After you've adopted your child and introduced him or her to your family, friends, and acquaintances, be prepared for an onslaught of questions—some of them quite rude. For instance, don't be surprised if someone asks you whether the child's birthmother used drugs or was an alcohol abuser, or how much the child cost. Of course, if the child had been born to you, no one would dare ask you those questions. You are under no obligation to answer them.
Here are some of the most common questions people ask new adoptive parents—in the way that they ask them—so get ready to cringe:
- Are you sure you'll be allowed to keep her?
- She's so cute! How could her real mother give her away?
- Are you sure the mother didn't have any diseases or use drugs?
Many people have heard of those few—and very unusual—headliner media cases in which adopted children were sent back to their birthparents. So when they ask whether you'll be able to “keep” the child, in most cases, the sentiment behind the question is really a sincere caring and concern for you.
If you want to explain your state law—for example, that consent is irrevocable after so many days—go ahead. If you're not comfortable with this, you can just say that everything is fine.
When people wonder aloud how the birthmother could ever “give up” such an adorable child, explain that birthmothers usually make the adoption decision before the child is born. Physical beauty (or the lack thereof) is usually not a factor; other reasons are the driving force. Whether you share those reasons with others—and I strongly advise caution before you blurt them out—is up to you.
This line of questioning is intrusive and unfair. When a woman gives birth to a child, her relatives wouldn't think of asking her whether anything is wrong with her health. So why assume that just because a child was adopted, the birthmother was unhealthy? To answer, you can just say that the child is healthy, and you feel very blessed.
Real Life Snapshots
Sometimes you may feel like you want people to know your child was adopted, especially if you are worried you might get blamed for a child's problem. For example, Tracey adopted a baby with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Often she finds herself explaining that the baby was adopted because she doesn't want people assuming that it was she who was an alcoholic and caused the baby's medical problems.
Adoptive parents like Tracey may need to work on how they feel about their child's illness and to decide whether it is really that important to tell everyone that they weren't responsible for making their children sick.
- How much did you pay for him?
- She'll probably be really good in math and science! (To the mother of a newly adopted Chinese infant)
This is one of the most annoying questions that new adoptive parents report. It makes your child sound like a commodity, not a human being.
It's illegal to buy or sell children. What you paid were adoption fees, and whether or not you tell people how much they were is up to you. Remember, however, that there are heavy expenses associated with having a biological child as well.
My advice is to limit the number of people to whom you divulge the amount of adoption fees that you paid. Some people may attach a mental price tag to the child forever, and you don't want them viewing your child in this way for the rest of his or her life.
If, however, people inquire about fees because they sincerely want to adopt, you can give them a “ballpark figure,” or you can refer them to your agency, attorney, or the local adoptive parent group.
When we think of racist assumptions, most of us think of negative ones. However, there are some “positive” ones as well, such as assuming children of a certain race will naturally be smart. In my opinion, the best thing to say is, “Some children are good at math and science, and some aren't as good, so we'll just have to wait and see.”
Entitlement is the feeling of being worthy and ready to take on all the responsibilities and obligations of parenthood. Everyone assumes that biological parents are entitled to parent their children. But adoptive parents feel like they must “prove their worthiness.” Feelings of entitlement don't always come the first few days or weeks after the adoption. But as the parents take on caregiving tasks, this feeling usually does develop.
Think Before You Speak
One common mistake new adoptive parents make is to tell everyone every minute detail about the baby. I know one woman who is very sorry she mentioned that her baby was born with traces of cocaine in her bloodstream—people still remember this fact about the child years later.
It's really not necessary to share private information about the child with everyone, including your parents. “My mother-in-law will never forget that I said my baby's mother wasn't sure which of two guys was the father,” says Sue, an adoptive mom. “I don't want that to reflect on my daughter. I wish I had just kept my mouth shut.”
Yet many adoptive parents think that they have to answer even the most insensitive questions. Perhaps this is because they don't yet feel a full sense of entitlement to their child; perhaps also because they've already had to share so much of their personal life with the social worker or attorney. Remember: You do not have to answer any questions that others ask you about your child's background and medical history. The Adoption Police won't show up to arrest you if you don't.