Published October 2012
By The Cradle Staff
When Becky and Rich Carter brought six-week-old Nina home from The Cradle in the spring of 2009, they were “surrounded by the newness of it all,” Becky recalls. As first-time parents, they were more focused on attending to the needs of their infant daughter than mulling over the implications of being an adoptive family or what questions might arise from family and friends – or, eventually, from Nina herself.
Now that Nina is older, and asserting her own personality, Becky and Rich are facing a new set of challenges, as well as rewards.
Becky describes her daughter as an extrovert, a driven and outgoing little girl. While it has been rewarding for her and Rich to watch Nina’s personality emerge – and see how much she is like Becky – it has also presented some challenges for the couple. “As she is going into new stages, and becoming more independent, Nina is directing us on what we need to be focusing on as parents,” Becky said. “This requires so much on an emotional level.”
For instance, Nina is asking more and more tough questions of her mom and dad. “At this stage they start to notice the similarities and differences and verbalize them,” Becky explained. Nina is realizing that she doesn’t look like other members of her family. “I know how it feels to be in a conspicuous family,” said Becky, who is biracial and was adopted by Caucasian parents. “So we have a better understanding of how to help her develop her sense of self as an adopted person.”
Still, Becky recognizes that as an adoptee, her relationship with Nina is different in some ways than the relationship Rich shares with their daughter. “If Nina is having a hard day, or is being particularly sensitive,” Becky observed, “I will look at her with a knowing lens. I’m holding a different story than Rich.” Becky also recognizes that while she and Rich are juggling the demands of work and parenting, it is equally important to nurture their relationship as a couple.
The Carters celebrate both Nina’s February 18 birthday and her April 9 adoption day. Nina knows that her Mommy and Daddy picked her up from The Cradle and that she stayed in the Nursery. They’ve created a Lifebook for her where she can look at pictures of her birthmom. At this young age, however, Nina still has only an abstract awareness of what adoption means.
Becky and Rich know that as Nina’s awareness grows, and adoption becomes an increasingly central part of her own story, their challenges will also increase.
Nina is now in preschool and her parents feel that the way adoption is discussed in school could be improved upon. “We find ourselves advocating for her as an adopted child,” Becky said, “how we want her to be treated and how language could be used differently in the classroom.”
They are advocates, too, when it comes to talking about adoption with family and friends. Everyone was excited for Becky and Rich when Nina first came home, and they were sensitive to the demands put on new parents. Over time, though, people started offering the couple opinions and advice – usually well-intentioned, but not always helpful. They also asked a lot of adoption-related questions, and continue to do so. Answering them has been a learning process.
“We’re realizing these questions are nonstop and they grow,” Becky said, “even though we thought we’d already answered them.” This can take up a lot of time and energy, but Becky feels it is also an opportunity for her and Rich to continually redefine what they want for Nina, and how they want those closest to them to answer questions about their child. They’ve been pleasantly surprised by how understanding and nurturing some family members have been.
Establishing friendships with other Cradle families has given Becky and Rich a supportive sounding board and given Nina a group of “Cradle sisters” to play with in addition to her cousins. Nina’s parents are enjoying watching her build relationships with family and with other adopted children.
Becky and Rich created a personal fundraising page to celebrate their daughter and encourage people they know to support the Ardythe and Gale Sayers Center for African American Adoption at The Cradle. Visit the Nina Louise Alice Carter Fund for African-American Adoptions tribute page on our website.