Monday, January 19, 2009

Getting back on the adoption wagon

If you've been following this blog, you know that there hasn't been an update in two long months. Family and friends have been excited to hear about our progress with the adoption. The bad news is that over the last two months, very little has happened. We fell off the wagon (so to speak). Laura and I found ourselves overwhelmed with work and the holidays, so our progress with the paperwork came to a halt. The good news is that our life has gone back to normal (as normal as our lives are) and we're redoubling our efforts to finish our paperwork so that we can get one step closer to adopting our child. Now we're back on the adoption wagon. As we work through the remainder of the paperwork, I'll provide more regular updates. But for now, I'll recap the second day of our adoption training from last November (as promised in the last blog update).

On the second day of our adoption training, our original group split into two so that all of the people adopting internationally were together. We started by talking about how the focus on adoption differs between the parent and adopted child. In the beginning of the adoption process, the parents are extremely focused on the adoption. As you bond with your child, your thoughts of adoption start to diminish. It's always there in the back of your you teach your child about their heritage, celebrate holidays from their country of birth, etc....but first and foremost you are a parent. For the adopted child, the focus on adoption is just the opposite. In our case, our child will be young so at first he won't know he's adopted. Over time, as we explain adoption to him and teach him about his place of birth, he will become more and more inquisitive. One way that our adoption agency helps with this is by offering homeland tours. When the child is ready, the family can visit his birth country. The whole family has a chance to experience the culture first hand and they may even be able to learn more about the child's adoption story.

The adoption story is basically the information about the circumstances of the child's adoption. It may include information about the child's birth parents, place of birth, or other personal facts. Some of this information we may get when we first get matched with our child. Other pieces of information may be discovered at a later date. The important thing is that in the end, it's all personal information that belongs to our child. As parents, we will share this information with our child when we feel he is ready to hear about it, but we will not share this information with anybody else. We feel very strongly that the adoption story is our child's story to share with others, not ours.

The next portion of our training covered health issues. We learned about mongolian blue spots which is a collection of pigmentation at certain areas of the body. It normally happens in infants and slowly fades over time. It looks very much like bruises, so it's important to be aware of it and share the information with your pediatrician so that there's no misunderstandings as to whether it's mongolian blue spots or bruises. We also found out that we'll have to get some vaccination updates prior to traveling to South Korea. I'm probably good to go (thanks to the Air Force) but Laura will probably need to get a few shots.

During lunch, each person in the group got to go over their homework assignment. I'm sure you're all thinking..."homework assignment". Our assignment was to increase our awareness of our child's culture and share it with the others couples. Some examples of things we could research or do were to...
  1. Visit a market or store related to the country
  2. Visit an ethnic church and talk to church members about your plans to adopt
  3. Research special holidays or traditions
  4. Identify books, foods, or music particular to the country

If you read the earlier blog entries, you know this was a pretty easy assignment for us. We had already done most of these things on our own. We were able to share our experiences with Korean cooking and the Korean cultural festival. We also brought some Korean snacks and shared them with everybody. There were three other adoptive families (2 South Korea, 1 China) that shared their information too. It was a great way to learn more about both cultures. We all had a great time.

At the end of the day, we had our toughest assignment. Each person paired off with somebody else (not their spouse) and was given two role playing scenarios. Each scenario was based on an actual incident that somebody has experienced as an adoptive parent. One person played the role of the adoptive parent while the other person played the role of the person that was either asking lots of personal questions or was saying something inconsiderate (or ignorant) about the situation. An example of a scenario is that the adoptive parent and child are in a line at a grocery store and the next person in line says something like, "Where's he from...are you his real parents?". The goal of the exercise was to understand that as adoptive parents, there will be many times that we have to deal with uncomfortable situations and will have to learn how to respond. The way we look at it, we'll have a chance to educate people about adoption. Most people that ask insensitive questions don't do it to hurt the adoptive family. They are just inquisitive. I believe that if we're able to help other people understand adoption, it will make our child's life just a little easier in the long run.

That's it for the long awaited update. Now I'm going to get back to work on our paperwork. Our goal is to get it completed so that we can have our home study by the end of March. We'll let you know how we're doing soon.

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