Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Sibling Question

In the comments, Wendy mentioned that her daughter is sure she doesn't have any siblings in China. That was one of the things we had to deal with recently.

We all know that the one-child policy is really a two-child policy in many parts of China. And we know that the mostly likely children to be abandoned are second daughters -- a family that has one daughter can try again for a boy, but if that second child is a daughter they have met the quota and can't try again for a boy. Unless, of course, that second daughter disappears . . . .

(BTW, Kay Johnson's book, Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son, is great, in explaining the second daughter phenomenon and Chinese public opinion about abandonment and adoption. It isn't terribly well-written -- it reads like a string of articles in Population Control journals (which is what it is!), without any editing. So there is considerable redundancy. But the information is priceless, and well worth slogging through the poor editing. I hate saying anything at all bad about the book, because I hope ALL China adoptive parents will read it, but the truth is the truth!)

Anyway, when we started talking about why Zoe's birthparents weren't able to parent her, or any child, I started searching the internet for new books suitable for an older Zoe. (I swear I have every children's book about adoption, but most Zoe has kind of grown out of). I found a terrific one: At Home in this World, by Jean MacLeod. It has a great age-appropriate (age 7-11, I'd say) explanation of the one child policy and the social preference for boys. And then it says: "I might have been born a second daughter and my birthparents might have felt they needed a boy."

Zoe was reading the book, and when she came to this line, she asked what they meant, "second daughter." So I explained about the two-child-policy-if-the-first-is-a-girl, reiterating what we've already talked about the social preference for boys. I said, "The girl in the book is wondering if she might have a sister in China. Zoe said immediately, "I already have a sister -- Maya." I agreed, and then I said, "We don't know for sure, but a lot of girls who get adopted from China might have older birthsisters in China. So you might have an older birthsister in China."

Zoe SLAMMED that book shut and thrust it away from her, clearly rejecting the idea that there might be a sibling in China. She definitely wasn't able to deal with that idea.

We've talked more about it since then, and she's gone back to read the book all the way through. But the possibility of siblings in China is still bothering her, I think. Part of it is that feeling of rejection -- why would they keep that baby and not me. And part of it is that the list of what we don't know about her birthfamily keeps getting longer. I'm sure we'll be talking more and more about it.


Dee said...

I think her reaction is normal, and it's really good to see it. When I told my daughter recently she has siblings from her father she had NO reaction. She was taken from her birthmom at age 6, and just can't process the grief of it. She's numb. We are in therapy. Zoe's reaction is more healthy. You are wise to open a dialogue about it.

Wendy said...

Thank you for sharing this, it makes a lot of sense to me. I agree that the two child policy is most likely the case in Guiping and the surrounding area and we have talked about that as well. M is the same, she just cannot cope with that at some level right now. I think, as Dee said, that it is just too much grief to think that maybe her birthparents kept another child and not her. We are as neutral as we can be and M has come to her own conclusion with what works for her (and this has changed a couple of times) and believing her abandonment was due to medical issues gets her through and makes it okay.
When we first arrived home and for about a year (she was 25 months at adoption) she and we focused on her foster mother (we keep contact) and then added her birthfamily to her story in a more concrete way (we always had included them in the story, but she really didn't want to hear it). She provides us cues and we work within the context of her questions, her lack of sleep, her change of attitude, by the books she chooses to read, and her play in the ways we discuss adoption. Two years later we are in a place that she includes them in our conversations and has really "ranked" them in a family heirarchy--all her doing. When she is having a struggle she doesn't want to know them, but when she finds her balance again she wants to find them and ask them their name--btw, she has made up names for them.

On a similar note, tonight she picked "Motherbridge of Love" and at the end wanted to know why they didn't talk about her birthfather. I asked her if she wished they had and she said yes, so I said we will look for a bf/af book or make one ourselves. She was happy and said thanks and then off to bed.

***When we head your way I will let you know!

malinda said...

Wow, Dee, I can only imagine the pain your daughter and you are experiencing. Thanks for sharing.