Thursday, September 18, 2008

The First Sting

“I wanted to let you know, Andrew and I started the process to adopt,” I say to my boss. My chest is uncomfortably tight with the breath I’ve been holding. In the other room I hear my boss give a happy exclamation amid the rustle of paper and plastic that is cluttering the office.

“Wow? Really,” she says, coming into the hall and leaning into the room where I’m working. I smile and nod, we’ve been so careful about who we tell this to. The process has just gotten underway. There will be many months, even years between now and the end of this that I’m trying to be careful. More for the sake of my heart, but I’ve seen what happens when things like this fail – it’s more pain then I want to put either of us through.

“We chose China,” I add. What I’m tiptoeing around is that I might be expected to miss work. Gathering paperwork, visits to various county, state and consulate offices, plus an eventual trip out of the country and then, maternity leave. My bosses face lights up more.

“Going celebrity huh?” she asks. Her hand is on her hip, that damn phone always hanging there with its black snake cord twisting up to the ear bud dangling from the arm of her glasses. Instantly I freeze my smile, it feels fraudulent on my face. “Just like Madonna and Angelina?”

“Well, no,” I start to explain but she is already going back to her office. For a moment I stare at the empty space she has left behind. The smile drops as my jaw tenses. I turn back to the computer, my hand locks around the mouse. On the screen the black arrow jerks left then right. I lift the mouse then drop throw it back to the cheap pad. It clatters but the rattle of cheap plastic makes me feel no better.

I’m angry for mentioning anything to her. Mostly I’m angry at the ugliness of her comment. Adoption is not a trend, and neither my husband nor I have decided to undertake this because of some celebrity. Our decision to adopt was inspired by our longing to share our home, lives and love with a child. We talked about all the options for doing this and chose to adopt. For four years we’ve been discussing this and to dismiss our feelings with such a callous statement is a reflection of emotional ignorance.

Do I …. quit?

I sit there motionless, comparing what I want to do with what I should do. Other issues with this job rise up and it makes the idea of getting up and walking out strongly appealing. Not without first correcting my boss about her idea of “going celebrity” and complimenting it with the bird. Sensibly I return to work. This won’t be the only incident of ignorance that I come across. I remind myself that she probably doesn’t mean to be hurtful, but simply didn’t know any better. After all, I’ve armed myself well – I’ve read plenty of literature and kept up with the articles. Yet, somehow all that reading doesn’t really prepare for the first time you get stung by someone else’s words.


Lori Goree said...

Hi Jennifer. I wish you luck in your journey through adoption. My own two-and-a-half year old daughter is adopted. It is indeed a painful yet beautiful journey.

I think all of us who have adoption in our lives get the comments and ignorance at times. More often than anything, we hear negative things said about our daughter's birthmother, because she chose to have our adoption closed. People who don't know better say that it is best this way and put her down for her choices. Though I don't even know her, I feel fiercely protective of her and I am really uncomfortable with this comments.

I send you warm vibes and prayers for your journey, and for your baby girl. I am available if you ever need an internet buddy to talk with. :)

Nina said...

Hi, I saw your post on RQ and decided to post here instead of there. I'm so sorry that your boss is so insufferably insensitive. She may not know any better, but that doesn't make her words any less hurtful.

These verbal stingers are unfortunately all too common. Your boss (or someone else) may follow this up with a doozy such as, "Why don't you adopt a baby from THIS country?" or something along those lines.

Overall, though, I have found in the three years that I've been part of this adoption community, a lot of people are very supportive and wonderful. As for the insensitive idiots, after you work through your pain and anger, it gives you an opportunity to open their minds.

Congratulations on beginning this amazing journey to your baby in China!

Nina (from RQ)

Truly Blessed said...

It's never easy to hear someone say something ignorant and offensive, sorry it had to be your boss. Sadly, this won't be the only time you hear something that makes you cringe or recoil in frustration.

However, if you know your own personal reasons for adoption, you need to let such ugly comments pass you by. You need explain your decision to adopt from China to no one. Hopefully, the comments won't come often (if at all).

Best of luck to you!

Personally, though I'd limit the number of people you're telling, as the wait is so extraordinarily long and difficult, you won't want to hear the constant reminders from people who know...