really, why Ethiopia?
A: No, really, Selam lived there.
Q: Why didn’t you adopt from the USA?
A: I could be all annoying and say because Selam didn’t live in the US. But I’ll actually say three things in response to this oh-so-often asked question.
- This is a really, really, really personal decision. Sort of like decisions that couples make regarding birth control, child-birth, etc. It’s not really a great question to ask someone you don’t know. Not that hasn’t stopped people from asking me it in the grocery store. But you’re all nice people, so I assume if you’re asking, you just didn’t know that it’s pretty personal. I’ll answer you, but please don’t ask that question to other families–okay?
- I adopted from Ethiopia because I really, really wanted to be a mother. I met with a social worker for a US based program and learned that as a single person over a certain age, my chances with US adoptions of children 2- 6 were seriously diminished ( my employer only allowed maternity leave for children under 7). That person was kind enough to be honest: “You seem like you just really want to be a mother sooner rather than later. You might want to think about overseas adoption.” Now when I say this, people always want to argue and tell me that the social worker was wrong. This is sort of like telling someone that their birthing method was wrong after the fact. It’s not a debate– it just is. That is why I looked overseas: a social worker suggested it to me. And correct or incorrect, I am glad that she did. Why? Selam lived overseas.
- Last, and this is a big one for me. I am many things, but I am Christian way before I am American. My religious tradition instructs me to look out for orphans and widows. It does not instruct me to look out for orphans and widows who have the same passport as me. Selam is a child who needed a mother. The country of her birth doesn’t matter to me (except for that I love Ethiopia).
Q: Why did Selam need a mother?
A: Her birth mother died.
Q: Of what?
A: That’s Selam’s story to discuss or not discuss. I don’t share that beyond good friends and family, not because it’s a bad story, but because it’s hers, not mine. The fact of her birth mother’s death is something she has always known and freely discusses with everyone. The conditions of her life before her death and the conditions of her death are private.
Q: Does she miss Ethiopia?
A: I think she does, at some level. I don’t know that she can articulate it in those words though.
Q: How much did she cost?
A: Selam was free. The adoption costs money, in the same way that births cost money. In fact, they actually are fairly similar in price-range. The difference is that in childbirth, insurance covers a great deal of the cost (if not all). In adoption, you pay for social workers, attorneys, LOTS of governmental forms, and for the costs of traveling to the country and for caring for her in country. All told, the experience cost enough that it was a sacrifice (and love always is) but not so much as to be a burden.
Q: Doesn’t she miss her real mother?
A: Selam has two real mothers. One passed away, and one lives with her. She doesn’t miss me–I’m sitting right next to her! As to her birthmother, I am sure that she misses her, yes.
Q: Wouldn’t it be better for her to have a real family?
A: Small families are real families. If you’re asking if it would be better for her to have a father, well, I don’t know. I think, generally speaking, that two parents is an ideal situation for most parents, but I don’t know what is best for children, other than that secure families of any configuration are better than institutional care. I know that she is loved by lots and lots of men and women, and that our family, albeit small, is very very real.
Q: Why did you adopt instead of having a baby all your own?
A: Selam is my own baby, and I’ve always wanted to adopt.
Q: How long did it take?
A: Amazingly, it took just about 9 months.
Q: Don’t you think cross-racial adoption is, well, wrong?
A: I think same-race adoption is ideal, yes. However the number of children of color needing families does not line up with the number of parents of color seeking to adopt. I am blessed to live in a racially mixed building, in a racially mixed neighborhood and be zoned for a racially mixed school. Selam is fortunate to have many people of color in her life as teachers, friends’ parents, doctors and neighbors, in addition to classmates and playmates. Is it the same? No. Is it better than institutional care? Absolutely. This is a priority for me, and I do the best I can to keep her in situations where she is around those that look like her. There are a few places where that is not possible. Her ballet class, for example, would be monochromatic if it were not for her. But that’s definitely the exception and not the rule. Again, not perfect, but the best I can do.
Q: Who is the most amazing, beautiful wonderful child in the world?
A: Selam! (Okay, maybe your kid fits that bill for you, but for me, it’s Selam!)
Q: Selam seems really deep and thoughtful on the blog. Is she like a super-kid or something?
A: I don’t publish anything under my real name that paints her in a bad light. She’s more well-rounded than the blog implies!