Wow. Okay, ten points to adoption classes! So I just had the world’s most awkward conversation – not hateful, just ignorant. The woman started by saying the first question she’d asked a mutual aquaintance was what color our baby was. She explained that she only knew people who’d adopted “African American from Africa” babies – no joke – or Chinese babies. She didn’t know anything about domestic adoption – which she called “white” adoption – and that part is okay, even if her aggressive and offensive way of asking wasn’t. When we took our adoption classes, it never crossed my mind that anyone would ask questions like this in real life. Every stereotype in the book came into play. “Is the mom young? Why didn’t she want her baby?” (Kat and Spencer, I almost slugged her for you.) “It was a couple? Really? What’s wrong with the baby? Are you her real parents then or do you share, since you know them and talk to them?” I’d often wondered how I would respond in that situation, and now I know. I said, “I think I’m going to get some food,” and walked away. Good for me.
We didn’t fully understand how adoption worked before we started the process, and I applaud anyone who asks respectful questions and wants to know more about this situation that made our dreams of parenthood a reality. That’s not what this conversation was about. She was a stranger; these were very personal questions, and they were posed in a way that implied the worst about many people I care deeply about. This same woman later that evening said she couldn’t handle the thought of a third child, and a friend of mine muttered, “Well, would you consider adoption then?!”
We have been overwhelmed by what incredible sensitivity, interest and respect people have shown when talking to us, across the board: work, neighbors, family, friends. There’s bound to be a weird conversation here or there. I wrote about tone the other day: that I’m not offended by someone using the ‘wrong’ word, but that a blasÃ© intrusion gets my dander up. This woman forgot one crucial detail: this is my family, and my daughter; these are Tess’ birth parents she’s discrediting. This isn’t a hypothetical movie star under debate – it’s our life. She spoke to me like we were discussing a juicy piece of gossip that was emotionally empty, with complete disregard for the fact that family is emotional. Bringing a child into our life through this act of complete selflessness on the part of the birth parents leaves me in awe to this day, and probably will forever. Many people grasp that instinctively, or ask questions until they start to see the respect we feel for where Tess comes from.
All of that to say, I now know the answer to how I’ll respond to those types of comments, and it’s not what I expected. We were taught to use humor, education, redirection or a smartass comment to nip a bad conversation in the bud. We figured we’d be the latter. I seem to use humor and education a lot with people who genuinely care, and apparently I redirect the bad ones. My friend was the smartass! Thank god for reinforcements. 🙂
We started the day with crab and red pepper quiche, CSA melon and blueberry salad, coffee and family time. Tess rolled over in front of Dave today for the first time, which got him all excited as he’s missed the first three. Coolest part? She rolled the other way! Uh oh. Giving that playmat a little more space around the edges from now on.
In the afternoon, we hung out with some neighbors for a while as Tess took a long nap in her own little private space in the corner. Then it was laundry and snuggling with the baby Sunday night, with a fresh veggie tian and grilled chicken. All that to say we ate like healthy kings, got time outside and with Tess, and are totally ready for the week to begin.
Sometimes responding to inappropriate questions with a simple, kind explanation will stop the questions. Teaching understanding gently can diffuse the situation. I can’t believe being angry and upset at someone’s lack of appropriate behavior and questioning, resolves a question. They simply have had no knowledge on the subject so turn this into a gentle teaching moment for them.
To quote one of fabulous nurses: “You can’t fix stupid.”
Man, people are dumb. I’ve had a few of those situations where I sat there with my mouth open deciding how to answer a question…with humor to deflect? With honesty to educate? Just walk away, quickly? Like you’ve said, in the end it depends on who is asking, and how it is asked.
Here’s one for you. I was at Trader Joes with both kids when they were a few months old, in the monstrosity of the double stroller. An older woman walks up to me and asks if my kids are “natural.” As much as I wanted to reply that no, they were robots, I decided it was a teaching moment. I replied that yes, they were natural babies, but that the pregnany was assisted. As I started to walk away the lady blurts out, “So, did you use your husband’s sperm or someone else’s?”
I’m sorry you had to deal with that, and I am sorry that it will probably continue, because Dave is right, you can’t fix stupid.
Andrea – YUCK! A stranger actually asked you about that?! I swear, I’m convinced that more people walk around drunk than the rest of us realize.
Maggey – hats off to you for just walking away rather than unloading a well-deserved piece of your mind. Good lord, “white adoption?!?” I think I’d be unconsciously baring my teeth about 3 sentences into that.
Open-mouthed horror. Then hysterical giggles. Just saying.
Good grief. Well, you know I like humor.
“She’s an albino African baby.”
“Her birth parents are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but she is too white for them.”
“She is Chinese but they didn’t want her because her eyes aren’t slanty enough.”
I remember like it was yesterday, changing Ben’s diaper in a public restroom when a woman with a small child blurted out “What’s wrong with your baby?” Just like that. I’ve thought of a million funny and biting and aloof replies since then, but in the moment I matter-of-factly said the truth – “Lots of things. It’s complicated. That is a colostomy.”
You have good self control cause I would have decked her! I get questions all the time about why I didn’t want to keep my child especially since Spencer and I are together and have a great relationship… Makes me furious that people think I didn’t want to keep her. But these questions are always from people around my age, so it’s easy for me to remind myself they are just young and naive. I don’t know how I’d react if an adult approached me with those questions! Just remember at the end of the day all that matters is that Tess is your daughter plain and simple, and she was always meant to be. Our adoption is amazing and we are lucky! And I am lucky you write this blog cause I love hearing these stories like I’m part of the group from afar!
Kat, you just made my week! We feel pretty lucky too. And I’m glad the blog gives you a window! 🙂