I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them

I don't believe in miracles - I rely on them

Yogi Bhajan


You found my blog and as I am experimenting with the weird and wonderful world of cyber publishing, let me explain what
a gunna is: it's a word for all things desirable, something that makes us happy and warm and comforts us when we feel tired or sad or lonely. a gunna is the best gadget in the world! it was leah s first word for all things she wanted. Or you might also know it as: dummy, schnulli, pacifier binky, schnuller...... and so on. So this is for my beautiful


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Somebody who looks like me.....

Girlie night out for mums: one glass of wine each (maybe two for the brave ones who don't fear late night calls and early morning risers) one big tub of Woollies cheesecake with 4 spoons and our favourite subject since early nappie days: our kids (what else); this can keep us going passed midnight!

As we are a diverse little group with different stories of motherhood (all of us have adopted, two have given birth, some have tried to fall pregnant, some haven/t) we found ourselves in the midst of telling our adoption stories.

As for me, I don't have much to tell: Walked along Nordhoek beach with Alan one Sunday in April, childless and happy. We got chatting about a letter my dear friend Ingmar sent me a day or so earlier, in which he debated our decision not to have kids. His very flattering (for me) but admittedly somewhat biased opinion was that in a world where every tomdickandharry can and will procreate, people like us should step up and participate - sort of make the world a better place kind of thing.... his concluding words were: maybe you don't need children to be happy but maybe there is a child who needs you to be happy.

That was all it took - we pondered this sentence for about 2 kilometers and decided: OK let's do it. Lets find this child... Let's adopt.

That was in April of 2005.

9 months later, in December 2005, our daughter Leah was born and two weeks after that she came and turned our lives upside down forever.

I am convinced, that day on the beach, she was conceived...

That's the first part of my story. (Before Kala who is another story altogether...)

Then there is our friend who fell in love with her daughter first and adopted her soon after.

And our other friend who had  given birth to a son and when she did not fall pregnant the second time around, decided to adopt.

And then there is the story of our friend who - as so many women - was desperate for a child "of her own", a child who would look like her, who would come out of her own body. Hers was not a simple joyful journey. It was a tiring, depressing walk across minefields of preconceptions, judgements and self punishment. A story of failure and grief.

Today as she has her beautiful - adopted -  daughter in her life, this story has changed to one of love . I also hope she gained a different perspective on what defines us as women- and mothers - in the process. But I don't really know this as the evening was too short to explore this issue in depth and maybe it was also still too personal an emotion to share easily. But it got me thinking:

What is it with this obsession to create  little clones of ourselves? Somebody-Who-Looks-Like-Me  still seems to be the predominant wish  where parenthood is concerned. And looking at parents and their children - adopted or not - I'd say there is a 50/50 percent chance that they don't - or if you are the glass-is-half-full type personality - that they do have certain physical traits in common with you (why this is so desirable really eludes me...unless of course you are Naomie Campbell or Heidi Klum)

My daughter Leah has the same funny little toes and ears like me. And the older she gets the more I recognise myself in her. My daughter Kala shares asthma and many personality traits with Alan. Strange - considering that they were adopted...?

I am convinced that our children are shaped in many ways by who we are and how we see the world. As we look for us in them, we see ourselves in the way they look, they talk, they approach life. And of course sometimes biological children look like little copies of their parents -and I am certainly not debating genetics here. It's just a fact of life - not something that defines how much we love them.

At least it should not.

The bottom line is that people feel safe with what they know. Racism is mostly a result of fear of the "other", the "unknown". We tend to feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings with familiar faces around us than we do in new situations in the midst of strangers.

Parenthood is a scary journey into the unknown for anybody - whether they admit it or not, whether they are even aware of their fears or too well adjusted to even recognise them....
 Naturally we have an instinctual fear that we might not love a child enough because it did not come from us. Procreating seems the closest we can get to guarantee our future love for our child:  at least I KNOW she/he came from my body.

So what's really at the root of the procreation obsession - a deep insecurity about our ability to love. We assume (like I did) we have to love a child from the moment that it is placed into our arms with that overwhelming maternal love that is somehow part of our genetic make up. Well it's not.

In many  cases -(and I mean MANY cases )  love is not even  part of the first complicated and messy onslaught of feelings that takes over our bodies and souls after giving birth.

 But that seems to be the best kept secret of motherhood - and in my opinion one of the contributing factors of post partum depression. As woman get indoctrinated from early childhood into believing that their main purpose in life and what defines them as a woman is to give birth one day, they also get conned into thinking that maternal love must come naturally and instantly. If they do not feel overwhelmed by love the instant a red faced, screaming little stranger is placed into their arms - something must be wrong.

By omitting the fact that maternal love has to grow like any other life from on this planet from a little seedling to the full blown stuff of epic movies -  we all become part of the problem, which is a misconception about parenthood and subsequently about adoption.

When it comes to love it does not make the slightest bit of difference whether your child is adopted or comes out of your body.
The ability to give birth has nothing to do with the ability to be a mother either.

Stop and think for a moment before you start obsessing about ovulation, fertility treatments and other costly procedures that put your body and your finances on the brink of exhaustion.

Take a deep breath and listen to the message your life / the universe or god (if you believe in god) is sending you. Think about what you might be asked to do with your life instead of giving birth.

Maybe your journey will be different  from what you were expecting - or from what was expected of you.
You can be a mother in many different ways. I am not condemning IVF either - if that's the way forward for you and it works - good for you. What I am questioning is the single mindedness with which so many women put themselves (and their partners) through years and years of grief and heart ache by stubbornly pursuing the ONE course that they feel  life must take regardless of what their life actually has to offer them.

So to all prospective mothers out there who at this point in time are burdened with grief, feel like failures or are depressed because of their inability to procreate: Open your eyes and celebrate what your life is actually offering you. Look inside you for the answer. Maybe the child that you are meant to be a mother to is already a part of your life. Maybe he/she is going to be born to somebody else. Maybe your motherly qualities are going to be needed in an altogether different way. Whatever it is, your life and your happiness are waiting for you just around the corner to come to the party.

(by the way - it took me a long time to pluck up the courage to say this ... as somebody who never felt the urge to grow my own child - I did not really feel qualified to participate in any discussion about IVF or such delicate issues as maternal instincts - and maybe I am not. But - and I say this with a big smile -  this is my blog and I don't care anymore!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Why did they not want me?

It's all very well to stand up to questions random strangers ask me.

But what, when my children do the asking and I don't have the answers ready? As happened to a mother whose 4 year old adopted son asked her: Why did  they(the birth parents) not want me? What she said was that his birth parents decided he needed a better future and that otherwise she would not have him... and then she panicked and rushed off to the book store to find literature on the subject.

I know the feeling:  The way I fumbled around for an answer when my 3 year old asked me: Mummy am I black?  was - well -  revealing to say the least. It felt a bit like walking down a familiar flight of stairs and suddenly instead of firm ground there is one more step than I remember and even though the brain knows it's just another step, the body reacts like its falling off a cliff. Even though I knew she was not in any way alarmed or even sad - only curious - there was this sinking feeling in my stomach and frantic activity in my head:  ohmygod, she is only three and already confronted with racism, what do I tell her to reassure her, who told her she is black, did somebody say horrible things to her, how can I change the world so that she will never be exposed to racism or hurtful comments in her life?
Of course I can not. It's simply not within my limited powers as a human being...

This is what happens sometimes: When faced with questions that are not as easy to answer as why does the beetle not move - (because it's dead)  when our own fears and feelings of not fitting in or not being loved enough get in the way, we panic, we feel inadequate, and often we feel the need to compensate our children for something that we think is missing from their life. We explain too much too soon in order to make them feel better about something that they might not even feel bad about - yet. I don't think a four year old understands the concept of a better future -or a three year old the meaning of racism. They do however pick up on the emotions that these questions provoke. And therein lies the real answer that we give them without meaning to.

As I tried to calm my breathing and searched my brain for an adequate answer to Leah's simple question she saved me yet again by babbling on about black and blond and pink and brown so that I just followed her lead. Together we pointed out black (and green and pink and red and blue and brown) items in her room as we compared them to the color of our skin; we decided eventually that that hers was a beautiful soft cuddly teddy bear brown and me - I was more of a bed frame beige with shades of piggy pink. Which had us both giggling - (and me inwardly sighing a huge sigh of relief about being let off the hook - this time)

But what about next time?
And what about the four year old who wants to know why they did not want him?

What I learned from this experience: Look at YOUR child before you answer. They rarely need or want too much detail at this age.

Be honest.

When they ask you why they were not wanted - tell them they are. Wanted. It is the simple truth.

When they ask why did they give me away? Tell them they were not given AWAY they were given to you, their mummy and daddy. (And you are the most beautiful gift we ever got)

Why did they not want to keep me?
If you know this, like I do, you can tell them They did want to keep you. But they knew you belonged with your mummy (and daddy). So they gave you to us....
and so on and so forth.

And yes, maybe sometimes you are allowed to spare them a sad detail or add something of your own.
When your child was abandoned somewhere and nobody knows the circumstances - or when there is neglect and abuse -  my feeling is : make up a story for your child.  A story that will grow from your love. A story that one day your child will understand for what it is: a metaphor for his life's journey that brought him to his family.

Today, if I am not sure , I don't answer immediately. I say: interesting question let me think about it. And  sometimes that is already enough as 3 and 4 year olds really shift focus within milli-seconds.  I know my child best  and if I manage to step beyond the fear and the judgement I might just be able to see the question for what it is:  a little exercise for a developing mind  in Solving The Big Mystery That Is Life.

So far this strategy has paid off. Leah - who just turned five - proudly states to all her friends that she has not only one but three mummies, that if she does not like black hair anymore, she can be blond (clip ons are the secret here) and that - being allowed the right wardrobe - she is Really Really beautiful today.

The other day she said to me: Mummy you know what? I am a gift from the heaven and before I came to you I was a star...

(now please excuse me whilst I dissolve into tears ... :-)

(aehm and also: picture graceful courtesy of best neighbouring friend in whole world: Brooke Auchincloss (as I forgot to mention first time round and have been reproachfully reminded.....))

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Another one for the list of stupid questions: How can anybody give their child away?

This is just another one of those idiotic questions we get asked by random people in shopping centres or restaurants - people of -one would  assume - at least average intelligence, education and social competence. Of course as with so many other comments we seem to provoke, it is not really meant as a question at all but rather as a call of judgement.

What they really want to say is: I am so much better as a human being than the birth parents of this child. They manage to pass it off as an achievement that they never found themselves in a position sad or desperate enough where they had to sacrifice their own needs or desires for the well being of another person...

Because this is exactly what most mothers do who make the difficult decision that their children are better off with new parents who will not only love them but also be able to care for them in a way that every child deserves. As was the case with Kala's birth mother Joanie:

Of course she would have preferred to be Kala's life mother and raise her in a happy home. She even tried for a couple of months. But as she realised she could not be the family Kala deserved, she made the brave and selfless decision for her to be raised by us. She chose us, she told me, because she could see that Alan was a great father and having to grow up without a father, she wanted that more than anything for Kala. By loving our beautiful daughter I thank her everyday from the bottom of my heart for the trust that she put in us.

Apart from the fact that there are many reasons why children can not and should not be raised by their birth parents, there is also the sad possibility that they are orphaned and nobody but the universe made that choice for them.  How come that people who are privileged enough to have the means and facilities to care for a child and most likely the choice whether or not they even want a child feel they have not only the right to question but also the moral high ground to pass judgement on another human being?  

As with so many situations where people react out of ignorance and a fear of the unknown my better side knows I should try to be understanding and kind towards the person who asks this question of me. And I promise I will  - try harder.

But sometimes that better version of me is temporarily out of order and my mean little self kicks in and answers: Ho can anybody over 5 ask a stupid question like that.