Thinking of you

I’m constantly thinking about our adoptive child – and always wondering what she will be like. The last couple of nights when we’ve put our kids to bed – with kisses and cuddles, I thought of our future daughter and if shes comfortable, and if anyone is cuddling her to sleep. Does she drink milk before bed? Or use a pacifier, or does she sleep with any of her toys like Aya – two stuffed pandas, Arial, and Princess Jasmine.

I imagine she sleeps alone in a crib, or a bed. It’s hard not to think of her -always. A bit like when I thought of Joud when I was pregnant, what she will look like, how Aya will respond to her, will she look like Dennis or will she look like me. But this time, I can’t feel our future daughter kicking, and I don’t know when shes sleeping or awake and there’s no time frame for when she will be with us. With Joud and Aya, we knew – 40 weeks and they’re here.

I wonder if there is something called for these emotions – the same emotions you feel when you’re pregnant – excitement, fear, eager – constantly thinking about the child – but not actually being physical pregnant. I feel like this girl – wherever she is is already ours. Once upon a time she was born, not by me, not having my or her father’s features, but she is ours, our daughter, our kin. We just have to wait until she finds us and we find her.

Our first step

So today we took our first step. Like many to come, it wasn’t easy.

We had to decide on the criteria for the child. It prompted Dennis and I to have a hard and honest discussion about many thing, including our limits.

Adoption/fostering has become all that we now discuss — whether in the morning as we are getting our kids ready or during dinner when we imagine what it might be like to have one more kid at the table. We’ve already gone back and forth on the age and sex of the child (though I’ve since learned that the “muharam” rule limits us to adopting a girl — a separate post). Whereas before we had the luxury of vaguely defining our vision for our new family, today we had to close the conversation that we long found comfort in leaving open.

I think it goes without saying that many people want newborns — because they are easier. While newborns may come with the trauma of being separated from their moms (… not may comeWILL come), they likely won’t have the same degree of trauma that a toddler or an older child likely would have. For this reason newborns are easily adopted — in fact, there’s a long waiting list for them in Jordan. So we crossed newborns off our list.

Ok, whats next? Toddler or an “older child” as they are called. An older child is any child above 3, which would be older than our oldest daughter -Aya. We weren’t sure to be honest. There are many considerations. Birth order for example. Will having a child older than Aya disrupt the flow? Aya is, after all, quite the Alpha type. And attachment. Will an older child attach to us? Including my husband who’s not only a man but also an American who looks and speaks differently. Dennis shows Aya a lot of affection and we didn’t want the child’s age to inhibit the development of the same bond between him and our adopted daughter.

That said, we know that kids up to two years old, who might still nurse, are in high demand. As noted in a prior post, breastfeeding carries a great deal of significance locally (for one, the “muharam” rule is no longer an issue). So that shaped our thinking.

And then what about medical and mental health issues? Here too we knew that we had to give clear “yes” and “no” responses. This part was certainly the most painful. We felt (feel) guilty about setting any limitations based on our own. We have two kids already — a serious medical or developmental issue could fundamentally change the dynamic of our family and our ability to devote adequate attention to Aya and Joud. Not to mention we both feel wildly ill-equipped to provide any type of specialized care. We both work and travel frequently. While this seemed clear, making a deliberate decision to exclude children with certain attributes felt wrong, even so as to undermine the very reasons why we are pursuing adoption in the first place. It is an awkward position of privilege that all who choose to adopt must confront.

So we narrowed it down to a toddler, somewhere between ages 2 and 3 — A child that is likely to be somewhere between Aya and Joud. We’re okay with minor medical issues. Saying no to developmental ones was the hardest part. But as a friend told us – its wise to know your limitations.

Why adoption?

I thought I knew why I wanted to adopt. But then when people ask me why I want to adopt, my response is always, “well why not.” Because I want to help a child? Because I have the financial resources to support a child in need of a home? Yes and yes, but are those right reasons for adoption? Perhaps. But I really needed to reflect more on why this is the right choice for me, and since I am part of a family (with a husband and children), is this the right choice for us.

I don’t know that the feeling of “just knowing” is the right way to describe it. It’s like asking someone why you fall in love with one person and not the other. Because, well, you just know. It feels natural. It’s something that just is, and feels right – always has. And perhaps it started out as a responsibility – to provide for a child who was just not so lucky, and somehow ended up in foster care or an orphanage. A responsibility to play a small part in setting the world right. But I think its much more than that now.

So why not?

I think my desire to adopt comes from how and where I was born and grew up. Being born in a refugee camp shapes you. And it did me. Because my father worked for an international organization, we moved to very poor countries – where he worked on development programs. And he didn’t hide the reality of these environments from us. We saw people in dire situations and poverty in places such as in Haiti, West Africa and Nepal. Children were always the most affected. Growing up with this is probably why I am in the field of humanitarian work. All of it. And adoption perhaps is an extension of that altruism, a representation of the compassion I feel towards the world and my idealist nature to better it — even in the form of providing for a child with a home and a family.

And a part of me feels that that my reasons for wanting to adopt are probably not good enough yet. But for now, it’s putting me in the right direction. And maybe with time, as we go through the whole adoption process — with all the time and effort it will take — I’ll be able to better articulate why adoption is right for us.

So, I want to adopt — and, as it turns out, it’s possible in Jordan! 😉