Friday, November 22nd, 2013
November is National Adoption Month, and this Saturday (November 23) is National Adoption Day. My colleague Lisa Milbrand, who adopted two children from China, recently wrote about her mixed feelings on “Gotcha Day,” when parents celebrate the day they adopted their child.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Harry Potter illustrator Mary GrandPré. She shared her experience adopting her daughter, Julia, from China seven years ago. Read the excerpt from the interview below.
Q: I watched an ArtOrg video from 2005 where you mentioned your adoption process. Can you speak a little about that experience?
A: I’m an older mom and I’m married to a man who has three adult children, so he was quite a trouper to want to go through this again, and I owe him, big-time. It was an amazing experience. I had always wanted to adopt a girl from China, and after we had lived in Florida for a couple of years, we went to China and we were matched with a baby girl. The process in China [means] … you don’t know who you are going to get. I’m not sure how they match, but they did an amazing job; it was like they picked the right girl for us. We had to wait about a week, [but] we were in China for two weeks. So we were doing all this touring and we were seeing the most amazing things, but all I could think about was having a baby, getting the baby, getting my girl. I couldn’t even concentrate. It was like I was in labor.
Even though she has grown brothers and sisters, Julia’s basically an only child. I never knew that having a child could be so life-changing and so wonderful. There are a lot of issues that come up with her birth parents [that] we’ve talked about it. A lot of people that adopt from China talk about it like [the child was] abandoned, [but] we don’t want to bring that up in our house and we don’t talk about it in that way because we don’t believe that she was abandoned. We talk to her about the one-child rule in China and how her parents didn’t have a choice. We want her to understand where she came from and why that situation was part of her life, and that her birth parents undoubtedly loved her because they put her in a place to be found.
We honor her birth parents. We honor her mother on Mother’s Day and we honor her father on Father’s Day, and we make cookies and we put them in a special mailbox in the backyard. We talk about it as much as she wants to, and we watch [what we call] the “Gotcha Day” video every “Gotcha Day.” [That’s the] the day we got her [when she was almost 2]. She was screaming her head off and didn’t want anything to do with us, but she thinks it’s quite funny now. I think she viewed me as threat because she was connected to her nanny quite a bit. By the time we got back home and the big dogs greeted us at the door, she was on me and she liked me. So from then on it was fine.
We’re going back to China in a couple of years, and Julia is very excited. She’s very proud of her heritage and she has dual citizenship.
Read the full interview with Mary GrandPré and children’s book author Jennifer Dewing.
Image: Crocheted booties for a girl via Shutterstock
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Friday, November 15th, 2013
Big news today: The Chinese government has announced plans to relax the rules of their infamous one-child policy, which has limited most women in that country (with few exceptions) to having only one child. Under the new mandate, parents will be eligible to have two children if either parent is an only child themselves. Since the one-child policy has been in effect since 1979, a whole lot of men and women of child-bearing age are only children–so this change will affect a lot of families.
Although I’ll admit this is a step in the right direction, I’m not exactly celebrating. Why? Because the very notion of “allowing” a woman to have one child, two children, or even ten children is a horrific insult to her human rights. I’d hope we’d all agree that a world in which normal reproduction is a crime is a very scary world. Each woman’s body is her own, and the decision of how many (if any!) children to have should be a personal one based on her family’s situation.
Denying women the right to control their own reproductive health in any way is not only bad for women, it’s bad for families. Limiting women’s access to birth control and information about reproductive health, as we’ve been seeing happen here in the U.S., causes more and more unintended pregnancies—nobody’s going to stop having sex, it’s a natural act, people!—which results in more parents who can’t afford or who don’t have the time to properly care for all of their children. Meanwhile, when you go to the other extreme and mandate that families are only allowed to have one child each, as they have in China, you see very different problems. Sex-selective abortions, in which more and more families choose to continue pregnancies with boys and end those with girls—have become quite common in China as a result of the one-child policy. The results of this practice are staggering: In 2012, there were 18 million more boys under the age of 15 in China than girls in that age range. As those men come of age, there aren’t enough women to pair them with, which has lead to human trafficking, forced prostitution, and all kinds of other evils.
With looser guidelines that allow more families to have two children instead of just one, there are hopes that China’s gender imbalance will even out a bit, but we’re still left with the problem of the government trying to control women’s bodies, instead of trusting them to make the best decisions for themselves.
I understand that the Chinese government originally implemented the policy to slow the growth of their population (it’s the largest in the world), but there are better ways to achieve the same result without stomping on the reproductive rights and health of women and their families (and screwing up society as a whole in the process). More often than not, when women are given access to affordable family planning tools, they end up choosing to have fewer children, and they space their children’s births in a way that benefits both the children and the family as a whole. It’s time for China to nix the one-child policy altogether, and for the world to start trusting moms to build families when and how they see fit.
TELL US: Could you imagine living in a country where it was illegal to have more than one or two children? Do you agree that women and families should have more control over when and how to create their families?
NEXT: Are you ready for another child? Take this quiz to find out!
Image of pregnant woman via Shutterstock.
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