Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Uterus Dialogues (another rerun)

Here's another post for the readers from This is the article that AF published in their July/Aug issue. Their edited version and mine differ a bit. So y'all that have read them both, let me know what you think. Enjoy!!

“The things which proceed out of the man are what defile him.”- Mark 7:15

As the parents of a multiracial family, my wife and I both recognize our uniqueness. Those who have never struggled with infertility or fostered or adopted children typically treat us as a novelty. We know that as the parents of these kids we have signed up for a lifetime of explaining and educating people and we try to approach new people with optimistic and hope they will use discretion and tact when asking questions or making comments. We’ve learned that people’s questions and comments typically catch us off guard because they can come at anytime and from anyone – strangers in the grocery store, acquaintances, and friends and family with whom we thought we’d be safe. We recognize the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt but only up to a certain point.

When we first considered adoption, I had a concern of how people, strangers in particular, would identify us. I imagined parties where the host or a friend would introduce us as “This is the couple I was telling you about. They adopted their children.” Each person or couple would have a label; like the couple who just got back from a trip, the couple who sells real estate together, and us, the couple who adopted. We would then be forced into situations where we unintentionally dominated the attention of the group. Uninterested parties would have to feign interest in our adoption story for fear of being rude. While we wanted to be proud of our identity as an adoptive family, we didn’t want it to be the only thing that identified us.

Often times, the oddest comments have come from people who seemed uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say. When someone at work found out I adopted my son, he offered that his Japanese teacher had adopted a newborn but the birth father was contesting the adoption. Since I failed to see the relevance, I simply said, “Okay.”

When our son first came home, my wife and I had a difficult time adjusting to the feeling of people looking at us. At first, I was somewhat sympathetic to the blatant staring. I had to admit that if I saw a white man chasing a small black child through a crowded restaurant who was crying and screaming “I want my Mommy!” I’d want an explanation too. But as his parent, the staring makes me all the more want to claim him as my son. “I Love you, son” or “Hold Daddy’s hand” I’d announce when I noticed someone looking at us.

My wife and I don’t suffer the same kind of inappropriate conversations. My lot is to endure blunt questions like “Why did you adopt? Do you shoot blanks, or something?” “Is your wife barren?” or “Do you wear boxers or briefs? I’ve heard briefs can really mess up your count?” Many times, while I scramble to come up with an adequate response, the other person becomes impatient and changes the subject.

My wife undergoes a very different and, for the most part, more subtle get-to-know-you type of interrogation. Our son, our infant daughter, and my wife had lunch with a Mom’s group the
other day and recounted to me some of the questions the other mom’s asked.

The conversation began abruptly, as usual, when one mom asked my wife, “So how long have you had the baby?”

“Since birth,” my wife said. “Her birth mom asked us to be in the delivery room when she was born.”

"Did it cost a lot of money?" another mom asked.

My wife and I have been asked this question quite often and have always toyed with the notion of responding by asking if their hospital bills when they gave birth were expensive. But, my wife responded with as always. "All adoption agencies charge a fee for their services."

"Don't they come to your house and look through your stuff?"

"The agency does come to your house for an interview. It's called a home study."

“What’s her background?”

"If you mean her ethnicity, she’s multiracial.”

“What do you mean?”

“She is part Caucasian, part Hispanic and part African-American.”

“How does that work?” The woman was obviously struggling with the level of mathematics required to understand more than two races. After my wife explained the ethnicity of the baby’s birth parents, the lady remarked, “Oh, but her skin looks so much like yours.” My wife later told me at that point she glanced at our son and felt relieved he wasn’t old enough to understand the lady’s comment. “They think I need my children to look like me. What’s our son going to feel like when someone tells him his sister looks like his parents? He’s going to look at her light skin and his dark skin and feel like an outsider.”

When the race questioning concluded, the moms moved on to asking more adoption questions. “I hope you don't mind me asking, but why did her mother give her up?” the leader of the group asked.

“Each birth mom has different reasons for ‘making an adoption plan’. Usually the birth mom doesn’t have the resources to parent a child for eighteen years or so.”

“Is that what happened with her?”

They didn’t seem to be picking up on my wife’s subtle dodging of the questions. “We don’t really share our children’s stories with other people. We feel it belongs to them and that when they’re older they can decide who they’ll share it with.”

“Was her birth mother young?”

“No. Why?”

“I’m just wondering what kind of person...” and she caught herself. “Well, I just I can’t believe anyone would give up a baby who smiled so much.” My wife later told me that she while attempted to think of an intelligible response, another mom changed the subject for her. “Why didn’t the grandma want to adopt her?”

“Well, the birth mother's mom is older and this isn't her child to raise. As you know, parenting a child for a lifetime takes a lot more than love."

“So do you still have contact with the birth mom?” someone asked with concern.

“Somewhat. We have an open adoption.”

“Is that weird?” someone asked.

“Why would it be weird?” my wife responded.

“I just think it would be too hard to see her holding the baby. I’d get jealous.”

“Well, she’d be holding my child. Besides, she hasn’t seen the baby since birth.” The moms let out a collective sigh of relief, so my wife decided not to tell them we planned to visit the baby’s birth mom soon.

At this point the discussion transitioned to the inevitable question. “So did you try to have your own kids?”

“Well, these are my own kids,” my wife said. The leader began to fumble over her words.

Clearly, she knew she had asked an inappropriate question. By then, my wife had become an expert at knowing when to make a person uncomfortable when they’ve said something stupid and then when to bail them out. “Did you mean to ask me ‘Did we try to conceive?’?” “Yeah, that’s what I meant.”

“We tried for a year before we realized God was calling us to foster and adopt.”

“We’ve always talked about adopting,” someone said. This statement is perhaps the all-time most common response said by parents when we tell them we adopted our kids. It seems that mothers in particular say this and often follow it up with either “Being pregnant is so hard. I don’t think I could do it again” or "My husband and I have always wanted to give a home to all the poor babies that don't have a place to go.”

“It took us a while to get pregnant, too,” another wife responded.

“It can take a really long time for some couples.” My wife said this assuming the lady had experienced the same grief as many of the infertile couples we had met in support groups who obsessively labored and agonized for years to conceive. “How long did it take you and your husband?”

“It took us a couple of months before we got pregnant.” My wife responded to this the only way she knew how – she nodded her head. Then she called my cell phone to see when I was coming to pick her up.

As I walked into the restaurant, my wife spotted me and rapidly began putting our son’s shoes on. I noticed the kids’ diaper bags and carriers already sitting by the front door. I waited for my wife to introduce some of the other moms to me and, when she didn’t, took the hint and looked for some way to speed up the process. “What do you need me to do?” I asked her.

“Just get me out of here,” she whispered.

My wife cheerfully said goodbye to the group. We headed toward the door and I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. They were discussing how much their children resembled themselves and their husbands.

1 comment:

Matt and Carla Morgan said...

I read this article in Adoptive Families magazine and was BLOWN AWAY by your wife's patience and tact. Good for her! And, good for you for getting her out of there quickly.

Your children are beautiful!