Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
1 Corinthians 3:17

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Adoption & My Baby Girl: Something to Consider

I have to be honest and admit that I'm a very curious gal.  Maybe that's the nicer way of calling myself nosy.  Listening to someone's story, hearing about the things that stir their hearts, checking out how they decorate their homes- hey, keepin' it real here- inspires me.  It addresses that void inside me that longs for connection, the void God placed in each of us.

So in the spirit of connection and community, I will also tell you that I don't generally mind one bit when a person approaches me and gently asks me about my daughter.  My internationally-adopted daughter.  The girl whose skin isn't the same shade as mine, the one who looks different from her father, me, and her other fair-skinned siblings.

Sometimes, people are interested in hearing the details of the actual adoption process, and I choose my words carefully because I don't want our difficult journey to dampen someone else's potential journey before it has even the chance to sink into their hearts.  We would retrace those very painful steps a million times over if that's what God called us to do because we were that certain of his plan for our family.  The process of adopting a child is rarely easy, but we move mountains for those we love.

Other times, I think people are surprised to see that adopted children can be as vibrant and well-adjusted as any other child on the playground or in preschool class.  The cry of the special needs orphan weighs heavily on my heart, and I pray that families would rise up for these children; but there are also millions of children who don't have mental and physical disabilities and are in need of families, too.  Of course, there are always risks.  If you're the sort who prefers to map out your life in order to avoid all risk, well, then, um...good luck with that.

More often than not, I'm caught unprepared in the check-out lane or at the library or even in the middle of the street when a delightful bombardment of these types of questions comes fast and furious:

"Is she yours?  I mean, really yours?"
"Where did she come from?"
"When did you get her?"
"Couldn't you get an American baby?"
"Why not take care of our own first?"
"Why did her real mother not want her?"

Sorry, Bill, if you're reading this for the first time and absolutely fuming about now- I don't generally allow these questions to occupy much of my mind or time, so naturally, I forget about them over the course of the day.  They're still there, obviously, but hopefully only filling a teeny tiny portion of my mental database.

How would you answer those questions?

I used to be nice.  And gracious.

And then I grew up, because my daughter is growing up.  She is so aware of people, of how they react and respond to her, of how they appraise her, and let me assure you: her feelings and well-being will always take priority over some random stranger's in the store.  Suddenly my voice got less timid and my words more direct, and now people are told without delay or excuse that my daughter is none of their concern.  I hesitate to share that I once asked the clerk if she'd had c-sections or delivered vaginally and had needed stitches in response to her ruthless query about my little girl, but isn't that really the same kind of thing?  It's private.  I don't know you and you don't know me, and therefore neither of us should feel the right to demand such personal information.  Connectedness and community aren't going to be unhinged when we refrain from simply wondering out loud.  As a whole, we're a very curious and open nation, but that doesn't mean we get to ask people whatever we want, whenever we want to.

Her eyes got wide, her cheeks rosy, and she huffed but wouldn't speak after that, just in case you were wondering.

I'll add here that I do not enjoy being rude or confrontational.  And it's worth repeating that I'm more than happy to share some of the details of our adoption journey, but only if you ask nicely and in a respectful manner.  Then again, if my daughter is nearby, I'll probably redirect the conversation.

I can usually tell right away if someone is genuinely interested in adoption or if they're being just plain nosy.  If you really want to hear more, I'll give you my email address, and if you write me, I'll gladly respond with as much encouragement and helpful information as I can.  And then I'll pray like crazy that you consider moving forward on your own amazing adoption journey.

Please know that it hasn't been my intention to shame anyone, but I do hope that if you've ever asked any of those kinds of questions from that list above, you might reconsider and understand the harm this does.  If not, then don't be surprised when you get told to buzz off and mind your own business.

You've been warned.

Thanks for reading.  Have a great day!


5ennie said...

Preach it, sister!! I've always wanted to have snappy comebacks too - even with questions directed about my older kids, but rarely succeed. Afterward I have plenty of responses :) Honestly though, it seems like these questions ALWAYS come unexpected, and then I'm flustered and mutter something.

Carrie said...

Great post, Bethany!! "We move mountains for those we love" - love it!! ;)

Kara said...

I can tell this is going to be difficult for me down the road....sorting through all this...knowing how to respond. Safe-guarding our little one's emotions. Thanks for this post...I'm probably going to be thinking about it for a while today.

Terri Anne said...

Preach it my friend!! WHAT is it about the grocery store that people feel it's necessary to make these comments? Another great response is 'Why do you ask?'... this turns it back on the one making the inquiry, and will allow you to discern is this someone considering adoption who wants to pick your brain, or is it someone just being rude & nosy!

At The Picket Fence said...

Amen to that! I had a teacher say right in front of my son, "I just found out that he isn't really yours!" That was my breaking point after years of being nice and polite! I said loudly enough for my son to hear, "he IS ours!" and then I pulled her aside to inform her that while I knew that she was refering to biology, my 5 year old did not and that if she ever said anything like that again I wouldn't be nearly as nice about it. I've also had someone tell my how lucky I was that I didn't have to use birth control once we realized we would not get pregnant. Seriously! The fertility questions are almost as invasive as adoption questions and I have been through both so just know that I understand where you are coming from and completely agree with the approach you are now taking! As my kiddos get older they are watching, listening and making their judgements about themselves and how they will interact with others based on how I do. So, it is becoming more important for me to handle these situations firmly, and to the point but with all of the grace and love I can muster! Thank you for sharing from your heart and please forgive me for writing a book-long comment! :-)

Melissa said...

Great post! We don't even have a match yet, but we are approved for a (domestic)transracial adoption and we get some of those questions already! But you're right...we don't even know who our son or daughter is yet, but we love that child like crazy already and are going through all of it because we can't wait to have him or her in our family.

Stef said...

I can only imagine. Being married to a deaf man, we get the curious, rude and downright unbelievable. I get defensive and protective and he isn't my child.
A mom has to do what a mom has to do. Especially when she is so cute!

Launa said...

I really don't understand why people think they can speak like that to others! I just don't get it. So, someone adopted a child, that child is as much theirs as any child biologically born to them. And, seriously, what does it matter to you? If you don't know them let them have their life and move on.
If you want a story buy a book.
I'm sorry I get upset about this kind of stuff I just don't see why people have to say things like that... how about saying "wow, your daughter is adorable!!"

Ryan V. said...

My good friend from kentucky adopted a little boy from ethiopia when she was 24 and husband she got some "looks". Shortly after, she got pregnant unexpectedly, so now she has 2 under age being black with a cute little afro and she gets even more strange looks. I wish this were easier! Sorry you have to deal with those nosey questions! Oh and I wanted to tell you that my other good friend and her husband, who have been on a waiting list to adopt domestically, got "the call" yesterday and they were matched and are expecting a baby girl in june!! God is great! They have been waiting almost 2 years to be chosen by a birthmother! My husband and I cannot wait to adopt! We are going to Kenya with our church in june and I plan on bringing back as many little ones as I can! lol...only kidding, but I can hope!

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