There are a few versions you might consider developing: one for family and friends, one for strangers/acquaintances and one for your child. I was slow to figure that one out. After you’re home with your child and your new life begins, you are awash in new activities, getting to know your child, feeding, diaper changes, trying to figure out how to cut a newborn’s nails or other goofy things like that. My close friends and family knew I was going to adopt, but others did not. I went out to walk the dog and of course, I run into people I know. For example, one pet owner in particular that I walked with often in the less populated areas of the park. We talked and talked about all sorts of things. Not infertility and or adoption of course. So he’s a little gob smacked to find me with an infant. I can see him trying to figure out how I ended up with a little baby without him noticing a pregnancy. I can’t remember exactly what I told him, but since he was a guy he didn’t ask that many questions and just congratulated me. End of subject. That was not the case with other colleagues and acquaintances. Some people have negative feelings or unenlightened opinions about adoption and suddenly you find yourself in the position of educating people. Sometimes you just may want to get your bikini area waxed or your hair done without drama. Some women want to know, gasp!, how could a woman give a child away! Oh, my, I just can’t imagine that! Didn’t you try to have your own?! Was she on drugs? Is the baby healthy? How do you know for sure? Yep, had all those questions and more.
Now of course, my son is the same colour as me so when we were together, my relationship with him was never questioned but I did find myself blurting out he was adopted so I could explain why I wasn’t breastfeeding him. Yep, did that a few times to strangers because, well, I felt guilty because I wasn’t breastfeeding, I didn’t want to “pass” as fertile, I just couldn’t believe I was a “real” mother. Finally, I figured out what to say and how much to say. I set about educating my family and close friends with the real facts and answered their questions with as much detail as I thought appropriate. I would even challenge them on erroneous beliefs. I explained to my mother in law about open adoption and that our arrangement, though only semi-open might change in the future. My eldest sister wanted to know how much I knew about his health because I didn’t know “what kind of family he came from”. True, I didn’t know much but I also let her know that in life there are not guarantees. Giving birth to a child does not guarantee perfect genetic health, or a trouble free existence. If acquaintances wanted to know how I had suddenly come by this bundle of joy, I would give them a brief version and would refuse to answer questions about the birthmother or her circumstances as part of the story that was not mine to tell. If they persisted (and they did) I would ask why they wanted to know. Remember that phrase: “Why do you want to know?” It will come in handy when you get asked the most inappropriate questions.
If you are involved in a transracial adoption, you better be prepared to deal with a lot of attention wherever you go. You are going to get STARED at. People will mutter comments that you will overhear. My husband is white and boy, I knew his eyes were going to be opened in a way they never had before. We’ve been together for years, but as I’ve mentioned, when you have children, all sorts of people suddenly feel compelled to say the strangest things to you. I do find however that it’s the women who get approached more often with queries or comments. I’ll talk more about that later. The point is tailor and edit what you have to say.
And then finally, the story you will tell your child should be age appropriate. Start early, start searching the bookstores or Amazon for children’s books and ask for recommendations from other adoptive parents. I think it’s important that you become comfortable with the adoption language and practice it with your child even before she/he knows what you’re saying. Start gathering pictures and mementos that will meaningful in the near future. These are some good choices here and you can also check out your local bookstore or online. I would recommend reading them before purchasing however, because even the popular ones contained messages I was not comfortable with. Yes, even the ones about animals. I had a hard time just finding little board books with little black boys in them and I had to ask clerks to help me. They looked at me oddly until they too couldn’t find one in the hundreds of books they had on the shelves. Hmmmm. Yep, that’s how it is and I turned to Amazon to help me out a little.