I thoroughly enjoy that show called “What Not To Wear.” It is genius in its simplicity because, rather than burdening its subjects with high falutin’ fashion folderol, the hosts just say: “Don’t wear pale pink. It washes you out. Don’t wear stirrup pants; they make your butt look big.” I LOVE that! It just gets right to the point, and tells people in a direct but kind way what perhaps no one else feels comfortable saying to them.
With that as the context, I’ve been thinking about some things well-meaning people say that they should not. So, for the next few paragraphs, just pretend that I am your host of What Not To Say, and that I am doing this for your own good. The next post will tackle illness and bereavement, another one weddings and engagements. This one will discuss pregnancy, birth and adoption.
Babies. One of life’s greatest joys. Especially if it’s yours or your children’s. I’m at that age where most of my friends have or are about to have kids, either by birth or adoption. Some are trying to conceive with limited success. But however it’s happening, having babies is an area fraught with great tension simply because it takes a very private thing (sex, finances, emotional readiness, fertility) and makes it public. Ordinarily, it should be no big deal seeing as people have been procreating since the dawn of time. Except. Except. Yes—except when well-meaning people ask rude questions and ruin the experience for everyone. I would write, “you know who you are!” but the truth is, most people who do this truly do NOT mean any harm and genuinely DON’T know who they are. Which is why I’m your host Esther, and I’d like to welcome you to today’s episode of What Not To Say.
These nuggets have been culled from conversations with my friends and family over the past couple of years:
Did you try long before getting pregnant?
We were wondering what was taking you two so long!
You look like you are about to pop.
Are you sure you’re not having twins? You are so big!
How long do you think it will take you to get back to your old weight?
Did I ever tell you about my 42-hour labor that ended in a C-section, forceps, emergency cauterization, breech, agony in the fires of Dante’s Inferno?
I had terrible hemorrhoids; do you?
You say you’re coming back to work after the birth, but you pregnant ladies never do.
Don’t worry; you’ll lose that butt weight…
Is it him or you that can’t have kids?
I know you didn’t ask, but you should call this herbalist/naturalist/surgeon/OB who can help you.
I read somewhere that weight/nutrition/faith affects your fertility. Have you considered weight loss/vitamins/prayer?
Adoption (with my snarky responses, for your amusement):
How much does the baby cost?
Human beings don’t cost money. Travel and fees cost money. And just as soon as you tell me what your monthly fee, co-pay and deductible are for in-hospital expenses, I’ll tell you what I’m “paying” for my kid too.
Aren’t you worried about not knowing his/her family health history?
Do you know yours? Haven’t you ever come down with something that no one else in your family had? Being biologically related doesn’t guarantee you a stem cell match. Trust me!
Do you know anything about her real mother?
I do actually. She’s blond, about 5’2”, writes a blog… Her birth mother, however, we may never know.
Isn’t it terrible what they do to kids over there?
Well, it’s sad that government policies favor one male child over females, but let’s remember that even in America, babies end up in dumpsters and driven into rivers by their parents. Let’s not ascribe evil intent to people who selflessly and painfully give up their daughters to ensure they have a better life because we think their government is bad.
That child is so lucky to have you.
Hmm. Have you ever once looked at your child and thought, “D*mn, that kid is lucky to have me!” Of course not! You look at your child and thank god that you are lucky enough to have HIM. Adoptive parents feel the same way. Our kids aren’t charity cases.
Does she speak Russian?
She’s 9 months old. She speaks “Baby.”
Will you dress her in Chinese/Guatemalan/Romanian clothing?
Of course. Because all kids born in Texas are dressed in cowboy boots and hats for the rest of their lives, even if they move to Rhode Island or wherever. Seriously, with the exception of Maine babies who, I think do indeed live in LLBean, your point of origin at 8 months old doesn’t really influence your fashion sense at 3 or 12 or 20. Otherwise, if those Nehru collars were anything to go by, the 60’s must have been the coming of age of a bunch of white kids who were born in India, right?
Has it been difficult to all of a sudden become Instant Parents?
Doesn’t every parent become an instant parent? We’re just a little further along the developmental cycle, but people who give birth in hospitals come home with their little bundles as Instant Parents too.
Don’t those kids have lots of emotional problems?
Actually, a 20-year longitudinal study of adoptive vs. biological children shows zero difference in outcomes over their lifespan in children adopted prior to 18 months old. In fact, the findings highlighted that drug use, criminal behavior and other antisocial factors were family based, i.e., in families where antisocial behaviors were present, they cut across the adoptive/biological divide. So, it’s not the adoption that causes the emotional issues, it’s the family. So you can stop worrying if my kid is a serial killer and start paying attention to your own.
Aren’t you worried she’ll be made fun of?
Hellooo, if she’s like 98% of all children, she WILL be made fun of. And most likely not because she’s of another race or adopted! I got made fun of because I was fat. Other kids get teased for stuttering or glasses or dorkiness or whatever. Being a biological child does not save you from teasing. It’s just one less thing someone can pick out about you that’s different. Kids get teased. Fact of life.
Short Story Long: If someone tells you blessed news about a baby, resist the urge to inquire, editorialize or satisfy your curiosity. Just express your unmitigated joy and know that if there is anything worth knowing, and you are entitled to find out, you probably will when the time is appropriate. Until then, I hope you've enjoyed this episode of What Not To Say.