Adoptive mom Amanada Vincent asks, "Why do people insist on seeing adoption as second best?"
I do wish that people would think before implying that the recent birth of my son must have finally brought my heart’s desire.
It is bad enough that they say so to me but infinitely worse that they make unthinking comments in front of my most beloved three-year-old daughter. Andaya came home from China in July 2007, two years before I gave birth to Kian, and has lit up my life ever since. It makes me want to spit nails when an acquaintance or stranger (or even a friend) suggests that she was something of a prelude to happiness.
People probably don’t mean to be hurtful. They just don’t think. But Andaya is more than bright enough to pick up on the tone and intent of chattering crassness. The most benign burble went something like this: “It happens so often, doesn’t it, that people adopt and then get pregnant at last ?” (Statistically, I don’t think that it does, actually.) The worst, to date, came from a Chinese-Canadian who declared, in front of Andaya, “You must have a very big heart. You can have children of your own and still you adopt a poor Chinese orphan.” Yep, that’s me, a blessed angel doing good wherever I am needed. Or, rather, a doting mama who still can’t believe her luck in having a daughter like Andaya.
I suspect many of us have encountered comments that relegate adoption to second choice, but pregnancy and nursing increased the sprinkle of comments to a torrent. I so want to convey to non-adoptive parents how surreal such an idea is after you embrace your child by adoption. But mostly I want to give an answer that will provide both my children with the confidence to ride the waves of ignorance they will encounter.
I generally reply with a strong declaration that both experiences, adoption and birth, have brought enormous joy. If I get the chance, I add that it is a bit like having read two lovely books that are now both gathering dust on the shelf as I get on with parenting; neither volume is central to my daily challenges and delights.
I do vaguely appreciate what people are trying to say, recalling that one part of me once cared whether I had a birth child. But that was before I was consumed by love for Andaya. Yes, I sometimes look at her in detached awe and wonder at how she and I came together. But I do exactly the same with my son.
Perhaps I could more calmly handle unthinking comments that dismiss adoption as second best (compared to birth) were such attitudes not also reflected in current law and practice. My huge employer, for example, offers far better benefits for a birth child than an adoptive child, hiding behind national employment insurance policies that other public institutions have overcome. I might be able to explain to Andaya that people say silly things but how do I explain that UBC thought she should have less full-time access to her mother than Kian does? All manner of unfortunate observations pale by comparison with this nasty discrimination: a point I will try to remember the next time somebody gets it horribly wrong in commenting on my family.