Adoption Arguments: What’s in a name?

Just in case you think that a couple in the midst of the adoption process must have it all together and always speak gently to one another, agree on everything, and constantly bat their eyelashes in the presence of the other, I figured I’d share about our some of our differences. I think that sometimes WE even think we shouldn’t have one single disagreement ever if we plan on adopting, but I know that the enemy uses those kinds of thoughts to give doubt a foothold. He hates adoption, and he is not only a liar, but he’s smart and crafty as all get out. So I figured I would talk about a couple of different issues (over time) that we’ve been debating throughout this process.

Obviously, the first one is related to our Boo’s name. Basically, we disagree on whether or not to keep his given name once he comes home. It is a native name, and though not totally un-pronouncable, somewhat foreign to the American tongue. I said, “Listen babe, the kid is going to be dealing with adoption and DS already, let’s cut him some slack on his name.” Daddy K says, “It’s HIS name, it’s part of who he is. Everyone else can deal with it.” So, I did some research, and really there are no clear answers.

There are definitely a few considerations that we have processed through in regards to either keeping or changing his name.

What are the benefits to keeping his name?

1.  Connection to past/heritage/history. For many adopted children, their name is the only surviving link to their past. It’s part of their story, and sometimes, when taken, only heightens awareness of how different they are. Or it could signal to them that their past was “bad” or “unworthy” in the eyes of their new parents. Their name can be a tie to their country of origin, and studies show that feeling connected to their culture is hugely beneficial to adopted children.

2.  Link to birth family. If a child has lost his/her parents through disease or death (or other possible reasons), the name his/her birth parents gave them could be very important to them. It reminds them of a family who loved them, that although now gone, is still hugely important.

3.  In many cases, it is their only constant. EVERYTHING else in their world has suddenly changed, and having the same name can be a comfort.

4.  It’s how they identify themselves.  I read a book once called Someone Knows My Name about the slave trade in early America (it’s great, you should all read it!!) and I will never forget this moment in bottom of the slave ship when someone recognizes Aminata (the main character) from her home tribe and calls her name. She rejoiced, because SOMEONE knew her real name.       They knew who she truly was, and she felt anchored.

Why would we want to change his name?

1.  There are many instances of God changing a person’s name in the Bible when He gives them a new identity (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul, Simon to Peter, Sarai to Sarah, etc.). He is giving them a new life, and a fresh start, and He gives them a new name to signify this rebirth.

2.  It is part of welcoming him to our family.  Choosing a name for your adopted child can help them to feel more like part of your family – their new parents had the honor of choosing a name that they felt would represent them for life and/or tie in with family history/culture.

3.  It’s possible he’s not super familiar with his given name at this point. Studies seem to say different things to this end. Some say that children three and below are fine with a name change. Others say two and below only. Still others say that for non-verbal children a name change is less of a big deal. I think it’s a judgment call in the end.

So, we have thought through and talked about all of these things. I think I would feel differently if his name had been given to him by his birthmother. Even though she didn’t keep him, if I knew she has chosen a name for his son that meant something to her, I would be more likely to want to hold on to that. However, in our beautiful boy’s case, we know he was abandoned at the hospital. His name was likely given to him by the first social worker who was assigned his case. And I guess I feel like, as his mama, I want to choose a name FOR him. Daddy K points out that this social worker might have come to his name prayerfully, and we don’t have any idea about the story behind his name, which is true. But we may never know where it came from, or if it meant anything to anybody.

Also, if he was much older I think I would feel differently about changing his name. But he will likely come home at two and a half, and probably not be super verbal at that time. Also, the name we have chosen sounds similar to his given name, which I think will help the transition. Right now we have half-settled on keeping his given name as his middle name. Then, we will give him a first name that matches the E of his brother and sister.

(I know, I know, I seriously wouldn’t have guessed we’d be a family that uses the same letter in all our kids’ names. I don’t know how or why it happened, but I think it’s too late. No offense to anyone else who does this! I obviously do it also, I just surprised myself here. 🙂 )

But of course, we aren’t 100% on this. Time will tell. From everything I’ve read, there is no right answer. So, like everything else, we will just make the best decision we can for our little man, and hope for the best. I trust that as long as we are open to listening to others and our Father, this will all come out okay as well. Happy Friday friends, and thanks for reading!

(Oh, and Daddy K will be single-parenting it for the next two weeks as I head off to do my Reserve annual tour in DC. This is my first time doing it away from home since either of our babies were born, so wish us both luck! And pray 🙂 )

Our Boo…the man, the myth, the legend

Okay, maybe he’s just a sweet little boy who deserves a family for no reason other than that he was born. I wanted to share a little bit more about this handsome cub, since I forget that not everyone knows as much about him as we do. I think it is easier to pray for him and relate to our journey if you have a more tangible idea of who he is. You can sneak a peak of our little man here, but I can’t share his picture directly on our site. (Reese’s Rainbow chooses “internet” names for waiting children, since their given names are withheld to protect their privacy). But seriously, isn’t he amazing?

So, let’s get down to business: What do we know about Boo?

Well, we know he has Down Syndrome, obviously. We know his birthday, and this little man took his first breath in this extraordinary world two weeks before his brother, in June 2012. We also know he has an open oval window in his heart. What exactly that means, we don’t know. Heart conditions are very common in children with Down Syndrome, but the fact that he isn’t on any medications and/or hasn’t needed surgery for it yet is promising. Of course, until he has a full work-up here, we just won’t know the intricacies of his little body’s engine.

There is a possibility of some hearing loss. The reality is that his hearing loss could range from almost nothing to almost everything. Again, we won’t know until he’s home. Doctor reports indicate that he doesn’t react during hearing tests, but all Kojak children are stubborn. Notes from his caretakers mention responding to their voice, so that makes me think he hears something. Truthfully, this is probably our biggest medical unknown. Are we scared? No. Will we feel better when we have the complete picture and can build a road-map for the way ahead? Absolutely.

But really, our biggest unknown with Boo is whether or not he’s really ours. See, the thing is, his country (for completely understandable, ethical reasons) can’t officially match us until our dossier is complete and has been approved by the central government. In the meantime, another family could be working toward Boo, and we would have no idea. It’s not likely to be an American family, because there is only one other US adoption agency working in our country, and we have committed to him on the most prominent site where he is listed. But there could be a family growing him in their hearts in another country, feeling the same intense love for him that we do. And that’s hard. And scary.   When we learned there was a possibility we could work for months getting everything together only to find out he had JUST been matched with another family, we thought maybe we should be cautious with our hearts. In the end, it will be a blessing for two boys. Because Boo will have a family of his own, and we will be able to adopt another child, who also desperately deserves to go “home.”

It would make sense, we thought, to not get attached to this little dude in the meantime. It would be safer, less emotional, and easier on everybody to keep our hearts guarded. We can fall in love with him once we are “officially” matched, right? But the Lord doesn’t give us a spirit of fear (2 Tim 1:7), and this snuggle puppy snuck right in.   If I stop to think about all the things that could possibly happen, then yes, I start to worry. But right now, what’s the point in thinking about any of those things? I am being called to love him, and love him fully, recklessly, and completely. Is cautious love really worth it anyway? It’s possible I’m loving him extra hard for another mama, and in the end, that has to be okay. Make no mistake, it will be extremely painful, but still worth it.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

We also know that Boo has lived in the orphanage his entire life. He went “home” from the hospital to his orphanage, and it’s the only family he has ever known. We feel lucky in that it seems like he is being taken good care of, and is loved, and is clearly well-fed. 🙂 But honestly, realizing we will be taking him away from the only home he has ever known breaks my heart a little. Okay, it breaks my heart a lot.

Can you imagine? You can only remember waking up in one room, with children all around you. One of your “mamas” comes to change you and feed you. You have a very predictable day, and a routine that makes you feel safe. Each day, you know what to expect. You don’t feel the loss of a family because you aren’t old enough to know that it’s supposed to be any other way. You just feel like you. This is who you are. This is all you need.

And then one day, two strangers come and take you. You can’t understand what they are saying. They separate you from your room, from your home, from the only people you have EVER known. From the only people you love. You can’t understand them, and nothing looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You heart has been smashed into a million pieces. I hate that. I hate that I have to hurt him, even though I know he will heal. I hate that I will be the source of so much pain.

I think you dream about picking up your baby, and you think SOMEHOW they will just KNOW you are their mama. They will reach for you and (as an amazing soundtrack plays in the background) you will drink one another up, eyes locked, minds melding. Even though I know that’s likely not my reality, I can’t stop those daydreams. But the truth of situation is that I will be a stranger to him. A stranger who takes him away from people who have loved him since the day he was born. And I worry about how that will feel for all of us.

I said in an earlier post that we shouldn’t be afraid of hard, because hard almost always turns into something beautiful. But how do you explain that to a two-year-old? So start praying for his heart now, friends. Please. We will all hurt, and we will all cry, and we will all undoubtedly feel the ache in our bones from the pains of growing as a family.

We’re not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us;  we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be.

C.S. Lewis, Letters to An American Lady

In Redemption Group, we talked about how God’s picture of redemption always includes pain and trial. Say what?? I know, it doesn’t sound right and it doesn’t make sense to our flesh. We like it easy. But if Jesus had to suffer for our redemption, why do we expect it to be easy for us?   Adversity reveals our deepest beliefs about God – it shows us what we are expecting from God and what we believe to be most true about Him.

I can’t help wanting to tell God what MY picture of redemption looks like in this case. I mean, it would be beautiful, it really would. But here’s the thing – it actually doesn’t hold a candle to HIS picture. We just have to be willing to do the work to get there. We can’t be afraid just because we don’t understand, just because it’s hard. And in His story, I will be the source of unbearable heartache for my child. I hate it, but I trust Him. I know the ending (no matter how many years it is in the making) will be more incredible because of it. So I just trust. And obey.

The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self–all your wishes and precautions–to Christ.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Baby boy, I’m so sorry. I really, truly am. But we just love you too much to let you stay. I know you’ll be scared, and lonely, and confused, and hurt…and I can’t make any of that magically go away, although I would give anything if I could. But I promise I’ll be brave for both of us – I won’t let you go, and I won’t leave you, and I won’t give up on you. One day at a time, it will get better.

In our family we generally do a better job of explaining how we really feel through music, so this one’s for you Boo. Mama loves you.

***Update:  I just recently learned from other mamas from our country that a good number of their babes were listed with hearing issues.  No one has turned out to have significant hearing loss.  Sometimes it has been multiple ear infections and ear tubes issues, but no actual hearing loss.  Of course, this actually guarantees nothing, but I thought it was interesting.  We will love this boy just the same, of course.

 

Psalm One Million and One

Thanks for stopping by! I’ve added a couple pages of FAQs, both The Head and The Heart.  In part because I love any chance to reference this fantastically amazing group of music makers that hail from Seattle, but also because I think there are sort of two different aspects to all of this.  There are the basic logistical issues (which are actually far from basic), and then there is an emotional piece that factors in to everything.

This week has been an emotional roller coaster. I know it sounds crazy but I almost FEEL pregnant, at least in the sense that I’m experiencing my typical first trimester symptoms; namely, absolute exhaustion and emotional chaos. At least I’m not peeing every 30 minutes!  We had the high of feeling so much love and support when we publicly announced we were “expecting,” to the low of not everyone being as excited as we are (which was expected, and even understood, but still surprisingly painful).  Then we found out our home study appointment has been bumped up two weeks (to THIS weekend, yikes!), which on one hand is great because it means our process is moving along. On the other hand, there is a whole slew of nerves involved in someone coming into your home to make a judgment on whether or not you are good parents. We received updated pictures (taken THIS weekend, oh my stars) of our little man, and I can’t tell you how my heart somersaulted looking at those.  But the same day brought devastating news about another family in the adoption process. So our week, I guess, mirrored real life, in that it was all over the place.

I think when I was younger I thought there would come a time when this stopped – that I would finally have “figured it out” and everything would be even-keeled and good (or at least consistent) all the time.  I’m finding now that even if my life is in a really good place, I’ll still experience these modulations – it’s part of who we are. I think that’s why I love the Psalms so much.  You get real, raw emotion – both glorious highs and desparate lows — that mirror the human condition, which is anything but one note. You read about the psalmists’ joys and victories, but you also feel the agony of his disillusionment and defeat. And that’s okay.  I’ve finally stopped waiting for my life to feel good ALL of the time – I just try to find joy in the present. Somehow, someway. I’m usually terrible at it, honestly.  I think I’m a whiner by nature. 🙂   But I’m working at it, and it really has been a salve to my soul.

Last spring I took part in something called Redemption Group with Soma Tacoma (the concept originally started with Mars Hill Seattle and trickled south to the City of Destiny).  I can honestly say that those several weeks fundamentally changed how I view my identity in light of the gospel.  I am so thankful to the people (and their families – it’s a huge sacrifice) who work hard to make it happen each session.   At the end of your session, everyone writes their own Psalm.  Each psalm is so beautiful and nuanced and honest, and collectively the individual psalms tell such an amazing Story.  I wish I could share each one, so you could taste some of that beauty.  But for what it’s worth, here is mine. This is my song. . .

(I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind…I can’t escape Elton).

 

Psalm 1 million and 1

 (A psalm like all others before it, not worthy of my Father’s ear, but listened to and treasured just the same, because of His great Love)

Father God, the hem of your robe fills the room and I play beneath it

I am not overwhelmed

Pure joy fills my heart as I bask in my Father’s attention

I am surrounded by Your mercy and encased by Your love

You watch in joyful contentment, and delight in the most basic of my accomplishments

I am Yours, I am safe, I am loved

 

But like Eve, I want what I cannot have

I am not satisfied with what you offer

I begin to believe that I alone am enough and my strength comes from within

Instead of thanking you for my blessings

I resent what You do not give

I am lost, I am alone, I am unrepentant

 

And yet You will not let me go

I pry Your grip from my arm finger by Holy finger

And yet You will not let me go

I spit in Your face and blaspheme Your glorious name

And yet You will not let me go

I am angry, I am defiant, I am arrogant

 

But You, O Lord, You fight for me like a lion

With bravery and honor I can’t possibly deserve

You are unmoved by my anger and unafraid of my threats

You allow me to thrash until exhaustion, then gently pull me close

Give up, come home, and meet Jesus, You tell me

I am tired, I am thankful, I am ready

 

You whisper a song into my ear and the Spirit carries it to my heart

I burn with passionate fire and hope shines from my eyes

Shouting your praises from the rooftops, I look like a fool

My people do not understand, but I am too enamored to care

I revel in our relationship and desire to know You more

I am hungry, I am eager, I am new

 

But O Lord my God, mother Eve’s lineage runs deep

And her deception is so embedded in my flesh that it feels alive

I fight against it, but I simply cannot win

I would rather betray You than give up part of myself

So many lies surround me and I lose my grip on the Truth

I am weak, I am ashamed, I am weary

 

Do not give up on me, King of all people

Rescue me from my disbelief once more

I have known Your mercy and felt the power of Your steadfast love

I long to drink deeply from Your endless water

You, O Lord, are the only thing that is real

I am sorry, I am grateful, I am Yours

 

Daughters of Zion, hear what I am saying

Heirs to the throne, do not ignore my cry

Listen to the voice of your Father shouting

You are wanted

You are wonderful

You are worthy

Welcome! Our journey is just beginning…

Welcome to our family’s obligatory “We’re adopting so we started a blog!” blog! Thanks for joining us on this sure-to-be eventful journey.  We are in the process of adopting a little boy with Down Syndrome from Eastern Europe. More on our love muffin later!

A couple of things right up front: I didn’t decide to start a blog because I’m naïve enough to think I have anything super profound, insightful, or earth-shattering to add to the already robust international adoption dialogue.  There are many, MANY, smart, amazing and intelligent people out there already blogging about adoption (both domestic and international), as well as special needs.  I have spent countless hours pouring over their words and lives, and feel extremely grateful they are willing to take the time to put it out there.

But every story is different, and I decided to chronicle our family’s adventure for two primary reasons: first, to share information with other families who might be traveling down this road; and second, to make adoption more tangible for people who actually know us.

As I became more and more convinced that God was calling us down this path, I scoured the internet for information.  I wanted to know anything and everything: How long does it actually take? What are these families like? What are the children like? What was the process likes?  And so on and so on.  I was looking for confirmation that families “just like us” were also adopting, so that I could convince my good-natured husband I wasn’t a crazy person.  I looked for adoption blogs by families adopting from specific countries we were interested in… I looked for adoption blogs with families who already had young children in the home. . . I looked for blogs written by military familes adopting…I even looked for blogs written by other women named Ali. Okay, that’s a stretch, but you get the point.  Basically, I was having a hard time believing Jesus when He said this was going to happen and was really no big deal, so I looked for proof that it could, and had, been done before by people like us.  Funny, right? He has already worked my little heart over in this process, and I have no doubt there is more to come.  So to that end, I want our experience out there.  If even one mama (or papa) is combing the interwebs, looking for proof, I want to offer it.  You can do it! And hopefully, here you will find the story of how it happened for us.

Secondly, I think sometimes there can be a misconception (or maybe it was just for me) that adoption is for those “super” people.  You know, super-religious, or super-rich, or super-nice, or super-philanthropical, or super-moms and super-families.  And trust me when I say our family doesn’t fit that box.  Don’t get me wrong, we love Jesus more than anything, and if it wasn’t for Him we wouldn’t even have the crazy little awesome family we do, but we aren’t necessarily nailing the, “Oh, have you met the Kojaks? They are all so patient and loving and kind, and their kids are SOO well behaved. . .” image you might think of when you think of awesome, have-it-all-together, “ideal Christian” families. (Not than anyone ACTUALLY is, just that we aren’t even good at pretending). 🙂 We are big on grace around here, and it’s a good thing we love a God who gives lots of it.  So I wanted to write about our experience, because chances are, if you are reading this blog, you know us somehow.  And maybe it will take some of the “unknown” and “super” stigma out of the idea of adoption.  Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, you can say, “Oh, I know a family who adopted, they are totally normal.”  Well, that might not be completely accurate, but as normal as it gets these days.

I also decided to write about all of this for two completely selfish reasons.  One is to document how this little love came to be a Kojak, so he will never forget that we fought for him, that we wanted him desperately, and that he is part of a family who never gives up on each other. Now let’s be real – I started baby books for my other two that have never been finished, so there’s a solid chance I will space out and forget to blog for months on end.  But I hope not!! Because the other reason is to hold myself accountable.  I want to be as real and transparent as possible throughout this journey.  If you know me, you know that I tend to share all my ugly whether you want it or not, so I’m hoping to do the same throughout this process.  To be honest, I’m afraid I might try to hide anything hard – I don’t want to scare anyone away from adoption, and I don’t want anyone to think we are in over our heads.  I want to give everyone the impression that this is all awesome, and we are awesome, and adopting is awesome. But life (and adoption) simply isn’t like that – and I want to be held accountable for being real. Because we shouldn’t be afraid of hard – hard almost always turns into something beautiful.  My true intention is that this a place where I can examine tough questions, as well as share my doubts, insecurities, and heartaches.  Because sometimes, finding someone who shares those might make you feel more normal. I am terrified of opening myself up to criticism in this process, but I have to believe that our honesty about things will somehow bring about good. As a reader, I would just ask you to be gentle with my vulnerability. Please be honest, but also be kind and respectful. I will always do the same. And if I don’t, please call me on it. I will undoubtedly blow it at some point, and say/write something that causes offense, but I would love the chance to make it right.  Remember, I mentioned we thrive on grace around here. 🙂

A couple of random notes:  I am going to commit to updating this blog once a week.  If we have no new progress, I will bore you will random stories, or share what’s on my heart.  You can follow the blog if interested, and I will try to post updates on FB (until FB friends start telling me that’s annoying).  If you have any questions, shoot them our way.  We’d love to talk about any and everything.

Also, I have no desire to proofread and edit and stress about the grammar in my content – so forgive me in advance.  I know I have MANY grammar loving friends (I am a Public Affairs person after all), so I’m just asking you to look the other way on this.  WInk, wink.  I would never post anything if I made myself nuts about it being perfect first.  (Hmmm, there’s got to be some future post about this in relation to adoption, but I’ll have to stew on that).

More importantly, thank you for being a part of this!!  We will desperately need your prayers more than ever, and just knowing we have friends and family who support us is huge!  It takes a village people, and you are part of ours.  Let’s get this party started!