Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."


Heart of Adoption

I made an offhand comment a few posts back that prior to being an adoptive mom myself, I assumed all adoptive families were the same.

What did I mean by this? I was asked that question.

I'm not sure. That's the simple answer. I can't put my finger on exactly what I meant. I wasn't talking about anyone specifically.

Adoption - that word encompasses so much. Maybe what I meant is that I was discouraged by how simplistic an answer it is to the giant question of how can we help orphans and vulnerable children. It's almost like the question and the answer just don't fit.

Maybe I meant that I had seen one too many conference speaker insinuate that American Christians are somehow better equipped to care for Africa's children than Africans themselves. (Racism? Cultural superiority?)

Maybe I am simply tired of the slogans around adoption. "One less orphan." "If every Christian adopted one child..." That type of thinking does nothing for children in need. For every child adopted there are millions more who are vulnerable. Millions more on the verge of being an orphan statistic. We need different slogans.

Maybe I had seen one too many family wash away all vestiges of their adopted child's language, culture, name and heritage only to replace those losses with nothing. With trendy meaningless names and empty materialistic pursuits.

Maybe I was referring to the time I visited a community that had built a small school and was implementing a great community-based program that provided support to local families raising orphaned children. After an awe inspiring presentation from the local pastor and children I unfortunately heard an adoption advocacy representative ask the local pastor to "identify the kids in need of international adoption" in that village. Sigh.

I've been gathering up some stories and statements that have really impressed me and educated me. These are stories from adoptive parents! I've learned a lot from this group that I sorted, and labelled and categorized before joining them. I've learned that often the ugly voices and stories get the most attention, but the heart of adoption can be found if you look for it and share it.

From Irene who is on my online forum:

What I want for Daragh is that he will grow up confident and secure in all aspects of who he is and never feel pressured to choose one aspect of his identity over another.

I want him to feel equally at home in himself as an Ethiopian, an American and an Irish lad. All of those cultures will influence and inform who he is and who he becomes, and all have something to offer him.

But I don't want any of them to limit him.
His full name is Daragh Yosef Zelalem. Yosef was his pre-adoption name; I chose Daragh and Zelalem. I chose Zelalem because it means 'forever' and I want him to know that he is Ethiopian forever and a H(surname) forever. One doesn't end the other. Daragh is an Irish name from the word for oak. I was born in Oakland, California, so that is part of why I chose it. But I also chose it because oak is associated with St. Bridget, Ireland's other patron saint. Part of St. Bridget's story is that she was born while her mother was standing in a doorway with a foot inside and a foot outside, so Bridget was born in two places at once. This is really probably a way of explaining how a pre-Christian goddess was also a Christian saint, butnonetheless, to me it also expresses duality, which I feel will be part ofDaragh's identity, as it is of mine as a dual national with one American parent and one Irish parent.

What I don't want is for him to feel pressured or limited, that he can't do something because one of his cultural identities doesn't allow it. I don't want him to feel he has to check any part of himself at the door anywhere he goes. I want him to feel as Ethiopian on the hurling pitch or the baseball diamond as he does having some shiro or listening to Bole2Harlem. The way I see it, and being a single mom of one may bring this into sharper focus, my family is now half Ethiopian.

Yes my son's identity is changed by having been adopted internationally. But it also changes my identity. It's not fair for him to be the only one who's identity is affected and it's not accurate either. I'm now the mother of an Ethiopian child. That shifts how I view the world and how I participate in it. I still have a lot to learn about Ethiopia, but I couldn't adopt from the country if I wasn't willing to embrace not just my child but the broader culture. I don't mean to uncritically take on everything. I don't do that with my own cultures. ButI couldn't adopt from a country if I couldn't find a significant amount to love about it.



  1. what an awesome post (and I LOVE the quote! I want to go out for donuts with that woman.)

  2. Incredible posts....yours and hers!

  3. Ditto to all other commenters. Gotta love Irene's story. That just about says it to the "T." Awesome.

  4. Excellent post Amanda! Those quotes for fantastic. Being as white as one can be, it is hard for me to understand how an individual might feel they have to choose between cultures/ancestries/traditions - but as I get older and meet more people who come for all over the globe, I realize I'm the one who has lost out. Not that there is anything wrong with being a WASP, but there are so many rich and beautiful cultures out there. I'm so pleased that you and Jeremy (and other adoptive families) are sensitive to the potential pull their children may face to "choose" one heritage over another. What makes us truly beautiful is how we knit the various parts of "us" together. Makes me think of "D's" blanket.


About Me

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J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.