Monday, August 9, 2010

A word from our author

Heh, I guess they're all my words but still, just a quick public-service announcement to everyone on behalf of a family formed by marriage, birth, and adoption (that would be us):

If you celebrate a new baby for a family by giving a gift or making them a meal, please do the same for any family that adopts a child, regardless of how old the new child happens to be.  Trust me, a meal is often the preferred option.  I have made countless meals for friends who've had children through birth and adoption, and they always need them.  The addition of a new child is challenging on the family dynamics and often, mealtime comes up before you've had a chance to plan it.  Then you have hungry, whiny children who may have both had and put you through challenges that day, with no plans and no quick meal.  I'd venture to say that it's even harder than when you have your first newborn--the newborn's food is easy to prepare (especially if you're nursing!).  A hungry toddler who very well may have serious food issues doesn't and perhaps can't understand why they have to wait.

When we had Patrick, we were some of the first of our friends to have a baby.  Many of our friends were single; as a result, we didn't have anyone really bring us any meals.  Our families who came to visit and made meals, especially those that we could freeze and eat later, saved us on several occasions.  Still, it was only Jason and I who had to worry about meals at the time.

By the time we brought Melkamu home, we knew many people who had children.  I'd probably brought dozens of meals to families with new children--some adopted and some by birth.  It never occurred to me to treat them differently.  The night we brought Kamu home, some wonderful friends came by and stocked our kitchen so that we wouldn't have to worry about food all weekend.  It was tremendously helpful.  After that, nothing.  I happened to mention to a friend that I wondered how much of it was because Kamu is a second child and how much is because he's adopted.  (As a side note, she put out the call to her friends who knew us tangentially and they brought us meals every other night for two weeks.  I don't think I told them, but I actually cried with gratitude for their generosity on several of those nights.)  Many people called and wanted to stop by to meet Kamu, but almost none of them offered any help at all.  I was floored at how people that I'd brought meals to (some of them multiple meals, as they'd already had more than one child between when we had Patrick and when we brought Kamu home) would say "Oh, I can't wait to meet him!" and offer no help at all.

Part of it was my fatigue and part of it was the fact that Kamu would scream as shrilly as possible when he was put down, but there were several nights when I physically couldn't cook dinner.  Aside from the screaming, he would grab my legs if I put him down and it wasn't safe for me to cook at the stove with him there.

I didn't bring meals to people in expectation of payback when we brought home our child.  I didn't bring meals to people so that they would feel they would owe me something.  I brought meals to people because I knew how hard it was to have a new child and how meals are so easy to forget in the midst of more immediate concerns of attachment and bonding and sleep deprivation and frustration.  It is such an easy gesture on my part that would make a big difference to parents with a new child.

And I'm not trying to say this to make people feel bad if they didn't help us.  I swear, I'm not.  But I've recently known several families who've brought home children and had no help whatsoever; meanwhile, I almost never hear of families with a brand-new child who have no help at all.  Everyone swarms to help when you have a cute and cuddly infant.  Few people poke their heads from the bushes to help when you have a frightened and uncertain toddler.  Having been in both positions, I would say that our family needed far more help when we had the toddler come home.

While there is certainly a different physical aspect to giving birth versus adopting, there is a definite physical component to adopting.  The family may be physically ill from being in a different country or the travel itself, there is most definitely sleep deprivation even after the jet lag ends, there's the emotional trauma of the child that can lead to physical trauma (some children will fight their new parents hard enough to truly hurt--Kamu did this a few times and I've known other children who did it far more often than he did), etc.

All I'm trying to do it impress upon you the importance of helping equally. If you would offer it to a family that gave birth to their child, offer it to the family who adopted their child. It may be doing some grocery shopping for them (they'll gladly give you money and a list!), making a meal, mowing their lawn, washing and folding some laundry, picking up their dry-cleaning, taking their dog for a walk (it's probably feeling a bit neglected ;-) ), whatever.

Trust me, those families that you help will be more grateful than you will ever know.


Sara said...

Well said!

Julia from Chattanooga said...

Amen, sister!

Jess said...

I agree...very well said.

We brought our (adopted) daughter home as a newborn (as you know but others who read might not) and she was our firstborn. People did bring gifts, but not food that I can recall. However, when our (birthed by me) son was born 6 months later,we got a few people bringing food and not gifts...which was sort of expected because he was second. It was almost as if people split up what they'd do! In our case it was just fine...

However, there have been SOME differences in family coming to events (baptisms, birthdays) or sending cards (birthdays) that have been different from child-to-child. I stopped inviting those family members who did not come to our daughter's events. If they can't treat them equally, it has to stop while they can't understand.

Anonymous said...

These are great guidelines and insights! Well written and compelling.

I would add to the PSA that sending meals in disposable cartons so the families don't have to then inventory and return cookware is also a helpful detail. (And I spose along with dog walking and shopping, one could offer to wash and return cookware!) And to keep it environmentally friendly, figure that the disposable carton will be paid forward to another family in need down the line.