During National Adoption Awareness Month, we will introduce you to numerous guests, highlighting many parts of the adoption journey. We’re excited to share blogger and mom, Brigid Rowlings’ story with you today…it’s one that showcases how all our stories are intricately intertwined through the thread of adoption. As Brigid describes below, it was truly “mystical symmetry” that allowed for her path of international adoption to unfold. We’re wishing her family safe travels to Thailand, as they embark on the journey to bringing their daughter home.
…and when we sent over the final edits of her blog last week and Brigid gave us an update…
“We are on day 5 as a family of 4. The challenge is real. Our daughter’s grief is real. She’s wary of me, but really likes Daddy at the moment, so the good thing is she responds well to one parent! Last night, after pushing me away for 4 days, she melted into me and sobbed and sobbed big grief tears. I was able to rock her and tell her I loved her. Today she is back to pushing me away, but I know that she is testing me to see if I will continue to love her.”
By Brigid Byrne Rowlings
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t know that adoption was a way that people built families. One of my oldest friends, Michael, was adopted from Vietnam in 1975. I do not remember how I came to know that he was adopted, or when I learned what being adopted meant, but I do recall being vaguely aware that his skin was darker than the rest of his family’s, and that he would sometimes talk about being Vietnamese.
When I started school, I began to meet more people who were adopted. Some talked about it openly, while others did not want most people to know. Later, my brother married a woman who had been adopted, and I married a man who has two cousins that were adopted from China.
So, when my son was four years old and I was diagnosed with secondary infertility, completing our family through adoption felt like a no-brainer. Going into the process, I felt pretty adoption “woke.” I knew that adoption adds a layer of complexity to an adoptee’s understanding of their own identity.
I had been present as my friend Michael increasingly grappled with the challenge of being, as he puts it, “brown” in a predominantly white family. (Ironically, his daughter recently told her blonde-haired, blue-eyed mother that she didn’t “match” the rest of the family!) I watched Michael prepare for a semester studying abroad in Vietnam, hoping to learn more about the country where he was born, and hoping that perhaps he would learn something about his first family. I was here when he came back with success in the former, but disappointment in the latter.
I have also been present as two domestically adopted friends grappled with the choice of finding their birth parents. One friend needed medical information from her biological family. For the other, a birth parent reached out first. During these times, I came to realize that whatever other issues we would have to contend with in our adoption journey, our future child would not have to feel the tension between curiosity about their first family and a fear of hurting their adoptive family.
I should not have been surprised, though, that as in most circumstances where I feel pretty confident that I know what I’m getting into, the Universe would take the opportunity to teach me a few things. I was first confronted with the reality that the adoption journey was NOT going to be easy. We first decided to apply to a domestic infant adoption program. Our son was four, so a baby seemed like a good fit birth-order-wise. Also, I wanted to raise my child from infancy. I wanted those “firsts,” and for my child to yes, know they were adopted, but to know me as the mother who had cared for them from their earliest days.
As we were going through our home study process and taking the required adoption education courses, I knew there would probably be some bumps along the road. We would probably have some matches fall through, or even be at a hospital only to have the baby’s parents decide an adoption plan was not, in fact, the right choice for them.
But, I looked at the statistics and figured that as a family with one resident child, we were looking at a two-year wait at most. What I did not know is that we would spend the next two and a half years navigating some of the most intense, heart-wrenching scenarios imaginable.
The next lesson the Universe had in store for me was that I was not actually meant to be the mom of a domestically adopted child. I was exhausted by the constant limbo the domestic infant process had us living in, and tuned in to the fact that I did not want to go through baby and toddlerhood again after spending a day with my 6-year-old son and 1-year-old nephew.
I soon approached my husband with the idea of pivoting to international adoption. That process seemed much less gut-wrenching. We would be matched with a specific child, and then wait the prescribed amount of time for paperwork to be processed before traveling to meet our child.
Shortly after deciding to explore international adoption, we began to look at waiting child photo listings on the websites of a few different agencies. As we were looking at photo listings
on Holt International’s website, I noticed that they placed children from Vietnam.
Feeling a sense of mystical symmetry, I clicked on “Southeast Asia”, and there she was. At various points throughout this process, everyone told me that the right child will come into your family. I tend to be an incredibly practical person, and I was skeptical. This was certainly a platitude that adoption professionals offered to frustrated hopeful adoptive parents. But I saw her, and I knew. It was not a platitude after all.
It turns out our daughter is Thai, and not Vietnamese, but my pragmatic side still allows that some sort of karmic law was in effect when I thought, “Wouldn’t this just be everything coming full circle” as I clicked on “Southeast Asia.” I believe that my earliest experience of adoption and the strength of my friendship with Michael led us to her.
The last lesson the Universe had in store for me was that your mother is always right.
My mom always told us when we were growing up, “If you want to make God laugh, make plans for your life”, and she was right. We were approved to adopt our little girl, who was 3 at the time and given the timeline of 18 months until travel. We were right around the 7-month mark when COVID-19 hit. Eighteen months turned into well over two years as a global pandemic transformed what would otherwise be a solid timeline into a huge unknown.
I was well into the first draft of this essay when the Universe apparently decided I had been a good student because one week ago, we got the call (well, it was really an email) that we were approved for travel! In two weeks! And we will be in Thailand for a month! Because we are still in a pandemic and we need to quarantine! There are many exclamation points in the preceding sentences because while yes, this news was exciting, it was also overwhelming.
As I type, I am hopeful but anxious. We will be bringing home a five-year-old who does not speak English, and who has never lived in a family unit. I am anxious that I am not up to the task, and that despite all my preparation, including months of working with a Thai tutor to learn how to communicate with my daughter, I might not be the mother she needs.
But, I imagine playing with her, seeing her smile, and hearing her laugh. And then I think it will be ok. By the time you read this, it will be National Adoption Awareness Month, and I will be my daughter’s mother. We will be in Bangkok, along with my husband and my son, learning how to be a family. And I think the journey, both the long 5 years of waiting and the long trip to Thailand, will all be worth i
Brigid Rowlings is mom to a 9-year-old and pre-adoptive mom to a 5-year-old. She is a middle school teacher and a fledgling freelance writer living in the metro Boston area. Brigid and her husband have been on some leg or another of the adoption journey for the past 5 years. During that time, Brigid often wished for a mostly practical, sometimes emotional, and occasionally humorous adoption book written by an adoptive parent she could relate to. Finally, she decided to create her dream adoption resource, and Adoption411blog.com was born.