November is Adoption Awareness Month. Getting the word out about adoption and the many children hoping for a family of their own is a great thing; it’s a necessary thing because everyone needs to have somewhere and someone to call home. Most of us take that for granted. We shouldn’t.
At any given time in the United States roughly one third of the children in foster care are free for and awaiting adoption. In 1999 that was about 127,000 children under the age of 18. That’s not counting all of the children in domestic and foreign adoption situations. All those children have no one to call home. And really when you get right down to it home isn’t a place, it’s a person. Or people.
Especially at this time of year, our thoughts turn to the people we consider home. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, friends, children, spouses….they all mean home to us. More than a roof, food or clothing having people there to love and support you- and occasionally drive you crazy- is what humanity as a whole thrives upon.
It’s what all those children waiting right now for a family of their own are really hoping for and it’s what Adoption Awareness Month is about.
In my home we don’t take the impact adoption can have for granted. It would be impossible to do so since the act of adoption created our family. The fact that my daughter is adopted doesn’t define her or us. We don’t talk or even think about every day.
But the fact is several years ago a young couple had a baby they knew they couldn’t keep. They went online, saw our profile and called us on a Sunday morning. I became a parent that afternoon. I went from weekend trips to Chicago to waking up every 45 minutes to change, feed, burp and repeat. It was terrifying, humbling, surreal, exhausting and amazing. This, as anyone who’s gone through it will tell you pretty much sums up the first time parent experience.
Adoption, regardless of the route you choose to take isn’t easy. It’s invasive, time consuming, heart breaking and often expensive. There are also so many stereotypes to overcome.
People assume there is something “wrong” with you, that you cannot have children of “your own” so you’ve turned to adoption. There is also the assumption there is something wrong with the child you adopt. You get asked inappropriate questions like how much you paid for your child or what their real parents are like. If your child happens to be cute, they ask how someone could give away such an adorable baby. And of course you hear how lucky your child is.
The worst part is that sometimes these questions and assumptions come from friends and family.
How people answer or don’t answer these questions varies wildly. Some ignore, some become enraged, some educate. I usually go for sarcasm.
While there are many things wrong with myself and my ex-husband, being unable to have biological children wasn’t one of them. No there’s nothing wrong with my kid, but yours looks a little twitchy. I paid less to adopt than you did to have your child naturally and I got to keep my figure. This kid has pooped, peed and puked on me, I am her real mother. If I’m not someone owes me a major dry cleaning bill. And she wasn’t this adorable when she was born or, hey, they would’ve kept her. It had nothing whatsoever to do with her birthparents wanting a better situation for her.
As for my daughter being lucky, that’s just stupid. There were hundreds of people out there who would’ve committed acts of high treason to be her parents. I got lucky. I got chosen to raise a funny, stubborn, imaginative, silly, sweet, thoughtful, frustrating, wonderful little girl. Because the amazing thing about adoption is it doesn’t just give a child a home, it gives you one too. And every time I look at my daughter, I see mine.