Barbara, Like Sadie, I feel like an ambassador for open adoption. My husband Jeff was adopted in 1963 and we adopted a domestic newborn in…...
Share all your shots that capture the seasonal spirit!
School Days Photo Contest
Meet the winner, Maya (8, India), and the finalists.
AF Cover Photo Contest
Meet the winner, Bruno (4, U.S.) and the finalists.
Summer Fun Photos Contest
Meet the winners, Halle, Payton, Sofia, and Parker, and the finalists.
Adoption Blog: Familia Means Family
Does DNA Make a Family?
"How much did she cost?" "Why can’t you have biological children?" "Why did her birthmom not want her?" "Aren’t you afraid of how he will turn out?" "Do you know who her REAL parents are?"
When we walk around the block, or through the grocery store, or just about anywhere else, there's no hiding the fact that we're a family formed by adoption. Not that I would want to hide it -- ever. But I do sometimes cringe at those intrusive, tactless, ignorant questions that would never arise in any other context.
I keep in my back pocket an assortment of responses ranging from clever to educational: "We did not buy our daughter. We did pay a fee to the adoptive agency like you paid the hospital for delivering your child." "Why do you want to know why we don’t have biological children?" "Her birthmother loved her very much. That is why she chose to give her the best life she could have." "I’m more afraid that I will not be a good parent to him." And "Well, since there is no such thing as FAKE parents, I guess we ARE her real parents." No sweat!
Because I believe most people simply don't understand adoption but have a desire to learn more, I take on the role of adoption educator. I field most questions with a smile, hoping to bring the world one step closer to adoption awareness. As my kids get older and can understand the questions asked, I approach those exchanges more cautiously, trying to teach them how to respond appropriately as they listen.
However there is a question that, no matter how much I rehearse come-back after come-back in my head, always catches me off guard. It also stirs in me feelings that go deeper than education, politeness, or promotion. And when it does, I nervously find myself explaining away, answering the question behind the question, or giving more information than I intended. And when I walk away, I kick myself over and over. For the last four years, this question has bothered me, bewildered me, and frustrated me more than any of the others.
Each time I hear it, there is a pain in my heart that makes me catch my breath:
"Are they brother and sister?"
It started with Noah’s arrival. Because both of my children are African-American, it's true that they could share a biological connection. The question in itself, which any parent might be asked in any circumstances, may not seem like a big deal at first. It's not a rude question, per se, and I do believe that most people who ask it aren't being intentionally thoughtless. But it's the implications behind the question that hurt my heart. What does it mean to be brother and sister? How does that strange, wonderful relationship happen? Is it in the sharing of DNA and the splitting of genes? Is it in the growing up together, laughing, playing, and fighting? Are they mutually exclusive? Can one not exist without the other?
I know what the person is asking: Are they biologically related? But that is a very different question, isn’t it?
Every time I’m asked that question, I am reminded that our society, which claims to see adoption as a truly viable option to form a family, still considers adoption the second best thing to sharing a blood connection. It seems crucially, inexplicably important for people to establish this piece of information about my children early into our discussions. These are two children being raised by the same parents, under the same roof, and who share the same last name. What else do they need to be considered siblings? Being siblings has less to do with biology and more to do with shared experiences and love.
Yes, they are brother and sister! And they happen to be biologically related as well.
Time after time, I vow to simply answer "yes" the next time the question comes and let the person asking figure out what that means. Time after time I find myself explaining: "They have the same birthmother." Inevitably I get angry with myself and I think about the day when we have a third child who does not share DNA with Isabel and Noah. What will I say then? “Well, these two are brother and sister, but this one is not”? Is NOT? If they are not brother and sister, all three of them, because they don’t share the same bloodline, then they are not really my children because WE don’t share the same bloodline. And if they are not really my children, then what is adoption but a fantasy?
Maybe, by the time baby number three comes along, I will finally have learned to quit blubbering like a fool when asked and simply, resoundingly, and decisively say: "Yes, yes they are."
Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle
Meet the Author
I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
U.S. Newborn, U.S. Newborn
Recent Adoption Blog Comments
I have not meet with my son´s BF but I have a couple of photos and he looks so much like her (and nothing like…...
I found the other site a week or so ago and was wondering about it. Now I know! ...
Thanks for sharing article ....i have read many blogs on open adoption and found that people are not much happy with open adoption. ...
Thank you for sharing your story. I have spent the last year and a half creating hair tutorial videos for parents of African American and…...
Thanks, Barb, what a unique story. I also liked what Sadie had to say about nature vs nurture: “There is something to this nature thing!”…...