Our Adoption Journey
By Dawn S
My husband and I are the proud parents of two children adopted from Ethiopia. We used Wide Horizons For Children for both of our adoptions and found our experience to be positive overall. We chose Wide Horizons because we could complete the entire adoption with them.
We chose to adopt both of our children as preschoolers. Both came home during the terrible twos and threes, but neither was particularly terrible if you exclude the way our house looks at the moment. My husband and I are both in our 40's and were not particularly obsessed with adopting babies. We believe those who choose to adopt often have a sense of what kind of child they can best parent. I have always had a special place in my heart for little ones who could walk and talk as communication is very important to me. WHFC was very supportive of our decision and provided resources that helped us prepare to parent older children. I am convinced that becoming parents to two older children has been good for us as a family. Our lives are much richer because our children are here.
Our children could not be more different, but the same in several respects. They are Ethiopian, they both come from Sidama, one came from a Protestant birth family, and the other a Muslim family. We love them so much and would not change a thing about their personalities. Before parenting, we used to joke that our children would be nicknamed "Runnin'" and "Wreckin'". Ironically, one is very compliant and easy going although he runs non-stop and the other is in the midst of discovering her environment and wrecks our house on a regular basis. Now we know better than to put certain things out into the universe.
Our experience as blacks in general and African Americans in particular is unique in many ways as well. When we started looking at Ethiopian adoption, we found some in the adoption community to be quite dismissive. At times it was like crashing a private party and getting the sense that no one expected you to show up. It has not been uncommon to speak with other black parents who have encountered the same thing. Nevertheless, over the last four years, we have come to meet adoptive parents from all walks of life and racial backgrounds with whom we have become friends. After observing and participating in the Ethiopian adoption process twice, I can say much has changed.
While we are not a conspicuous family, because we decided not to change our children's names, we often get questions from both ends of the spectrum. I gather some may assume our son's name was something we made up, but I am quick to let them know it does have meaning. My daughter's name usually goes unnoticed by most, but I met a woman from Syria who was quite interested in knowing how I came to choose her name. I was happy to explain that her birth parents blessed her with her name, and the woman was happy to share the deeper meaning of her name which happens to be "pure soul." That conversation led to an interesting discussion about the way Christians and Muslims interact and how both are perceived around the world.
Our relationship with the Ethiopian community has been cordial. We try to participate in activities sponsored by the local Ethiopian Orthodox Church as time permits and have always been welcomed. When encountering Ethiopians we do not know personally, some have initiated conversations with us in Amharic, some have asked me if my children's father is Ethiopian and some have told me that "they know their own" and that my "nose, eyes, mouth, and chin" look like an Ethiopian's but we explain we are not Ethiopian ... as far as we know. We hope our children will continue to be connected with the Ethiopian community in some way so as to maintain some connection to their heritage.
I started a Yahoo group to help adoptive families learn more about Sidama and I worked with other adoptive parents and friends to plan a library in the Sidama region with the help of Ethiopia Reads. I think it is important to be respectful of the culture that many of our children come out of and to remain connected to that culture in some way. While it is not always easy to do these things, my husband and I think it is important.
As our two children continue to grow and thrive, I anticipate spending less time monitoring the intricate changes in the Ethiopian adoption process as I no longer have the time. I do hope to keep my children connected to the Ethiopian community as much as they are willing to be receptive, but by no means will I force it. I also hope to visit Ethiopia several times while the children are growing up. In the meantime, I think my husband and I will focus on being the best parents we can be. We will raise our children to be productive members of society who will have the experience of being raised by parents who truly love them and want the best for them.