For the past twenty years I have been fielding questions and comments regarding my son’s adoption. The first time it happened I was grocery shopping with my baby when a man standing in front of me said, “Now you will get pregnant.” I looked behind me to see if he was addressing someone else and when I saw no one, I realized he was talking to me. I must have given him a quizzical look because he elaborated, “Now that you’ve adopted, you will get pregnant. It happens all the time.” A little flustered and in no mood to discuss my fertility with a stranger in the produce aisle I stated that my baby was the spitting image of my husband and walked away. I generally am pretty open and honest about things, but people, there is a time and place for certain discussions.
That may have been the first, but it was certainly not the last time I had to address the issue. When my son was in kindergarten his teacher called me up to tell me that on St. Patrick’s Day he had told the class that his birth father was Irish, a story she was certain he had fabricated. I pointed out that the term “birth father” was quite sophisticated language for a 5-year-old and, in fact, his story was true. I also told her that I knew of two other adopted children in the class. Now this was completely untrue but I thought trying to figure out which children were the adopted ones would keep her busy for a while—perhaps even too busy to call me again.
As my son grew (and grew and grew), it became even more apparent that he did not physically resemble us. When I am out with my son, people look at the two of us and ask me “Is your husband tall?” I am 5’4” and my son is over 6’1”, so I guess it’s a logical question. But when I reply that no, my husband is not tall, the questions continue. At this point I should mention that my son is half Thai (and very handsome, I have to add). You would think people would be able to put two and two together but that’s usually not the case. If I tell people he was adopted, the questions often continue. I have been asked what country he is from. Unless Florida has seceded from the Union, I am pretty sure he was born in the United States. My son has spent several summers working at the company where my husband is employed and was constantly amused when people assumed his dad was the IT guy rather than the General Counsel. I won’t even comment about stereotyping.
Then there is the ultimate adoption reflection. People have expressed their doubts to me about whether they would be able to love an adopted child as much as they do their biological child. To those people, I have responded with a question of my own. “What if you discovered there had been a mix up at the hospital and the child you brought home was not genetically linked to you—would you love him/her any less?” Of course not. Love is about familiarity and commitment, the intertwining of lives, not about a genetic connection. Adoption is the term for what happens on the day you get your child; parenthood is the term for what happens every day after that.
A friend of mine who was adopted once told me that your “real” mother is the one who causes you to need psychotherapy. Perhaps that is true. Despite my mistakes, I hope my three sons know that I love them with all my heart and always have their backs. I hope they hear my (cautionary) voice in their heads before they do something dumb and know how proud I am when they do their best.
It is only fair to mention that in addition to the personal, amusing and odd comments we have heard over the years, there have been incredibly positive sentiments. A card we received after we brought our son home said, “Sometimes you need to color outside the lines to make your life a masterpiece.” We colored outside the lines to help us create our family and the result is beautiful.
This piece originally appeared on Thoughts From Aisle Four.