I sometimes forget that my husband doesn’t look like my son. I never really think about it until someone else points it out. In fact it took me a long time before I could say I was his mother without some sort of explanation. I felt like a fraud, like I was passing as his mother, I always felt like I had to add the prefix adoptive. After all, I was an infertile. I had plenty of experience being that, none of being a mother. When my child was placed in my arms, I didn’t feel like I had “won”. It was more like a woman was giving me her child for safekeeping. One day I didn’t have a child and the next I did. I walked out the hospital feeling vaguely suspect. I held my breath the entire time we were away and only did I walk through the doors of my home, did I start to truly comprehend my new reality. There had been nothing but obstacles along the path to parenthood. I had to keep recreating my vision of myself. Everyone kept saying “just adopt, but there was nothing “just” about the whole situation. Still, I was madly in love and spent the wee hours drinking in his scent and marvelling at this tiny life in my arms.
I knew others would automatically think he was “mine’. I was uncomfortable with the whole race issue in a way I never had before. What would my husband know about raising a black male in this world? He was white. My husband had never been in the minority, had no idea of what it was truly like. I was black and female and was taught how to talk my way into and out of things, to charm and to make people at ease, to not get angry even when I was offended and hurt and made to feel less than. I had been followed around in malls and been called sullen and angry and difficult because I wasn’t smiling, just thinking about what to have for lunch. I had been refused jobs, housing, been socially isolated, etc. I don’t view my life through the same racial lens as a lot of African Americans do. Probably being raised in Canada in a metropolitan city has a lot to do with it. Yet when I started travelling outside of my own social circle and into the larger world, I learned some hard lessons.
When hubby and I first started travelling together, he would incredulously remark how people would turn and watch us as we entered certain establishments in certain places. I would tell him that people were just struck by our collective good looks. He wasn’t amused. I was amused when we visited my sister who used lived in Atlanta at the time and we went to an all black church and when we took a bus in Toronto (the passengers of which were 99% black) to the subway. I giggled as he realized he was in the minority for the first time in his life. You should have seen his face. He looked – how do you put it – ENLIGHTENED – and …. outnumbered. How was he going to react if his son was slighted for racist reasons? When I met him, I was impressed with his ability to make me feel safe and protected. He was a prison guard and had developed a certain demeanour that few tested. I managed to dissuade him once when a mentally disturbed homeless person uttered a racist slur at me.
The whole time waiting we were expecting a mixed child, and since a lot of our friends were interracial, we certainly would not have stood out in any conspicuous way. Of course, we were already conspicuous, so those modules in adoption education were laughable to us. Still when it came right down to it, when we received the profile and booked our trip to meet the biological mother, I simply didn’t care about what I had pictured anymore. It just suddenly didn’t matter. I just wanted to be a parent. Someone once told me that my child would find me. For a woman like me, that was hard to believe. Until the day it happened.
So in our circle of beloved friends and family, we still enjoy a protective bubble, but as our child grows and enters the world with us by his side, we are reminded every now and then by curious glances, outspoken remarks and queries, that indeed we are a “conspicuous” family. The Precious knows that Mummy is chocolate like him and Daddy is well, white chocolate.
The same, but different.