Thursday, April 15, 2010

Four Children of My Own

We've all heard the recent news about the Mother who sent her seven year old son back to his homeland of Russia because he was demonstrating unusual and violent behaviors. As you can imagine, I was appalled by this woman's actions, and then I was devastated to see that it had an immediate impact on international adoption and that it now threatens to delay or terminate the completion of adoptions that are currently in-process. I deeply feel the pain of those families, as we were one of those families on many different occasions.

The Joint Council on International Children's Services has issued a call to action, and I've put on my Mommy cape and am ready to fly. They have created the We Are The Truth campaign, and they named April 15th as the day to blog about your successful adoption experience to prove to the world that most adoption stories are success stories.

So here it is...

There aren't many people like me. In fact, I'm guessing that I may truly be one in a million, although I don't know the official statistic and wonder if it is even available. I am the mother of a blended family which was created by domestic adoption, birth, and international adoption. And I speak the truth.

Adoption is a unique journey and, after experiencing all aspects of it, I know that it is not for everyone. It's not for people who want to save the world, one child at a time. It's not for people who feel that their needs are more important than the Birthmother's needs. It's not for people who think that it is the next best thing to giving birth.

So what is it then? Adoption is loving, and respecting, and honoring all members of the triad. Adoption is opening your arms and making a child your own. Adoption is preparing for every bump in the road and every difficult conversation and every emotional breakdown so that - when it happens (and it will) - you have the tools that you'll need to make things better. Adoption is parenting.

We adopted Juliana and Kendra as infants through the domestic adoption process. We held Juliana in our arms minutes after her birth, and we arrived at Kendra's bassinet just one day after her early arrival. We had them both from the start, and you could say that the experience most mimicked actual childbirth - other than the pregnancy, of course. We even had medical ID bracelets at each hospital to prove that we were their parents. I fell in love with them from the second I saw their sweet faces and held them in my arms. I became their mother, because their Birthparents lovingly made a plan for them to join our family. Imagine being entrusted with such a huge responsibility. Jay and I were ready for that responsibility... and it's one that we will carry forever.

A couple of years after Kendra arrived, we tried IVF and I was blessed to become pregnant and give birth to Luke. I didn't need a birthchild, but I desperately wanted to experience pregnancy if my body could be coaxed into doing it. At one point during the pregnancy, I started to wonder if I would feel different about Luke. I kept convincing myself that I surely would not, but - one day - I owned it and accepted that I wouldn't truly know until he actually arrived. When that day finally came, I felt such joy and relief in knowing that the same feelings that I had for the girls were welling up in me for Luke. As clearly as he was my own, they were too.

And then we decided to adopt again... this time from Guatemala. The questions resurfaced as to how I would bond with a new little guy from a faraway place who not only had been born to another woman but had been raised for his first eight months by a Foster Mother. Surely this would feel different?

We learned of Will's arrival more than a month after his actual birthday and I didn't meet him for the first time until he was four months old but, when I held him in my arms, he was all mine. I grieved for him at the end of our visit until the day I returned to Guatemala to bring him home. I wore a symbol of him and his country around my neck every day that we were apart, and I physically ached for him. Our bond was instant and can never be broken. He too is my own.

We're not your typical family, this McFadyen tribe. We come from different places and even different cultures. We are varying shades of white and brown, and our personalities and temperaments and interests and abilities are all over the map. That said, we are family.

And so, when someone says: "Now you gave birth and adopted, right? Which one is your own?"
I say, with a smile on my face: "All of them. Can't you tell?"

Another successful adoption story. We Are The Truth!

God Bless all people who joined their families through adoption. God Bless their loving Birthparents. And God Bless all of the children who are waiting to come home to their forever families.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


My new friends in Guatemala prepared me. They said that “re-entry” would be difficult. They said that it would hit me at unusual times. They said that it would bring me to tears. They were right.

Within five minutes of returning home, at 1:30am on Palm Sunday, I was standing in the dark in my bedroom, weeping. It had been a long day of traveling, and I had every intention of quickly transitioning from doorway to pajamas to bed, and then, mid-step, I froze. As I stood still in the quiet of the night, with spring peepers offering a faint chirp in the background, I absorbed all of the comforts of my home. I felt the sturdy wood floor beneath my feet and remembered all of the people I had met who slept, every night, on a dirt floor. I felt the expanse of my bedroom, with vaulted ceilings and many windows, and I remembered the mud brick homes that I had entered, which – as beautiful and traditional as they were – reminded me of small caves. And I actually felt the conveniences in my life… a bathroom only steps away, a thermostat on the wall to control the heat, a stocked refrigerator downstairs, and light bulbs… lots and lots of lamps and recessed lights and nightlights which simply required the flip of a switch to illuminate an entire room. It was in that darkness, as I thought about Florinda and Daniel Pablo and Cayetana and Erwin and so many others, that I began to unravel. Yes… it happened that quickly.

So what is re-entry? Ever since I was 10 years old, in Ms. Weems’ 5th grade class, I have understood the concept of re-entry. I don’t remember much from that year (other than being the girl winner of the multiplication contest and earning dinner at China Blossom with the teacher and boy winner, David Natoli), but I do remember this. Ms. Weems told a story about a friend of hers who had traveled to a poor area of Mexico to do volunteer work. She explained that, when the friend returned home for the holidays, she burst into tears as family members tore through wrapping paper to open Christmas gifts. Her friend was not just sad to think that the people she had met in Mexico would not have gifts to open, but she was overcome by the symbolism of the wrapping paper, knowing full well that such beautiful paper would be valued and treasured by the poor people she served. The image stuck in my head for, well… more than 30 years. I have often envisioned a small brown child, much like my own Will, slowly and meticulously unwrapping a small gift so that the paper could be saved for another special occasion. That’s re-entry. It’s the realization that what you left behind is not at all like what you experience at home… and it is the sadness, the guilt, the anger, the hope, and all of the other emotions that fill your soul and cause you to stop in your tracks and just let it wash over you… like being overcome by a great big wave on an otherwise calm seas day.

I think I may have been wrong in an earlier post. I wrote that, because of the kinds of work that I do, this trip was not as much life-changing as it was life-affirming. As I now have had some time to reflect, I realize that, indeed, it did change me. I am feeling a bit Zen… whatever that means. I am hugging and praising and valuing my kids more. I am treasuring my time – and my life - with Jay. I am thinking more deeply and acting less quickly. I am praying more than I have in a long time. I am feeling more comfortable, and perhaps even content, in my skin. I am feeling valued and validated. I am feeling blessed and grateful to a higher degree. Good changes… every one of them.

And so, when can I expect this re-entry phase to come to a close? Time will only tell, but – for lots of reasons – I would like it to stick with me for a while. I hope that certain sights and sounds and smells bring me back, if only for a moment, to the land that I have come to love… a land of extreme poverty and intense pride… a land of culture and tradition… a land whose people exude warmth and gratitude and honor.

With my “orientation” now complete, I can hardly wait to return and be put to work by my new Mayan Families friends. Oh how I’d love to make this an annual trip. And I’d love to bring Jay and the kids. And I’d love to stay for a month and do a Spanish immersion program. And I’d love to build an Onil stove. And I’d love to bring a supply of basketball uniforms for the free sports program. And I’d love to pick avocados with Juana in Tierra Linda. And I’d love to create a garden in Chuk Muk with Louise. And I’d love to secure space for a community garden in Pana with Sue. And I’d love to build a community center in El Barranco. And I’d love to create a transitional living program for the kids in the San Andres orphanage who will be put out on the street at age 15. It’s such a blessing to have so many opportunities to make a difference.

Like I have carried the Ms. Weems story with me for all of these years, I hope that you will carry my story. When you have that quiet moment, perhaps also in the darkness of the night, I pray that you will think about the bounty of your life and tip your hat in gratitude. And, if you feel so inspired, consider your next opportunity to serve and be ready to pay the toll.

Feeling abundantly blessed,