Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Race and Poverty

Over at Racialicious today you can find one of the best concrete examples of institutionalized racism in the media that I've seen dissected in a long time. The article is called "Do Poor White People Even Exist?" and the title is obviously a joke. The author, Average Bro, whose blog I'll most likely be adding to my reader, is offering commentary on a recent 20/20 special on the poor and disadvantaged who live in the Appalachian mountains. He watched it, and what he found was "a fairly nuanced portrait of life in the hills of Kentucky" that "informs and pisses off at the same time."

His objection highlights something that I have had a hard time figuring out how to communicate about. White Privilege is difficult to wrap one's brain around, especially if one is white. Maybe only if one is white. Average Bro's objection to the 20/20 special isn't that the plight of the impoverished in one part of the country is dealt with in a compassionate and understanding way - but that it is told "with the sort of compassion and restraint seldom afforded when the media depicts poor minorities."

The drug problem is blamed on pharmaceutical companies who systematically dump OxyContin in the mountains as a catch-all pain reliever.[1] The declining coal industry leads to unemployment. Poorly-funded schools lead to high school dropouts. An epidemic of toothrot is blamed on Mountain Dew addiction.[2] A football player who feels alienated and leaves behind a college scholarship (after just 8 weeks) does so because of the pressures from back home, not because he found himself suddenly overmatched on the gridiron. These issues all accumulate and take their toll on the ties that bind the families featured. It’s almost as if there’s a logical explanation for why everyone’s so f*cked the f*ck up. They’re victims of circumstance and products of their environment. Personal responsibility isn’t even discussed. The word “bootstraps” isn’t uttered a single time.

Contrast this with the way poor blacks are blamed for everything. Pumping drugs into their communities. Leaving their children behind with single moms. Killing each other. Leaching off the government when they should really just get off their lazy black asses and do better. Hell, some folks are even blaming Negroes for the recent mortgage crisis. No, really.

I really suggest reading the whole thing.

Since we weren't picked by either of the women who looked at us last week, I've felt a little more free about sharing the details of their stories with a few people. After all - I will never meet these women, or know where exactly they live or their last names. But I've been surprised at some of the reactions, and the lack of compassion I've encountered - not everywhere, but in places I wouldn't have thought. There are still people in my life who don't want to admit that white privilege is real. They would probably even point to the 20/20 story as an example of how it's not real - look, those white people are just as poor and messed up as poor minorities are! But look how differently they are portrayed. It is important food for thought.

Friday, February 20, 2009

It's not like there's nothing else to keep me busy...

While we're waiting, there is plenty to do. In fact, Andrew and I are both full-steam-ahead on several projects, both together and individually. He has the band and will be starting school in April, writes for a couple blogs and is producing a rock show in early March. I am applying for grad school, working more than full time, and keeping up with my priest-in-training duties. One of my favorite parts of being in formation at our particular parish, where I am also now Lay Pastor for Children and Families (yay titles!!), is that I get to preach now and again. Most of these opportunities are simple 5-7 minutes homilies during our shorter mid-week masses. I had one such opportunity last night, and found myself naturally reflecting not only on the lectionary scripture for the day but also on much of my own journey in this whole adoption business so far. If you are interested, I posted my homily on my non-adoption blog, here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

not too special

I have tried and true methods of dealing with feeling rejected, and I employed one of them last night. Andrew fed me a delicious fish dinner and then headed out the door to band practice. As soon as he was safely out of sight I snuck out to the store for treats to go with the luxurious evening of television and feeling sorry for myself that I had planned. (Not that he would have minded, but key to feeling truly sorry for oneself is the illusion that one is all alone and the world is against you. Sneaking helps with that.) Poor me, not getting picked for a baby our first week on the list!! Life just seemed much less exciting all of a sudden.

Andrew came home from practice to find me pathetically polishing off a frozen yogurt as the credits rolled for this week's Chuck.

He put his arms around me. "Don't worry baby, we're special. We'll get picked."

It shows how well my husband knows me that he was able to see right through my mouthful of frozen treats to the real problem. I let myself indulge in my signature quivering lower lip, the one that my Dad used to grab at playfully when I was a little girl and got too pouty. "We are special. We need a special baby."

My sweet husband smiled at me and kissed my lip back into place. I smiled back and the world seemed once again quite wonderful and livable. I could even imagine that it could be interesting and exciting again.

Andrew paused on his way out of the room. "Not too special."

And we both burst out laughing.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Not our baby

I think the title of this post says it all - neither of the possiblities this week turned out to be our baby. Still, I had no idea our first week out there would be so exciting! I'll be praying for both the moms who looked at us, and for the parents they've chosen for their little ones.

So we are back to waiting. We won't know every time we're shown, and I think I'm glad about that. The last week has been exciting, but I don't know if I'd like it to be my life day after day. We know that our little one is out there, and we also know that the longer we wait the more prepared we'll be for him or her. I think it'll take me a day or so to get my head back together and focused on the very real life in front of me, though. I've been living in maybe-baby land nonstop for the past few days!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

okay, so this may take some getting used to...

I was composing a lovely blog post in my mind* about something adoption or parenting related - I think it may have been about the lovely dinner we had with Kari and Kelly and their fantastic baby last night, and all the wonderful hand-me-downs of little Phinney's that we now have stockpiled in our closet - when my phone rang and it was Liz, our adoption coordinator. Hm, I thought, that's odd seeing as J. won't be looking at our profile until next Tuesday. Nonetheless, my heartbeat picked up a little.

"Hi Liz," I answered the phone. "What's up?"

It turned out that J. had been shown profiles today, after all, and we weren't picked. Apparently she ended up feeling more connected to someone else, and while my heart sank a little I didn't feel too bad. It's our first time out, and while I don't know details about who did get picked, Liz did tell me enough for me to realize that it's someone in a population of adoptive parent that sometimes has to wait a long time. So, I felt genuinely glad for that person, and told Liz that.

"But," she said, "I do have something else to talk to you about. If you're okay, and feel ready. I know this can be emotionally draining for couples sometimes."

"We're fine." I told her, "talk to me, talk to me!"

It turns out there is a birth-mom, F., who will be looking at profiles with this same agency on Monday. Liz told me the details surrounding this case, and I knew without checking with Andrew that it was something we'd go for. "When is this baby due?" I asked.

"March 1st, actually."

Whoa. So - this is how it is going to go. That I did have to check with Andrew about, but he's a go and we're a go. Say some prayers for this young pregnant woman on Monday, if praying is something that you do. I am realizing that there are brave young women making these tough choices literally every day.

Meanwhile, as I told a friend this afternoon, I am feeling a little bit like the inverse of that baby swan in the storybook that wandered all over looking for its mother. I'm looking for my baby, of course, and as I get glimpses into this case and that one I am wondering with each case, are you my baby? Are you?

We'll find our swan out there, though. And he or she will be exactly right.

*yes, I have a job and no, it is not suffering. I am an excellent multi-tasker, thank you very much.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

quick update...

Apparently the birthmom won't be looking at profiles until next Tuesday. So, more practice at waiting. We are going to rock at waiting before this whole thing is done!

A word about privacy.

As soon as I hung up the phone with Liz on Monday afternoon I flipped it open again and started surfing through my frequently called list. I did it without thinking, because that's the kind of person I am. When I'm excited about something, when I'm nervous about something, when I'm thinking about something, I talk about it. Heck, even when none of those things are true, I'm usually up for talking about something. I am a raging extrovert, and I process things best when I'm thinking out loud and when someone is listening to me. Andrew has learned, God bless him, that I'm not always looking for a solution or an answer. Most of the time I just want to talk. It's one reason why blogging is something I enjoy. I remember telling my mother about blogging a few years ago and explaining it something like this, "I just have more to say than any one person has time to listen to, and this way I can put it out there and other folks can read/listen or not, as they choose."

So of course my natural response to the truckload of information about this particular case was to find someone to process it with. Andrew was in a meeting, most of my friends and my parents probably at work. I returned to my desk and sat down, thinking about the blog post I'd write later, when I got home from work, about this exciting development. And then I remembered something that I had heard one of the social workers from our agency talk about, that has been reiterated in much of the reading we've done about adoptive parenting.

The details of this case don't belong to me, even though I do know about them. Even if this baby turns out to be our baby, perhaps especially if this baby turns out to be our baby, those details still won't belong to us. They belong to the child, who won't have the ability to understand or process them for several years yet. Part of protecting our child's privacy will be keeping the sensitive details of his or her conception and birth private until our son or daughter can begin to understand and process them for herself or himself. This doesn't mean we can't talk about it to anyone else, but it does mean I need to show restraint, to stick to those who I know will be involved and important in our child's life going forward, and who we trust to respect our wishes and the boundaries we set for sharing information about our baby. It's a delicate thing, and something that would never have occurred to me on my own - that unlike a biological child whose entire early life happens within the context of the parental relationship, an adopted child has story and life experience that doesn't belong to the parents. And as such, isn't the parents' information to share with world.

So, suffice to say, as we are presented to particular cases I will do my best to protect the private experience of each as if that child were going to be ours. The details won't show up here, and I might not offer them to you in person, if we know each other in real life. It's not because I don't want to - believe me I'm dying to talk about it. But this is one of the first steps in my lifelong project of being the sort of mother who respects her child and his or her life experiences, including the experience that are his or hers alone.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Day One*

Andrew called me on his way home from the agency Friday afternoon. "I dropped off the profiles," he reported. "Gave them right to Liz." Liz is our program coordinator, and the person whose emails and phone calls will set my heart to racing from here on out. "She said she might call you," Andrew said as he was signing off.

"What?" I said, "Why? Does she have something? She couldn't. It's too soon. But - did she say why?" He had no further information for me.

But today there was an email from Liz in my inbox. She got the profiles, she sent them out. She had a case she wanted to talk to me about, when would be a good time to call??

Wow. I thought. That was fast.

So she called, and we talked. She told us about a baby that is due in late March, whose mother is going to be shown profiles this Thursday** and has some special requests that we needed to approve before our profile was included in the stack. She asked us if we wanted to be shown, and after thinking about it and talking about it we said yes.

So there it is. We've been listed for less than 24 hours and someone is already looking at us. It's thrilling, a little scary, and suddenly very very real. This mother will be shown several profiles, and chances are good that she'll choose someone else. After all it's our first time out. But I've still got butterflies in my tummy and I'm beginning to think that we're only just now getting to the hard part.

* I promise not to post every single day that our profiles are out.
** We are only told we're being shown if there are special circumstances of some sort. Usually we won't be notified in advance.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

At the printer...

Yesterday we got the final thumbs-up on our profile book, and it is at this very moment at Kinko's being printed up. We've got 19 copies to be sent out to six different agencies that do adoptions in eight different states. That may sound confusing, but it feels like things are getting simpler. Last week there were 50 different states our baby could theoretically have been born in - now there are only eight! Our little eleven page introduction to us might be shown to potential birthmoms as early as next week.
If you're interested in seeing the whole thing and are my friend on flickr, I have it uploaded as a set there. If not, and you're my friend IRL, send me an email and I'll get you a guest pass to view it. I'm pretty proud of how the book turned out, but its full of specifics that are probably only interesting to us and the women who will look at it.
Now we wait.