This is a piece I wrote for the website Mothering in the Middle in October 2013, I am reposting here as it is near and dear to my heart….
I was walking through an antique store and a lady approached me to say how adorable my daughter was and, that now that I had adopted, I would get pregnant and have a child of my ‘own.’ I had not met her, spoken to her about my road to adoption, or about infertility and if it played a role in my world. But she continued to tell me her friend had finally given up and adopted, and then she got pregnant.
Many (most) adoptive parents experience things similar to my encounter. “Do you have any of your own? Do you plan to have yourown child?” I could brush it away as ”another woman had this child” therefore… but really that isn’t what is being asked of me. They mean biologically, thus resulting in the child officially being mine.
Others may think I am being picky about wording, obsessing about semantics. Clearly my daughter is adopted, I am white and she is brown. Obviously the woman is just chatting me up, telling me a story about her friend. When strangers ask questions it usually isn’t with the intent to be rude.
I remember as a child having a couple of different children introduced to me as someone’s “adopted daughter.’ Each time it didn’t matter what ethnicity, the significance was they were ‘adopted.’
If you are following what I have said so far you are noticing that everything is from the adult’s perspective. But now think if my daughter was older and capable of understanding the statement ‘a child of my own.’ The children who I was being introduced to as ‘adopted’ were around eight years old, at the time. What kind of impact do these statements have on them?
I do not want to see what will happen to me if I hear the words ‘adopted daughter’ prefacing my child’s name. I think the same knife that could pierce her heart will pierce mine. I share who she is with her with her Haitian Mother; she carries her blood and her characteristics. But this little girl carries both of our hearts.
I have loved her since my eyes first saw her wrinkly little face and her tiny knit hat. I fought for her when I thought I had lost her because of an earthquake. I cannot put all the different emotions I felt into words describing the first time I held her. I have been up with her while she cried, been to the hospital with her when she was sick and had anxiety attacks stressing over things that will likely never happen.
To throw an extra word in front of son/daughter removes a portion of the bond any child has to their family. If there are biological siblings involved it makes it even more damaging. It creates an opening for a child to feel less-than. She is my daughter. My daughter by way of adoption, and yes it is semantics but the wording does not preface my child’s identity within my family.
I used to feel I needed to share details so that people wouldn’t judge our family and the extended family in Haiti. I have since come to understand the cloak of protection that families have over their adopted children’s story. I am thankful my daughter was a baby and didn’t hear me blathering on so that I am the only one carrying shame. A great deal of who our children are is tied up in their story. We should only be adding to it not taking. They have already experienced too much loss before they come to be our sons and daughters. We can’t afford to give away more of who they are.
If you are in a position where you have to introduce someone’s child as “adopted,” introduce him or her by his or her name. If you see a family who looks like mine (transracial), refrain from asking personal things. People will always have questions; it is inherent in human nature. But know that their story is not your story.
Original post, and my others here: http://www.motheringinthemiddle.com/?tag=michelle-eisler