My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

An Unexpected Feeling

This post is going to be a little different from most others I've made to date.

It's not about the Pipsqueak. It's not about our family, the family-building process, or more difficult aspects of adoption.

It's about me... and an emotion I was not expecting.

I feel guilty.

Not about helping carry my niece halfway around the world from where she was born. Not about helping my sister become a single mother with no good candidate in sight to become the Pipsqueak's Daddy. Not about... well, not about any of the things I thought I might feel guilty about.

I feel guilty about not caring about news about China-U.S. relations.

Back during AJ's paperchase, I slowly morphed from (almost) news junkie to newsophobic, so much so that during the last few months before AJ got The Call I was actively avoiding any potential source of news about China. The longer the wait dragged on, the harder it became to deal with news about anything that could interfere in the adoption process in even the most minute of ways. Even after TA, I caught myself limiting my interest in China news to anything I thought we would have to deal with on a first-hand basis; witness my near-panic over news of flooding in Nanning a couple of weeks before we were due to arrive there.

We've been home for roughly 2.25 years now, and it took me about 1.75 of those years to be able to pay any real attention to news about China-U.S. relations without my brain automatically activating all shields and finding something -- anything! -- else to occupy my attention. I have finally reached the point where I no longer immediately switch into "fight or flight" mode when I see or hear the word "China" in the news, and instead try to listen and process the story like any other.

The final piece of the puzzle to return my reaction to China-related news slowly fell into place beginning a few months back, when the last of the families in our group of adoption friends finally (FINALLY!) got their referral, then TA, then actually met their daughter in China, and made it back home safely. And all of a sudden, I didn't care any more. China and the U.S. in a trade war? Bring it on! Getting tough on China? Yeah, let's do it!  Cracking down on Chinese counterfeiters? Squash 'em!  Countering Chinese hackers?  Spike the SOBs!  Hey, it's okay, a chill in China-U.S. relations can't hurt us anymo-


Suddenly, during one of the (seemingly countless) recent reports of Sino-American disagreements, while thinking all the above thoughts I got knocked down and thoroughly soaked by an unseen and unexpected (but rather large) wave of guilt.

No, a chill in China-U.S. relations can't affect our adoption any more, and all our adoption friends have finally come home with their sons & daughters... but I still read a lot of "mommy blogs" and log into the Rumor Queen forums. What about all those families still trapped in the paperchase, all those dreams that could be stamped into oblivion, all those feelings of love for & connection with children who could suddenly be denied to their adoptive families?

So now I'm feeling guilty... and I really wasn't expecting this. Part of the guilt comes from a lifetime as Foreign Service "brat" and TCK, a background that essentially programmed me to see multiple facets of every story, to find ways of understanding "the other side(s)" no matter how simply a story was presented in the mass media. That part of me is more than just a little upset with the rest of me for blowing off the feelings of all those adoptive families still trapped in the paperchase.

And somewhere in the back of my mind is a very quiet voice asking if I'm the only one experiencing this particular emotional stew. I spent almost as much time pre-TA researching attachment issues, reading adoption horror stories, and seeking out helpful resources as AJ did, but somehow nothing prepared me for (or warned me about) this particular surprise so long after helping bring the Pipsqueak home.

I have to wonder if this is one of those aspects of international adoption that's not really spoken about but rather is (perhaps unconsciously) pushed back into the shadows in an effort to minimize the psychic scarring of the paperchase, all those years of balancing on an increasingly narrow base while dodging the arrows of finance, bureaucracy, family issues, and international politics. Maybe I wasn't able to find information about it because the IA community is still trying to adjust to the constant stretching out of the time between filing and Gotcha Day, maybe it's because no one can talk about it in detail because it amplifies & strengthens the memories of the pain & fears of the paperchase, maybe I simply haven't been able to see it because I was so sure nothing like this would occur after the adoption process was done...? (Dude, maybe you're feeling this because you're just weird...?)

Is it normal to be so relieved at all that being done and over with once an adoption is complete that we stop empathizing with other families still waiting? Is it being selfish? Is it a defense mechanism to hold back the negative memories?

I really don't have an answer, and (at least until people start reading this post) the only person who can cause me embarrassment over all this is that funny-looking guy in the mirror.

The thing is, he'd like to know if other folks have felt something like this...

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