You know what really blows? That when this horrific tragedy occurred last week, AP news felt it was relevant to put the word "adopted" in the headline. I will agree that that particular information is somewhat newsworthy, it is unusual that a family might adopt that many children, and the information does add interest to the story. But this should have been listed as an aside later in the story. By shouting it out in the headline it is demeaning to the family and to the children, as though they're worth is somehow different because of their adoption.
Many will argue that I am too sensitive. That the reporters didn't mean anything by it. And I'm sure they didn't. But subconsciously this headline enforces the values that so many in society put on adoption. That adopted children are different - it's not the same thing as losing "your own." If the headline was "Seven African American Children..." you can bet that there would be quite the uproar about them being singled out. Children are children, the critics would say, what does their race have to do with anything? I know most newspapers in the country try to avoid using racial descriptions unless it is relevant to the story. These children being adopted was not relevant to the fact that this whole family was wiped out in the blink of an eye.
Later I read this article, which explains that only four of the children were adopted (or about to be adopted) that the driver was a biological child, and two of the children were cousins. Nicky, the biological daughter, is depicted as a saintly caregiver who doted on her "adopted" siblings. Somehow it seems that she was that much more special because her siblings weren't biological.
In a totally different venue, it also blows that Us Weekly is reporting that an "expert" (I never said that I only read Harpers) has explained that Brad and Angelina may bond better with their own biological child than with their adoptive children; inferring that genes is the overriding force in parental love.
I know many people that have both adopted children and biological children, and I have read about dozens of others. Every single one of them has assured me that there is no difference in how they love their children. And it sucks that society at large chooses to believe that they are a. lying or b. saints who have abnormal capacities for love and generosity.
I have a coworker that is currently adopting a baby from Guatemala. Another well educated, intelligent and liberal coworker told me about it and said that "they are still planning on having their own children, but just want to do this now." I didn't say anything the first time, but by the third time I heard her explain to someone that the couple will also have "their own children," I interjected, "Mary, this child WILL be their own child. It may not be their genes, but it will be their child." Startled, she acknowledged that I was right, and apologized. I know people aren't malicious, that they don't realize the subtle prejudices that they reinforce, but when will they start to learn? When will "adopted" not have be a label that means "not real." When will it be okay to leave out the word "adopted in magazine and newspaper articles about families, whether they are celebrity families or families touched by tragedy?
I know a lot of people think I'm a whiney ass. "But you know what she meant," people say. Yes I know what she meant, but as an adoptee, if I am not my parents "own" child, then whose child am I? I am certainly not my biological parents child, and although I have met them, and like them, they are not my family. So when I hear people talk about "their own" children versus adopted children, I feel like they are dismissing who I am, that they are negating my personal history.
It sucks that during and after the miscarriages, I was slow to come to adoption for that very reason. I think it's the reason that more adoptive children don't embrace adoption. Yes, they want a biological connection that they missed as a child. I know I wanted that. But the main reason I resisted it is because I didn't want people to feel sorry for me, or my child. I didn't want my child to have to go through her life feeling that her family wasn't recognized by society. The turning point for me was when I realized that these children would be adopted by someone. By not adopting I was not going to save any child from going through the complicated emotions of adoption. I realized it might as well be me doing the adopting, that there are a lot worse parents than me for adoptees.
It blows that people criticize adoption as the buying of babies. I'm not saying black market adoptions haven't happened, I know they happen to this day. But the reality is that the alternative for most of these babies is a life in an orphanage or with multiple foster care providers. And the vast majority of mothers aren't selling the babies. They have made a decision that they cannot care for their child. It's a lovely thing that there exists a system where babies need good homes, and parents are more than eager to provide them. And another reality is that we buy our biological babies too. If I hadn't had health insurance I could have paid up to 20k for my c-section and extended hospital stay. People pay for their babies, it's just on the long term payment plan.
It blows that a year after putting the screeching brakes on our aspirations for a second child, that I still think about having a child, adopted or otherwise, almost every day. It's hard to imagine going back to babyhood when I have my independent six year old in the house. But I would do it. Because infancy and toddlerhood passes, and we're all just a few years older. What the hell would I be doing anyways?
I don't know if it blows that I'll never get the chance to find out. There are so many good things, lucky things, about where we are. But some days it makes me sad. Still.