Family Is More Than Skin Deep
“Hey mama!” says the sandy toddler.
“Yeah baby?” replies the sunbathing mom, engrossed in a beach read.
“Look at that little girl over there,” urges the child.
“Yeah sweetie?” says mom, not yet looking up from her book.
“She has arms the same color as mine,” the baby says.
Book shuts. She’s got my full attention now.
I knew this time would come, I’d unconsciously been holding my breath in anticipation. In fact, I thought it would have happened by now. My daughter, Grace, has always been smarter than her age. I have been prepared to answer questions about the color of her skin, in contrast to mine, since the day she was born—in an LA hospital to an unwed young mother of three who wanted more for this baby. When the doctor put the tiny brown bundle in my arms, I was finally, gloriously, a mother.
In our family, we forget she isn’t white; there is just so much more to her than the color of her skin. She is a mix of Mexican, Black and Caucasian, so she has the most gorgeous coloring you have ever seen. We talk about how pretty her skin is all the time, but don’t see it like others might. She is us; an irreplaceable, essential piece of what makes my husband and I who we are. But she is different, and she will always be aware of that and have to come to love it on her own. We pray.
Adoption is our family. Some families are created by plan. Some created by mistake. Some by birth or marriage, and some, like ours, out of endless, on-our-knees pleading with the Lord though infertility and a three and a half year wait. Now, having lived as a mother to Grace, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Any other way wouldn’t have brought me her.
But I knew the moment I fell in love with a child that didn’t look like me, that there would be moments where I would hold my breath in fear and need the Lord’s grace to get us to understanding and acceptance. All I could do as the mother of an adopted, mixed race child was reassure her from the moment she was born that she was loved and special and that being brown and being adopted where things to celebrate, never to disguise.
When she was a baby, we would shout the words adopted and Mexican. We would cheer and smile and never whisper when we would get questions from friends, family, even strangers. Whispering breeds shame. No matter the subject, the minute you hide it, it takes on a negative weight. We would never allow our child to believe where she came from was wrong enough to be discussed in hushed tones.
When Grace pointed out the little brown-skinned girl, sitting down the beach from us, my heart nearly burst. I wasn’t scared, wasn’t ashamed, wasn’t sad, I was filled to the brim with pride. My little girl was excited to point out her color. She is proud of how she looks, and I take responsibility for that. We sat there on the beach, me with tears behind my big sunglasses and talked about her skin and my skin and that little girl’s skin. We clapped our hands and cheered for adoption, and we hugged and kissed, and then she casually went back to her goldfish crackers and sand bucket.
And I exhaled.
Kerstin Lindquist is a survivor of infertility and adoption. An Emmy award-winning broadcast news journalist and host at the leading home shopping channel, the confessional nature of her writing and speaking and the intensely personal stories she shares have endeared her to multiple generations of women who have struggled with creating a family. Her memoir, 5 Months Apart: A Story of Infertility, Faith and Grace, is due April 11. Kerstin and her husband are raising their three little Christians in West Chester, Pennsylvania. They spend their free time in warm climates—preferably with sand.
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