Friday, November 5, 2010

NaBloPoMo, day 5: Yep, they're mine

When we started telling people that we were expecting another child, several people immediately asked "One of your own or are you adopting again?"  I responded with "I have two children of my own--this will be my third child and I'll be giving birth to this one."

Snarky?  Perhaps a little.  I tried not to say it too sarcastically but when I'd heard it for the 10th time out of 12 calls, it got a little tiring.  I've said it before and I'm sure to say it again and again: all of my children are my own.  I don't care if we share blood or not.  But this time, permit me to go further.

When I would respond that I am pregnant, people would instantly say something to the effect of "How incredible!  How exciting!  How wonderful!"  And I was left wondering if the response would have been different if we'd said we were adopting (and thinking that yes, it probably would have been different, but that's a post for another time).  Joyfully expecting a child through any process whatsoever, which we were pretty clearly doing, is to be celebrated.  A child is a child, and a new family member is a new family member.  This is something exciting and wonderful and incredible--and I wish that had been the first thing people had said.  It felt to me like people were reserving those statements until they'd checked to see if there was a biological connection between this child and me. 

Only a few sweet and wonderful people said "I'm so thrilled for you!" and then asked about biology or adoption.  Let me be clear--I don't have a problem with someone asking whether our next child is by birth or by adoption.  We have a mixed-together family and have made no secret of the fact that we plan to adopt again, nor was it really a secret that we were open to doing some more fertility treatments (yes, that's what it took for this one).  It was a completely valid and reasonable question, and one I expected to be answering.

My frustration was when the happiness didn't come out until after the person had been assured that this child is likely to spill things all the time due to sharing Jason's and my DNA.  I also had a lot of frustration with the fact that people phrased it using that "your own" rather than simply asking if I was pregnant or we were adopting.  When you ask me if this child will be "my own or adopted", you're implying that my child by adoption is not "my own" (at least, that's how it comes across to this parent by adoption).  And when you imply that he is not "mine", I'm not quite sure what you mean.  All I can do is explain to you how it comes across to me, the one hearing it.

I'm hearing that you're implying that adoption is less than biology.  To me, it comes across that having a child through adoption is not quite as meaningful as having a child through birth.  And when I hear, whether you mean it or not, that "adopted" < "birth", it implies to me that YOU think my child is less than my child.  That YOU don't see him as equivalent to my other child. 

I already wondered if that was true when we brought him home.  There were multiple members of our extended families who didn't even send a card or make a quick phone call to reference the fact that we had a new child, even though they had done so when we brought Patrick home.  No one was obligated to do anything when he came home any more than they were obligated to do anything for Patrick's  arrival.  But now I'm curious--will this new child bring those cards and/or phone calls simply on the basis of biology?  I rather hope not. 

If the lack of cards and phone calls after Melkamu's arrival was simply because he was not a first child, I will understand that--a first child does hold a unique place in a family (why yes, I am an oldest child).  There's always a drop-off with subsequent children.  I get that.  I'm not upset by that.  But it will hurt me tremendously if this child gets things from people who didn't bother to acknowledge Melkamu's joining our family...because ultimately, that implies shouts from the rooftops that it was because he was adopted.  That those people consider him and his arrival in our family less worthy of recognition than those of our other children.

Some will call this oversensitive.  I know this for a fact because someone flat-out said I should stop being so sensitive when hearing that whole "my own or adoption" thing.  I am a Mama.  I am supposed to be sensitive about issues regarding my children.  It's in the job description.  Frankly, I can take it.  Call me whatever you'd like.  I'm an adult and have outlets to express my feeling about those issues.  I'm of the opinion that regardless of how someone makes a statement, it's ultimately the recipient's perception of that statement that truly matters.

My child did not choose to be adopted so regardless of what you think of my beliefs on this, consider this--if I'm hearing it this way, how is my child hearing or seeing it?  Melkamu, who is almost 4, is extremely perceptive.  Maybe he doesn't hear your words or see your actions that way--but what if he does?  He probably would not know how to tell you that it makes him feel sad when you say that.  That your words are hurting him.  That it makes him wonder if you truly don't believe he is worthy of being considered our child.

Would it matter to you if he sees it that way?


Heather said...

Wow... I'm sorry to hear that people can't just be happy and supportive for you. I for one am THRILLED that you are having another child and would be just as thrilled if that child was through adoption. Any child is a blessing and a gift no matter how they enter a family.

wilisons said...

All I can say is the "my own" statement can only be made by a family that has not experienced the wonder and miracle of adoption. May you family continue to grow in the way that is right for you all each time. Can't wait to meet baby Morrey and share the joy of with his/her parents and BOTH big brothers.