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Tuesday, June 26

On my soapbox.


It's time for me to have a bit of a rant and a rave, Loyal Readers. 'About what?' you may ask. World hunger? The war in Iraq? Political corruption?? If I were to start on any of these topics, I may well still be here, venting my spleen, a year into the future. No, what I want to talk about today is a matter closer to my heart - the internationally adopted child.

In recent years, international adoption (or IA, if you are in the know) has become a bit trendy. After all, Madonna has done it, so has Meg, and Angelina has become a veritable icon of IA. These celebrities make it all seem so easy. They jet off to the country of their choice, select a cute and cuddly baby, head home and get back on with life and making movies. Sure, this may be a a bit of a generalisation, but it happens. And it is so destructive for the poor child involved. Celebrities aside, IA has become almost a fashion item in recent years. Infertile? We can help! Here, come to China and we will give you the daughter of your dreams!! At last you will be one big, happy family.... Sadly, this is frequently not the case. Misinformation about IA, fed to prospective adoptive parents can harm that child, and their family. These children are NOT waiting for us. They don't even know that we exist. They are living their lives, day by day, in the only 'home' they have ever known, be it an orphanage or foster home. Then, one day out of the blue, strangers come. They look funny, have pale skin and a big nose, they smell funny and even talk funny. The child is scared - terrified even - of these strangers. Then it gets worse -these strange looking people take the baby away from all it has ever known - all the familiar sounds, smells and sights of their formative first months. And often, these people expect their new baby to be happy to be with them - delighted by the fact that they finally have a family. WRONG!!! More than likely, this child will be terrified and grieving. It will take many, many days, months, and even years for this child to learn to trust again. Not only have they experienced the initial trauma of being separated from their birth mother, but they have endured this second separation, going to a life thousands of miles away which is completely alien to them.

And what do we do with these children when we get them home? We throw big welcome home parties for them, full of noise and LOTS of scary people. We go back to work and put them in full-time daycare, before they have even had the slightest chance to adjust to their new life. We drag them out to playgroups and proudly show them off to the other mums whilst the terrified child fights to remain calm in an overwhelmingly foreign situation. WE DO ALL THESE THINGS WRONG!!!! The end result - possibly (even probably) a child who will at some point during their life, experience attachment problems.

So what SHOULD we be doing?? We should be reading about attachment and all related issues - post-traumatic stress disorder, sensory disorders, reactive attachment disorder and the like. Our children probably won't fall into these severely affected categories, but we should be parenting them as if they MIGHT. Attachment parenting is very different from parenting a biological child, and is frequently seen by those outside the IA community as the parent indulging or spoiling the child. But this is not the case. These precious children have experienced so much trauma. They need to be taken back, and regressed to their infant selves. They need to be cuddled, carried and fed by their primary caregiver, and ONLY their primary caregiver. There should be no big parties or overly-huggy grandmothers passing the child from pillar to post. The child should be given every opportunity to form a strong and loving bond with their primary care-giver and this takes time and a great deal of commitment. Sure, toes are going to be stepped upon. Grandparents are going to ask why they can't hold the baby. Aunties and uncles will want to know the reason behind you still bottle-feeding a two year old. But you know what - it's not their baby. It is your baby, and you are resposbible for it's well-being and upbringing. It is all about the child - not the grandparents, cousins or neighbours who may feel miffed about 'missing out' on cuddles.

So, Loyal Readers, I hope you have enjoyed my rave. I am not judging anyone, or condemning anyone for their parenting techniques. I am only trying to give voice to a child who has none - your child is precious, you have waited a long time for them, and the least you can do is be the best possible parent to that child, no matter what other people think.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Cristina

My most-used saying after becoming an (international) adoptive parent to everyone including grandparents, (bachelor) uncle and strangers on the street, who knew (and still knows) better than I as to what is best for my child, is "it's not about you, it's about her".

Just remember to be very strong because it does get very difficult - added stress when you just don't need it. And that for some inexplicable reason, nearly all people think your child is public property.

Susan