Saturday, September 13, 2008

Crafting Your Adoption Story

We went to FCC Chinese Culture Day today, which was great fun. The girls listened to live Chinese music, learned about famous Chinese inventions, watched a Chinese tea ceremony, made a Chinese flag, learned about Chinese embroidery, colored a panda mask, listened to Chinese stories, watched a kung fu demonstration and lion dances. A fun time was had by all!

I met some waiting families there, and we chatted a little about adoption talk. They are in the how-to-tell-the story phase, and I thought it might be helpful if we all gave them advice! Here are some initial questions that I hope will help newbies craft their stories, and I hope y'all will add more advice in the comments.

1. Where do you start?
I say start with birth. It's tempted to start with "I/We wanted a child sooooo much . . . ," but that makes the story about you, not your child. Sure, you should talk about your side of it, including how much you wanted a child, how you loved her before you met, etc., but if you start with birth, it seems to me that the story stays more focused on your child. And you HAVE to include birth, so your child doesn't figure she was hatched from an egg, so why not put it at the beginning?
2. What will you name the characters in your tale?
You need to think about what you're going to call the biological family and its members. We use birth family, birth parents, birth mother, birth father, but I hear lots of variations out there: first family, first mother, etc. (one concern I have with this nomenclature is that it suggests there can be third and fourth and fifth families); China family; tummy lady for birth mother (then what do you call birth father?).
What are you going to call yourselves? Some people feel more comfortable using the formal "mother" and "father" for birth parents, and reserving mommy and daddy for the adoptive parents. We use mom, mommy, mother for birth mother; my kids call me mama, and though we haven't deliberately chosen to, I don't think any of us, including the kids, have said birth mama.
3. What should you include in the story?
That, of course, depends on the age/attention span of the kids, and how much time you've got! We have long versions we use when we have plenty of time, and short ones for its-late-you-need-to-be-in-bed times. We've added things as the girls have been more or less interested in parts of the story -- at first, it was just the you were born, we met, we lived happily ever after story. When we were about to visit their finding spots, we included the part where they were found. When Zoe started asking tough questions, we included the OCPSPFB part (ok, I'm not sure the acronym will work -- that's one child policy, social preference for boys!).
Our basic story includes: a) you grew in your birth mother's tummy and were born in China; b) your birthparents couldn't take care of you as parents would want to, so they made sure you were safely found; c) the nannies took good care of you; d) meanwhile, mama wrote China and asked if she could be the mama for a baby; e) referral (woohoo!); f) mama packed (long list of things -- bottles, diapers, tiny clothes, toys, etc. etc. etc. (they really love this part)); g) mama and mimi flew on a big airplane to China; h) first meeting (how pretty, how sweet, how little, how brave baby was!); i) fly home in big airplane; j) everyone so happy to meet you; k) mama so happy when you fell asleep in your new crib in your new home. THE END! (As you can tell, I've borrowed heavily from several kids' books about adoption. Don't call in plagiarism, call it research!)
4) How do you deal with no information, hard information?
TELL THE TRUTH! If you don't know, say so. If you speculate, make sure you say so: "I don't really know, but I think/I believe/I feel that they wanted you to be safe and warm, and that's why they wrapped you in 3 layers of clothing." "I believe they loved you very much and did the best they could to take care of you."
So, what other advice should we give to those working out the story they will tell? What of my advice is off-base? How do you tell your story? Please comment!


zoe'sfriendsyd said...

I think your ideas are wonderful and very helpful for those who are just starting out, or especially those who want to "enhance" their story!
I understand respecting the birth mother and reserving a place for her at our table of conversation. I am on this topic again.... just roll your eyes if I am too passionate on this subject. I would like to add my own thoughts to the fact that some may call the birth mother "Mommy" and their mother by adoption something more formal or another term. I have seen this, and it feels to me that some parents have relinquished their name "Mommy" or "Daddy" out of guilt for the birthparents. I get the 2 Mommy concept, and I can fly easily with that one. But another term for us is not acceptable to me. We are the Mommy, even if we didn't give birth. It's wonderful to love your birth parents (if the ability is there in the absence of any information about them), but I am sure we all agree our children should embrace that we are the eternal and forever Mommy. The only Mommy they will ever know. I believe they need that security, since we have no true history. When you read about adult adoptees..what could be one the biggest issues? Abandonment. We want to send a message loud and clear that we are the last stop. Yes I am sad about the birth parents' overall sad circumstances, but we need to tell them WE ARE IT! WE WILL ALWAYS BE "IT"! I feel by calling yourself something else we are sending the wrong message. I'd love to see everyone be very clear in all lingo that we are the forever parents. If my daughter were from any other country I think my perspective would be different. But we have no picture, we have no real background story on birthparents for them. Maybe if we did I'd feel better about a name. It could be well, their name. "Your birth mother, Nancy Smyth..."

Chinazhoumom said...

One thing that we add is about her belly button - I tell her that when she grew in her birth mother's tummy- she was connected to her birthmother for food by your BB - and it works like a hose brings water (yada yada). I tell her that she needs to only look at her belly button to know that it touched her birthmother for 9 months - and that is how she cared for her..but after she was born her birthfamily was not able to (insert many reasons why here) and they (I try to shy away fm "who" placed her - as we don't know.)placed you where you would be found and taken care of. I tell her that her birth mother must have cared/loved for you K was very healthy baby when found..."just a girl" is as best I can tell..

Just my 2 cents.
Carol in FL