In that post about announcing intent to adopt I wrote:
Remember all the questions you had, internal and external, about adoption before you knew anything about it and don't hold your friends to a higher bar than you would have held yourself before the idea of adopting first crossed your mind.
Now that J is here my attempts to hold that line of grace take more effort than they did before we were connected to a flesh-and-blood child. For example, last weekend Andrew and I were at a party that we attend every year with Andrew's dad. This is usually the only time we see this particular group of friends, most of whom are our parents age. Many folks asked us about J, and what our lives as new parents are like. A few people hadn't heard yet, and it was fun to tell. But somehow I found myself in a conversation, losing my patience with the obviously uninformed and unaware person asking me questions. It is a familiar conversation, and for some reason I usually find myself having it with people who don't know me very well, if at all. It went like this:
Other Person: What happened to her mother?
Me: What do you mean?
OP: Was she a drug addict? Why did she give up her child?
Me: I don't share personal information about J's first mom, but she chose to relinquish J because it was the best option for her child.
OP: I have two children, maybe you can't imagine this because you don't have biological children, but I just can't imagine giving them up.
At this point another less idiotic person cut in and changed the subject, obviously embarrassed at the turn the conversation had taken.
This is the most dramatic example of this conversation that I've had so far, but it seems like the two themes of "was her mother a drug addict" and "as a biological mother of my children I can't imagine a situation where I would let someone else raise my child" keep coming up when white folks get curious about baby J. Both of these themes really piss me off.
First, I don't share personal information about J's first mom with strangers, especially not strangers who look at my child (or in this case a picture of my child) and jump to drug addict. This is hard for me, because I want to say NO NO NO SHE IS NOT A DRUG ADDICT YOU GIANT RACIST JERK. Sometimes I will, because it is true and saying nothing makes it seem like I am hiding a secret. Or because people need to know that while poverty and drugs are often connected they aren't synonymous and most people in dire economic situations aren't there because they are addicted to drugs. I usually leave off the GIANT RACIST JERK part, though. Even though there is no doubt in my mind that the assumption is racially motivated. If J were white most white people would picture her first mother as a misguided teenager. Because she is black they picture someone else entirely. (For the record, no black person has ever asked me for personal information about Z, or asked in hushed tones if J was "born healthy" or done anything to imply that she is other than beautiful and perfect.)
Second, no - I cannot imagine what it is like to have a biological child. But my inability to imagine parenting a child I have given birth to pales in comparison to the ability of any biological mother I know who is parenting her child to imagine the situation that a woman must be in to face the choice of making an adoption plan. So shut up about it - you are not every woman who has ever given birth. Your experience of biological motherhood doesn't give you any special information or special right to make judgments about anyone else, just because they have also had the experience of giving birth.
Can you tell my patience levels have gone down, since the days when I would happily field all sorts of questions about our then-future adoption?
I have been thinking about this change, and I think it has to do with the person of my daughter and the fiercely protective love I feel for her and anyone connected to her. This especially applies to her first mother, and biological family, who are not here daily in our lives to defend themselves. Despite knowing better I feel surprised when I find myself in interactions like the one mentioned above, where someone feels free to ask about information that is obviously quite personal simply because it pertains to a baby who is too young to know and a woman who must seem, to the inquirers, very far away. I am still happy to educate people, and usually to answer questions about our process and the parts of our adoption story that belong to Andrew and I, or the three of us. But I am much less willing to give nosy inquirers the benefit of the doubt, now that my daughter is here. My margin of grace has definitely shrunk.