Michelle Seitzer is a writer who loves elders, chai lattes, satire, all things Norway, antiques, her family, NYC, the arts & her Boston Terriers. She is currently in the process of adopting a child from Bulgaria.
Us: “We’re adopting a child from Bulgaria!”
Them, occasionally, but not often enough: “That’s great! How exciting for you.”
Them, in most cases:
a. “Oh boy. That means you’ll probably end up pregnant soon!”
b. “Make sure you get a baby, or a really young child.”
c. “My sister’s husband’s friend’s brother just adopted; do you want to talk to him about it?”
d. “We would do it too if it wasn’t so expensive.”
e. “Why don’t you just get one from around here? There are so many kids in the US who need homes.”
Them, rarely, but unfortunately not never: “Can’t you have your own?”
We’re a year into the process of international adoption now, so we’ve heard the range of responses, from the uplifting and heartening to the ridiculously insensitive and invasive.
We’re building our resistance to the latter, learning to accept that these mostly negative words — which often come from the most unexpected places — will continue even after our child is with us. Consequently, we’re becoming more and more grateful for the good words, pondering these and disregarding the others. Confession: it’s not easy to forget them though; they really stay with you.
We’ve also entered a new phase of comments and questions, since one year later we have no more information about our child-to-be or his/her arrival than when we started. Though they may come from a place of concern, the skeptical “Isn’t it working out?” or “You don’t have a child yet?” inquiries make me feel like we’re doing something wrong, that we’ve caused this delay.
I have learned so much about adoption in the last year, but the question that has boggled my mind the most is this: Why is adoption still viewed in such a negative light?
For the centuries that adoption has been in existence, haven’t we come further than statements like “how much did she cost?” as if she is not a human being but some major purchase like an investment property or a college degree?
I could definitely go on about the things people say, and how it diminishes our joy at the choice we’ve made to build our family this way*, and the implications of speaking about adoption like a business transaction, and how the difficulty of the process is absolutely necessary to protect vulnerable children here and abroad…
…BUT I want to move on, save that for another post, though it could probably fill a book.
We need to reframe the adoption conversations we encounter, whether we are adoptees, adoptive parents, or someone who may be guilty of embracing this negative view without even realizing it (because I know that most of the people who have said hurtful things did not intend any hurt).
I think we can — must — do better. For our adopted children and for families as a whole.
Let’s start by thinking about the child at the other end of the process. Yes, it’s sad that I have to wait so long to meet my child, but what saddens me more is that my child has no family, has been abandoned and rejected by the citizens of his/her home country.
Let’s educate ourselves on the immeasurable benefits of adoption, both for the parents and the children. Questions are fine, as long as they are spoken with sensitivity and respect for the family’s right to privacy. We know more than enough about the difficulties, the drawbacks, the downsides for both the parent and child. Let’s talk about the bright side.
Let’s take action in our neighborhoods and communities. There are orphans of all ages living all around us, and you don’t have to legally make them your children to help them. Be a mentor or friend. Help them find a job or apply to college. Give them a gift card for groceries, invite them to join your family for game night, or help them rotate their tires.
Let’s remember that all families, no matter how they are put together, are a sacred unit, and that our diversity should be celebrated, not questioned or criticized.
Let’s work together to put adoption in a positive light. Will you join me?
*from an excerpt in Cross-Cultural Adoption: How to Answer Questions from Family, Friends and Community, by Amy Coughlin and Caryn Abramowitz, page 56.
To find out more about Michelle Seitzer, check out her web site, facebook page, and twitter! Thanks Michelle, for sharing your experiences in your adoption journey. I can’t wait to hear the great news that you have been matched with a child!:)