Adoption is fascinating to people. It's novel, it's a little mysterious, and it seems to open the door to people asking a lot of questions you never imagined you'd be faced with. The personal questions people will ask you after you adopt are sometimes interesting, sometimes baffling, and sometimes exhausting.
As an adoptive mom, I try to remind myself that having an adopted daughter is not only an opportunity to educate people about the joys and nuances of adoption, but also to educate people about how to talk about adoption with respect to adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptive children. It's complex, for sure, but it's also one of the best gifts I've ever been given.
The most common "personal" question I get wouldn't seem that personal on the surface. Literally every time I go to the grocery store, someone asks me if my daughter is adopted. I don't think I'd ever be brazen enough to ask someone if their child was adopted in the middle of the grocery store, but it happens every darn time. I always answer truthfully (despite the fact that there's no way they could know that my husband and I didn't produce this mixed baby) and kindly, but sometimes what's in my head is a little more direct.
"How Much Did She Cost?"
Because our adoption wasn't outrageously expensive relative to what it could have cost, sometimes I don't actually mind answering how much our adoption cost. However, the cost is something I'll speak about in terms of "it," not "her." Even so, asking about money is always iffy, so not everyone will want to talk about it or even be reminded how much it costs.
(And for the record, it shouldn't be so darn expensive.)
"What If Her Birth Parents Change Their Minds?"
They can't. She is legally our daughter and her birth certificate has both our names on it. In the state of Texas, once the parents sign relinquishment papers they no longer legally have any right to her and would have to take us to court.
"Is She Adopted?"
This might seem an innocuous question, but it might be the most common question I get when I'm walking through the grocery store with my daughter. Yes, she is adopted, and yes, I know you can see that she has a different color skin than I do. But is it something I want to talk about in the grocery store? Not usually, and sometimes it's hard to be reminded that we don't look alike when we least expect to have that come up.
"Can I Feed Her?"
Again, a seemingly innocuous question that can actually be quite personal to an adoptive parent. One of the pressures I felt as an adoptive mom at the beginning was to bond to my baby and, because I wasn't breastfeeding her, feeding her a bottle was really important for our bond. That's just something to consider if you're going to ask if you can feed an adopted baby, because chances are high that baby's parents are trying to use every opportunity to bond.
"What Happened To Her Real Parents?"
Well, her real parents are standing right in front of you, awkwardly trying to figure out how to answer this question without seeming a little bit peeved. Adoptive parents are real parents, and our daughter's birth or biological parents are also her birth parents. Using those qualifiers in conversation can get cumbersome but they are worth getting right.
Additionally, the story of my daughter's birth parents is very personal to her and us, and it's not something we discuss lightly.
"Is There Anything Wrong With Her"
Um, is there anything wrong with your child? Then there's probably nothing wrong with my baby simply because she's adopted. You should know we believe she is absolutely perfect and not flawed in any way because we didn't give birth to her.
"Are You Going To Keep Trying For Your Own Kids?"
Well, I have my own kid already. She is my own as though I gave birth to her, I love her that way and our relationship is the same as it would be with a biological child. Plus, unless we're very close (in which case you probably already know the answer), asking if I'm trying to get pregnant is probably a little too personal.
"Is It An Open Adoption?"
This is another under-the-radar tricky question that might not seem so personal on the surface, but can actually be quite stressful to answer. An open adoption means the birth parents and adoptive parents have worked out an agreement so that the birth parents can see the child at whatever frequency they decide. There's sort of an implication that an open adoption means the birth parents want to have a relationship with the child, but a closed adoption means the opposite. Closed versus open adoption also comes down to whether the adoptive parents are comfortable with their child having a relationship with his or her birth parents. There are strong emotions involved in those decisions.
Whether my daughter is going to have a relationship with her birth parents is a really personal matter. If you're interested in open versus closed adoption, make sure to find a time to ask that question when the adopted child isn't around.