In the sweet spot in my heart, I truly believe that most people who ask these rather intrusive questions are asking from a place of interest in our family and interest in adoption. So many questions are posed from a place of good intentions from those sincerely wanting to learn about adoption and the way our family was formed. Not all of them fall under this category, but there are questions that are quite personal, quite invasive, and quite distastefully asked—even if unintentionally.
1. Where is he/she from?
I always find this funny since my children were born less than 100 miles away from where we live. Many people assume that children who have been adopted are either part of the foster care system in America or had to have come from another country. I even had one woman quite disappointed when I told her my daughter was born in Delaware!
2. How much did he/she cost?
When my daughter was just days old, my mom and I took her on her first shopping outing. When the salesperson told me I looked great for just having a baby, I proudly told her my daughter was adopted (my first and also very last time making that pronouncement without deeper conversation). She gasped, put her hands to her mouth, and smiled so widely I could see all of her teeth. And her very next reaction was to ask, in front of a line of people waiting at her counter, “Oh my! How much did she cost?!”
I have since thought of a million snarky responses because I’ve been asked this question so many times I won’t even bother to count, but my go-to response now is, “Adoption can be very expensive, but my children are priceless.”
3. Do you have to see/keep in contact with/talk to the birth mother?
This is a tough question to answer, particularly because of the way it’s posed. The “have to” gets me every time. There are backstories involved in both adoptions that are not mine to share. Those stories belong to our daughter and our son and their birth mothers. For us, it is a privilege to share details, even small ones, with the women who cared for and loved our—and I truly mean OUR—children so much that they created an adoption plan for them. My plea when you think of how you will respond to this question is to be gentle—think of your children. Be okay with not giving out an answer that would not honor your children and their first mothers.
4. Why would she (referring to the birth mother of my children) give them up?
Let me go on record here: I. Hate. This. Question.
From the depths of my soul and the corners of my heart and every fiber of my being, I despise this question.
I hate it.
I can always tell when it’s coming, too, and I try to run away before the person gets a chance to ask. I know it because their face gets all scrunched up. Their tone changes. Their voice gets deep and thick like they’re about to tell me a secret.
Instead, I get asked the worst question you could ever possibly ask me. It’s a dishonor to my children. It’s a dishonor to their birth mothers. It’s a dishonor to my family. It’s a dishonor to adoption.
Just don’t ask this.
And my advice to adoptive parents: be prepared now to answer this—or not to answer this. Because I don’t, and I won’t.
5. Didn’t you want your own?
“I always thought about adoption, but we really wanted our own.”
Out of all the questions asked or statements made regarding adoption, I feel like this one is the most flippantly said, without much thought as to the full meaning or intention. It is so offensive and hurtful, and sadly, it’s the one we are presented most.
I don’t know much about my son’s first 19 months before he came to us; I don’t know when he got his first tooth or when he took his first steps. He will never look like me, but he is my baby boy, and I love him with a ferocious mama bear love.
I was the second person in the world to hold my daughter because her birth mother had it written in her birth plan that she was the one to hand her to me in the delivery room. She wanted her story to include that very precious detail. I’ve lived every one of her seconds with her, and she is my mini-me, down to her sassy mouth and intense love for make-up and glitter and books. And we both have the same ridiculously bad shoulder shake shimmy when our jam comes on the radio.
My children are very, very much my own. And I am very, very much their mama.
But even still, our children share traits, both inside and out, of their biological parents, traits we embrace and honor and love because we want them to be proud of all aspects of who they are.
These are the questions we have been repeatedly asked regarding the adoptions of our children and regarding my husband’s adoption many years ago. As a family, it is helpful to be prepared with the answers you are comfortable giving. No one is entitled to your children’s story, and you should never feel obligated to share any details that you don’t feel comfortable telling. I always ask myself before responding, “If my children were old enough to understand, would I share this answer in front of them without asking their permission?” Most times, the answer is no, and so I politely deflect or explain that it is their story to tell when it is their time to tell it, if they ever choose to do so.