My son’s adoption is not a secret — you’re reading a blog about it — but many of the details surrounding his birth story are. Not secret, exactly, but private. I’m always willing to share more of our story with individuals who are exploring adoption and asking questions in an effort to educate themselves, but more often than not, questions come from a place of nothing more than nosiness. In those instances, I do my best to politely explain that Levon’s birth story belongs to him and his birth mother, and it is not mine to share. Or if I’ve had a little wine, I simply respond, “Why do you ask?”
It is my favorite response to any question because it makes the asker stop and consider her motive. Why do you ask?
Below are my unfiltered, over drinks answers to your most frequently asked questions.
How old was his mother?
I was 32 when Levon was born.
Oooooh, you meant how old was his birth mother when he was born? But what you really meant was “Was she a teenager?” Because if she was, you understand her choice to place him for adoption. If she wasn’t, you can feel justified in your judgement of her.
If you learn nothing else from this blog, please understand this: There is no scenario in which this question is appropriate.
Why did she give him up?
First of all, we no longer say “give him up,” we say “placed him for adoption.” “Give up” is equivalent to “abandon,” which is not what adoption is.
I do understand your curiosity. Many of us can’t fathom placing a child for adoption. If you’re truly curious to learn more about birth mother stories, I encourage you to seek out those accounts on social media. They are so eye-opening and inspiring. But as for my son’s birth mother, her story is just that – her story. Not mine to share.
Why did you adopt?
What you’re really asking is “could you not have kids of your own?” This question doesn’t trigger me because I didn’t experience infertility. I chose adoption because my mother is adopted, and adoption is always how I envisioned growing my family. But many women have experienced infertility, which makes this question painful for some, and inappropriate for all.
Are you going to have any of your own?
Besides the three I already have?
What you meant to ask was “Are you going to have any biological children?” [See previous Q & A]. If you must ask me about my family planning, have the decency to say “more” children. “Are you going to have any more children?” That allows me to answer, “Yes, we hope to adopt another,” or “Yes, we hope to have a biological child,” or “No, I’ve been mothering since I was 25 and my husband is going to be 70 by the time our youngest moves out, so we’re very done.”
Why was he born prematurely?
When people learn that Levon was born 10 weeks early, they innocently ask why. Many of them don’t even know he was adopted. I never get angry, because I know they’re just curious, but I do politely explain that what happened during his birth mother’s pregnancy and delivery is not my story to share. If you’d like to know his birth story from my perspective, I’m happy to recount how I was shopping at Target when the call came that she was in labor. I’m more than willing to share the details of his gender reveal, or how I packed completely inappropriate clothing for myself when I flew to meet him. But as for the details of his delivery, you’ll have to ask his birth mom.
Again, I LOVE talking about my experiences as an adoptive mother, but anything that happened prior to me walking into the hospital is not my experience to share. I have found that people are extraordinarily understanding when I politely respond with, “I don’t share those details because they belong to his birth mother.”
How do you respond to questions about your child’s adoption? Share your tips for guarding their story below.
Jessica Butler is the co-founder of Raise, stepmother of two, and adoptive mother of one. Prior to Raise, she was a writer on USA’s "In Plain Sight" and TNT’s "The Last Ship." She and her husband, writer/producer Warren Bell, co-created the Nick at Nite series "Instant Mom," based on her life as a stepmother. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and six-year-old son, Levon.