Since we began the adoption process we have heard many comments from people and many questions. "Why are you adopting?" "Why did you choose Ethiopia?" "That baby will be so lucky" "You are so wonderful to save a child from that situation"....I could go on and on and on. I would field the questions, be gracious with the compliments and admiration. Admiration that is not warranted. We don't deserve admiration. We wanted a child. Yes, wanted. We chose to bring a child into our family through adoption. While I understand all of it, I have also been struggling with it.
Since we have come home with Tessa, there have been even more of COMMENTS and QUESTIONS coming our way. The comments: "She is the luckiest baby in the world" "She won the lottery for families" "I bet you just wanted to bring a bunch of 'them' home with you". Each comment comes from a kind place that is meant to be a great compliment, but one that is thoughtless all the same. People don't think about the greater meaning in their comment, not to mention the unspoken assumptions about race, culture and social class. It isn't fair to slap a child with the "lucky" label because it implies that they are in-debted to you in some way. She shouldn't have to carry "luck" or being indebted with her as apart of her conscience or her story. I won't allow it.
Is it lucky to be born in a country stricken with poverty and famine? Is it lucky that her birth family was not able to care for her? It is lucky that Tessa will never know her birth family and have so many questions? Is it lucky that her birth family had to suffer the greatest grief to give their daughter a different life, in order for us to have the greatest joy? That is not luck.
Of course, as every adoptive parent knows.....we are the ones who are so blessed. We are the ones that wanted a child and were blessed with a child through adoption. I do believe I am lucky in many, many ways. For instance, to be born a woman in America is very lucky. But I also believe that it is a "God thing". God brings people into our lives for reasons. Family and friends. It is not just luck that Tessa is our daughter or that we are her forever family. God created her journey to us and our journey to her....it was a complicated journey and involved so many people and one based in love. The truth is that Tessa has been sooo loved. She was so loved that she was given a different life. It was that love in Ethiopia that began her journey to us and our love that began our journey to her. That is love, not luck. Only something greater than all of us could bring Tessa into the world and into our family forever. Only God. That is not luck.
Now for the questions: "What happened to her real mother?", "Do you know anything about her birth family?" "Is your husband black or is she adopted?" , "Did you meet her mother?", "Do you wonder what her birth parents look like?" So much curiosity coming at us.
You can almost see the curiosity in people's eyes, what they are wondering. I understand it, it is human and natural. But I find it is so interesting that so many people can't help themselves and ask the most personal questions. Actually, it is invasive. It is almost as if because we are very visible as an inter-racial adoptive family that strangers give themselves permission to indulge their curiosity and ask the most personal questions. When I was asked "What happened to her real mother", I was surprised and gave a generic response "Well, her birth mother was unable to care for her. My response was meant to re-language her comment of "real mother" and also give an answer that doesn't disclose personal information. It was the best I could do in the moment, but perhaps it is just the most I can give. It is Tessa's story and it is not available for other's curiosity.
Now that I am an adoptive mother am I obligated to share my most intimate stories and feelings with a curious stranger? Am I obligated to try an educate people about the most basic adoption language? Teach them boundaries? I know the answers to these questions, but this experience certainly does make you question yourself.
Last week a stranger was told in front of me that Tessa had just come home from Ethiopia by my son's teacher. I was fine with that, not feeling defensive and instead relishing in Tessa. The stranger immediately asked with Disneyland type excitement "What is is like THERE?" The enthusiasm in her voice caught me very off guard. I responded with confusion to her enthusiasm "What do you mean?" The stranger responded with her continued excitement "Do you need shots to go there? It just sounds so exotic!" I was so surprised and immediately felt defensive of my daughter's country, a country I love, and this woman's complete ignorance. I said very directly, "Ethiopia is a very beautiful country. But it is a country with extreme poverty and famine and desperation." She responds cheerfully, "Oh, so, they aren't exaggerating about what you see on t.v.?" Now I am dumb-founded. I responded plainly with a blank face "NO". End of conversation.
I shouldn't be so surprised, but I am. I know that I have more knowledge about Ethiopia and Africia than the average person because of my interest and experiences. Perhaps it is just discouraging to see such lack of awareness. To witness people be so clueless about something so personal to me. To see others be so centered here and not look outside their privileged lives here.
The questions, the comments can really feel like an ambush at times. I know there will be times that I feel like educating someone, there will be times that I don't want to share my feelings and other times that I will. There will be changes on how I feel about certain questions and comments, but they aren't going to stop. And so, I will take each question and each comment "in" knowing that this is apart of the journey for me and for me to give to Tessa. I hope to handle the questions and comments with grace knowing that with each comment and each question that I am ultimately going to be preparing Tessa to have boundaries, to respond with grace and to be secure in her story and centered in what she knows for sure about herself and our family.