Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Guest Post on O'Sullivans Abroad

Below is a post I wrote at the request of a close friend of mine and fellow expat. Adoption is common among the expat community and is made even more beautiful when there are friends within that community to share your ups and downs with. Allison has been there every step of the way for Frank, myself and the girls. She is also doing her part to help raise awareness of adoption. Allison and her husband are currently living in Nepal. Check out their fabulous blog here.

National Adoption Month {Guest post!}

Before November is through, I wanted to recognize National Adoption Month.  When I was young, my mom worked for an international adoption agency for the China department.  Since then, hearing stories of families working so hard to adopt babies who so desperately needed a home, I have had great respect for families who come together through adoption.  A number of our good friends have adopted children internationally as expats and I asked one of them to write about their experience.  Krista and her husband Frank have 2 beautiful girls; they have been blogging about all the great activities and ways they are honoring National Adoption Month over here.  Enjoy! 

My husband and I are international educators living in Taiwan. When asked to write this guest post from a former coworker and current amazing friend, I was beyond honored. November is a special month in the McGowan household; it’s a time when we honor adoption, our two beautiful girls, and the amazing natural families who made our dream come true. Adoption for us wasn’t out of necessity, it was a choice we made, my husband and I--together. This choice came with it’s ups and downs, as all choices do. 

Our story is perhaps a bit different from many adoption stories in that we wanted a private adoption in a foreign country. Navigating through the legal hurdles and obstacles was mind numbing. We finally discovered all we had to do was get a baby, then deal with the legal stuff later. Easy right? Well, that’s where things became difficult. I’ve written about some of the bumps and bruises we experienced along with way on our blog Taichung Teachers

Adopting in a foreign country is not for the faint of heart. We were 100% dependent on local friends, translators and hope that everything was going smoothly. We spent thousands of dollars translating documents into Chinese and then Chinese documents into English. As court dates drew nearer, we were met with list after list of new documents needed by the Taiwanese courts. These documents were not always accessible. For instance in Taiwan, all nationals are registered to a household and our adoptive girls needed to be registered as well. The problem was, we aren’t Taiwanese nationals and therefore could not have anyone registered to us. The solution by the Taiwanese officials, “just have a friend register the girls under them.” The courts also required we show them our US household registration-which of course we don’t have because there are no household registration cards in the US. This idea was completely foreign to the courts and caused us quite a bit of stress as initially, they were unwilling to bend.

All of these things were problematic, but would have been accepted more positively had all our friends who have adopted gone through the same process. The problem is, every single case required different paperwork. It was as if the judge pulled out of a hat which paper she needed on any given day. 

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, we thought we would finalize our adoptions at home in the good ole U-S-A. We found a lawyer to deal with the re-adoption end and then the search was on to find a lawyer to help us with the citizenship end of things. This is where we hit a wall. Being expats with no desire to head home any time soon, we fall into a grey area. If we wait two years, no problem. If we want it done immediately, major problem. We have to start from scratch with a US home visit and go forward from there. 

Adopting abroad has been difficult at times, but worth the struggle. Adopting has been the single best thing I have ever done in my life. However, I’ve found there are little to no resources available for our type of situation (one that I am planning on rectifying as soon as possible). Adopting abroad has expanded my world view beyond what I expected was possible. I now see immigration differently and have been frustrated with my government’s lack of acknowledgement of my children. 

With that said, I have found that the greater adoption community is beyond supportive and our friends have stood by us throughout the whole process. At the end of all this struggle, we have been blessed with two darling little girls. Due to the way we did our adoptions, we walked out of the hospital with our girls being 1 day old and 2 days old. This probably wouldn’t have happened for us back home. 

We have a rainbow family and one we are incredibly proud of and honored that we were chosen to raise these little monkeys. I don’t refer to myself as an adoptive mother, or my children as adopted children-we are a family built on love. Every night my husband and I read the girls a story, tuck them into beds and kiss them goodnight-just like every other family. Every morning we are greeted with peels of laughter and monster hugs. Whatever difficulties we have experienced become quickly melted away when our little girls look at us and give us big ole cheesy grins. At the end of the day, we are parents, they are our children and we are a family.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Whirlwind of Activity Part II-Saturday #3

After leaving the amusement park, we headed down the mountain a bit to the town, Puli to meet Sage’s natural family. Our meeting point was McDonalds and they quickly arrived out front with Mama Wang, Baba Wang, Grandma, Grandpa, brother and sister. The look of pure joy was evidenced on their faces and without thinking, I handed Sage through the window of their car and headed back to the Freeca to follow them to our lunch spot. The shrills of Sage’s unhappy abandonment could be heard as we walked away, but upon realizing my mistake, there was little I could to do fix it.
Sage & the youngest Wang
Xian with the youngest son
At the restaurant, we were treated to an amazing meal of chicken leg, pickled cauliflower and soup. Xian was jazzed to be able to practice walking while Sage was still a wee bit upset about the car situation. As time went by, more and more family arrived-we met Great Aunties and second cousins. Sage had jungle gym time on her sister.
Three generations
The girls had a fabulous time and again we were reminded how fortunate we are. Sage’s natural family made a tough choice but they also realize the importance of maintaining a relationship with her. It was obvious that brother and sister missed their mei mei and loved her dearly. Xian was embraced as one of their own. Even with the language barrier, the feeling of love was overwhelming.

Mama & Baba Wang w/ Sage
A pileup!

As the visit came to a close, the entire family walked us to the car, waved farewell and we were off. . .to our next adventure.

A Whirlwind of Activity Part I--Saturday #3

Family Saturday #3 proved to be an insanely crazy love filled day and one that will be broken into three posts. We began our day by heading up to Sun Moon Lake in the attempt to learn more about Sage’s cultural heritage at the Formosan Aboriginal Museum. Upon arriving at the Aboriginal Museum Amusement Park, the rains began and didn't stop the entire time we were there. The Aboriginal Museum was tucked deep inside of an enormous amusement park, complete with a gondola overlooking the famous Sun Moon Lake. We made a quick inventory of all the places we wanted to visit in our two hour window; deciding on a gondola ride, a tour through traditional housing structures and finally, a walk through the museum. We learned very little about Sage’s tribe specifically as it was not one of the previously recognized 12 major tribes of Taiwan, but we did enjoy our two hours in the rain.

                                               Traditional Atayal living structure
                                          The fish were enjoying the rain as well
Sun Moon Lake-view from above

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Why Stop @ One? Saturday #4

Why stop at adding one holiday tradition, when you can add two? This is the final Saturday of National Adoption Awareness Month and will be the first of many years where we honor our baby girls’ natural parents and families. One of the most awesome parts of adoption for us (aside from our beautiful babes of course) has been the opportunity to extend our family. Xian has a fabulous natural mother while Sage has 5 terrific brothers and sisters, plus a caring extended family. 

This holiday season would not be the same if not for the decisions made by these amazing people. So, we will be starting a new McGowan holiday tradition--Christmas for the other "rents". We went shopping on Thanksgiving and bought Sage’s siblings gifts while today was spent crafting.

These fabulous explosion boxes I’ve been DYING to make for quite some time and finally had a reason to make them. Now I don’t want to give everything away, so I’m only posting the work in progress-I think you’ll get the idea. They are quick, easy and I’m hoping, a great gift.

Also the girls, Frank and myself enjoyed a bit of baking while we crafted. We tried our hands at salt dough ornaments. Xian experimented with tasting the dough and quickly decided it wasn’t for her; Sage thought the dough was great fun as she attempted to grab handful after handful. At the end, the kitchen was a mess with flour from floor to ceiling, but our task was accomplished. We cannot wait to get them finished, painted, and mailed off.  

Taking time out of the holiday season to remember Sage’s and Xian’s other families is important to us and we feel it will be important to the girls as they grow older. The natural families’ relationship with the girls did not end once they were placed in our arms and we are grateful for that. Instead, our little girls have more people to love them and care about them than they would have if they had not been placed. We feel fortunate and are happy that our wee ones are surrounded by love.

Just a Reminder

With December right around the corner, National Adoption Awareness Month will soon be coming to a close. I’m reposting the list of ways we would like to honor adoption this month for a few reasons.
  1. I’m behind on my posts-I have A LOT to catch up on and need the reminder
  2. We have learned a tremendous amount this month regarding adoption. We’ve networked, completed a service learning project, made new family traditions and researched our children’s heritage-it’s good to recognize what has been done.
  3. Remind you all what this month is about-honoring those touched by adoption and with this last week, perhaps you will want to do something to raise awareness as well.

So, here is the list we made at the beginning of November. We’ve learned that some of these things will not happen and yet, we’ve added items we didn’t think of before. An updated list will be published at the end of the month.

  • share history of national adoption month
  • November Saturday family days (4 days)
    • Saturday #1
    • Saturday #2
    • Saturday #3
    • Saturday #4
  • commit to sponsor a child for 12 days of giving
  • Pre adoption--bumps and bruises along the way-preparation
  • celebrate Xian’s cultural heritage
  • celebrate Sage’s cultural heritage (find out which tribe she is from)
  • celebrate with family scrap time (photos will be put into albums!)
  • share Xian’s adoption story
  • share Sage’s adoption story
  • learn and share info about appropriate adoption language
  • get family photos taken
  • file re-adoption paperwork
  • file citizenship paperwork
  • share children’s lit focusing on adoption
  • request letters from family members to the girls for their “got ya” books
  • Why not adopt?
  • create a new McGowan family tradition that celebrates family
  • a special way to thank our adoption angel
  • share valuable international adoption links
  • celebrate National Adoption Day with our students
  • light a candle for our girls’ birth parents
  • honor those adopted and seeking adoption
  • paper dolls for those in orphanages seeking homes in Taiwan--raise awareness
  • struggles with adoption and societal views
  • employee benefits
  • Send thank you to birth families-picture of candle
  • Hopes and Dreams for the wee ones

Friday, November 23, 2012

A New Holiday Tradition

Slowly, slowly, I will be attempting to catch up on the posts I’ve fallen behind on. However, today is not about catching up, it’s about enjoying where we are right now. Today was a rare, rainy Black Friday in Taichung. Our youngest graced us with her typical 4 am wake up but spent the next few hours surprisingly quiet and went back down for a nap at 5:30. Frank and I enjoyed an almost extinct private morning complete with an extra two strong black cups of coffee. Being parents to these energetic babies at times is trying; however, this morning we enjoyed each little girl as well as some quiet adult time.

After breakfast, the girls blessed us again with peace and quiet as they decided to nap at the same time. Rather than sitting around idly, we kept ourselves busy with what we hope to be will be our new McGowan family tradition. Being teachers, we almost always travel over Holiday break. This means our girls will never experience a traditional Christmas like Frank and I both had growing up. Determined that we will establish a strong home culture that closely mirrors our American culture, Frank and I decided we would bring a bit of Christmas with us on our travels. Now, I know it is only the day after Thanksgiving, but Christmas has begun to arrive in the McGowan house! 

We made a flannel Christmas tree out of the girls’ old receiving blankets. Every year, each girl will make a felt ornament to add to our tree. Since the tree can be folded and packed up, it will come with us on our holiday adventures to adorn the walls of our hotel rooms.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guest Adoption Story - The Raineys

The following adoption story is one of a former coworker who is very dear to me, Scott Rainey.  The Rainey family’s story is incredibly moving as they adopted three sisters who were previously in foster care. A special thanks to the Raineys for sharing their story with us.

I have often been told that God answers all prayers, but in only three ways:  yes, no, and, sometimes, most distressingly to our limited, impatient minds - wait.  It is in this third way that my wife Katrina and I have most clearly seen Jesus at work in our lives – the times when it seems He is not there, are, in reality, the times when He is closest to us.
Upon realizing that having children biologically was apparently out of the question for us, we turned to the idea of adoption.  We first explored adopting from the Marshall Islands, a small, poor nation in the South Pacific.  We prepared ourselves emotionally and practically for our new child – setting up a nursery, reading up on how to care for a baby, alerting our families that a new addition was on the way.  Katrina’s friends even threw her a baby shower.
Finally, the baby we were arranged to adopt was born, and we got as far as giving the adoption agency her name for the birth certificate when the adoption fell through.  Shortly thereafter, all international adoptions from the Marshall Islands were halted, owing to shady practices by some adoption agencies.  Shocked and saddened by the loss, we turned to God, and looked for answers.
After a short time, we redirected our energies towards adopting a child from Ukraine.  After several months and endless miles of bureaucratic red tape, we found ourselves in an eerily similar situation:  all international adoptions from Ukraine had been shut down, owing to a scandal within the adoption ministry in Kiev.  With this avenue closed as well, we again sought solace from the Lord.  
Several weeks later, we were contacted by a friend who was a pastor.  He introduced us to a woman who had become pregnant in an unfortunate situation, and wanted a Christian couple to adopt the baby.  Shortly afterward, our lawyer introduced us to a woman in a similar situation.  Within weeks, I myself was contacted by a young woman who’d been a student in the youth group at my old church.  Now 26 and unhappily married, she told me she was pregnant with her sixth child, and wanted to know if we would consider adopting the baby.
All of these situations fell through.  Our despair deepened, as it seemed we would never get any children.  We began to ask ourselves, what if God really doesn’t want us to have kids?  It was a valid question – after all, we had now experienced five failed adoption attempts in a little over 2 ½ years.  Our nursery gathered dust; bottles of Enfamil began to expire with age.  
Our attention turned to the foster care system, and older children awaiting adoption.  We sent in countless inquiries on older children, from all across the nation.  We inquired about children of all races and backgrounds, desperately hoping to find our kids.  Weeks dragged into months.  Every inquiry became a dead end.
March, 2005.  Katrina and I had made a nightly ritual of looking at the countless faces of children in foster care, awaiting homes.  A photo of three small girls – two redheads and a blonde – flashed across Katrina’s screen.  Meet Emily, Nikki and Kayla! the first line of the profile read.  The three sisters, 10, 8 and 5, had just become available for adoption that day.  We sent in an inquiry.  Their social worker responded the next morning, asking for our paperwork.  We sent it via overnight mail.
“Don’t get your hopes up,” I cautioned Katrina.
“But these girls are different,” she offered.
We were told two weeks later that we were among some 40 families who met the basic requirements to adopt the girls, and that we would be hearing more shortly should we advance in the screening process.
Through April, May, and June, we passed hurdle after hurdle, until it came down to us and one other family.  We took part in a conference call with several social workers, and were told we’d know the next day what their selection was.
Less than an hour later, the phone rang.  The only words I remember the social worker saying are “… and we would like you to consider becoming Emily, Nikki, and Kayla’s parents.”
Three weeks later, we nervously entered a meeting room at a small church in western Colorado, and discovered the truth of the previous three and a half years:  Jesus had never abandoned us.  To the contrary, He had led us through the desert for all those months, holding the two of us close by His side the entire way, telling us wait, wait, wait…  and now, I saw before me what we had been waiting for:  the most beautiful little girls in the world.  Our girls.

The girls - 2012

Adoption Day 2006

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Power of Words

“The word "birthmother" is a derogatory, degrading and inhumane term which was devised by adoption professionals to relegate a natural mother to a biological incubator for
adoptive parents and further to imply that the sacred bond of mother and child ends at birth in order to facilitate and further the adoption agenda.”
“Language is powerful. It is a tool of oppression. Groups that control the lexicon (words people use) can control a society’s thinking subversively” 

AAAHHHH. . .here it is, a post on Respectful/Appropriate Adoption Language, otherwise known as RAL. Before diving into the 2012 National Adoption Awareness Month, I was clueless to the countless conversations and raised hackles regarding the words used to describe adoption and families who have been touched by adoption. As I stumbled across Facebook site after Facebook site, there was a unifying theme--language and how upset people were when they felt inappropriate language was used. I posted questions on a support group site in the attempt to learn more and was given these articles to read: Honest Adoption Language, Why Birthmother Means Breeder, and the Language of Adoption (quoted above).

Through reading these articles, I learned I was being offensive in using the term “birth mother/family.” Instead, I should be saying natural mothers/family. I love this quote: “We are mothers. We are simply mothers... and if differentiation is required, we are natural mothers” (Language of Adoption). From each of the articles, the case was well made that when you refer to natural families as birth families, it sounds almost as if the families were breeders.

In attempting to identify the usage of the word, “birth mother” Diane Turskey wrote, “Investigating, I learned that U.S. social workers had collaborated about 30 years ago to invent their own list of contrived terms to appease their adopting clients. Adopters no longer wanted anyone to use the original term "natural mothers." Why? Three reasons:
  1. it indicated respect for the mother's true relationship to her child - she could not be written-off .. . whose only value was reproduction,
  2. it recognized that the sacred mother/child relationship extended past birth and even past surrender, and
  3. it implied that the adoptive mother's relationship to the child was unnatural.”

With that said, there is an RAL term that I strongly disagree with. According to RAL, Frank and I  went from being “parents” to adoptive parents. My girls went from having a sister to having an adoptive sister. This absolutely makes no sense to me, nor do I feel it is honoring to the family we have now. As far as I am concerned, Sage has 6 siblings-5 from her natural family and 1 from our family. I don’t feel as if I should introduce my children as my adopted children. One article’s rationale is: “This presents a false picture that the adoptee was born to the adopters.” Okay I’m sorry but my little girls are Taiwanese and I’m about as Caucasian as they come. No one is going to think that my angels were birthed by me. Even so, why does it matter? I would not introduce a biological child as such, why would I refer to my adopted daughters in that way?

I think it is important to use language that is as inoffensive as possible and I am happy that a group of people have come forward to support natural families. However, I think we all need to be careful that the pendulum doesn’t swing too far in the other direction. Why do we have to negate the importance of one relationship to build up the other? Is it about competition, or is it about love and family? 

“Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes.”   Desmond Tutu

Monday, November 12, 2012

12 Days of Giving

Every year at our school, the “The 12 Days of Giving” celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. Similar to the angel trees in the States, the 12 Days of Giving asks students, teachers and staff to provide holiday gifts for children in our greater community. This year, an aboriginal school in the mountains is being sponsored.

Gingerbread men adorn the wall of the main building complete with tags ripe for the picking. Our plucked tag revealed that we are sponsoring a 1st grader who has requested a Barbie with clothes. Now, I am thinking this means a Barbie with some extra clothes-but I could be mistaken. Can you even buy a Barbie without clothes? hmmm. .. . 

On Sunday the girls, Frank and myself made the trek to the mall. UGH, not the place we choose to spend our time, but it was for a worthy cause. Now the malls in Taiwan are unlike any mall I have ever seen before-they are HUGE! Each floor has it’s own focus. So, there’s the sports floor, the women’s clothing floor and. . .the toy floor. (Bathrooms are also themed on various floors.)To say I was overwhelmed was an understatement. We quickly made our way to the first store on the floor and were lucky enough to find the Barbie section with relative ease. My first shock was at the lack of variety (every single one was Caucasian), the second was the price-50 USD for one doll! Seriously? We quickly chose one that seemed to have a glam, Taiwan fab motif and were off!

Now, we are aware that one Barbie doesn’t even begin to repay what we have been given, but it is a start and to that little girl, it may mean a lot. It also helps remind us that we have an excess of what we need and have been blessed over and over again. Our girls are going to grow up in an environment where hopefully, they will have very little struggles. As they do, we want them to keep in mind how lucky we are and do what we can to help out others wherever possible.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Honoring Adoption at School

When Frank and I decided to take the 30 days in November and try to raise awareness for adoption, we didn't really think of including our whole school-1st-12th grade in the project. However, this has gotten a bit larger than we intended and this week, our school will be celebrating adoption. This video is one I created to introduce the idea of the need for adoption in Taiwan.

Throughout the week, the students will be decorating child cut outs to recognize the individuality of each child abandoned-each one is unique and special. At the end of the week, the "children" will be linked together in an art installation on our campus, complete with statistics to go with the visual. In addition, we will have a bulletin board dedicated to those who have been impacted by adoption-whether they've adopted, been adopted, or have friends/family involved with adoption in some way. It is my hope that these students and teachers walk away from this focused week at our school with more awareness regarding the importance, value and beauty of adoption. 

Saturday #2 Embrace the Unexpected

One of the frustrations we have had with living in Taiwan is how long it takes to get anywhere. The island is fairly small; however, any excursion ends up being quite the production. For McGowan Family Fun Day #2, we decided to head off to a place called Flying Cow Ranch which is about 1.5 hours north of Taichung City. That was the plan anyway. What really happened was we drove around for 3 hours on tiny backroads that Google map kept insisting we take. As the girls became more and more restless, we decided to give up and head back to town-defeated.

On our way home, we stopped at a favored restaurant of ours, Mum’n Pops Cafe. The cafe is owned by an American expat and his Taiwanese wife. This is one of the few places we go where we can get a good drink, and an awesome quesadilla. The girls devoured their cheese quesadilla  and had a lot of fun wandering around on the deck.

Once home, the playing continued as the girls commandeered Audrey’s bed and engaged in a good game of roll over roll over 

and pat sister’s bum (a favorite game of Xian’s).

This Saturday was not what we had planned but it reminded us of how amazing our lives are every day thanks to these two beautiful babies. Even when things don’t work out as planned, even when all we are doing is hanging out at home, each moment is precious. Today definitely reminded us to cherish what we have and not be upset because the day takes a different turn.

Sage also practiced drinking this weekend...

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Moment of Thanks

For those of us who have adopted, the story begins with a wish and ends with a darling bundle of joy. However, there is more to the story and one which I am trying very hard to recognize and honor. The other side is that of the birth family. We were fortunate to meet two birth mothers/families who gave us the most precious gifts we have ever received - Sage and Xian. Each child came from a different family and each story is different. The stories of birth families are their own and only ones they can tell. This is a story of a fabulous birth mother who gave her child to an adoptive family when she was 15 years old. In her own words,  “I am a Birth Mother who loves adoption so much! I hope to show the joy of adoption by sharing stories and experiences.” Carrie now keeps a blog that features adoption stories from the viewpoint of birth families, as well as adoptive families. Head on over to Adoption: Share the Love to check it out!

We have open adoptions. For us, this means that when opportunities arise where the birth families want to see the girls, we will try to make that happen. We want our girls to know their birth parents and to be proud of their heritage. We want Sage to have a relationship with her five brothers and sisters.This means our daughters also have to become bilingual so they can communicate with this part of their family. Because of that, they are both enrolled in Chinese baby school. For us, these birth families are an extension of our own and we welcome them with open arms. I could never pretend to understand the feelings these amazing and selfless people had when making their decision, but I appreciate them, honor them, and love them for their sacrifice.

With adoption, the focus becomes so much on the adoptive family and at times I feel as if the birth parents become lost. There is a feeling of not knowing how to act, how to respond, when to acknowledge them, when to include them. Today, all of that is thrown out of the window. Today is the day to say thank you.

Dear Birth Parents:

Thank you birth parents everywhere, from the bottom of our hearts. There simply are not enough words in this world to tell you how much your gift means to adoptive parents. Whatever the situation was that allowed you to fulfill the dreams of adoptive parents, we respect and honor the choice you made to bring a beautiful baby into this world and bless our families. You have given us a tremendous gift and one that we will cherish always. 

Forever Thankful,

Adoptive Parents

A Passionate Plea for Equality

In our experience, adoption in Taiwan is not considered to be culturally accepted. Frequently, adoptions take place in secret and the adoptive child is often unaware that the adoptive parents are not the biologic parents. Because of this mindset, many Taiwanese employers do not recognize adoption leave. Being born and raised in the US where adoptions are more accepted, this line of thinking was foreign to us. Below is a letter written to our employer as we struggled with the idea that one of us (my husband or myself) would have a maximum of two weeks unpaid, with our newborn daughter. Please keep in mind this is a result of a cultural mindset and not one of a specific institution. We found our supervisor to be incredibly supportive and sensitive to our situation as adopted parents. After the receipt of this letter, there were changes to the adoption policy at our place of employment.


Our route to begin a much desired family has been one of the more challenging events that we have each undertaken. It is demanding on our emotional systems and difficult at each juncture. So far, three opportunities for children have been taken from us. A baby was placed into Krista's arms to be taken away moments later. A trip to Taipei ended prematurely as we raced home only to find that another family left with the baby. We wait and we wait. Each day dawns with the possibility that it will be "the day" of our family's start and ends with disappointment. Yet, we shoulder on with as high hopes as possible and work almost around the clock to improve lessons for our students

The research regarding adoptive families is clear; the difficulty in obtaining children is a scratch on the surface of our upcoming difficulties. A child begins to make a connection with her birth mother while in the womb and enters the world ready for the love of a mother. Our child will instead meet trauma - the separation from her birth mother. This creates a host of identity issues that have the potential to manifest in a multitude of ways throughout her life. Author after author insists that building a strong connection between mother and child is essential to the emotional well being of this person. The difficulty of creating the connection between an adoptive child and parents is compounded when multiple caretakers immediately enter the life of this new person. Who is she supposed to connect with? Extra choices create confusion at a time when a strong bond needs to develop.

Maternity leave is an important right for mothers. As I'm sure you are well aware, birth creates two immediate needs. One, the mother needs to recover. This is important though in the large picture of the child relatively minor. A new person has entered the world and needs care. It's amazing how helpless we humans can be. The trauma experienced by an adoptive child so soon after birth compounds the need for extended time with the child. The bond between mother and child based on love and trust must be developed in these early days. A biological mother has the advantage of a ready-made bond that needs reinforcement so maternity leave provides the opportunity to focus on the baby. An adoptive mother needs the maternity leave in order to establish a connection.

As a teacher and person, one of my core beliefs is the need for equity. To put it mildly, we are shocked at the implied negation that   policy has regarding our desire to start a family and nurture a new life. The message we receive is that unless we manage to begin a family in a biological manner our family does not meet the cut. It saddens and frustrates us to be in the situation where we both have to work and are in an environment where some mothers receive essential maternity leave while we almost immediately need to resort to an outside caregiver. As any parent, we simply hope the best for our children and when faced with the knowledge of the steep road to creating a bond with our son or daughter are crushed that 
  does not support our challenging path.

What can be done? We will work to find the current Taiwanese law to verify the ruling for adoptive mothers and maternity leave. In the event of information that does not support leave for adoptive mothers, we hope to be supported in an attempt to quickly change policy at  
  . A biological act is only one of many factors in the creation of a family and we hope that as an educational institution the well-being of all families is encouraged.

Frank and Krista

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sage's arrival!

Sage’s story is so different from that of Xian’s. We met Sage’s mother, father, and 5 siblings the day before Xian came into our lives. Hesitant, we shared this information with a few close family and friends - unknowing if Sage would ultimately join the McGowan family. Meeting after meeting occurred and as the birth date drew nearer (3 months after the first visit), we became more and more confident that Xian would soon have a little sister.

One of Sage's ultrasound images

I was honored when the birth mother asked me to attend Sage’s birth. Honestly, I knew little of births and was happy to keep it that way but this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. Bundled in a heavy coat and scarf, I headed to the delivery room where I was exposed to a delivery that even with my limited knowledge was unlike anything in the States. Though sterile, the room appeared as if it had been pulled straight out of a 50’s horror flick. As I waited for big event, it became hotter and hotter and just at the moment where I was sure I was going to pass out, the nurse ran to the phone to call the doctor. He arrived just in time to catch baby Sage. Blue hands, feet and head gave me a moment of alarm until Sage’s now all too familiar cry echoed throughout the room. Our baby was born! After a quick wipe down and vitals' check, she was brought to her birth mother’s breast to nurse. A few minutes later, Sage was handed to me and I walked out into the waiting room to introduce our youngest to her daddy (birth and adoptive), aunties, brothers and sisters. What a magical moment!

Dad's Account: I was sitting in the hall way of the delivery clinic when the doctor came running by. A quick hello was uttered as he passed into the delivery room and then, moments later (around 9:15 pm on the night of January 3, 2012), I heard Sage's cry. Krista, who was present for her birth, came out a few moments later holding this little bundle of joy.

Sage clocked in at 2.8 kg (a bit over 6 pounds) and 48 cm (almost 19 inches). She slept in the hospital for a couple of nights. Already scheduled, grandma (Krista's mom) flew in from Washington. She arrived Wednesday night so we made the rapid round-trip journey to the airport and got home early in the morning on Thursday. A few quick hours later and Krista and her mom left to bring Sage home.

Hello Sage!