Adopted My Peeps Are Whiteys

November 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda

 

 

I’ve always hated my nose. It is short with a wide bridge that plateaus off the tip landing with a thud. There is nothing elegant or sculpted about it, unlike my mom’s nose, which could have been the prototype plastic surgeons used for rhinoplasty in the 80’s. My nose has no structure or shape that gives it any dignity. There is nothing as righteous as a bump. It is just shapeless, with round nostrils like a baby’s.

As much as I admired my mother’s perfect profile, I never wished it were mine because it couldn’t be. We don’t share the same DNA. I was adopted. Now I know DNA doesn’t really mean much. Not everyone relates to their family, but at least you know where the manic depression, extra long second toe, or hairy arms are from. You have someone to thank and to blame for your assets and deficiencies. A cord of disheveled genetic code that makes you… you.

While I enjoyed the uniqueness of being me, I also realized that I looked different than my family; my skin a shade darker, my eyes and hair a milk chocolate brown. My parents are both fair-skinned and light-eyed, while my adopted sister has blonde hair and blue eyes. It didn’t matter to me though because my parents loved and adored my sister and me. They rejoiced in how lucky they were to be our parents. Adoption was something to be proud of and we did feel proud. Our family was full of love and affection and generosity and even though we didn’t look like one another, we did fit.

But people were always curious about my background. I have that mysterious brown palette that makes strangers ask “where are you from?” Over the years, I have had many people guess my heritage: Indian, Middle Eastern, Spanish, Turkish, half African American, Cherokee. I had a guy come up to me once, randomly, and ask if I was from Genoa. When I replied that I didn’t know, he assured me I was Genovese and that everyone there looks just like me.

My friends have also called me in a frenzy convinced they had seen my biological mother somewhere: a stewardess on a Greek airline, a retail worker in a mall along highway 80, an actress from a TV movie. While I know they meant well, I didn’t know how to break it to them that I just wasn’t that interested. I liked my parents, my family, my home. The truth is my biological parents did the right thing giving me up and I was dealt a royal flush by ending up with my family. Besides, what is so great about looking like someone else really? It doesn’t mean you like them.

But then my husband and I decided to try and have a baby and suddenly I was curious. Maybe I should know more about my peeps if I plan to pass on these esoteric genes. And it wasn’t so hard to find out because coincidently, my dad’s law firm handled my adoption so he had all the forms, photos, and birth certificates in his office. That is how things were done in the 1970’s. So, I asked my parents for my file and much to my surprise, they said “sure”. I was worried that I would hurt their feelings by requesting it, like I was insinuating that they had failed me somehow but they were happy to help.

A few days later, we were at the theater and as my dad struggled to tuck his well worn briefcase under his seat, the one I used to pull around the house when I played “lawyer” as a kid, he mentioned that he had my file. It was 3 minutes before the show was going to start and my mom excitedly said, “Well, let’s see it!” I held back and let them review it all, squirming in my seat not to peek; I never imagined finding out my nationality minutes before a Broadway musical. But as they “Oooohhh’d” and “Aaahhh’d” and showed the photos to the strangers seated in front of us, I couldn’t resist. “Okay, let me see” I said, surrendering to my fate. There were 3 photos of my biological peeps: one black and white of my bio-mom in her very serious senior high school portrait; one color photo of my bio-dad looking jovial at a party and a third shot of them standing together on a suburban lawn. In this third photo, he was dressed in a suit, she in a yellow mini-dress and they looked like they were going to a high school formal. There were three rays of sun damage splayed like fingers across the print, leaving a ghostly sheen to their faces.

The woman in the photos didn’t look like me, even-though my parents thought she did. I didn’t feel anything when I looked at my bio-mom. No instant bond, or “Ah ha, this is what I look like!” To tell you the truth, it was sort of a disappointment. The mystery was gone. Bio-mom was not the exotic islander I envisioned. My peeps were whiteys. She had blonde hair and blue eyes! Bio-dad was darker, more like me and tall. I saw a little bit of myself in him, especially when I was a kid and had a pixie haircut. But I felt totally removed from them, both physically and emotionally. Nothing felt resolved, just extinguished. All of my fantasies dissolved, my curiosity cured, my unique self now not so incredibly unique. I suddenly felt average.

My bio-mom was German/Irish and bio-dad German/Italian. I guess that Italian gene was pretty strong, but German? I couldn’t feel less German. I hate schnitzel and sauerbraten and have no sense of superior order in my life. Where is the woman from Guadalajara or Tehran or Mykonos that was supposed to be my bio-mom? I felt duped. How could these be my peeps?

I suddenly realized that it is the stories I share with my family, the knowingness of what is familiar, the foods we eat, the songs we sing, the fact that we are Jews who celebrate Christmas, Easter and Passover. That is what makes me… me. These are my peeps! Family is more than your DNA; it is who you share your past with. The people who have been there to see you succeed and fail and always had loving arms for either circumstance. Looking like someone isn’t half as fulfilling as being like someone. Maybe if I find my bio-parents someday, they too will be writers or dog-lovers or have a habit of eating ice cream for breakfast. But for now, living with the question is better than knowing the answer.

Just as the lights started to dim, I held the picture of my bio-mom in my hand and looked at her nose. It was short and stout with perfectly round nostrils. And then the curtain came up.

*A longer version of this essay was first published on Fresh Yarn www.freshyarn.com.

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Is There a Difference Between Birth Moms and Adoptive Moms?

October 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda

 

I really want to volunteer my time to a nonprofit that I like but something on the homepage is stopping me. The organization is dedicated to helping birthmothers after they place children for adoption. It provides mentoring, scholarships for education, and counseling in a community environment. It is a place for birthmothers to talk to one another and get emotional and financial support. It is an amazing group and I believe in it 100%. I think often about my daughter’s birthmother and how she was 18 when she decided to place my daughter. She wanted to go to college, to live a life before she became a parent. My own birthmother wanted the same thing when she, a 19-year-old, placed me and returned to college. Both women would have benefited greatly from an organization like the one I would like to volunteer with and I would to work there in order to honor them and the brave decisions they made.

But what is stopping me is a quote on the home page from a birthmother who says “When I am talking to another birth mom, I’m not a birth mom, I’m a mom. We don’t have to put a title on it. I can say ‘Oh my son did this or my daughter did this ‘and I can just be a mom. There are no stipulations on it, there’s no stigma. We can just be moms.”

This freaks me out. What do you mean you can just be moms? I find this confusing, as I do a lot about open adoption. It sounds like this birth mom is taking a lot of credit for mothering the child she placed. I don’t agree with this. The adoptive mom is the mom, she is the one who is there for the child everyday. I don’t know why this organization, which is very popular and has a tremendous reputation, would condone this and put this quote on the homepage. Is this what the birth moms are sitting around talking about? It seems the idea is for them to have the resources and support to move on with their lives after placing a child. I recognize that placing a child is a difficult decision and very hard for some birthmothers to get over, but if this organization’s main mission is to help birthmothers take care of themselves post placement, I find this quote on the homepage misleading. It is very off putting to me and sounds like this birthmother needs a lot more counseling than what she is getting.

Am I wrong? To the birth moms out there, I would love to hear your opinion about how you view yourself in your child’s life. Do you consider yourself a birth mom, a mom, an extended family member? And should I join an organization that fosters a philosophy I may not agree with?

Placing a child for adoption is emotional and difficult and I hope there are more organizations out there than this one that provide post placement assistance for birthmothers. Retreats, counseling, financial aid, and tuition. Yes, 100%. But I think it is dangerous thinking for birthmothers to be sitting around talking about the children they placed like they’re the ones mothering them. It is a different job and one that adoptive moms should get the credit for.

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The Truth About Sibling Rivalry

October 16, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda


Last Friday I did something I never thought I would do. I signed up for a parenting class. It isn’t that I am against advice; I have a whole library of parenting books including “How To Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk,” “Parenting the Difficult Child,” and “The Wonder of Boys.” Still, no matter how much I read, no matter the arsenal of tools at my disposal, I still get frustrated, exhausted, and impatient. The newest cause for alarm is that my almost two-year-old daughter is talking, in full sentences. This has drastically altered my son’s world because before, when they would play together in their room while I was doing dishes or cleaning up or doing other mundane household chores, if I heard Asha crying I would only have his story to depend on for what happened. “Kaden, what happened?” He looks at me, big eyes, innocent stare “She fell down!” Then I would pick up the crying baby and console her, wondering how she “fell down” when they were playing on the floor and take her into the kitchen with me. Now, when they are playing and I hear crying I go in and I have Kaden’s version “She hit herself on the head!” and her version “Kaden hit me!” It is clear who is telling the more accurate account. I am troubled by him not telling the truth which I think all kids do when they have done something wrong and don’t want to fess up to it. When I get to the bottom of the dispute it usually has to do with the same theme, she got in his way while he was playing cars or she took the car he was playing with so he had to pry it out of her iron grip. I feel like a broken record reminding him “use your words” instead of force. She is stubborn and strong, traits probably mastered by having a big brother and needing to defend her space, but I would like to feel like they can play together, which they do often and happily, and not worry that it will always result in crying. So the workshop I signed up for is “Siblings Without Rivalry.” This is my hope for the workshop, that I will have special voodoo powers that make my children stop fighting with just one look or that they listen to me, the first time, when I ask them to stop fighting and yelling at each other. Or when my daughter sits on my lap, gives me a hug and declares “My mommy!” My son won’t run over, yank her off my lap by the neck and then sit on my lap yelling “My mommy!” Then they both start pulling at my arms screaming at each other “My mommy!” “No! My mommy!” My hope is that after this workshop they will both share my lap and hug me taking turns and say “Our mommy!”

Is it possible? I’ll let you know after my class tonight- stay tuned!

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Parenting: I HATE YOU

October 2, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda, Parenting

By: Meika Rouda


Last night, just before bed time, when I refused to read another book or sing a song or let my son watch a show, he yelled at me “I HATE YOU!”

I was stunned. It actually stung me to the core. I had never heard him say the word “hate” before. Lately he has been telling me “you are mean” when he doesn’t get his way, something we are working on but truthfully in his mind, I am being mean when he wants a second ice cream and doesn’t get it. But hate is a new level. Does he know what hate is? Has someone said this to him? Where do I begin to address this? And since we try to follow a philosophy of talking about feelings, expressing how one feels, how do I incorporate hate into his vocabulary in a positive way?

Since I was being reactionary I first told him hate is a strong word. That we don’t use that word for people and that it hurts my feelings when he says that. I then tried to explain what hate is. Hate is a a word for things that you strongly dislike. It is an angry word, often said when one doesn’t really mean it. But then I felt like I was arming him with a word he will want to use, he now knows it has a strong meaning, that it does hurt me. Then I told him that I love him no matter what, even if he thinks he hates me.

Later in the kitchen after our son finally went to bed, my husband told me how surprised he was to hear the word hate come from our son. “I never in my life said I hated my parents.” My husband comes from, ironically, a strict yet hippie background where feelings were not expressed and yet children were treated like adults from Day One. He was raised in a mutually respectful home where the word hate was outlawed. I, on the other hand, have yelled at my parents countless times as a child and have even said I hated them when I was an unruly teenager, seeking love and attention. I don’t think my 4-year-old has any idea of what the word hate means. I know this is just the first of other incidents where he will be upset with me and express himself in hurtful ways. And I want him to express himself, it is vital that he tells me how he feels, that he puts a name to his feeling but I have to remind him that when he thinks he hates me, he is actually just frustrated that he isn’t getting another book. Or when I am mean because I am not buying him a toy, he is actually feeling sad or mad or a host of emotions that are difficult to navigate at his young age. And I have to remind myself not to take it personally even when it hurts.

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The Glory of Transitional Kindergarten

September 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda

There is a new California mandate that children must be five by September 1st in order to start kindergarten. Since many kids, including my son, have birthdays after the cut-off date but before the end of the year, the state has implemented Transitional Kindergarten. It is a modified program for 4-year-olds, or the first of a two-year kindergarten program. I just found out about it a few weeks ago; apparently it is under wraps. I don’t think the school districts quite know how to handle this new grade and 4-year-olds could stay at their preschools instead of filling up the elementary school early but when I heard our local school was offering TK, I went ahead and signed him up. There were two main factors in my decision; one is cost. Preschool is expensive and TK is free so that is an easy choice. And the second is that it allowed us the opportunity to check out our local public school before kindergarten, so if it was horrible and he hated it, we could still apply for kindergarten at a private school. Win-win in my book.
School started a few days later and I had little time to prep my son about his new school or the fact that none of his friends from preschool would be there. On the first day of school, he was excited, his teacher was a pro, 28 years’ teaching kindergarten at this school and a warm man who can hold his own with 4-year-olds. My son didn’t cry when I said goodbye but I did. He was in a big kids’ school, a place where he would experience so many things, where he would be learning who he is and making decisions, where no one really is looking out for him in the same way.

The class is mostly boys, and large with 21 students. While preschool was a nurturing environment, TK is real school. There are bells that ring when class begins, and an expectation for a quiet, calm classroom. While preschool was entirely play-based learning, TK is more structured learning. After a few short weeks, my son is spelling his name and recognizing all numbers, something he struggled with at preschool. The pride he shows in knowing these things is immense and I realize he needs the challenge, the expectation that he will stretch his mind and keep up with other students. He has also made several new friends, his two closest friends ironically are also adopted, something they are too young to know or understand but it is as if a silent radar has gone off in their souls and they are attracted to each other.  They were bonded from day one.

And on the weekends after school is over, he tends to fall apart. It is as if holding it together at school, learning and making his way, is so exhausting that he reverts to old behaviors I thought were long gone. Hitting when he gets frustrated, yelling at me and my husband when he doesn’t get his way, not listening at all when we ask him to do things. And it is frustrating for us. But I also realize he is under a huge transition, he has been thrust into a place of order, where he doesn’t get his way, where he has to listen, where he has to deliver.  At home, in his safe place, he just wants to fall apart.
I wonder as I watch him adjust what kind of person he will be. Will he like school, be popular or sporty, be a boy the girls like or one they don’t, be a show-off in class or studious. Here are character traits just beginning to form now and, like life, he is making decisions about who he is. I am grateful he is an adaptable child, one who makes friends easily and takes things as they come. As parents all we can do is help shepherd these little souls and hope for the best, that life will be kind, and generous, that good fortune will follow our children, that they will have the tools to face life with confidence. And that is what transitional kindergarten has taught me: that we all transition all the time in life, being open and adaptable is the key. And that sometimes kindergarten is actually harder on the parent than it is on the kids.

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The Duality of Age

September 4, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By Meika Rouda

I have been struck by the duality of age recently. On the one side, I am watching my kids get older, and with each day there is something new: an inch to grow, a new word to learn, a bike to ride. On the other side I see my parents aging: saggy skin, muscles that don’t work they way they used to, dying friends. They are on opposite sides of the spectrum, one side ascending and the other descending. Yet they both greet each new day with delight, happy to be here, to be alive.

My parents are 78 and in wonderful shape physically and mentally, but time has chiseled its imprint on their bodies and they are slower, less energetic.  They have ailments like chronic coughing and digestive problems. Nothing major but things that remind them they are approaching a later stage in life, where they have outlived many of their friends and other family members. I am grateful my parents are alive and they are not sick or struggling, that I get to see them often, that my children spend time with them and have gotten to know them. And yet it makes me sad to see them change, to know that maybe in the best case scenario there is only a good decade left before they leave us. To wonder what it will be like to not have parents anymore or worse perhaps, to lose the parent I know while they are still living. I am fearful of them having dementia and being captive in bodies that still work but minds that don’t.

I’m not ready for my parents to die. I have never known life without them. They are the people I call with good news and bad. The ones who I have leaned on many times in my life and have always comforted me, reassured me, supported me when I have needed it.

And now I am a parent and filling this role for my children. My children who too are aging and it is a joyful aging process, from babies to toddlers to kids.

I am in the middle, middle age, neither young nor old, bridging these two generations watching one decline and the other rise.

My dad has a saying that helps me keep it all in perspective. If you ask someone if they would like to live forever, most people would say yes. If you ask that same person if would they like to live forever but no new babies would be born, they all say no. If no new generations were to grace the earth in order for them to continue living, it would not be worth it. And that is what I see when I look at my children next to my parents. A full circle, a full life, another day to celebrate.

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A Mother Loses Her Cool

July 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By: Meika Rouda


I always hated that saying, that what you dislike in others is what you see in yourself. But while I was on vacation last week I was confronted with exactly that.
I was at a pool in Lake Tahoe with my kids and my dad. It is the pool my dad was a life guard at sixty years ago (when he was in high school) and we return every summer so he can take a swim and reminiscence. There is a kiddie pool and my kids jumped in as soon as we got there, wading in the two-foot deep water and playing with a girl who was already swimming in the pool. The girl was named Olive and she was the same age as my son but was more interested in playing with my toddler daughter. Olive gave Asha a swim floaty and was happily chatting and showing us her floppy dog paddle. Her mother came by to tell her she had five minutes left before they had to go. The mother was my age, stylish and pretty and looked like someone I would know. Olive was delightful and my kids and I were enjoying her company. She was outgoing, funny, and friendly. A great kid. Her mother finished packing up and came over again to warn Olive that there were “two minutes left.” Olive protested, she didn’t want to leave, but her mother ignored her and put her baby brother in the stroller along with their bag. Olive continued to swim so I said calmly, “Olive, I think your mom is ready to go, maybe you should get out of the pool. We are going to leave soon too.” She just looked at me and kept swimming. Olive’s mom started to walk toward us and lost her patience along the way from the chaise lounge to the kiddie pool. Her gait became quick and agitated, her face puckered with annoyance. I recognized that face immediately, it was the face of someone on the verge. “OLIVE” she yelled “NOW”. “No Mom, I don’t want to go.” Olive kept swimming. And that is when her mom lost it .

“OLIVE GET OUT OF THE POOL NOW!” she screamed. It made me uncomfortable, like I was witnessing a private moment in a very public space. My kids stopped swimming and stared at Olive’s mom.

“I MEAN IT! I WILL NEVER TAKE YOU TO THE POOL AGAIN-EVER!” Her voice was getting louder, I felt embarrassed for her. This was definitely not her best moment. I wondered if she would look back on the day and feel some sadness at her behavior. Now everyone at the pool was looking at her but she didn’t seem to notice or if she did, she didn’t care. Her hands were on her hips, she was in a stand-off with Olive.

She then bent down and got into the pool fully clothed, walking toward Olive, her black terry cloth dress skimming the water. She grabbed Olive’s arm and yanked her out of the pool as she continued to scream “YOU WILL NEVER GO TO THE POOL AGAIN!” Olive was crying hysterically. She smacked Olive on the butt and Olive wailed.  It was a scene. I felt bad for Olive and I felt bad for her mom.

I know what it is like to try and wrangle two kids to leave somewhere when they don’t want to. Often I am the mom at the park thinking up ways to make leaving fun. “I’ll race you to the car!” or up the ante with incentive to make it easier -”We can make cookies when we get home!” But it can be frustrating, especially when you get into a power struggle. I have learned, by being the mom who has yelled and screamed and been utterly furious that my child(ren) won’t listen, LISTEN! that once I get into the power struggle realm, it is over, I always lose, even if I get my way, I still lose because I have gotten to an ugly place where I don’t like myself as a parent. Where I am yelling at a four-year-old who really doesn’t understand why I am so mad and just wants to continue playing. Most of the time, my yelling is confined to the house; I have yet to have a huge public outburst (thankfully) but when I watched Olive’s mom, I did see myself and I didn’t like it. Olive didn’t deserve that much anger just for wanting to swim and have fun, just as my kids don’t deserve it when I lose it on them for not brushing their teeth, when I asked them five time- FIVE TIMES!!

But seeing that interaction did give me a chance to reflect. I never feel good after I yell at my kids, no one does. But now when I get that feeling, of complete frustration, when I am on the verge, I am going to take a breath and remember Olive and her mom and what losing it on a four-year-old looks like.

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The New Normal?

June 26, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By: Meika Rouda


I have been talking to a lot of people about the donor egg and sperm scenario ever since I wrote about Ellie Lavi and her children, who are not recognized as being American even though their mother is an American citizen. Without proof of the donor eggs or sperm being from an American citizen, the US won’t issue them citizenship. It is bizarre and very wrong of the US to set such a contentious precedent. But through Ellie’s battle, I became interested in the idea of women using donor eggs and sperm and carrying the child. It is like being your own surrogate. I was talking to a good friend of mine, a woman I have known for over twenty years, who has been trying to get pregnant with donor sperm and IVF. She has had two miscarriages and the doctors are encouraging her to use donor eggs.

“Why would you do that?” I ask. “Just adopt.”

“Well, I wouldn’t qualify for adoption; I work freelance with a job that has me traveling 30 weeks out of the year and I haven’t had a permanent address in over a year.” Suddenly I realize she is right, she isn’t a great candidate for adoption even though she is one of those people who is great with kids. Kids love her. My kids, who are not always receptive to people, absolutely adore her. But any social worker would look at her and think she isn’t stable enough and not financially sound.

“Plus,” she says, “why would a birthmother pick a single woman over a couple? I just don’t think they would.” And again maybe she is right, I don’t know the stats on adoption for single women but I would imagine birthmothers lean toward couples.

“At least if I carry the child, I can become a parent and I have control over the pregnancy, something that is impossible when you adopt. I can control what I eat, make sure I take prenatals and have regular exams and tests. That makes me feel better. And I get to connect with the baby while I am carrying it. I think emotionally that will be good for me.” She says.

And she had a point. Our son’s birthmother smoked the entire pregnancy, not something I would have done if I had carried him. And as an adoptive parent I felt uneasy making requests to her about her health like “don’t smoke and please take the prenatals!” I didn’t feel it was my place to tell her things she already knew and ignored.

So there was a good reason to be your own surrogate. A sense of control and the ability to give your baby a healthy start in life.I never thought of it that way.

Last week I was having coffee with a writer friend who went through menopause at age 32 right after her divorce. The first thing her doctor said was “you should use donor eggs and sperm and get pregnant right away!” She said she was shocked and surprised by his suggestion but according to him it was very common. She didn’t follow his advice and instead adopted two children from Guatemala several years later with her new husband.

So this is opening my eyes to how “normal” it is to use donor eggs and sperm. It is another way for someone to create a family. Especially for my single friend, who would never qualify for adoption and is already in her 40′s and wanting a family now. Waiting for a match may take years for her, that is if she passes the home study. So I agree with her choice to go forward with the dual donors. I just wonder what she will tell her child? Do you mention that they were created with donor eggs and sperm? How does that make them feel? Do they relate more to adopted kids or to kids with single donors? There are so many ethical and moral questions stemming from reproductive technologies. It will be fascinating in the next few years to see how these children and families transpire.

What becomes is the new normal.

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Children Without a Country?

June 12, 2012 by  
Filed under Adoptive Families, Family, Meika Rouda

By: Meika Rouda


I really wanted to write about Father’s Day, to commend the wonderful dads out there but I am obsessed with this story of the single American mom, Ellie Lavi, living in Israel who conceived twins with a donor egg and sperm and now the US won’t recognize them as citizens. Why won’t they recognize them as US citizens? Well because there is no proof the donor eggs or sperm were from US citizens. What? There are so many issues revolving around IVF these days, so many ethical questions, but this one takes the prize for me.

First of all, is it common for people to do  IVF using donor eggs and sperm? Did they ever hear of adoption?- hello, it is the same thing. Yes I understand you don’t carry the child, a mother doesn’t bond with the child while in the womb or go through the joy (and pain) of pregnancy and birth but honestly, for a woman in her 40′s who is single, to put her body through the process of IVF and the risks of a pregnancy is curious to me. Did she really want to be pregnant that badly? Is there research that by being your own surrogate you decrease potential emotional issues associated with adoption like abandonment, primal wound etc.?

And then there is the question of citizenship. If you are an American citizen and you adopt a child from another country that child is granted American citizenship automatically. I agree with this 100%. So why is the Ellie Lavi situation really any different? While there is no biological connection, she is their mother and her name is on their birth certificate. Is this some precedent the US is setting to dissuade American citizens from going abroad for fertility treatments? By the way, fertility treatments are free in Israel. Which I think they should be in our country as well but that is another story.

So good luck Ellie. While I don’t understand your choice to be your own surrogate, I do think your children should be recognized as US citizens.

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Can Daddies Be Pregnant?

By: Meika Rouda


I have been trying to talk to my 4-year-old about adoption. Any time we see a pregnant woman I point her out and say “that mommy is pregnant with a baby. You were once a baby in someone’s belly too but it wasn’t my belly it was Shannon’s belly…” I briefly explain how Shannon wanted him to come and live with us and that is how I became his mommy. Usually my son just stares at me and doesn’t respond. He shows no interest. But the other day I brought it up again, this time in reference to airplane travel. My husband and I were going on a trip and I was telling my son early to help him prepare for our absence. “Mommy and Daddy are going on a trip. Remember when we went on the airplane to pick up your sister..” and on I went about the pregnant other mommy who carried his sister and wanted her to come live with us so that is how Asha became a part of our family. I keep it simple, basic, just the facts.

This time he had questions. “Did you come and pick me up too?” “Yes” I answered, “You grew in Shannon’s belly and then when you were born Daddy and I flew on the airplane to pick you up.”

Kaden thought for awhile and then said “I don’t want to grow in Shannon’s belly. I want to grow in Daddy’s belly.”
I didn’t know how to respond so I said, “Daddies can’t have babies but if Daddy could grow you in his belly he would.”
I wasn’t sure if this was true, I never asked my husband if he were able to be pregnant and give birth would he but I felt confident that in the context of this conversation, it was safe to say he would. And that was that. Kaden went back to singing a song and looking out the window. Conversation over.

I often struggle with talking to my kids about adoption. It is ironic since I grew up knowing I was adopted and it never seemed to be a big deal in my family. But this was the first time Kaden actually acknowledged something about birth, about being born, about how families become families. I know this is all about keeping the lines of communication open and not having any secrets and when he is ready to ask questions he will but birth is very abstract to a 4 year old. The fact that he recognizes that he grew somewhere that wasn’t my belly (or his daddy’s) feels like a breakthrough. Maybe next time he will have questions about Shannon or why he didn’t grow in my belly but for now I am happy that at least the notion of adoption is out there and not something to be afraid of talking about. Since we are not in contact with the birthmothers directly, I also need to prepare myself for the idea that my children may feel differently about their adoptions than I did. They may want to contact their birth families. And that will be their choice but I know this is the first of many conversations I will have them about where they came from and how we became a family, grown in Daddy’s belly or not.

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