This isn't always how it works, I'm finding out. Some agencies don't tell Liz or us when they are showing profile books. But there is one particular matching agency that does it this way, and we've been shown quite a few times through them. It goes like this: I get an email from Liz and my heart skips a beat. The title is something like "African-American Baby Girl due _______." Then I realize that this isn't my child's birth announcement and I can breathe again. Dummy, I think to myself, when you're actually matched she will call you. What follows is an email with information about a pregnant woman and the child she is carrying. I forward it to Andrew, we both read it and discuss the details and make a choice about whether or not we want to be shown. I spend a few dreamy days re-reading the email, imagining that maybe this is my baby boy or girl. Then a few days later there is another email from Liz, which again stops my heart but differently. Crap. I think. When we're actually matched she'll call.
As Liz learns where our boundaries are - so far we haven't been offered a situation we're not okay with - she will feel able to put us in without sending that email. Or, maybe, one of these days she'll actually call.
So now there that there is once again such an email sitting in my inbox, I'm thinking about the Transracial Adoptee's Bill of Rights. Some of the emails that have landed in my inbox from Liz this way have had truly, truly heartrending stories inside of them. They are stories of women who are very brave, yes, but also of babies who really need a start at life that their first mothers can't offer to them. Each one comes with a warning:
Caution: We are very sensitive to the fact that reviewing information of children weighs heavily on the heart. Please read the following with caution:
I'm not kidding. The emails actually say that. I laughed, the first time. But now I get it. My instincts kick in and I want to be the one to offer these little ones something better. And that's the danger. Not that I might be hurt by reading a sad story, but that I might let that feeling of wanting to be a savior be the main reason I say yes.
Every child is entitled to parents who are not looking to "save" him or to improve the world.
It must be hard to be family with someone who has "saved" you. It must be hard to be family with a person who you have "saved." The victim, the saved one, owes their savior something. Can you imagine growing up with parents who feel entitled to gratitude from you? Who became your parents because they pitied you?
And it gets even more complicated when you stir racial difference into this savior/saved dynamic. Savior=white/adult/financially secure. Saved=black/child/poor. Do you see?
Families are made of equals, ultimately. Sure, we are different ages from our parents and our children. This means the roles we play are different - disciplinarian, coach, teacher, provider vs learner, eater, grower, etc. These roles are fluid, they change as children grow up and parents grow older. In a transracial family there are other less fluid differences - skin color and natural aptitudes, for example. But savior and saved are not healthy familial roles.
One of these days I might get an email from Liz with a story about a baby I want to save. That desire is different than the desire to parent. I will do my best, when this happens, to recognize it, and to say no.