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Joanne Bamberger Headshot

Why is This a Headline?

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"ADOPTING AGAIN!" (with the obligatory exclamation point, no less), is the headline of the March 19th issue of People magazine. With the sub-head, "Behind their decision to adopt their fourth child from Vietnam -- 10 months after Shiloh's birth."

Sure, I understand that celebrity babies almost always get tabloid headlines, but when those who are worthy of gracing the cover of People add to their families, the headlines don't scream, "MORE FERTILITY TREATMENTS!! How much Clomid is she taking?" or "DON'T THEY HAVE A TV IN THEIR BEDROOM? Isn't eight enough?"

The underlying message in those headlines (real and imagined) is, "Why can't these people be normal?"

As a mom who adopted a daughter from China, I can't help being particularly sensitive to the way the media covers and talks about adoption. The not-so-subtle underlying message in so many stories about adoption tends to be something like, 'Well, they already had 'one of their own' (not-so PC-speak for biological child), so why in the world would they want to adopt?' or 'Did they adopt because they couldn't have 'one of their own?'

To those who ask such questions, I say, why do you care how we became families?

Why is it anyone's business if I or my neighbor or the celebrity du jour add to our families by biology or adoption or by thinking about cloning a little Brangelina? It's simple -- it's not your business.

There are tens of thousands of adoptive families in this country, and I don't think I know anyone whose life isn't touched by adoption in some way -- so why do families like mine still get the personal, intrusive questions about how R. came to be in our family -- even when she is standing in front of the questioner who knows no boundaries?

Sometimes, there might be a question like, "Oh, is she adopted?" which is bad enough for a first-grader who doesn't want her family to be viewed as "different." But usually the questions are actually something even more insensitive like, (1) "Is she your real daughter?" or (2) "How much did she cost?"

I've done all the polite responses to those questions, just as we practiced with the adoption agency workers before R. became our daughter, like: (1) Yes, she is my daughter. (2) Why, are you interested in adoption?

But that doesn't seem to stop it and, in fact, sometimes causes the questioner to keep going, thinking that perhaps somehow I have misunderstood their queries.

So from now on, I'm changing my approach. I will be responding to the questions above as follows:

(1) Are your children real? and (2) How many times did you have to have sex before you conceived your children?

Pretty outrageous, huh? But really no more atrocious than the questions we've been bombarded with, and I suspect Brad and Angelina would be getting if they were regular Bradley and Angie down the street, and not a mega-star couple.

Also, I wouldn't mind getting a little help from the headline writers at People. If you could just take the first step of getting rid of the exclamation point in that headline, maybe we could be a little step closer to having others pay no more attention to us in the mall than any other family on a Saturday afternoon, whether we're bio, foster, adoptive or alien!

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