Why I want my son to know his birth family

When I started writing this blog, I committed to not writing about anyone else’s story or experience with adoption but mine. I’ve never mentioned personal details about Miles’ birth family and don’t plan on it. But, now that Miles is two and a half and is becoming more aware of what family means, they’ve been on my mind a lot. I’m still not going to name names or show photos without their permission, but I think it’s okay to write in more general terms.

I’m fortunate to have stayed in contact with Miles’ birthmother since he was born. She’s a wonderful, strong woman who loves him so much. He’s on her mind all of the time, and I’ve cared about her immensely ever since I met her on the day he was born. She’s doing really well these days and I love getting updates from her and keeping her informed on what Miles is doing, what he likes, what his favorite things are, etc. Miles has a full sibling, an older brother, and it’s very important to me that I give him every opportunity to nurture that connection. His brother, who is three years older than him, asks about him often. I share photos of him with Miles and he and I talk about both of them frequently. I think he’s starting to understand in a limited way at this point. He said “brother” the other day when I showed him a photograph.

We haven’t visited yet (they live pretty far away) but I plan on making the trip sometime soon. I’m looking forward to the day when we get to meet his entire extended birth family. On Miles’ birthday last year, they threw a party for him at their local park. We didn’t know about it so we weren’t there, but they had a cake with his name on it and they released balloons for him. Later that day, his birthmother sent me a video of them singing Happy Birthday to him and I couldn’t stop crying. What an incredibly sweet thing to do. We’ve watched that video hundreds of times, and I know he will treasure it forever.

People often ask how I can feel secure in doing that or if I worry that he will want to go live with them one day. The truth is that I just want to do what is best for him and I truly believe that giving him the chance to know his birth family, and especially his biological mother and brother, will be one of the greatest things I could ever do for him. I cannot control what the future will bring. All I can control is my best effort at keeping that door open for him, wherever it shall lead.

Is it always going to be easy? Probably not. Will he say something heartbreaking to me one day about wanting to live with his “real” family? Maybe. But what I’ve come to learn on this journey is that there is no such thing as too much love for a child or too many people caring about a child, and that there is no such thing as possession of a child. He is not “mine,” nor does he “belong” to anyone else. I am simply blessed to have him in my life and to have been given the great honor and responsibility of being his mother. I may not be his only mother, but I am his only mommy and that’s enough for me.

It’s more than enough; it’s everything.





New Beginnings

IMG_1739It feels like I’ve lived an entire lifetime since I published my last post. That’s pretty much true, actually–in the past few months, my little family moved all the way across the country from Charlottesville, VA to Portland, OR.

Where to begin? Phew, it all happened so fast. I won’t get into details, but we were thrilled when Jamie got a job offer in a city we were excited to live in, where we have best friends, and that puts us closer to immediate family: back out west where we’ve both been since high school.

Jamie and I have moved across the country before,  but it’s an entirely different story now that we have Miles. We had only been in Virginia for three years, but we were pretty dialed-in there, with an amazing healthcare provider who knew us personally and took incredible care of Miles and the rest of us, a part-time daycare situation that was top notch and where he was really comfortable, our home which we loved on a few acres in the country, and friends that we’d made. Life was simple, and easy, quaint, and quiet. I knew that we would love life in Portland and that there were going to be so many benefits, but it was still hard to say goodbye.

I also worried a lot about Miles–how he would feel, if Portland would be a good place for him, how he’d handle a big move, and whether or not he would miss the only home he’d ever known.

But it turns out I worried for naught; he’s the most adaptable of us!


Miles is loving our new city neighborhood. I was worried that he’d miss the country lifestyle but he is obsessed with the light-rail train, the buses, the people, our neighbors, and saying hi to everyone he meets. We found a cute little house to rent in a quiet, walkable neighborhood with little kids living on three sides of us. Being the social butterfly that he is, Miles  is loving all of it. He is energized by all the action and already has far more friends his own age than he had in Charlottesville–and we’ve only been here for a month.


Now that we’re settled in, it feels like we’ve been here forever. My best friend lives in town and she and her husband (another best friend of mine) have a little boy the same age as Miles and a little girl a couple of years older. The kids instantly hit it off and it’s as if they’ve known each other forever. They call him “Baby” Miles and he absolutely adores both of them. I love that they will grow up together, like brothers or cousins. It makes me smile every time I think about it. Such a gift.


Hoping for good things ahead! I promise I won’t be such a stranger.






Tantrum time! On discipline and setting boundaries


Yes, our family came together differently than most others. And yes, issues surrounding my son’s adoption are pretty much on my mind 24/7. But sometimes I forget that I’m just like any other parent out there and that my toddler is just like any other toddler out there–throwing the tantrum to end all tantrums from time to time.

“No, that’s mine,” were the first three words he ever strung together. It was so cute and endearing that I had to laugh. In fact, most of the naughty things that he does are so cute that I have to laugh. Sometimes I don’t know how I will ever be able to discipline this kid because he is just so darn adorable. I mean, look at him. He has me wrapped around his finger and he knows it. I’ve got to be careful, though, because that cute little sentence was followed closely by a colossal kicking & screaming fit when I took away the Sharpie he was holding on to for dear life.

He’s almost two now and testing the waters constantly. He loves to make me laugh, but I need to be careful what I laugh at. He thinks he can get away with pretty much everything because I’m just so in love with him. He’s right about how much I love him, but it’s time for me to start laying down the law a little bit.

“You don’t want to raise a brat,” I remember my grandma saying to me once. “If you never tell them no, that’s what will happen.” (This coming from the woman who would never dream of telling me no, but I was her grandchild so I guess she thought that was different.)

I’ve spent so much time researching and reading about issues that will come up because of adoption that I haven’t spent much time thinking about discipline or the actual chaos that is toddlerhood. I think it’s time for me to bookmark the adoption articles for awhile and start focusing a little bit more on tactics to deal with the terrible two’s (which I don’t actually think are all that terrible… yet).

Mainly, I’d just like him to listen to me, refrain from throwing his entire dinner on the floor because he doesn’t want to eat his peas, and stop acting like the world is about to end because I won’t let him poke his eye out with a pair of scissors or pull the dog’s tail off.

Any advice would be appreciated on discipline methods, etc. Anyone read Love & Logic or have any other recommendations?









Watch this: A Conversation About Growing Up Black

A Conversation About Growing Up Black is part of a NY Times series of interviews on race. It’s a short (5-minute) “Op-Doc” in which Black males talk about the challenges they face growing up as kids of color. It’s one thing to read about racism, but quite another to hear about it from children who actually experience it.

My heart breaks when 10-year-old Maddox says, “I want people to know that I’m perfectly fine and that I’m not going to hurt anybody or do anything bad.”

I know that at many points in his life, Miles will deal with these same challenges. I hope that my husband and I can do as good of a job preparing him as the parents of these kids have done. Watching things like this confirms just how important frank-talk with him about race and the unfair realities of the world will be from an early age.

Thank you to the NY Times for this interview and series. 



But, is it diverse enough?


I have always loved to travel, and to live in new places. I’ve called seven different cities and countless more rental houses home in the past 20 years. Each time I’ve moved, there were numerous decisions to be made: where to live, where to work, where to play being among them. In the past, I was always free to pick and choose the best neighborhood I could afford, closest to the biggest park, and the amenities that were important to me at the time.

Not once–not one time–did I have to rule out a city, town, or neighborhood I desired based on the color of my skin. While I have always enjoyed diversity, whether or not a place is diverse enough has never been a make-it-or-break-it question on my list. I never saw this as white privilege, but it’s exactly what it is.

With the adoption of my African-American son, that has all changed. If we ever decide to move, we can no longer live just anywhere. We can’t just simply choose the “best” neighborhood with the “best” schools. I have a Black son, and I don’t want his face in the mirror to be the only other Black one he sees. I don’t want to worry about him getting arrested (or worse) simply for walking home or to the park. I want him to go to a good school, but I also know that dealing with racism and othering at the best school would be far worse for him than a mediocre education at a diverse school.


I read this article, Where Should My Black Son Go to School? the other day written by a Black mother who was trying to figure out where to live in Los Angeles. She chronicles her struggle to find a good neighborhood, with good schools, AND a healthy black population. Here’s an excerpt:

“Looking for a place with good schools, a healthy environment, and diversity has taken over your life. You can’t help but mention it in conversation at your son’s preschool. A White mom says she has never thought of diversity as being important when choosing her daughter’s school. She says it doesn’t matter. You know she is only saying this because it has never been her experience to be at risk of harm because of her race. You wonder how fast it would take her to react if no one in her child’s classroom looked like her child—if her child came home crying from being teased and insulted by teachers and peers alike from being the only one.

You realize that White moms of White children are lucky. This is the essence of White privilege. They can live anywhere and be safe. They never have to think about how these decisions will shape their sons’ educational future. And sometimes, quite literally, also his life and death.”

Before having a Black son, I didn’t quite realize the extent to which race affects every decision a Black family makes. Among many other things, I can no longer  (nor do I want to) freely pick just anywhere to live. “But, is it diverse enough?” will be the question at the heart of every major decision we make as a family.





More Children’s Books We’re Reading with Black Characters


I discovered a few new books with Black characters this week and wanted to share for those of you looking to expand your libraries. I love seeing our bookshelves increasingly lined with characters and heroes of color.


Not Norman, This book came as a recommendation and is super cute. I’m pretty sure I have to get Miles a goldfish now, though–and I have mixed feelings about that. Growing up, I had a fish who got pregnant and had a bunch of tiny little baby fish that the bigger fish in the tank promptly ate. Eww. Still grosses me out.


Salt in His Shoes, My husband bought this one because one of his heroes is Michael Jordan, and this is a children’s book about MJ’s story. It’s a little old for Miles right now but we’re reading it to him anyway. Inspirational, just like the great Michael Jordan himself.


Marvelous Cornelius – I found this one at the library and am glad I checked it out. It’s the true story of a real man named Cornelius from New Orleans who brought joy and laughter to all as he worked to help clean up in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.


Squeak, Rumble, Whomp, Whomp, Whomp, A Sonic Adventure by Wynton Marsalis – I love Wynton Marsalis’ music, and Miles is really into music right now, so I was excited to see this at the library. A story about the music in our everyday lives, it’s a fun and cute read–especially if you get really into the sound effects.


Marvelous Me, Inside and Out is a cute tale of learning to love yourself for who you are. I hope that Miles smiles this big every time he looks in a mirror–and that he always loves and is proud of his beautiful Blackness.



How to Tell When It’s Time to Take a Break from that Online Adoption Group


* Based on feedback I’ve received, I have decided to edit this post. I never meant to target any one group, nor did I intend to blame birthparents or adoptees for my need to take a break from these sometimes intense discussions. That was not my intention, but it came across that way to certain people whom I did not mean to offend. So, let me try this again.

** I have decided to close comments on this post after receiving word that members of one of these groups are “campaigning against me” to invade my online and personal space and life. These people have been saying truly hateful, derogatory, harmful, dangerous, and disrespectful things about me in this group. This kind of viciousness is toxic to everyone who encounters it and I will not give these people a platform on my blog. **

I want to begin by saying that I have learned so much from online adoption groups. I have benefitted tremendously from these groups and from hearing other people’s experiences and perspectives pertaining to issues that I’m dealing with. I’m truly grateful for all of the people who take the time to participate in these groups.

But these places are not always easy spaces to be in and I think they can sometimes do a person more harm than good. Even the most well-moderated groups can get off track because there are so many mixed emotions in adoption and these groups typically include all members of the adoption triad, (birthmothers/fathers, adoptive parents, and adoptees) all who have different backstories and opposing opinions. This is a good and necessary thing because hearing/reading other viewpoints is how we learn. Ideally, we would all listen to each other with compassion and understanding and gain insight into aspects of adoption that we hadn’t considered.

But it doesn’t always happen that way, and sometimes it can all just be a bit much. When that happens, when people are burned out or stressed out or angry, discussions tend to dissolve. In my opinion, a little time-out to gather your thoughts is the best way to get yourself ready to come back and learn with a positive attitude and your defenses down. Literally, I have been doing this ever since I was a young adult and learned how to control my anger: leave the room, count to 10, take a deep breath, return. It works, and it’s all that I’m advocating here.

Here’s how to tell if it’s time to take a little break from that online adoption support group:

  • You start feeling bad about your decision to adopt. A lot of issues come up in these groups, some of which may be hard to hear. If you’re starting to feel bad about yourself for adopting or wanting to adopt, it might be time to take a short break.
  • You forget that every adoption and the people and circumstances surrounding it are different. 
  • You’re angry, and starting to let that anger consume you. I’ve seen so much anger in these online groups and some people don’t seem to be able to let it go. If a group you’re in is upsetting you to the point that you feel this way, it’s time to take a break.
  • You’re hearing so many different voices that you have forgotten how YOU truly feel and why you wanted to adopt in the first place. The more noise surrounding you, the harder it is to hear what your heart and gut instincts are telling you. Listen to everyone but when it gets to the point that you don’t know how you feel, you need to take a break even if it’s just to think.
  • You’re spending too much time there. Are you constantly replying to comments or engaged in endless, unresolvable arguments to the detriment of the people in your life?  These groups can be totally engrossing, and I don’t think that’s healthy. Unplug, log off, put the phone away and connect with the people in your life. Meet some other adoptive families in your community; talk to adoptees and birthparents in person.

If you are nodding your head yes to any of these, maybe it’s a sign that you could use a break. Just a little hiatus. You don’t have to leave the group entirely, but maybe turn off notifications/unfollow the group for awhile and resist the urge to participate for a few days. Then, when you’ve had a chance to gather your own thoughts and emotions, you’ll have the strength/will power to have meaningful dialogue with others.

** Editing to add that if you are part of a group where you feel your personal safety or the future of your business or career could be at stake simply by speaking up or challenging majority opinion or that of the admins, it’s my personal opinion that that is not a healthy place to be. This is my first experience with cyber bullying and/or cyber harassment and, frankly, it was a little scary. I don’t need that in my life. **

This Adoptive Mother’s Secret Fear

imageAt 21 months old, Miles is still unaware that our family was brought together by adoption, or what adoption even is. I’m just ‘mommy’ and we’re pretty much always attached at the hip (my hip, because he still looooves to be carried). There is nothing in his life right now that a hug from me can’t fix. I can kiss away boo-boos and frustrations, tears and nightmares; you name it.

Right now, everything is so perfect and simple.

But I have a secret: Lately, at night, when the house is quiet and everyone is asleep, I’ve been getting a little scared. Not of the dark. But of adoption.

Not of adoption itself, but of the way Miles may feel about it when he understands what it means. All too soon, he will become aware of the one thing that I won’t be able to kiss away: the fact that he was not born to me. And I worry about how he will feel when he realizes what that means.

Like every other parent, I want to protect my child from the world. But unlike every other parent, I know that there is major heartbreak in his near future: the loss that he will experience when he becomes conscious of his first family. I have always known this was coming but it has always seemed so far off. The closer it gets, though, the more I’ve begun to think about–and secretly dread–it. The day when he understands will be here sooner than I’m ready for it to be.

Part of me is also a tiny bit scared that his feelings for me could somehow change–or become complicated, at least–when he realizes that our family was formed differently than other families and that he has another mother out there. It’s not that I’m jealous or don’t want to share him or his love. That’s not it at all. I love his birthmother. She gave me the greatest gift that anyone possibly could and she changed my life for the better forever. He is and always will be part of her and vice versa and I will always honor that and do what I can to support that relationship. I know that he will always love me. I’m his mom. I know this.

But I just don’t want the way he feels about me to change at all. Ever. I don’t want anything about our relationship to change.

Will he say mommy differently or settle less comfortably in my arms? Will he feel differently somehow about our little family? Will it be the same? Will he still run to me when he’s hurt and scared, tired or upset? Will he still light up when he sees me after I’ve been away, yelling my name and jumping into my arms? Will he feel as positive about his adoption as I do?

I know that I am being silly. I love the fact that our family was formed through adoption, and I love him more than anything in the world. I am confident in our love. Our bond is as strong as it could be. I know that we will grieve his loss together and that he will be okay because he is strong and resilient. I’m trying to prepare him by telling him his birth story and introducing the concept of adoption long before he understands. I know that I shouldn’t be scared of this.

And I’m usually not. But sometimes… every once and awhile… I am.

I’m sharing this with you because I imagine it’s pretty common for adoptive parents to feel this way. It’s a reality that our children have to deal with big, complicated emotions at a young age and that it won’t always be easy. I think the most we can do is to be strong, love them the best we can, be honest with them, and create a safe space for them to share their feelings with us.

Any other adoptive parents ever feel this way?



One Powerful Way White People Can Spend Martin Luther King Jr. Day

This year, use your day off to do something simple, yet truly powerful, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day: learn about and acknowledge your white privilege.


“I don’t have white privilege–I worked hard for everything I have.”

White people say things like this a lot in regards to white privilege. Most of us don’t want to acknowledge that white privilege is real. Some of us will straight-up deny it, saying that we grew up poor and never took a hand-out so how could we be privileged? Some of us will say (and truly believe) that we’ve never gotten a leg up in the world just for being white.

But the absolute truth is: yes, we have. Simply having ivory skin has given us privilege beyond most of our understanding. Not realizing it and not having to think about race and racism is in itself white privilege. You and I have always been treated like we were white, because that is our reality. We have never had to think about what it would be like to be black or how we would be treated if we were. We have been shielded from racial issues, and that’s why so many white people will also say that racism is no longer an issue: because we have never experienced it.

This is not to say that white people don’t face hardships, or that we haven’t earned or don’t deserve where we are today. We have issues, problems, heartbreaks, illnesses, addictions, losses. Some of us grew up poor. A few of us were born rich. Most of us have worked our tails off to land somewhere in the middle. White privilege does not mean that everything is handed to us on a silver platter. It doesn’t mean that you or I have had it easy and/or don’t deserve where we are today.

What it does mean is that, as white people, we do not experience the racially motivated hardships that people of color do each and every day. No matter what our problems are–and they might be numerous–we have no idea what that feels like.

“Ignorance of how we are shaped racially is the first sign of privilege. In other words, it is a privilege to ignore the consequences of race in America.”
― Tim Wise

My life can be full of challenge and turmoil, but I still enjoy (usually without even realizing it) the privilege that inherently comes with whiteness. We all have axes to bear, but Black people and people of color have additional burdens.

I think the reason most white people get confused about white privilege is because they equate it with privilege in general. White privilege refers to racial privilege — basically, that white people have advantages over people of color that occur due to institutional and systemic racism. There are other kinds of privilege, and people of color can enjoy those types of privilege if they fit the bill. For example, a straight Black man with a college education, a good job, and money in the bank will benefit from heterosexual, male, and socioeconomic privilege.

But no matter how high he rises, he will always be black. Some people will automatically assume that he got where he is only because of affirmative action laws. If he decides to wear a hoodie shopping on his day off, he might be followed around the store by suspicious security guards. If his teenage son gets stopped by police for a traffic violation and appear confrontational, there is an exorbitantly higher rate that his child will be killed by that police officer than if his son was white. By now, you have heard that Black mothers and fathers have to teach their children as young as seven and eight to not affirm their rights if questioned by police and that there are numerous things that white kids can wear or say or do that black kids can’t. The list goes on and on.


At the end of the day, arguing over whether or not white privilege exists is a waste of time that would be so much better spent trying to relate to Black people or people of color. It’s called empathy–something that Martin Luther King Jr. preached daily. In his memory, let’s each of us, right now, try to imagine what it’s like to walk a mile in a person of color’s shoes.

What would it feel like to be judged solely on the color of your skin? What if your resume was thrown away because your name sounded “too black?” What if your child had to grow up way too fast? How would your self-image suffer if someone called you a racial slur or clutched their purse and crossed the street as you walked by? How would those things make you feel about yourself?

Think about other ways that you have benefitted–even subtly–by the fact that you have white skin. Turn on the TV or go to a movie–what color skin do you see reflected back at you? Which race is featured in marketing advertisements? What do these subtle messages tell you about yourself? Even small, seemingly inconsequential things like this are examples of white privilege.

White skin is held up as the ideal by our society and that leads to disadvantages for people of color. It’s as simple as that. We didn’t cause this, and most of us don’t knowingly contribute to it. There is no reason for us to get offended by the term white privilege. No one wants us to apologize for simply being white, but the world will be better if we realize what it means and has meant today and throughout history. We don’t have control over the course of events that brought us to this point, but we do have control over where we go from here.

“The world does not need white people to civilize others. The real White People’s Burden is to civilize ourselves.”
― Robert Jensen, The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege

Simply recognizing that white privilege exists is an important first step in creating true racial equality. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let’s contribute something worthwhile to the racial justice movement: true understanding of our white privilege and its negative, harmful effects on others. Let’s let our defenses down and see it for what it is: something that we may not have asked for, but that is real and pervasive and has indeed given us the upper hand.

Take some time today to think about ways that you have benefitted from white privilege in your own life. Gain a better understanding by doing some reading. A good place to start would be On Racism and White Privilege from the Southern Poverty Law Center, or What White Privilege Really Means from Slate, or even this blog post from Huffington Post called White Privilege Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Does. For a more in-depth discussion about confronting your privilege, reference: The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism, and White Privilege.

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools,” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Quote of the Week: We must let go of the life we have planned…


“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  – Joseph Campbell

2015-12-04 11.09.00-1

The best decisions that I have ever made in my life have involved letting go of things not meant for me and opening myself up to the possibility of things greater. All the love that I have found–from my husband, from my son–is the direct result of me letting go, listening to my heart despite all the noise, and trusting that there was something better in store.

Ten years ago, I would never have imagined my life as it is right now. I thought I had it all planned out. But today, in this moment, I am the happiest that I have ever been and can’t imagine being anywhere else, and with anyone else, in the world. Not a day goes by where I do not look at my little boy and feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

All because I realized that my heart was trying to tell me something. And I listened.