|a female wood carrier walking down from the mountains, Addis Ababa|
Daniel and Lily both have Life Books, which we try to read often. Right now they are not as interesting as The Avengers Sticker and Activity book, but we try. Their life books are simple versions of their story; how they came to be living in America, with us. In the old days of adoption, children weren't told their story- sometimes living until adulthood without any idea of where or from whom they came from. We try not to have any secrets from our children. Daniel, especially, knows exactly what happened: he was there. But there are parts of the story that we don't dwell on, at least not now. We don't dwell on the fact that there are medicines in America that could have cured his mother. We don't dwell on the fact that in America, fathers don't have to watch their infants starve. Hunger, yes. Starve. No.
We also don't dwell on why mommy and daddy decided to adopt. There are many people who create or add to their families through adoption as their first choice. I love these folks. We came to adoption the round-about way. First we tried to get pregnant. Then teams of doctors tried to get us pregnant. Then we decided to adopt. PHEW! (Side note: a homestudy is nothing after infertility treatments. Want to know everything about me? Sure! I have no secrets anymore. I get to keep my clothes on? Even better!)
One of these years the kids will figure out that adopting two Ethiopians was our second choice for creating our family. But you know what? Relinquishing their children to be adopted was their Ethiopian family's second choice too.
Adoption is a tiny beautiful bandaid on a large ugly problem. My children have a loving family, plenty to eat, and a chance for a successful, healthy life. They are very lucky in how their bad luck turned out. Their family's second choice turned into a second chance. There are millions of children around the world who just have bad luck and then more bad luck. There are millions of families torn apart by disease, poverty, lack of clean water, fear and religious intolerance. Only a small thousand of those children are adopted.
So when people say, "It is just wonderful, what you are doing." I first say "Thank you", and "We have been very blessed." Then I think, if I was really wonderful and saintly, as you might be thinking, I would have given all the money I spent adopting these kids into keeping their first family intact. That is the argument that folks make when they criticize celebrities, and non-celebrities, for their international adoptions. I don't really disagree, in theory.
John Seabrook wrote a beautiful piece about adopting his Haitian daughter in The New Yorker last year. In it he reflects on how, in miniature, international adoption makes perfect sense. A child needs a family; a family needs a child. When you pull back and look at the bigger picture, things aren't so clear. It suddenly seems like there are millions of families who need better choices, more choices.
There are parts to our children's story that we don't dwell on, at least not now. But someday, I hope, those sadder, harder, more confusing parts will inspire them to create change in the world, as they have inspired me to share our story here. Until then, Avengers! Assemble!