Thursday, February 5, 2009

On infertility...whose business is it?

As our "Dear birthparent" letters are going to the printer's next week, I know curious eyes will wonder, "What kind of weird resume is this?"  Two years ago, when I went to pick up my giant packet of copied letters and photo collages from Kinkos, the kind yet nosy cashier gushed about how wonderful it was that we were adopting and proceeded to ask me if we were adopting because we couldn't have kids "of our own".  

Rrr...I have really mixed feelings about this question, and I get it all the time.  First of all, our son did not grow in my body but that doesn't make him any less "my own".  I love him in the exact same way that any mother loves her child.  Second, I do understand the intention and curiosity behind the question...what would inspire a couple decide to adopt vs. conceive?...I feel that's a valid question and normal curiosity about the human condition, so on that level I'm not offended.  Third, I don't ever want the Nugget or Lil Sib to feel like they are second best, and as an adoptee myself, I feel very sensitive that that's where the question leads.  Like no one would adopt if they didn't HAVE TO, right?!  (Wrong.)  I tell the Nugget all the time that I am GLAD that I didn't get pregnant because then he wouldn't be here with me, and that he is the son we were meant to have.

So do I tell the prying stranger to mind their own business or do I answer their question? I tend to take the opportunity as a "teachable moment", for both the Nugget and the person asking the question.  I am not ashamed of adopting, nor being adopted myself.  If I dodge adoption questions in public, that might teach him that I'm embarrassed of our story.  I am not ashamed of our infertility, but it's not the whole reason we adopted.  (To be honest, I would have opted for adoption at the beginning, but conceiving doesn't require judges, lawyers, agencies, and paperwork, so I thought it would be easier.)  I don't want adoption or infertility to be this scary "hush-hush" thing that we hide in the corner and avoid discussing at all costs.  It's just a part of life, a part of how our family came to be, and I'm proud of our family.  When the Nugget gets older, he will learn to own his story and answer the questions on his terms and in his own words.  Am I saying the right thing in the meantime?  I don't know, but this is the best way I know how.  So I'm going to muse on it below (in a non-graphic, non-revealing way), and if that makes you uncomfortable, feel free to stop reading - I don't mind.
It is both embarrassing and awkward to discuss your reproductive bits and why they don't work like they're supposed to, and yet strangers feel like it's a totally acceptable conversation topic.  I don't believe I ever brought up the topic of infertility myself (until now), it's just something that burbles up, like an unwelcome burp, when you announce you are adopting.  I don't mind discussing it in vague terms, but I get a little weirded out when people I don't know well start inquiring about specific details.  The strangest part about it is how people want to deny that infertility exists, try to fix the "problem" for you, or imply that it's somehow your fault. 

"Just relax and it will happen."  - Yes, medical issues are often solved with a bubble bath.  I'm sure I've been guilty of saying this one myself.

"Oh, I wish I had that problem.  My husband looks at me and I get pregnant." - Would you brag to someone that you use $20's for toilet paper when they've just admitted they were broke?

"Why don't you try/have you considered IVF/special tea/acupuncture/a sperm/egg donor?" 

"Is it your problem or your husband's?"  - I was always tempted to ask these people, "How are YOUR ovaries/testicles feeling today?" but never had the guts.

"Oh, you know after you adopt, you'll get pregnant." - I especially despise this comment, even though it does come true for some families.  I know it is meant to be harmless, funny, and ironic.  Sometimes there's even an anecdote of a couple they know who conceived after an adoption.  You know what I hear, as an adoptee?  "Adoption is second best, and once you get that second best child, you'll get the dream bio child you were waiting for.  But you'll be stuck with that adopted child too.  Isn't that funny?"  Ouch.  They way I answered it is that we wanted to be parents and we'd be equally thrilled to adopt or conceive.    

The funniest (and saddest) comment I received was when we did get "the call" and were waiting for the Nugget to be born.  When I told an acquaintance (who knew about our adoption plans) that we were going to have a baby, and she squealed with joy, "I KNEW it!  I knew you were pregnant, I just knew it!  I am SOOO excited for you!"  When I interrupted her screams to explain that, "No, remember - we are adopting...we were chosen by a birthfamily and the baby is due any day now!", her face literally fell and she said, "Oh.  I knew you were adopting...I was just hoping you were pregnant."  I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.  I decided to laugh, knowing that our unborn son was so precious, loved, and welcome that it didn't matter how she reacted to my happy news.  

Comments like these tempt me to not share news or updates until Lil Sib is here, because when people rained on my happy parade for the Nugget made me so sad.  However, what I've decided is that I am joyful about our journey to baby, I want to shout it from the mountaintops, and I am learning to let negativity roll off my back.  Having kids sure makes you grow up!

I'm not entirely sure where I was going with this post, just that I wanted to send an honest summary of our experiences out into the void.  Just to let others dealing with infertility know they're not alone.
To clarify, I LOVE discussing adoption and answering any adoption questions, no matter if they're clumsily worded or not.  Please always feel free to ask me adoption questions.  Just no questions about my privates, please.  LOL!

1 comment:

  1. Annie, again, you have me chuckling. Because I can just hear the people asking these questions. I do like a lot of your possible responses.

    As you know, we can't get pregnant naturally, because, well, we don't own all the parts necessary. But that doesn't stop people (many of whom we barely/don't know) from asking some of the same questions. If I had a dime for everytime someone asked me "Why don't you just get a surrogate?", I could quit my job! I chalk most of it up to people just not knowing much about the entire adoption process (which, admittedly, we didn't when we began), but still, sometimes you wonder "Would you ask one of your friends that question?" Likely, they would. But I generally smile and give them some information on the topic until they get the *AHA* moment where they either get it, or shut up and walk away.

    And we've even gotten the back-handed comments from some family members who are 'relieved' that my brother and sister-in-law have a baby biologically, since we won't. I point blank ask them "Are you going to love our child different because he/she doesn't share the same genes? Because if you're not, please let me know, and I'll save you the trouble of having to try". Then the back-pedaling usually begins.

    I guess I'm just trying to say that you're doing an awesome job of letting The Nugget know that his place in your lives isn't second banana to what 'could've been' biologically. He'll grow up proud of his story, and learn that a lot of people are clods and just can't help themselves.

    B ":o)