Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Did she just say that?

Not long after Jemberu came home, we joined an organized playgroup.  The first week, when he wasn't running away, he hovered near the door.  Week by week he became a little more of a joiner and by the end he was a fully functioning member of the playgroup, eating his snack and doing his craft.  It was fun watching him learn how to be part of the group in spite of the fact he didn't share our language yet.

We moms, like our kids, went through a process of getting comfortable with each other.  Each week we gabbed a bit and we got to know each other better. We talked about our kids, the ones in playgroup and their siblings.  I shared about adopting the boys from Ethiopia and about our girls. 

At one playgroup a mom was talking about how her two kids really adored her husband and when he was around she felt like second fiddle.  She joked she'd have another and another until one worshiped her. She then said she was only kidding, she didn't want four children.  I laughed and told her that having four children was awesome!  One of the moms said "Well, your four don't really count...it's not the same." Did she just say that?  I asked her what she meant, since all four of my kids seem to think they count.  There was a pregnant pause (pun intended) and she told me that she meant because of the big age difference between my girls and my boys.  I conceded that I never had the challenge of  having four little ones at the same time.  I told her that having little boys at the same time as teenage girls did have it's own challenges for us.  She told me she could relate, because her two daughters were 12 years apart.  That is when I got that nagging uncomfortable feeling in my stomach.  Interesting how she seemed to think her two counted in spite of the big age difference.  Curious.

Driving home from playgroup, I realized that I knew all along what she meant, it wasn't about the age difference.  My four don't count because I didn't give birth to all four of them.  I suppose she thinks because I didn't go through pregnancy and childbirth I got my third and fourth children 'the easy way'. 

Although such things cannot be measured, I do think that being seen by some (like her) as less than a 'real family' is more painful than childbirth.  Being asked the same questions over and over about how we became a family can be more tiresome than that first trimester tiredness.  Getting used to nosey staring and the occasional rude comment is a little like trying to function with morning sickness.  The thing with giving birth to your children is that 'paying dues' is short term, after that you are a 'real' family, never questioned as to whether you are a legitimate family.  When your family is formed by adoption, especially transracial adoption, you sometimes feel you have to keep earning your right to be a family. 

 We went into adoption with our eyes wide open.  We expected occasional insensitive comments, but that doesn't make them sting any less.  Don't get me wrong. Our sons are worth every uncomfortable situation we encounter.   I wouldn't trade it or change it and I sure don't regret it.

  The same goes for the girls, morning sickness, labor and childbirth....it was all worth it to become their mom.  I don't regret a single stretch mark or my inability to laugh hard without crossing my legs. 

I have four children and they all count.


  1. Perfectly stated Alisom>They all do count.Nice title for a movement ,or a book! Good job keeping your cool in these situations. I dont know how you do it. BK

  2. Adoption is by no means the "easy way" and anyone who has had their lives touched by adoption can attest to that! When we learned Jake was going to be "ours" my heart hurt. I thought I was having a heart attack at 27. When they finally brought him to us at the adoption agency -I wanted to run away with him because I couldn't believe they were just going to "give" us this beautiful baby.
    I remember that feeling like it was yesterday- He counts..he is my first born..and my heart..and his baby brother who made me throw up for months on end and pee when I sneeze counts too. They all count. Well said.xoxo jeanne

  3. That is such an amazing observation. I wish I counted to my birth mother like Miki and Jembe count to their adopted mother . You have a real family more so than most people realize. Thanks for being such a wonderful person and MOM .
    Rita Noyce

  4. Well done, Alison.

  5. I gave birth to two, fostered five and have been mom for almost eight years to a stepdaughter. They are -all- my kids, no more or less than any other. I understand your frustration at the commentary though. Olivia, the youngest, is eight. We share parenting with her mom and stepfather, and at one of her parent-teacher nights, she ran up to me. "Mama Kess..." and one of the teachers said "That's NOT your mother. She's over there..." Well, my little spitfire in the guise of a blonde haired, blue eyed angel, turned to the teacher and said "She is SO my Mom. She's my Mama and that's my Mommy and you're just jealous 'cause you only got /one/." I had to bite my cheek to not burst out laughing, but I'm sure my expression said it all.
    Kids know when they're loved. The rest of the idiots who don't get it? It's their loss.

  6. Hello,
    What a silly person more to be laughed at, i am Shameme a girl in my 20's (who looks 12)!!, i am half Asian, half English (living in England btw) and some of the comments we get and my Mum is my biological Mum!! so don't worry they'll always find something to say but granted your legitimacy is questioned when you haven't given birth to your baby...shouldn't be though. We've had nosey sates, comments (loud and whispered) and stuff you wouldn't belive!! most of the time i just ignore it. I am proud of my Asian roots and that's that. I also plan on adopting in the future and i've alrady (i don't want to adopt for about 8 years) get strange looks if i tell anyone regarding my plans!. I think it's anything that's different. You go!!, your Sons are as much your children as your Daughters are (they are all so sweet btw)!, you always remember this they grew in your heart not your tummy. You do have FOUR!!, you do EXACTLY what anyone else with FOUR children do i'm sure, washing, ironing, worrying, cuddling......need i go on?!!. I only want one but i'm sure he/she will mean the world to me as much as if i had given birth. Ever want a new pal in England email shameme.adams@gmail.com.

    Bye and a hug to everyone from me
    (and my womanising puppet-Clifford)!!