Meet our Family!
Hi! I’m Mrs. S! I’m a 29 year old former pediatric nurse turned full-time wife and mama (and occasional birth doula)! I’ve been married to my fire fighting hubby, Mr. S, for almost 6 years now, and we have 2 sweet little ones. Miss E is 2 ½ years old and joined our family as a newborn through domestic adoption. Little C is 21 months old and joined our family just days before Miss E’s first birthday through a miraculous surprise pregnancy. When we were struggling with infertility, pregnancy loss, and failed adoptions, we certainly would never have imagined we’d end up having two babies 12 months apart, but now we wouldn’t change our story one bit!
When Miss E was born, we not only became a family of three, but we also became a multiracial family. Although she has pretty light skin, Miss E is actually biracial (half Caucasian/half AA). We were open to welcoming a baby of any ethnicity into our family, but we knew that adopting transracially would mean a lot to learn! Both Mr. S and I are Caucasian, so we’ve never experienced firsthand what it’s like to not be part of the racial majority. We also both have straight brown hair, so we had to do our homework on how to care for Miss E’s beautiful curls! During the adoption process, I was fortunate to connect with other moms who had adopted transracially. I learned so much just hearing about their experiences and challenges.
One of the first challenges we experienced as a multiracial family was dealing with uncomfortable questions while out and about. As a newborn, Miss E had straight jet black hair that curled only when wet. By the time she was 2 months old, though, she had some pretty obvious curls whether her hair was wet or dry! Typically I would be walking along at the grocery store and curious people would ask, “Where does she get that curly hair?” or “Does your husband have curly hair?” In those early months, I often felt the need to explain that we adopted her, but I quickly realized that not every stranger we encountered in the store really needed to know her whole story. Instead I began to answer, “You know, we’re not really sure.” I’d then smile politely and keep shopping.
The questions got even more interesting when Miss E was about 6 months old and my baby bump began to show! Then the most common question became, “How old is she?” quickly followed up by “How far along are you?” I would try to hold in my laughter as I watched them doing the math. Again, I was initially bothered by it, knowing that people were probably making assumptions about me and my family, but quickly learned to brush it off and go on about my business. Fortunately, no one was so bold as to ask me if I knew what caused that!
Once Little C was born, people got even more confused. Miss E was a petite one year old who could easily pass for a 9 or 10 month old. And she and her brother looked completely different! Little C came out with straight light brown hair and skin noticeably lighter than hers. We rarely thought about it at home, but were reminded of it often when out and about! I began to notice interesting looks, and then occasionally someone would make a rude comment insinuating that I had children from two different fathers. Initially it would catch me off guard, but now I just politely answer that they have the same father (Mr. S, of course!) and let them decide whether or not they believe me. I’m learning that people are going to think what they want to think, and it doesn’t change the truth about our family!
Learning Hair Care
One of my favorite things about having a biracial daughter is her gorgeous curly hair! It’s taken many, many hours of trial and error and lots of time watching YouTube videos and reading blogs to learn how to best care for it. But I have genuinely enjoyed the learning process! It’s been so interesting to read about all the different types of hair products and curl patterns and to hear from other moms about their different methods of washing, detangling, moisturizing, and styling. Miss E’s hair gets dry and frizzy so much easier than mine does, so I underestimated the amount of moisturizing and conditioning products she really needed to keep her hair healthy. Now I feel much more comfortable teaching grandparents and friends as I detangle and style that “Yes, you really do need that much conditioner on your hands!”
Now when another mom (particularly a mom of a biracial or AA child) comments on how healthy my daughter’s hair looks or how moisturized it looks, I feel overjoyed! I’m realizing that how I care for Miss E’s hair has greater significance in the biracial and AA communities than I previously understood. Hair is a big deal and taking good care of it reflects not only my willingness to learn and to step outside my comfort zone, but also communicates my respect for unspoken curly hair culture. This was so foreign to me in the beginning because I don’t think anything of going to the store with messy hair. But I am now aware that my daughter’s healthy, moisturized curls demonstrate far more than just a good hair routine. And a messy hair day could send the wrong message to someone who already has concerns about the appropriateness of transracial adoption.
Looking to the Future
As I think about what lies ahead for Miss E, I know that learning to care for her own hair is, unfortunately, not going to be the most difficult challenge she faces. Right now at 2.5 years old, she knows that some people have curly hair and some people have straight hair. But she doesn’t seem to notice yet that people come in different shades of pink and brown and yellow and white. Someday, of course, she will better understand the concepts of race and skin color, and my husband and I will have to help her navigate where she fits in. I was born white to two white parents, so there has never been any question in my mind about which box I needed to check on a survey form. But Miss E may face more confusion about who she is and what racial “group” she belongs in. She’s not white, but she’s also not black. She may identify with both or may prefer to think of herself as one race over the other.
My hope is that no matter what happens Miss E will know that she is fully part of the S family and that her skin color and her ethnicity do not define who she is as a person. I am so thankful that our community of friends is a diverse group of skin colors and ethnicities! I hope as she gets older and recognizes these differences we can celebrate with her that God made us all different colors and shapes and sizes and that those differences are a really good thing! I pray that she grows to love the beautiful brown skin God gave her. We think she’s absolutely beautiful inside and outside, and I pray that she will never doubt that!