Monday, November 8, 2010

Welcoming the Unknown

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month we have a very special writing from one of ASIA's wonderful volunteers about a very personal voyage with their child's special needs. ASIA has a couple of kids with this special need on our Hope Journey waiting child list Below is the first installment of this story. You won't want to miss it. Please check back for the rest tomorrow:

Welcoming the Unknown
by Eva Corbeau

We adopted both of our children from China. Our first daughter joined our family as a baby, with no known special needs. It was pretty much the fairytale adoption experience. Liza was strong and healthy. She was developmentally ahead of the curve and had clearly been cherished by her foster family. She grieved through the transition, but grew more centered day by day. At nearly 5, she asks increasingly specific and thoughtful questions about her first family and all that she experienced before she came to us. She is confident, securely attached, loving and thriving.

When she was 3 we started again. We had found the file of a little guy just a few weeks younger than Liza. His listing named “ambiguous genitalia” as his special need. Looking the unknowable in the face, we dove devotedly into our homework. Information gathering, opinion weighing, other-parent-seeking, adoption-style homework. Ling Jun's file didn't include a diagnosis, just a vague description, a single genital photo, and the result of a DNA test. We knew that his body didn't look like a typical boy or girl body, and that he had normal XY (male) DNA. We consulted with a handful of specialists. Some didn't offer much insight at all, some described potential surgery and hormone therapy in great detail, and a couple told us this: sometimes conditions that cause such ambiguity in the body also affect the identity. Basically, whatever caused our son's body to develop differently from other boys' bodies might also have caused his brain to develop differently from other boys' brains. He might feel in his heart, soul and brain like he's a she.

We pondered all of it. We imagined what challenges hormones and surgery and elementary school bathrooms might present. We wondered if we were up to the task of walking him through that. It seemed like a distant and unlikely possibility that we might have a son who felt like a daughter, but we talked about that too. We read books about the experiences of intersex people. (The term “intersex” to describe people whose bodies don't present as clearly male or female is used primarily by such people themselves. Recently in medical language, “Disorders of Sexual Development” or DSD has come into use to describe any number of conditions causing such differences. It is important to understand that there are many causes for external and internal sexual differences. Intersex and DSD are not diagnostic, but descriptive.)

We went through with the adoption and brought our son home, only to discover that the distant, unlikely possibility was in fact, our story. What follows is the letter we wrote to properly introduce our new daughter to hundreds of friends and family members set to welcome our son.

Among the things that keep us up at night, the protection of our children's story is near the top of the list. But we're sharing here for this reason: When we found ourselves with a 4-year-old making a gender transition, we went online to look for support. We found none in the adoptive community. That's not to say that there aren't wonderfully supportive people out there. Of course there are. But where we found mention of the special need, we found very little that was meaningful to us. More and more we see children with “ambiguous genitalia” showing up on special needs lists. And more and more we feel compelled to help families prepare. Our experience may not be the most common, but it would surely be the most challenging for some. And I'm here to share both that it happens and that it's ok.

Every child deserves to be unconditionally welcomed. Potential parents must understand and embrace all that that might mean.

No comments:

Post a Comment