Do you think that in spite of your best efforts there might always be some emotional damage to navigate for Joci and how are you prepared to deal with that?
Thanks for this courageous question. I am really glad it was asked.
To the first part of the question, yes. I would be extremely naive and ignorant if I thought there would never be any tricky waters to traverse with Joci as she grows to understand her adoption and what it all means. The truth is, adoption is born out of tragedy. From the Ethopian child who lost his parents to AIDS, to the child of a rape victim, to the child whose parents know they want more for their child. It all comes from tragedy. In the end though, adoption is a healing option that can turn that initial tragedy into something beautiful. The legacy of the tragedy of adoption and the legacy of the beauty of adoption will be a part of Jocelyn forever.
This is on a tangent a little bit, but this car analogy is something that really helps put the adoption decision into perspective. This is taken from the R house blog.
a young man and a young woman are out on the lawn outside of a very busy street.
the child they are both responsible for runs out into the street. at the same time the couple becomes aware that there is a car coming at a very high rate of speed. there is no chance that the child will not get hit. the car is coming much too fast.
the couple as four options.
1. they can do nothing and watch the child get hit and killed by the car. the psychological memory of this inaction burned in their minds forever.
this is abortion.
2. they can both jump out and sandwich the child between them to brace the child for the collision. if they can stay together, there is minimal injury to the child. however, there is a 80-90% chance that they will split upon impact.
this is couples that try to stay together and/or get married because of a crisis pregnancy.
3. one of the parents can jump out in front of the car by themselves. injuries to the child are more substantial.
this is single parenting.
4. one or both of the parents can run out into the street and push the child out of the way of the speeding car and into the outstretched arms of a couple on the other side of the street.
this is adoption.
however, even with adoption, the birth parents always get hit by the car.
collisions like this are happening everyday, in every town and in every neighborhood.
for every 16 adoptions there are 1,000 unwed births.
for every 17 adoptions there are 1,000 abortions.
As for the second part of the question, while it's impossible to prepare for everything, I think we've taken the biggest step, which is awareness. By acknowledging that there will be tough times and sensitivities, we have taken a big leap in preparing ourselves.
More specifically, we have read books, attended adoption classes put on by adoption professionals on different kinds of topics, gone to counseling, become involved with FSA, and networked and befriended other families built through adoption to offer ourselves a support system (and in the future Joci will have friends who were adopted to confide in and relate to).
Another important preparation we have done is given Jocelyn the blessing of an open adoption. She will have the opportunity of having a relationship with her birth family. It wasn't her choice that she was born into the circumstances she was. It wasn't her choice that she was placed for adoption. It wasn't her choice that we became her parents. But we are giving her the choice of having a relationship with her birth parents and birth siblings. When she's older, she can determine the extent of that relationship. The choice will be hers. And empowering her with those kinds of decisions will give her confidence and security.
An interesting thing we learned from one of our classes was that in some ways, adopted children are like children whose parents are divorced. In a messy divorce where there's anger and power struggles between the parents, children are caught in the crossfire. They have feelings for both parents but aren't allowed to express them. These feelings are very natural, and in a situation like a messy divorce, children wind up feeling shame and guilt for these feelings, and that turns into resentment for the parent. In more healthy situations, divorced parents work together for the child and support the child. The child can openly express their natural feelings for both their parents without shame, guilt, or resentment.
Adoption can be the same. Jocelyn will have questions, concerns, and grieving. But by allowing her to express that, by being secure in our position as her chosen parents forever and ever, and providing her the opportunity to have a relationship with her birth family, she will be happier, healthier, stronger, and more confident in the end. She can openly celebrate both of the legacies that are hers.
Yes, adoption is tricky. Yes, adoption stems from tragedy. But it doesn't mean the tragedy is permanent or that emotional damage is unavoidable collateral damage. There are children with divorced parents, children with single parents, children with step families, and children in many other circumstances who experience as much if not more "emotional damage," for lack of a better term. And we know kids in all these circumstances that are strong, adjusted, happy individuals. Adoption is not that different.
By being aware, being secure, making connections, and seeking out as much education as possible, we are arming ourselves to help Jocelyn navigate those tricky waters ahead. With a stable, two-parent home, two sets of doting grandparents, adoring birth parents, and so many other friends and family members, this little girl has a lot of things going for her. Like the strong, beautiful, mythical phoenix, she'll rise from the ashes of her tragedy, taking that legacy with her and shaping a very wonderful future.