Joanna Botwood and her partner recently adopted a son. They were prepared for the sleepless nights, not the stupid comments
My partner and I recently adopted a baby boy. It went thus: we received a call on a random Saturday morning that there was a newborn in need of a family, and by the Sunday evening he was fully ensconced in our home. It was the life equivalent of being told here’s the person you’re to marry, here’s the aisle, ‘go’. But despite the momentary chaos, it has been complete unadulterated, unrivalled joy since.
But that swift life change was the result of a long and arduous ride. The adoption process is slow, unpredictable and tough on the heart. It is also very complex, heavily bureaucratic and wildly misunderstood – as a result there’s a deep curiosity about the process. And from that curiosity comes some simply mad questions that I’ve fielded through the medium of humour:
Inappropriate question: “When are you going to tell him he’s adopted?”
Inappropriate response: “We thought we would post it on Facebook on his 16th birthday”
There seems to be a huge urgency around when we finally divulge the news to our son about his origin. Our son is 16 weeks old. His current priority is where his next bottle is coming from, rather than where he came from. Needless to say, this will be an important milestone in our family. Whilst we haven’t put a date and a time on the announcement, we will certainly tell him the truth and answer questions as honestly and as sensitively as we know how.
Inappropriate question: “What would you have done, if you’d gotten an ugly one?”
Inappropriate response: “Well, as long as you keep the receipt, you can exchange within 14 days”
All parents are biologically predisposed to believe their child is beautiful, even if the general populace may disagree. But just as biological parents cannot swap out their offspring because they didn’t carry the genetically attractive genes, why on earth do people think that is even a consideration for adoptive parents. In many ways, not having frame of reference on his looks and features, we have found the experience that much more exciting and surprising to see the man he eventually grows into.
Inappropriate question: “How much did it cost to buy your baby?”.
Inappropriate answer: “He was on a buy-one-get-one-free offer on Groupon, His sister is coming next week”
This is embarrassingly the most frequently asked question. Please let me be clear, it is both immoral and illegal to buy a human being. And thus this question doesn’t even warrant a dignified response. Of course there are costs incurred for legal services to navigate a very complex and cumbersome legal system – but one designed to safeguard all those involved in an adoption, most of all the child. The only single occasion this question is tolerated, is if you are genuinely interested in pursuing adoption and want to understand the parameters of the process.
Inappropriate question: “Are you going to try for real children?”
Inappropriate response: “Not for now, we are perfectly happy with this pretend child”
I was dumbstruck for about 45 seconds after this question. I was trying to see through its very clumsy delivery – but I couldn’t get past how collectively stupid and deeply personal it was. Firstly, please tell me what you perceive to be “unreal” about my child – I guarantee he cries, screams, burps, and poops just as much as yours. Secondly, is there some underlying suggestion that you are more of a mother than I am because you gave birth? There are possibly many families out there that decide on adoption due to issues with fertility. But in our case, we wanted to give a child a home and a future he might not have had. And our baby boy is not our adopted son. He is our son, in every possible way
Inappropriate question: “Why didn’t his parents want him?”
There is no witty retort to this. The circumstances under which a parent chooses to put their child up for adoption is almost certainly going to be complex, desperate and sad. Frankly if the parent is in strong enough mind to recognize the welfare of their child is at risk, then they deserve your respect. Please spare a thought for them and their courage before you pass judgement. And God forbid you ever make a comment like when my son is in earshot – and I will knock you into next week.
So there you have it. An idiots guide to adoption. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions, but be careful to balance your ignorance with your inquisitiveness. And be sure to adopt some sensitivity.