Friday, October 21, 2011


FIRST: I'm sorry I've been MIA. I've tried to read and honestly, I've tried to comment but blogger has been giving me fits. So I wouldn't blame you if you have stopped reading, but I've had this post in draft form for a while, and it rolls around in my brain a lot, so here it is...

It's a loaded word, for me anyway.

I used to rant and rave about using the term 'blessed' when describing someone having a baby. Because it must mean that me, barren as a log, was decidedly unblessed because I couldn't procreate. And who wants to be called unblessed? Hearing that term cut through my heart like a knife. I wanted the word 'blessed' replaced with 'lucky' because I could deal with being unlucky, but unblessed? No thanks.

And now I hear the term lucky being tossed our way quite often. Nearly everyone comments on how our babies are so lucky. I don't mean here, in the comments section, and even if the word did crop up there that wouldn't bother me because my readers tend to get it.

It's the general public. They learn our babies are adopted (I mean, it's pretty obvious) and if they learn they are Ethiopian they immediately say how lucky they are, usually with a big smile, and sometimes an actual pat on my back, and always one that is implied. Ick.

I don't correct them because if I did, it would go something like this, and I'd probably be carted off to the looney bin.

Lucky? No, they are not lucky. They suffered a loss that is unimaginable to most. They are separated from their birth family. In an ideal world, the first choice, barring a safety issue or a complete inability to provide loving care, is that children are raised by their birth parents. Second choice is always other family. Third choice is another family in their home country, in their culture--domestic adoption. Then it gets down to orphanage care versus international adoption and I think it's pretty obvious that international adoption into a loving family has many benefits over institutionalized care. But no, they are not lucky. They got the fourth choice. The fourth one down the list.

We were the fourth choice. And I don't think anyone ever feels lucky when they get their fourth choice.

But if I said all of that people would wonder why the hell I adopted (and why do I still get my feelings hurt over the fact that it feels like most of my infertile peeps will do anything but adopt?).

I know it's confusing. Because I do believe in international adoption as a way--the fourth choice way-- to provide a family to a child who would otherwise be raised in institutional care. But I will never, ever think of it as the ideal choice.

And yes, I understand that there might be benefits to living in the U.S. over Ethiopia--improved life expectancy (by decades), improved access to education and opportunity, etc. etc. But actually---even that gives me pause. Taking someone from a country where people are satisfied and happy with much, much less and introducing them to our vulgar consumerist nation (and yes, I know I could work really hard to raise little non-consumerists but right now I'm just happy to have two babies that might start sleeping through the night consistently and don't throw their food across the room) isn't ideal either. And yes, as far as families go I do think Mr. MTL and I will make decent parents.  So I understand why people immediately think our babies are lucky, on the surface.

But the more I am with them, the deeper my love grows for them, then the more deeply I am able to get a sense of the pain of their young lives. Of the immense loss and grief that will always, always color their world. And it's more heartbreaking than I could have ever imagined.

Some days I watch them, playing innocently, laughing and discovering and taking sheer delight in the pleasures of being an infant.  And my heart starts to hurt. I think I'm having a heart attack. Because I know, I know they will not be this innocent forever. Soon they will know. And it will hurt. And I can't do one thing to make it not hurt.

I am not foolish enough to ever think we can 'make up' for their loss of culture. Making up for their loss of birth parents isn't even on the radar because that's an impossible task. Impossible.

If you don't understand that and you have fertility issues then try to imagine what would 'make up' for the loss of your fertility.

Their job is NOT to make up for the loss of our fertility and our job is not to make up for the loss of their birth parents, their culture, their everything. Our job is just to parent them the very best way that we can. To love them with our whole hearts. To allow them their grief and sorrow, to hold their hands through it, to be aware.

They are not lucky.
But we are.


  1. While I'm not sure I'll ever truly understand every aspect of what you're dealing with as the parents of internationally adopted children, I feel incredibly privileged to read and process your honest thoughts and feelings regarding it.

    Thank you for this post.

  2. So very true. When we were in the adoption process, I hated hearing how lucky our child would be. We would have been the lucky ones. I think most people who have never considered adoption completely overlook the loss part of it.

    Love the pics!

  3. (Argh, comment was now...)

    The "lucky" sentiment as in "your child is so lucky to be adopted by you" gets to me, too. Just as you mentioned in your post, WE will be the lucky ones. And when anyone makes such a comment, I'll be sure to counter with that.

    I talked to a fertile friend once about this kind of comment. She said that folks sometimes tell her that her kids are lucky...because she knows she is a kind, generous person and a good mom. I tried to explain that she can assume that's where the comment to her is coming from, but that's not usually what is meant in the case of adoption. But...she did counter with how do I 100% know? And, you know, I won't 100% know.

    I think stating "I'm the lucky one" pretty much will say it all.

    I cant' wait for the day I'm lucky, too...
    Your little ones are gorgeous & I'd love to meet them someday!


  4. Ah, one more thing to add to the heaping pile of insensitive things that people say while meaning well. People tend to smooth over the loss because it is harder to console. The loss with adoption, with donor gametes, though, doesn't have to be all defining. Just like any suffering in life influences us, it is not a predictor of future happiness. Who is to say that a little suffering in life will not make us a more evolved better human? I just tell myself this when I worry about my son...because there are so many ways to screw them up. Beautiful pictures (and kids!!!) (Runningmama from More Room in My Heart)

  5. "Lucky" is my all time unfavorite adoption comment. Hate it, but I don't have the energy to present a cogent argument why it sucks, so I'm just refining my ability to blow it off. Your response is spot on.

  6. i can't see for the tears.
    oh how ive missed knowing what was in your heart.
    just everything good i have, to you and them.

  7. Nothing like chasing little ones to hamper the blog reading and writing, I am right there with you, so behind I think I may never catch up. Always great to hear what you have to say. As always, very thoughtful and thought invoking. I agree with you on cringing at the"lucky" comments, hate them.

  8. Ok first - holy frijole! those are some cute pumpkin babies! honestly, so freakin' cute. Sigh, I just want to smoooooooch them - give them one juicy smooch for me.

    You are right, you can't take away the pain they will encounter in their lives - and they will encounter it, the loss, the feeling different, etc. But I also do think having you guys as parents (who I think are also a tick or ten above merely decent) will ease the blows. Giving them a solid foundation to weather life's storms, they are lucky for that.

  9. Hi, I'm a long time reader, or lurker, I guess, because this is my first time posting. I really appreciate your blog and love and feel connected to your perspective. In short, I guess I feel like we can hang :)

    In the midst of navigating infertility and considering adoption very seriously, I did want to say something about your (tiny) comment about hurt feelings when your infertile friends seem to want to do anything but adopt. That struck me, I suppose, because it could seem to others that I have been doing anything and everything to do anything but adopt. But it's all such a process, you know? I don't know about anybody else, but I know that the idea of adoption was not a possibility for us until we started to feel ready to let go of fertility treatments. We're still not sure what is next for us, but I know so clearly that for us those two paths are mutually exclusive. So, while I was/am "in it" with fertility treatments, I am doing everything I can. When/if we choose to adopt, I'll be in that completely, too. Does that make sense?

    And thank you for being such a model for a loving and honest road through adoption. It has meant a lot to me. So enough about me - those happy pumpkin babies are ridiculously adorable!

  10. What a great post. I hadn't ever thought of int'l adoption as the 4th choice, but you make a very good point. You and Mr MTL ARE lucky to have two such beautiful babies. Best wishes and thanks for sharing. Heather

  11. I get it. We adopted our son from foster care, not internationally, but we get the "he's a very lucky boy" comments from time to time from people who know. I always use the "we're the lucky ones" reply to which they invariably answer "Well, you know what I mean. You're all lucky." I usually just leave it then, because it's too much to go into the spiel about how he lost his birth family, about how there were families lining up to adopt him, how there was really no "saving" (that's the word I hate) involved, etc.

    Your babies are gorgeous! Pumpkin patch pictures are the best.

  12. Ha, I remember having that "blessed" blog entry a while ago. I hated the phrase, it was loaded with so many emotions. Even the term lucky strikes me odd at times, because who wants a big black cat in their path and to be "unlucky"? I think no matter which word is used, nothing can describe the family unit that exists, no matter what it took to get there. I hope that makes sense.

    Love the bright pumpkin patch pictures and beautiful grins. So many holidays coming and ready to celebrate!!

  13. and the Mr. are waaaaayyyy more than "decent" parents. The fact that you are sensitive and in tune to what may be a wound to these children later on in their lives tells me that they will always have their parents to talk to because they will "get it". And I think you should nip the "oh they are so lucky" in the bud while you can...ppl need to be educated. Thanks also for sharing that you feel sad or baffled as to why other IFers choose other options over adoption. Although a different stream to build family than you...I've often wondered. It stings a tiny bit when other IFers miraculously get pg on their last IVF chance with their OE and then sing the praises they didn't have to choose DE IVF. But I now look at yes...they should be happy they are pg with their OE...but most importantly happy because they did not have to experience the immense grief that their genetic offspring will be a mere fantasy and I believe that is why they are happy because they were spared of the pain. As for who chooses what...I honestly believe each choice is like a calling...God's whisper maybe? Dunno. And your little pumpkins sitting with the pumpkins...adorable. I seriously think you have the cutest kids EVA!! Adorable! Enjoy...

  14. Oh, cutest pumpkin patch pictures ever! And we are already navigating the "lucky" comments, and are pretty far from having an actual child in our home. Seems to be on par with "just relax". :-)

  15. I am not where you are now, but I have started letting the cat out of the bag with our adoption plans. I just had to get it out last night at my friend's b-day party. Her sister-in-law is 50, has two grown girls, but wants to adopt a baby boy about 10 yrs old because she shinks she and her husband have a lot of love to give. They are a great couple, don't get me wrong. But, I did have to interject with the truth about the adoption process, specifically of what I've learned recently about foster care. It's so easy to look at the surface stuff when you are on the outside, when you haven't done research, processed the emotions and feelings, looked at pros and cons, etc. I know them. I just had to put my spin on it. I told them about how they really try to keep the kids with their birth families because it's the best for the kid....all the while, as I uttered those words, my heart was breaking for the child I haven't even adopted yet! I suspect I will be EXACTLY as you.."the deeper my love grows for them, then the more deeply I am able to get a sense of the pain of their young lives". Just by thinking this way, you and your husband are not going to just be decent parents, you will be much, much more. They are beautiful!

  16. Yes, you are lucky. But my oh my, those are the most adorable little faces EVER and in that moment you captured with the lens, they are ever so happy.

  17. I’ve been following your blog for a while now and felt compelled to comment for the first time. I really enjoy what you write and have learned quite a bit from reading your words. I find you have quite an insight to many of life’s issues and I respect what you have to say. I was hoping to offer some insight, as a former infertile, regarding the whole “blessed” to have children issue as I’m seeing that as a topic lately in many infertility blogs that I follow. It may seem funny but I never had a problem with the word “blessed” even while I was infertile. To me, we all have “gifts,” “talents,” “blessings,” (insert word that makes you feel best here) as well as hardships. A blessing to me is a talent or gift that has been afforded to you by the universe/God/chance/whatever you believe in. I don’t feel unblessed that I was not born with Beyonce’s voice, or ten million dollars, or incredible athletic ability—instead I look within to what I do have that I can contribute in my short time on this earth. Therefore it’s not that I was “unblessed” to be infertile, it’s just that that was my life’s path. At that time I looked at my family and friends with children and truly thought, what miraculous blessings—but I did not feel “slighted.” Again, it just wasn’t my path at the time. And now that I am on the other side, with my own little “blessings,” I look at the gifts that infertility gave to me. I have an appreciation for my children that no one can understand unless they have been there. I look at them with different eyes. I look at each milestone and soak it in because I did not know if this would be my path and feel fortunate that it is.

    I saw an interview on TV once with a woman who had lost her young son to leukemia. She was in such a place of peace with his passing as she viewed his life as a blessing. Her quote was, “always blessings, never losses.” She said that she did not feel unblessed if you will that his life was so short—that was his path, his journey on this earth—what was, was. It was not a loss to her. Instead, she felt “blessed” that of all the people chosen to be his parent in his short life, she got to be his mom. And that allowed her the strength and peace to move forward each day. Her husband was not in the same place with that sentiment, and I realize others may not be with the whole “blessed to have children” issue as well, but I strive to live my life like this mother. I swear I’m not saying this just because I’m on the other side now as I felt this way before…it is just so much more peaceful to live life this way, learning what you can from the negative and applying it to the gifts you have been given. If we focus on the negativity behind the “blessed to have children” issue you miss the positive; you miss what you can learn through adversity; and you waste time in bitterness being upset with words. I am blessed to have my children, husband, a roof over my head, a job. My adversities have been infertility, the loss of a parent, deaths of many friends who were far too young, etc. I will learn what I can from those, apply it to my blessings, and hopefully be a better person for it. Thanks for letting me share, albeit anonymously! Oh, and of all the fourth choice options for your children, I think your children are lucky that they were matched with you--but you are indeed the lucky ones in the end!

  18. Luck had nothing to do with it. That said, I do think those two adorable little ones (great pictures) are fortunate to have such great, thoughtful parents. Period. And you, who worked so hard to get here, are clearly grateful for the chance to raise them.

    You can't keep children from pain. You are giving them the best life you can. You'll make mistakes, you'd do the wrong things and say the wrong things at times. This is the case with all parents.

    You are amazing parents!

  19. Beautifully amazing post. I think you describe it very well. Thanks for sharing. And the pics are oh so cute!!!!!

  20. The best way for me to think of a blessing is that it's not something that is deserved or earned. Otherwise, the negligent folks would not be able to have children, right? My DH and I have had similar discussions about miracles and those "yes" answers to prayers. It all somehow makes us feel like we must be doing something very wrong to be the ones who seem to get a lot of "no" answers, ya know? Ah, well...

    As for you worrying about your babies and their future grief, you just never know how they will feel. My husband was raised by an abusive alcoholic genetic mother and wishes he had been given up for adoption! His adopted sister (yes, alcoholics on the brink of divorce were allowed to adopt back then) was taken from the home by my husband's great aunt/uncle, and the way she tells it, she had a wonderful home life and wouldn't have wanted it any other way. I don't know why things work out like they do, but from my perspective, my DH has a lot more "baggage" having stayed in his genetic home than his adopted sister who was removed from the home. I think you just do your best for your babies and hope that they will always feel "at home" with you. From the looks on their faces, they already do :)

  21. I agree with Libby's comment and the last anonymous comment. You never know how your babies may feel in the future about their adoption- i wouldn't tell them they are unlucky- and the adoption was only their 4th choice. the child looks and learns from the parent and their reactions to situations. let them see it as their destiny, with optimisim, something good and fortunate. life is difficult on its own and i think its important to do our best not to inject any extra negativity. i have no doubt you are great parents already. it doesn't matter the past right now, nor where they come from- all the stuff they can't change, what's important is now.. and I have no doubt with your love and support, the "adoption" will be a none issue in their future. enjoy your children, don't worry so much:) fyi- my internationally adopted brother considers himself lucky to have been brought up in a loving family- and he himself uses that term when asked!! he's awesome.

  22. Great post! I agree with the commenter a few above - I think that 'lucky' to adoptees is about as helpful as 'just relax' to infertiles. Well intentioned, but (ummmm... how can I put this politely?) not particularly well educated about the issues.

    Oh, and lovely pumpkin pictures!

  23. Beautiful lil pumpkins !! blessed.... not really..... loved... Definitely !

  24. Such a great post, it's always so insightful reading how you feel! Those are two gorgeous babies!! Thanks for sharing them and your thoughts with us.

  25. First, I hate when people say my son is the lucky one too. I am so very blessed to have him. And I hate when they consider my adopting as something heroic. I did it b/c I wanted to be a mom. Recently, an actress adopted two children in a 6 month period and "experts" were debating if that was a good idea. They said it was "a noble act but..." and that bothered me. I'm sure she did not do it to be noble. She did it to build her family.

    Second, it hurts my feelings too when my other infertile friends act like adopting is the last thing they would ever do. Or when they say they hope they don't "have to do that". No one has to adopt. For me that was the way that felt right. I never wanted IVF. Not that I am against it it just did not feel right to me.

    I have been where you are worrying about how my child will feel about being adopted later. It consumed me and took some joy away. Try not to let that happen to you. I think the more open you are and as welcoming of their feelings the better they will be. I have been attacked for adopting but at the end of the day the only "adoptee" whose feelings I am concerned with is my son and I am going to just enjoy him and love the tar out of him.

    Your babies are gorgeous. You never know waht the future holds so just enjoy the now.

  26. To the last anonymous poster (the one with the story about blesssings and the mom with the son that passed)...I think your post may have changed me. Thank you for posting. How uplifting. If you blog, I would love to follow yours. A very different take on blessings...and a much needed one.

    My post was going to be somewhat similar in saying that...focus on the positive as much as you can for yourself and your kids. I don't think they will ever see themselves as unlucky. Fortunately, they are too young to truly understand what happened to them. I'm not saying they won't understand later or feel pain or anguish but having loving parents like you both...will help minimize those things.

    Regarding those infertiles who still won't adopt...people just never know until they walk the path. That is the BIGGEST lesson I learned going through IVF. People never understood...but they never went through it either. To be honest, I only considered adoption until after I had my children...because now I know better. I didn't before. I would adopt in a heartbeat now.

  27. I'm a linguist (and an IFer) and I find this discussion about the semantics of "lucky" to be very interesting. Part of what I study is intentionality, and I think that, for the most part, most people who speak of "luck" have only good intentions. Most people who are not in your shoes do not understand the "loaded" nature of the word (especially as perceived by you), but the question really is would you expect them to? Would you want them to? Your path has been entirely your own and has been one that sounds like you do not want others to be forced to share. So the "muggle" use of the word is meant to be a kind gesture, but is being internalized as something of an insult. After all that you have been through, after all that you continue to go through, and after all that you will go through, you deserve to let that comment be like water on a duck's back. If you always allow it to get your dander up, you will be too distracted to take join in life's more important things.