Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Things I can't let go of.

During my first year in Slovakia, a good friend told me that he learned pretty quickly the English phrase, "to hurt one's feelings" thanks to my having rather thin skin. He'd never heard this phrase before meeting me and quickly integrated into his English lexicon: Oh sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings (in my defense, while this guy is a super-special wonderful life-long friend I can always count on, tact is just not his thing--he was always quick to tell me if I was eating too many jam-filled buchty, adding padding to my, erm, booty, and he just loved laughing at my frequent mistakes in Slovak, sometimes not telling me what I'd said that was so funny--all this from someone who would describe bryndza as "cheese made from ships" instead of sheeps' cheese and who left out that very-essential letter P when talking about our favorite rapper Coolio).

So while I appreciated all the nice responses to my post about "Choosing not to be offended," I felt sort of guilty reading them. I'm not so good at being able to let things go, like water off a duck's back, the way my mom always told me to do when I was the fifth grade nearsighted fat kid always picked last for games of kickball. I and my best friend Catherine, the other fat kid in my class, would let our teammates ahead of us in the line to kick so that we could exercise our intellect with invigorating discussions about who our favorite Goonie was or how we would have spent the money had we been Brewster in Brewster's Millions, at least until the teacher caught us not playing and made us take a turn.

Pathetic, I know.

So while I was able to see past the phrase "real mom" to the overall good intentions with the lady at the coffeeshop in Mississippi, I'm not always able to do so.

Case in point: This summer at a wedding, a close friend of one of our relatives whose house I'd been to about a year ago, approached us to chat and congratulate us on the adoption. This woman is very sweet and encouraging. During the conversation, she made the frequent (and oh, so annoying) comment, "Just you watch, as soon as you adopt, you guys are going to have your own baby. It always happens that way!"

I cringed. I tried to bite my tongue, I really did. I couldn't hold myself back though. As sweet as this lady is, fewer things get under my skin more than hearing someone tell me this. Before I knew what was happening, I was stammering something out about how this is actually a myth, that Barbara Katz Rothman in her book Weaving a Family actually cites several studies disproving this idea that there's a correlation between adoption and later pregnancy and that hearing this makes adoptive parents feel pressure to conceive and that the world thinks their child who was adopted is somehow less than their own or even a means to an end (a biological child).

I should have just smiled and said, "You never know what God has in store." But I didn't. I lashed out and immediately felt guilty, so guilty that I went back to her twice to apologize. She was very gracious and understanding and hadn't deserved to be given a barrage of facts about adoption research while at a wedding reception. I was wrong.

But really, so was she. Because many of us out there know someone who adopted and then conceived a child, this does not mean that this is the normal course of events for families. And pointing out to adoptive parents these cases where it has happened communicates the message that we're all just waiting for our biological child to come along for our families to be "complete." Though people who say this don't mean it to be, it is hurtful and I wish they would stop saying it.

I came across this blog this weekend and cheered loudly the post in which the author wrote:

Don't assume adoption is a second choice.
The reasons people choose to adopt are as varied and unique as the people themselves. While it is true that many choose adoption because of infertility, it is also true that many choose adoption for a myriad of other reasons as well. Many people choose to adopt not because they are out of other options, but rather because they believe that adoption is the best choice for them.
Don't tell us we're sure to have "our own" now.
She is our own. Those parents who choose adoption because of infertility do not secretly harbor lifelong yearnings for a biological child. Having "our own" is now irrelevant; the child we have is the one we want and it is inconceivable that we could love or want any child more. Like all parents, we have the best.

There were a lot of things this woman is so right on about, and I was really happy to have heard from someone else who has the same peeve. I strongly encourage you to read this entire post. She's much more articulate than I could ever be and doesn't even once rabbit-trail off to her memories of elementary school woes.

Second thing I can't let go of: When people at my church use language publicly that excludes adoptees. Sunday morning before the baby dedications, one of the pastors of our church said something about how wonderful it is when "a woman gets pregnant and has as child," as if this is the only way a family is formed. I couldn't help thinking about any older children in the room who may have been adopted and for the parents of those children who probably had to have yet another conversation to clarify misuse of language on the way home.

Church, of all places, should be a place for the grace of inclusion. Because I'm not upset about it, now or even then when it happened, we want to mention it to this pastor, who is a really great guy and who I'm sure had just never thought of it before. I have to remember that adoption is not on everyone's radar as much as it is on ours. But if I can tweak their radars, with grace, I'm happy to do it, especially for the sake our child who I so want to grow up in an atmosphere of total acceptance from as many people as possible in our lives. I know this acceptance won't always happen on the playground, but I know for sure that it needs to at church.

Third and final thing I find hard to let go of: Could the corporate big-whigs of Target please adjust the budget so that we have fewer segway-riding security guards and more signs pointing customers to the tiny, dimly lit corner where they've, to make room for all the holiday crap, shoved all the cleaning supplies (or as one worker called it, "uh, you mean, stuff with chemicals?")? Grrrr...


Drew Carey Show said...

If it's any consolation, I would say that a good percentage of my friends have made similar comments about how we're now going to get pregnant -- as though adoption was the key to fertility. I haven't formualted a good response yet. I just smile and say, you never know, but right now, we can't imagine any other way to build our family. I'll let you know if I come up with something better. My other favorite is every time I buy something for Zoe, they ask if I'd like it gift-wrapped. Is that a standard baby store question, or do I really don't look like I have a child? =) I'm hoping it's the former, because seriously 100% of the purchases I've made have come accompanied by that question -- or are you purchasing from a registry? Kind of makes me feel like I have a happy little secret though -- and good abs. XOXO

Anonymous said...

May God bless you, Lori, with the grace and wisdom to change the world... one response, one action, one correction ... etc ... at a time.

I resolve to be more open minded and concious of my words, along with correcting any wrongs that I hear.

Thanks for your postings. I continue to pray for you, my friend.


Jana said...

read with agreement and interest til the last paragraph, when lots of giggling occured.

Anonymous said...

My irritation is in the media whenever they refer to Tom & Nicole's (or anyone's) "adopted" kids. Why is this necessary?

And don't be too hard on yourself... I think it's all about balance, sometimes educating someone is okay, sometimes getting angry and showing someone how their language is hurtful is okay and sometimes keeping your/my mouth shut is okay too.

Happy Halloween. I bet your house is a fun one to visit!

Anonymous said...

Lori: Let me know when you have gotten the world straightened out on this issue -- one of the main reasons I have never considered adopting is this very notion(held by members of my extended family who shall remain nameless) that if your are not "blood" you are not family. I just cannot bear the idea of having a child made to feel less than. Quite a few times it was made clear to me that I was a "step" child not a "real" one. So your issue relates not only to adoption but also to all sorts of families that are not formed through the traditional pregnancy route. It is hard enough to let go for myself, I cannot imagine trying to do so for my child. Hope you are feeling better.