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Adoption Blog: Our Family Grows With Love

“Can’t You Have Kids Of Your Own?”



“Wow, he is so little. How old is he?” asked a stranger sitting next to us in a waiting room at a pediatrician’s office in Florida, the state we'd traveled to to meet our son, Max, whom I was holding in my lap. “Eight days old,” I responded, “And he owns us already.” “Yeah, they have a way of doing that to us, don’t they?” she asked. I nodded and smiled, looking adoringly at my newborn son, with a heart so full of love, it felt like it would burst.

My husband, Mike, and I were sitting there, hundreds of miles from our Ohio home, waiting to complete a one-week checkup for our son. This was just one of the steps we had to complete in order to receive our Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC) approval, the contract that would give us permission to leave the state of Florida and return to Ohio, our home state, with Max. After the checkup, which had been coordinated by our social worker, the doctor had to complete a specific form and fax it to our social worker. Wanting to be sure everything was handled correctly, I’d reviewed all of this information with the kind young woman at the reception desk at the pediatrician’s office. But despite our calm demeanor, we were incredibly homesick and so anxious to get home. Our hearts ached with desire for our families to meet our son. This appointment was the last step before hitting the highway, returning to Ohio, and becoming a family in our own home.

As we sat in the waiting room, getting somewhat impatient for our son’s name to be called, our new friend asked us another question: “Can’t you have kids of your own? I overheard you say he is adopted.”

“Maximilian?” The nurse called our son’s name, and the doctor was ready to see us. Thank God, saved by the nurse wearing the palm tree-print scrubs! Neither my husband nor I exchanged another word with our waiting-room friend. Neither of us made eye contact as I quickly scooped up my son, snuggled in his car seat in all of his newborn-baby glory. My husband grabbed the diaper bag, and both of us practically ran toward the nurse, desperate to get away from the inquiring mind of our waiting-room neighbor. I could feel tears welling in my eyes as we made our way back to the exam room. The palm trees on the nurse’s top began to blur.

After a quick review of some basic medical information, the nurse left us alone in the exam room to wait for the doctor. My husband hugged me tightly and softly asked, “Are you OK?” I assured him I was. “I don’t even know why I got teary-eyed,” I said. There was a knock on the door, and the doctor came in to exam Max. A short time later, with a good checkup under our belts and the confirmation sheet that the necessary documentation had been faxed to and received at the social worker’s office, we were out the door.

As we drove away from the doctor’s office, I began to think about the question we had been asked and how I wish I had responded. I wondered if the question would come up again once others learned our son was adopted. And in the event that this did come up again, I wanted to be prepared with an answer!

“How do you wish you had responded to that question?” I asked my husband. I hoped he would have a suggestion, but he simply responded, “I wish I was never asked the question at all!”

I quietly mulled it all over as we drove along. I felt hurt by the suggestion that my son is not my own because he isn’t my biological child. I felt certain it was just a poor choice of words, that this woman likely had no idea the sting I felt when she asked the question. Curiosity had just gotten the best of her.

When I thought about it, I realized that, like Mike, I was completely shocked that the question had been asked at all. I knew we would get a lot of different questions when people learned of our adoptive-family status, but I had not expected this one. I was mad and disappointed with myself for retreating as if I had something to hide. I should have answered her question with pride about the way my family was formed. I realized the tears that had formed in my eyes were not just tears of hurt but also of disappointment in how I had handled myself.

I tried to prepare a response over the next few weeks as I thought more about what the stranger had said. Yes, my husband and I did experience fertility issues preventing us from having a biological child, but that wasn’t why we chose adoption to build our family. Adoption had always been part of our plans. When we began dating and Mike learned that my adoption had been such a positive experience, we both decided that we wanted to form our family through having biological children as well as adoptive children. When we learned of our fertility issues, we mourned the loss of not having biological children, but given that adoption had always been part of our plan, we began to pursue that option. Our family would not be formed as we had originally pictured, but we would be a family nonetheless.

One night, a few weeks later, sitting in the dim light in Max’s nursery, rocking him back to sleep after a middle-of-the-night feeding, my answer came to me when I wasn’t even thinking about the question. As I rocked with him back and forth, I thought about the incredible connection I’ve had with him since the first time I held him in my arms. Max has always been my own.

I haven’t been asked this question since that day when my son was just days old. But if someone ever asks me again, “Can’t you have kids of your own?” I know how I will answer. I will look at them, beaming with pride, and say, “Yes, I do have a child of my own. As you can see, I have a beautiful son. People build their families in all different ways. But their children are their own no matter how they come together.”

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6 Comments

This is a great story. As an adoptive mother- this “dreaded question” comes up more than i would like. It used to make me angry, but like MaximilliansMommy said, it is usually asked by well meaning people who just chose the wrong words. It also alwasy shocked me because it is such a personal question no matter how the questioner chooses to word. They are, in fact, inquiring about a persons fertility issues, which is something that most people don’t realyl want to discuss with strangers! I would never ask someone who i knew had a C-section, “what happened? you couldn’t push them out?”

By Eshotwell on Friday, July 29, 2011 at 6:19 pm.

Thank you for sharing. As we are just starting out on our adoption journey, I am so happy to read of experiences about transracial families.

By Alidinvt on Monday, August 01, 2011 at 3:06 pm.

Thanks for sharing your story! Finding the right verbage changes the whole equation, turns what could be a negative interaction into a meaningful exchange. Kudos to you for being proactive, and congrats on Maximillian, your tiny blessing!

By GayParentsSpeak on Monday, August 01, 2011 at 5:50 pm.

Thank you for sharing.  My husband and I are just completing our profiles before we finally get into the books!  Our social worker told us a wonderful way of answering someone without any awareness of how beautiful adoption is….“I’ll forgive you for asking that question if you’ll forgive me for not answering that question.” She said it usually happens when you are at a doctor’s office or standing in line at a grocery store.  We loved when she told us that statement!

By simpatica38 on Thursday, August 04, 2011 at 5:07 pm.

Eshotwell, thank you for your comment! It is on my list of dreaded questions as well. For this particular question, I feel it is usally from people unfamiliar with adoption “lingo” and they likely have no idea how to phrase the question in a way that would be less hurtful.  I do agree that i am shocked becaue it is a very personal question, though. 

Thank you for your feedback, Alidinvt!

GayParentsSpeak, thank you so much for your feedback! It is very true, finding the right verbage is such an important aspect of the questions that may come up. Thank you, Max is truly a blessing to us. 

bbpogson, thank you for your comment as well! Good luck as you start this exciting journey! I wish you a speedy, successful placement! What a wonderful answer provided by the social worker, I really like that! And the social worker is right, the questions come at times you truly least expect them!

By Maximilian's Mommy on Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 2:16 am.

Thank you for your post. I too had fertility issues and finally after 5 miscarriages and 3 years of trying I decided that it was time to do my self a favor so after a talk with my uber supportive husband I went and got my tubes tied I was tired of people asking me if we were still trying or the sympathy glances, the I am so sorry for your losses so we made an appointment and I did it best decision I ever made. Now we are adopting and I often take flack from my relatives who are ultra conservative about letting god have his way in the end though I think that adopting is no different than if I had given birth I know I will love my child with all my heart and they will be “my real kids” and I will be their real mom

By Hartsjoy81 on Friday, June 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm.

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Maximilian's Mommy

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