Everyday Life

If you regularly check this blog, you have probably come to realize that I do not post on a regular basis. If you were to check my calendar, you would see that I have scheduled in blogging times that I rarely adhere to.

Sometimes I find that I run out of things to write about adoption. Sometimes it seems too simple. I have two families: a biological one and an adoptive one. I have two nationalities: I’m an American citizen born in the Philippines. I have two races: I am an Asian, more specifically a Filippina, but I was raised in a white family.

Well, that about sums it up and now I can go about my daily life.

Except that adoption touches everyday things too.

I wake up and do as much of my morning routine as I can before the baby wakes up. As he bounces on his crib mattress calling “Mommy!” He looks at me with his Asian eyes – my eyes – and I’m reminded that we share physical features. This is something I didn’t share with my mom. I settle baby on my lap and I’m reminded that my mom opened her arms and lap to me when I had no one. Baby is 20 months – the same age I was when I came over from the Philippines, so I am struck by the contrast in our experiences. At age 20 months, he expects mama or daddy to check in on him if he cries, if he asks for food, wants to play, or has a stinky diaper. At age 20 months I was in a foster home and had only been there for eight months. Consistent care was still something I was probably getting used to.

After I kiss the baby, my hubs Bri-Bri, and my stepson (if he’s here on a weekday) goodbye, I get on the light rail to go to work. I’m thankful for my job and I’m glad I can share the responsibility of providing for our family with Bri-Bri. Sometimes I wonder if I should be doing something more, other times I think “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” I have a decent salary, the job uses my skills, and the work environment is great! Yet I’m burdened with the idea that my life should be more. I was given a chance to live the American Dream. I was given a chance to be somebody, so why am I just another suburban mom with a desk job?

But then I pause.

I’m an American suburban college educated mom with a middle class job. People line up at American embassies in the Philippines to apply for work and citizenship in America in hopes that someday they can attain an American middle class lifestyle. There are children in the Philippines that need their eyes corrected so that they can read textbooks, blackboards, and computer screens if they even want a chance of getting educated and get out of poverty. There are children that succumb to chronic illnesses or malnourishment and don’t even make it to adulthood. I could have been one of those children without eye care or healthcare. I could have been a child that didn’t make it. With this perspective, my ordinary American life suddenly becomes extraordinary, and I’m reminded not to take it for granted. I’m reminded to be thankful and to use what I have to give back to others.

I sit at my desk and do my paralegal/bookkeeper/billing staff job. I read the attorneys’ notes when I create outlines of clients’ Wills and Trusts. Some clients write in their intake forms or tell the attorneys that they have adopted children. I wonder if they think the law will treat their adopted children differently when it comes to inheritance. Other clients leave gifts to organizations that do international economic development. I smile knowing their gift will help families somewhere become more economically stable and those parents may not have to make the decision to relinquish their children to give them a better life. Sometimes when I’m paying the firm bills as part of bookkeeping, I make a mental note to check my automatic bill pay to see if my sponsorship fee for Children International went through. I don’t have a ton of assets like our clients, but I am glad the little bit that comes out of my check each month helps my sponsored child in the Philippines. It gives her a chance at a good future.

I go home and have an evening with my guys. My stepson is here now and I make sure to give him a kiss and ask about his day and not just spend time with the baby. I want him to know that the baby didn’t take his place in my heart because birth is not the only way to become a parent. My guys are goofballs and they have the same smile, the same giant forehead, and some of the same mannerisms. Bri-Bri is passing down his love of superheroes to both the boys evidenced by the baby pushing a toy truck driven by a plastic Hulk while yelling, “Hulk Truck! Hulk Truck!” He stops and wants to color with mommy. I pass down my appreciation for creativity that I got from my mom as we color a picture together. My mom’s legacy of snuggles on her lap around a storybook is passed down when I snuggle the baby on my lap and read books or read the same book five times (at his insistence).

Baby is in bed, his clothes are in the wash, and I have a chance to blog. Nothing stood out to me because I’ve just been engrossed in my daily routine. But as I thought further, my adoption story, my two nationalities, and my two families can be nowhere if I don’t think about them much or everywhere if I realize how they influence every aspect of my life.

Safe Space

I haven’t written about my adoption as much because I didn’t have a safe place to explore it until now. I’m part of the Facebook group Transracial Adoption Perspectives and I joined as an adult adoptee about 6 months ago.

In this group, I’m not afraid to discuss the unique experience of living as an Asian person who grew up in a white household. I am able to share when I was affected by prejudice and when I reacted to something from a white person’s perspective. I’m able to admit that I had to sometimes remind myself that I was truly a part of my family because I didn’t look like anyone, but I was grateful that they chose me as a daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, etc.

This Face group is a safe space.

This group is also a revealing space. I become more aware of how racism might have affected my experiences and how I very much see the world as a person raised in a white middle class family. Some of that is hard because I realize I have not treated people right or secretly had judgemental thoughts such as, “At least I grew up in a better part of town.” “At least I’m part of the model minority (Asian)” “At least I was educated…”

I’m learning to embrace the complexities of being born in the Philippines but growing up in white middle class America. My hope is that I can use these experiences to encourage other adopteee, educate adoptive parents, and love people better.

I will conform to belong

I will do my best to conform to belong. This thought came to me as I thought about my involvement on the Facebook page Transracial Adoption Perspectives. It’s a great group that gives non-white adoptees a voice that has often been ignored.

Conforming to belong is a norm for us adoptees. Transracial adoptees have pressure to conform because we don’t look like our families. Some would say conforming is a survival mechanism, if we feel like we might be rejected by our family for some reason. Maybe I felt that way because I was trying to make up for the hardships my mom experienced after my adoption. I was making up for it by trying to fit the ideal daughter type that my mom wanted.

This need to belong is inherent in all adoption stories because a child is leaving one family to join another. This need to belong is especially strong for me, because for me to belong, someone had to feel pain. Therefore, I had to make that person’s sacrifice worth it. I had to not just belong, but perfectly conform.

When I want off to college, I had the same ideal that I would find myself and find my identity whenever I wasn’t studying hard to maintain my academic scholarship and have a shot at getting into CU med school. I found myself and I found a set of Christian friends who really did genuinely want to be my friend and hang out. I couldn’t complain because they were nice, didn’t mind giving me rides when we would go do stuff like late night Wal Mart or Ice cream runs.

As time went on, I wanted to continue to be accepted by my friends and the leaders of my college youth group. I wanted to be accepted as one of God’s successful adoption stories as we were all adopted by Christ. So, I found myself wanting to conform to the ideal of a good Christian college student. I wanted to ace every Bible question my small group leader threw out. I wanted to be praised for knowing the finer details of doctrine and doing as much community service as my schedule would allow. I really believed I was doing the right thing, and yes, volunteering at food banks and in Sunday childcare is a good thing, but I did it to be loved.

Unfortunately, I did some unloving stuff to conform. God loves Truth, so I believed that telling people how He viewed ‘culture wars’ issues was my civic and spiritual duty, especially if I was confrontational abou it. My other friends would do this and get approval from our small group leader and college group leaders, so I followed suit. A large part of me truly thought I was doing the right thing, but deep down I wanted to continue to be accepted by my group and be one of God’s good kids, because it would be a shame for Him to waste an adoption on a bad kid. As my ‘Christian resume’ grew, my view of God became small.

After a few years out from that experience, I felt myself mellowing out and being able to think about both sides of issues instead of just reacting in a way I thought I should.

I thought my involvement in political and cultural issues was waning and becoming less intense. Then racial tensions came to a head in the mainstream media and in our national conversations (Thanks, Trump.) Then I joined Transracial Adoption Perspectives and began reading articles posted about race relations from non-white aka People of Color’s perspective.

I felt myself sliding into that need to conform my posts to belong to the group of other transracial adoptees in the group. Here was a group of transracial adoptees who started a group to give their peers a safe place to discuss all aspects of adoption, and they let me be a part of their group. Was I ‘woke’ enough? Have I shed enough white thinking to belong to their group?

I don’t mean this in a bad way or to diminish the experiences of my fellow adoptees. Some people have had terrible experiences and faced outright racism from their families who were supposed to love them and their community that was supposed to support them. That is never okay.

But I need to take a step back and ask myself if I’m saying something or agreeing to fit in and be accepted by a group, or do I believe something because I have indeed come to the conclusion that said idea is true?

Adoption and parenting perspectives

I’ve been away from my blog for a while because a certain 19-month-old has kept me busy. I also work full-time and do what I can to tidy up after the baby, the husband, and stepson. Yes I am the only female in the house.

Anyway, during this time I have actually thought about my adoption and I think my adoption has impacted how I interact with the baby. For example, I have embraced the practice of Babywearing ever since my C-section scar was healed enough not to be irritated by having a small baby in a carrier pushing on it.

(This photo was from a memory book my mom made for me for baby’s 1st birthday. Thanks, mom!)

Not only does baby wearing make life so much more convenient and is much less hassle when you need to take baby on public transit, but I am reminded that I’m giving the baby a closeness that I lacked for the first 18 months of my life. I don’t take for granted baby snuggles because I know that I missed. them as a baby, and yes, I do feel a bit of sadness that I had nobody during that time.

Also, I’m grateful for the things the baby has as part of a middle class American family. He has his own bed, eats three full meals a day, and has enough food that he can spare dropping a few Cheerios and crackers on the floor. He has had access to medical care even before he was born, and his parents and pediatrician regularly monitor his development. He has stability. He knows he goes to grandmas house while mommy and daddy work and he knows he will see both of us when we come home.

I think the fact that I didn’t have these things for the first 18 months my life, I don’t take for granted what he has and I hope to tell him when day how lucky he is. I don’t want to do it in a way that makes him feel guilty for his privilege, but in a way that encourages him to pay it forward.

Being adopted also reminds me to be more sensitive to my stepson. Even when I was pregnant, people would ask me if I was happy that I finally would have a child “of my own” God gave me grace to help me gently remind them that my first child is my step child and yes I was excited that I would be a part of this new child’s life from birth. I don’t want my stepson to feel lesser because he is not biologically mine because I remember feeling like people thought I wasn’t really my mom’s daughter because we didn’t share the same DNA. When my step son comes over, I do my best to make time for him and ask him what is going on in his life. I hope I continue to show him that he matters just like his baby brother matters to me.

How lucky you are to be alive right now

Lucky.

That’s a word used often to describe adoptees, and I used it plenty of times growing up.

“I’m lucky because my mom chose me.”

“I’m lucky to have education. healthcare, a home, a mom, a family.”

I saw the conditions of third world countries on the news when The News Hour with Jim Lehrer did a special report on a war or an epidemic. I would watch like a nerd when they covered an epidemic because a) my mom was a nurse and b) I was trying to understand what my life was like as a malnourished chronically ill infant and toddler before I came to the US at 18 months. My mom would remind me how lucky I was that I was here, and that is true. I was first seen by an ophthalmologist after my adoption and of course my diet and access to antibiotics got better.

As a child. I worked hard in school to prove that I won’t waste my gift of adoption. I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to do sonething extraordinary.

As time went on and life happened, I found myself just being a normal teenager, college student, and working adult. Now I’m a suburban mom with an office job dealing with mundane things like buying diapers and formula and going to my desk job 40 hours per week.

Look at where you are. Look at where you started. The fact that you’re alive is a miracle.

There’s a part of me that wants more. That doesn’t want to just settle for an ordinary life, but my sweet husband reminds me that I came from an extraordinary circumstance. My ordinary life in America was never imaginable back in the Philippines.

I’m grateful for my life now.

Orphan Immigrant Founding Father

Hamilton was the musical I never knew I needed.

 

My 14-year-old niece kept singing the song “Nonstop” from this musical during our 4th of July picnic, so of course, I had to see if the soundtrack was on Spotify.

Check.

Then the lyrics touched the part of me I don’t often think about.

“…bastard orphan… the ten-dollar founding father without a father…inside he was longing for something to be a part of… get your education, don’t forget from whence you came…  see him now as he stands on the bow of a ship headed to a new land. In New York you can be a new man… do they know what you overcame…another immigrant coming up from the bottom…”

I realized Alexander Hamilton’s story, the way it was presented in this musical, parallels my adoption story. I came from nothing, I lost legal ties to my biological family and was sent to America to become a new person. I am an immigrant and my mom remind me that I overcame health problems and extreme deprivation to go on to graduate from college and eventually land the career I have today.

Hamilton was the musical I didn’t know I needed because I can use it to tell my story in a unique way. Like our ten-dollar Founding Father, the trauma of my past, as well as my accomplishments in spite of my circumstances, shape the decisions I have made.

The cast members of this musical were the narrators of American History I didn’t realize I had lacked. During my schooling and when my mom and I would watch documentaries, history lessons came from white professors, teachers, scholars, and family members. Watching people of color narrate events of the Revolutionary War connected me to my roots as an Asian immigrant.

I have a lot of thoughts floating around that have been slowly solidifying since July when I first heard the soundtrack to this musical. They will come out in these next few posts, because this unique narrative of American history has made me explore and embrace my own history in a new way.

It’s time to tell my story

Okay so when did I get serious about telling my adoption story? When I was in my college church youth group, we’d sometimes have opportunities to tell the story of how we saw God’s and throughout our lives.   Everyone was always intrigued when I went because my story took a really long time to tell.  I felt like it was a miracle I still had enough brain cells to spare to attend college, considering the infections and undernourishment I experienced in the Philippines. The desire to learn about both medicine and child development was influenced by my complex medical history and my adoption story. These interests influenced where I chose to study and what major I chose in college.

Also in college, I mentored this 4 year old girl adopted from China through a program set up by the Asian / Pacific Student services center. I talked to her mom about my story but I first shared my story with a large group when I spoke to a panel of prospective adoptive parents during my senior year. An adoption agency had contacted the Asian student group to set this up. I was grateful that I could talk to these parents about what life was like as an international adoptee so they could better understand the children they would eventually bring into their families.

Not much happened in between college and 2016 in terms of sharing my story to large groups. However, in about January-ish of 2016, I went to a Women’s Bible Study evening at my current church because a friend was speaking. I randomly (or provincially?) next to someone who was just starting a support group for foster and adoptive parents. Of course, she was excited to talk to me when I told her that I was an adoptee.

She asked me to come to the group where, once again, I shared my story. The parents seemed really interested and asked a ton of questions.  I still attend her group, as my schedule allows, so parents can pick an adoptee’s brain.  Joining this group helped me get serious about telling my story because it’s really seemed like people needed to hear it and they were learning from it.

The most important factor in my ability to share my story more freely was I was becoming more comfortable in my own skin and be more comfortable thinking about my story and telling it to other people. The next logical step was to start this blog.

First second blog post

This is my first post but it’s on my second site. I had a previous site but I was hesitant to post on it just because I wanted to say more. My first site was “A Chance to be Loved.” While that aspect of adoption is wholehearedly true, I want to explore other facets:

Adoption and race

Life as a Special Needs Adoptre

Trauma

Adoption and career choices

Adoption and parenting

Etc.