An Indian Adoptee Reclaims His Voice in the Desi Diaspora
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Children of “their own.”

December 3, 2009

I happened upon this article last week and it brought up a few long standing topics in the adoption arena. But there’s one particular issue I’d like to examine today and that is the idea of an adopted child as “second best.”

“Adopting a New Attitude”

I get really annoyed when I tell people I’m adopted and then after the inevitable, “Have you met your real parents?” question, they ask me something similarly disturbing: “Were you adopted because your parents couldn’t have children of their own?”

As if “their own” means only a birth child could truly be their child. First of all, it’s completely impolite to ask such a delicate question about my parents. Why do people, the second I tell them I’m adopted, think that social convention is no longer necessary, asking personal questions which are intrusive, disrespectful and most alarmingly, unintelligent? This drives me crazy, just because I’m adopted does not give you carte blanche to ask me any question that pops into your head. It’s like the “where are you from” question, it’s never as innocent as it seems when someone is adopted.

But I digress, the other issue I have with the “children of their own,” question is that I have no easy answer. To say “yes,” feels like I’ve revealed something of a sensitive nature about my parents that I don’t feel comfortable sharing with the general public. Not to mention, even if they personally don’t feel that it’s something shameful, or has a negative connotation, it’s not my place to discuss my parents’ reproductive ability. That is not a socially appropriate conversation for me to have without my parents’ presence. But if I deflect the question by saying “no comment” or something similarly political, people view that as admitting my parents couldn’t have natural children. And more often than not, they view that fact as negative- so the situation is lose-lose.

But the insinuation of “their own” is the most irksome to me. Why does it matter, if I am a child of my parents through natural birth or by adoption? I am no less of a child to my parents because I was adopted. By the same token, I am not more of an “authentic” child if I had come from my adoptive mom’s body. I am not special because I am adopted. I am special because I am a human being of intrinsic value as a person.

I have been told time and time again by my mother, that she could not love me more if I was of her own flesh. My father has said he could not feel any more connected to me than if he helped give me life. Those are beautiful sentiments and they mean the world to me. I am theirs, the fact that I’m an adopted child does not make me a second rate kid, neither does it make any adoptee that way. My parents love for me and my siblings is not diminished because I didn’t come from their physical union.

Adoption is not the “fall back option” when parents can’t conceive naturally. Sometimes after trying to get pregnant parents can’t have children and decide that they want to adopt. Adoption is another option and a personal choice to start a family. They want to be a parent(s) and shower a child or children with love, care, etc.., who is anyone to say that because the child was adopted their status in the family is less than biological childs? Children should not have “status” all all, they are part of the family. It does not matter if they were adopted or otherwise, that is the end of the story.

Just because a couple didn’t adopt in the first place doesn’t make their desire for adoption the next best alternative. Some parents decide from the beginning they would like to adopt, but it’s not a rejection of natural birth. Other times parents who are able to have a biological child, give birth and then decide they would like to supplement their family through adoption. This doesn’t make them confused, nor does it make the adopted child less their own.

Making judgments and jumping to conclusions about the motivations behind parents adopting children first, or after natural birth or not at all needs to stop. Adoption as I’ve said before is 1) a deeply personal process for everyone involved and 2) arises for many different reasons. No one has the right to judge parents’ actions in this regard. They create a family in the way they feel is best. How can anyone have the gall to say one choice is better than another?

What do you think of my sentiments? Am I correct in feeling that adoption has a negative connotation and that adopted children are looked at frequently as “second best?” Please comment and let me know.

Miriam Gaenicke
June 15, 2010 at 10:53 pm

I totally agree! This also happened when I was little. The gall of some people to ask such questions. We don’t ask people about their backgrounds b/c this would be impolite. Hmmm. Some WILL NEVER understand this concept.Within my experience, the Indians I meet have the MOST difficulty in trying to understand our situation.

Thank you so much! Your writing is absolutely fabulous!

I'd love to hear your thoughts!