For the past 20 years, I have been fielding questions and comments regarding my son’s adoption. The first time it happened, I was grocery shopping with my baby when a man standing in front of me said, “Now you will get pregnant.”
I looked behind me to see if he was addressing someone else. When I saw no one, I realized he was talking to me. I must have given him a quizzical look because he elaborated: “Now that you’ve adopted, you will get pregnant. It happens all the time.”
A little flustered and in no mood to discuss my fertility with a stranger in the produce aisle, I stated that my baby was the spitting image of my husband and walked away. I generally am pretty open and honest about things, but people, there is a time and place for certain discussions.
That may have been the first, but it was certainly not the last time I’ve had to address the issue. When my son was in kindergarten, his teacher called me up on St. Patrick’s Day to tell me that he had told the class his birth father was Irish, a story she was certain he had fabricated. I pointed out that the term “birth father” was quite sophisticated language for a five-year-old and, in fact, his story was true.
I also told her that I knew of two other adopted children in the class. This was completely untrue, but I thought trying to figure out which children were the adopted ones would keep her busy for a while – perhaps even too busy to call me again.
As my son grew (and grew and grew), it became even more apparent that he did not physically resemble us. When I am out with my son, people look at the two of us and ask, “Is your husband tall?” I am a five feet, four inches, and my son is over six foot, one, so I guess it’s a logical question. But when I reply that no, my husband is not tall, the questions continue.
At this point, I should mention that my son is half Thai (and very handsome, I have to add). You would think people would be able to put two and two together, but that’s usually not the case. If I tell people he was adopted, the questions continue further. I have been asked what country he is from. Unless Florida has seceded from the Union, I am pretty sure he was born in the United States.
My son has spent several summers working at the company where my husband is employed. Much to his amusement, people often assumed his dad was the IT guy rather than the General Counsel. I won’t even comment about stereotyping.
Then there is the ultimate adoption reflection. People have expressed their doubts about whether they would be able to love an adopted child as much as they do their biological child. To those people, I have responded with a question of my own:
“What if you discovered there had been a mix-up at the hospital, and the child you brought home was not genetically linked to you. Would you love him or her any less?”
Of course not. Love is about familiarity and commitment, the intertwining of lives, not about a genetic connection. Adoption is the term for what happens on the day you get your child. Parenthood is the term for what happens every day after that.
An adopted friend of mine once told me that your “real” mother is the one who causes you to need psychotherapy. Perhaps that is true. Despite my mistakes, I hope my three sons know that I love them with all my heart and always have their backs. I hope they hear my (cautionary) voice in their heads before they do something dumb and know how proud I am when they do their best.
It is only fair to mention that, in addition to the personal, amusing, and odd comments we have heard over the years, we’ve heard incredibly positive sentiments as well. A card we received after we brought our son home read, “Sometimes you need to color outside the lines to make your life a masterpiece.”
We colored outside the lines to help us create our family, and the result is beautiful.