how it came up

Everyone who reviewed my file of course knew that our first child was adopted. But not everyone read it.

In my various hospital stays, I saw a LOT of different doctors and nurses. Some of them were well versed in my history, some not so much. Every one who cared to ask for details seemed enthralled by our story. With my history of infertility and loss, some referred to my passenger as a “miracle” baby.

I figured out how to answer the questions, eventually.

“Two pregnancies, one (live) baby, two children.” Just a matter of fact. “Our first child was adopted at birth,” I’d sometimes add, by way of explanation.

Baby Z had two NICU nurses a day for her first twenty days of life, with some repeat assignments. At least 20-25 nurses cared for Z over the course of nearly three weeks. I spoke with every one of them, though I didn’t meet all the night nurses after I was discharged. Many of them I got to know well, chatting during long hours in a rocking chair by Z’s bedside. (As an aside, if we ever win the lottery, we are SO donating some good gliders to the NICU, because most of those rockers? Ouch.)

There wasn’t any medically necessary reason to inquire about the details surrounding how each of our children had come to us. But under the circumstances, many were curious.

“Was your first daughter born at full term?”

“Did you have any complications when you were pregnant with your first child?”

“Did you know you were at risk for the placenta issues?”

“Was the hysterectomy elective?”

“Did you breastfeed your other daughter?”

Now I’m normally happy to share our story. I take a certain pride in how we’ve built our family, in spite of the pain and accompanying loss involved. But even more than two years in, I’m still trying to determine how and when to draw that figurative line — i.e., what is mine to tell, and what is not? After telling a lot early on, I eventually learned to err on the side of caution.

At least here it wasn’t just invasive questioning or curiosity prompting the questions. Most of the nurses had a genuine interest in the medical issues or care I/we received.

Still, the reactions were so interesting. Some wanted to hear every detail. Some took a genuine interest in the medical infertility issues and/or shared their own stories. Some asked about the adoption process. Some offered up their own experience with or knowledge about adoption. A few shared that their children were IUI or IVF babies. One shared her fear of infertility and lamented that she didn’t even have a partner yet. One shared how she was appalled that her neighbor back home decided not to tell her son he was adopted. At least three asked if I ever watched “Teen Mom” (true story).

I’m usually happy to share our story, as I said. I love talking about how each of these children came to us. But it’s not only the need to protect Jaye and her personal story, though that is paramount. I also want to avoid using our story as evidence of the annoying myth that once you adopt, you will get pregnant — or any ridiculous variation of “just relax” (aka, it’s not a medical disease, it’s YOU!). Of course a few nurses shared some of those anecdotes as well. I used some of the responses that came up here, including how rare it actually is, even though someone always seems to know someone who knows someone…

Finally, I don’t want to offer up one story solely as a means of contrast to the other (even though I sort of did that here). That’s because I don’t want either child to feel more or less special than the other. Both of these children (and how they found their way to us) are miraculous, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t want one story to trump the other. Both are equally remarkable. Just very different.


~ by luna on October 3, 2011.

8 Responses to “how it came up”

  1. Oh the myth. I still hear about it regularly. I am riveted to your story and am truly rooting for your family. How amazing, both of those babies.

  2. wouldn’t you think a person working at he hospital would be smarter then the myth? I guess not. so annoying. I have choosen to tell alot of Maya’s story, although non of it relates to her birth mother since she is from Guatemala that part is much more interesting in the conversation, and how long I was there etc etc. Maya freely tells her story and having a second child that was adopted made it all make even more sense to her. No doubt when she’s a teeneagers there will be some issue’s that arise, for beign “given up”. Benjamin’s story is more about the actual adoption, so I choose to tell some things but the rest will be his to share or not share.

  3. Sometimes I want to slap a big, hot pink pos.t-it-n.ote on my eldest daughter’s chart at the pediatrician’s office that screams “NO, I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT A FAMILY HISTORY OF HEART DISEASE!” I swear, there is always a different nurse or tech taking vitals no matter what we visit for, and it pisses me off that though they see plenty of children who were adopted internationally (and my eldest daughter is clearly Chinese, and I am clearly not), I get asked this EVERY DAMN TIME. I should point out that my daughter had open heart surgery, which is why they ask about the heart disease issue.

    I hate, hate, HATE being the “urban myth” of having a successful pregnancy post-adoption. Sometimes I think about lying and telling people we did fertility stuff to make it happen. And I hate that people think it’s always the woman who’s body magically “relaxed.” I usually wind up saying (and this is the truth) “I really don’t think my husband’s sperm magically relaxed our way into this pregnancy.” And I hate it because it cuts through me like a hot speer, as I flash in a millesecond to the babies that died inside my body.

    Luna, as the girls get older, I think you will find the intrusive family-building questions happen less frequent in public, and there are ways to block them sometimes. As proud and open as you are with both girls stories (and I with mine), I always keep in mind that it’s still their private stories, and I don’t have the responsibility to educate others when I am running an errand. And never in earshot of my girls – because I can not control what dumb things others say (“how much did she cost?” or “don’t they throw little girls away in China?” and so on).

    You will learn in time what level of inquiry you are comfortable with, and sometimes it’s less emotionally exhausting just to re-route the conversation. I know that 95% of the inquiries I get aren’t trying to be hurtful or ignorant, it’s the 5% that stick with us, of course. And they all want to connect somehow, like when they bring up far flung examples or connections (“my brother’s neighbor’s cousin adopted from Russia and they have had a lot of problems”).

  4. Both stories are beautiful, both girls are lucky to be with your family. Hopefully you can find a way to express that that makes you, them, and lastly others, happy.

  5. Oh, I how I used to wish I were an example of that myth, annoying one that it is. I’m sure you’ll be dealing with those questions for quite some time. Both stories are miracles if you ask me. Never to be taken for granted. I’ve developed a Coles Notes version for those who merit more of an explanation. the idly curious can just scratch their heads.

  6. I had the wonderful nurse in the hospital who knew and understood that I was placing my infant son for adoption with another family, and then there were the nurses who couldn’t help but give me their opinions about what a crazy decision I was making and how they could NEVER do what I was doing. I loved the former the best! Hospital time is scary time, no matter what, and the support of the nursing staff, through the most difficult time of my life, was invaluable.

  7. Wow I never thought the hospital staff would ask those questions but I guess they are human after all. I remember when we went to the hospital to meet/pick up/become Theo’s parents that the nurse working with us was adopted. She wanted to be the one. I was quite touched by that. I hadn’t thought in any way about the actual staff at the hospital and what they nmight think.

  8. […] we often wonder whether and how we should respond to these observations and inquiries. This is not the first time such questions and comments have arisen, and it certainly won’t be the last, I […]

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