Sunday, May 20, 2007

Well, we knew we had to be prepared for the fact that there are some people who will make inappropriate comments (with or without intending to offend) on the fact that we are (a) adopting, (b) adopting a child from another country, and/or (c) adopting a child of another race. The other day we experienced the first such comment, which falls under category (a). Since we are almost a year into the process, I’m kind of surprised that this is the first time someone has said something like this to us. On Friday morning, when Rob took the dog out, he ran into one of our neighbors, a woman who we would guess to be about 45. She has always been very friendly and pleasant toward us, so I’m sure her comment was made out of ignorance and that she didn’t mean any offense. She and Rob chatted for a while, as usual, and he mentioned that we were going to have a new family member soon. Before she could ask the typical follow-up question of when I am "due," Rob went on to inform her that we are adopting. Instead of something along the lines of "congratulations" or "how exciting," she just said "oh," and her voice took on a sympathetic tone. Her reaction was similar when Rob told her that our baby is from Taiwan. Rob told her we are ecstatic about it and can't wait to bring him home. She then said, "I know this isn’t exactly the same, but look how much you love your dog -– and you didn’t 'have' her yourselves either." (!!!!!) I burst out laughing when Rob told me about it because it was such a ridiculous thing to say. I'm really not that offended by it in this situation (as I will be in the future if a comment with potential to hurt our child is made in his presence), but it made me think about all the assumptions that are made about adoption.

Since we will be a multi-racial family, we know to expect that there will be occasions when we are out in public with our child when people might stare at us, ask ignorant questions, or make ignorant comments, and we have been educating ourselves on ways to deal with those kinds of reactions appropriately, the main concern, of course, being our child’s feelings. We know some people will also question why we are adopting from another country "when there are so many kids in the U.S. who are in need of families." But until Rob told me about our neighbor’s reaction to the news of our adoption, I had not thought as much about the fact that some people will actually feel sorry for us based on an assumption that we "had to" adopt, and that adoption (whether domestic, international, same-race, or different-race) is the "second best" or "last resort" way to have children -- as opposed to a choice we have (happily) made. I think people are probably even more likely to assume this about us since we are 33 and don’t have any biological children "yet." While we did initially come to consider adoption as the result of a few miscarriages, after learning more about adoption, we chose it as the way we wanted to start our family -- just as we might also choose to have a biological child in the future (although I’m enjoying the adoption process so much more than the few months of pregnancy I’ve experienced!) Even when a couple is unable to have children, there is still a decision that is made between whether to adopt or to remain childless (and I have heard many couples say that they would prefer to remain childless if they could not have "their own" -- just check out any of the infertility forums on the internet), so, in any case, adoption is always an affirmative choice. I know that it is our family, friends, and other adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents who are reading this blog, and that all of you know that an adoption is something to celebrate and not a cause for pity -- I just needed to vent!

Our neighbor’s comment has also made me rethink another statement that many other people have made to me that, "I know a couple who adopted after years of 'trying,' and then got pregnant had a baby." I know everyone who has said this to me was well-intentioned and meant no offense, and maybe they were just commenting on how it's "funny" how that sometimes happens, but I'm starting to wonder if comments like that are also meant to "console" or "reassure" us that there is still "hope" for us to have a biological child, again based on an assumption that that must be what we really want.

We would love to hear how other adoptive parents respond to comments like this.


At 8:51 PM, Anonymous Keeya said...

Interesting to know.


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