Sunday, June 24, 2007

Now that Lisa Ling has weighed in on the topic...

Lisa Ling is like your really smart friend in college. You know her. The one who always did all the reading and asked compelling questions in class. She's the one who had time to be everyone's friend and never seemed to need time to study and then at graduation you found out she was actually triple-majoring in three subjects like Political Science, Physics and Humanitarianism. (That last one's made up but if it really existed you know she would have been ALL over it.) So I knew that her National Geographic special, China's Lost Girls, would give me plenty to think about.

I watched it the other day and she didn't let me down. She gave me the human side of the adoption story, following a very nice family from Atlanta as they traveled to China to fetch their second adopted daughter. It was remarkable to me how similar - identical, actually - their journey was to the journey of the woman in that book I mentioned. So it was interesting to see it all brought to life. But what I was counting on Lisa for, and what she delivered on, was the other side of the story. What's going on in China to cause this and what's happening as a result.

Nothing was terribly surprising, I'm sad to say. It's well known that the huge number of abandoned Chinese baby girls is a direct result of historically recent social policies and ancient traditions that favor boys to carry on the family name. She touched on another important issue that I hadn't considered before, which is the fact that in China when girls marry, they typically move away whereas boys stay close to the family and help support the elders. So, the value of a boy child is not just symbolic. For a family with only a girl there would be very real concerns about how the parents would survive in old age.

The consequences of this pattern are, unfortunately, not surprising either. They predict that in 20 years there will be 40 million men without women to marry. (I think I remember those numbers correctly.) There are already cases of kidnappings and abuse as the shortage of young women eligible for marriage gets more and more severe.

So here is where the fact that my is blog really just mine - no comments=no readers, or some close approximation, right? - means I can speak freely without worry. Well, almost without worry. Let me just say this: What I am about to say is in ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NO WAY a judgement of international adoption or of the people who create their families through it. I am writing this to sort out my own feelings on a complicated, personal issue.

Okay. So.

I started to ask myself, by adopting a baby from China would I at all be contributing to that country's social problems. I mean, if there continue to be families ready and willing to adopt these little girls, are parents in China who face this decision going to feel more comfortable abandoning their babies? This thought came in to my head during one segment in the DVD when the mother from Atlanta visited the park where her first daughter was found and hung a sign written in Chinese with a picture of her daughter as an infant and a picture of her daughter now. The sign told readers that her daughter was found in the park and that now she's a healthy, happy little girl. And she is. And I think the mother's intention was to let the biological mother know that her little girl was okay. But I couldn't help thinking that it also seemed a little like an advertisement. Like, "look where she is now!"

Like I said, it's complicated. I hope that if anyone else ever reads these words they will understand that I'm really just raising for this debate within my own heart. If this is something my family is going to be a part of, I have to know that I've looked at every side, and that includes the political side. I just have to.

So my feelings about West meets East are a little bit more tempered than they were when I last wrote about them. Part of that is because of what I just described. Part of that is because my first full cycle while seeing an acupuncturist was also my most erratic in terms of my basal temperature and, now, as of this weekend, was also my shortest in length. (22 days? Huh?) But I still have faith that there's a way to grow this family. I just don't quite think I know what that way is right now.

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