30 Mar QUESTIONS FROM STRANGERS: “So are you, like, infertile?”
Tonight we begin an intermittent series we are affectionately calling Questions from Strangers. This is where we’ll compile all of the very personal, sometimes less-than-tactful questions we’ve received from people who don’t even know our names. We fully expect to lighten the mood by poking a little fun and calling people out just a bit, but truly, our intention is to use this blog as an opportunity to educate on the awkward, inappropriate, and sometimes thrilling conversations about adoption we’re already encountering in our every day.
For friends and family: Notice we called this series Questions from Strangers, not Questions You Shouldn’t Ask, Ever. We fully believe there is a time and a place (even an obligation!) for you guys specifically to ask us the hard questions. We also know you’re still learning respectful adoption language, so don’t be afraid to sometimes use the wrong words (we’ve used them too). This series was born out of a recommendation from our social workers and other adoptive families to be equipped for all of the hard (and often untimely) questions we’ll get from strangers once we bring our baby home, when our family will look noticeably different. We hope this equips you for those conversations too.
For prospective adoptive families: We have an open-door policy for you, so always, always ask us questions, even the hard ones! We’re still learning too.
All of these questions are true, unedited, and ones personally asked of us by strangers. Without further ado, we present the first in a [probably long] series of awkward.
“So, are you, like, infertile?”
See also: But don’t you want your own kids? Will you try to have real kids too? Are y’all trying to get pregnant?
See also: Don’t you feel guilty, as a wife, that you’re not willing to give your husband a child that looks like him?
First of all, can we just talk about this question for a second (or really any of these questions)? For fear you legitimately don’t understand the implications, let me just translate on behalf of Millennials everywhere: When you ask about our fertility, or our biological clocks, or “trying” to have kids, we feel like you’re inviting yourself into our marriage bed. And it’s a bit crowded for three, if we’re honest.
When you ask if we’re trying to have our “own” kids, or if we want “real” kids, you’re getting kinda personal. So don’t be surprised if I answer with a question of my own, delivered in the same cheery tone as if you had asked my thoughts on the weather: “Oh, are you asking me how often my husband and I have sex? Or if we’re using birth control?”
Because truthfully, you are asking that. You’re asking exactly that.
And honestly, I’m not trying to be mean-spirited in my response. In fact, if you know me at all, I’m extremely conscientious, often to a fault, and rarely even sarcastic. But a little part of me does hope you walk away thinking a little harder about your question next time.
See, words are powerful. Really powerful. And when you make comments about our “real” kids, or our “own” kids, my heart hears that you find our future Korean child less than, merely our back-up plan. Sometimes you make – I’m assuming – well-intentioned comments about your friend, or your neighbor, or your second-cousin-thrice-removed who got pregnant as soon as they began the adoption process, and that maybe if we have enough faith it will happen to us too. “God works in mysterious ways, and His timing is perfect,” you say.
And while I would totally agree with you, please understand that, for us, this is God’s way. We have no idea how we fell in love with a four-pound orphan 8,000 miles away, with one single photograph. We have no idea why God spoke volumes through a little boy who never said a word to us. This is God’s mysterious way, and not even a little tiny part of our hearts wants it any other way.
(Side note: We actually don’t want to get pregnant right now, like zero desire. Because if we get pregnant, our adoption paperwork gets put on hold for over two years, per Korea’s regulations. So forgive us if we sound a little less than excited at the prospect of getting pregnant like your friend, or your neighbor, or your second-cousin-thrice-removed right now.)
“But for real, are you infertile?”
But because I’m not actually so dense as to think you care about our sex habits (despite the implications of your question), let me answer the question for real. No, we are not trying to have our “own” kids. For the record, the better term here would be “biological” – or even “belly babies” if you prefer – but in any case, we have not tried and are not trying to have bio babies.
As to your question about our fertility status, our best answer is “we don’t know.” It’s a big ol’ question mark, and we’re perfectly content to live with the unknowns. My doctor was certain enough that we’d have issues conceiving and/or carrying a baby to term that he was willing to write a letter for an adoption program (currently closed) that required a diagnosis, but we don’t claim infertility as a significant part of our story. In fact, I’m a crier. I cry at commercials. This is Us kills me. But I have never once cried over my empty womb. Adoption was written into my heart and soul long before that pre-marriage appointment, and Brian has always been all-in right here beside me. Adopting — specifically from Asia — was our first choice from the first day we started dating, and we haven’t changed our minds.
I know it’s weird. Maybe it even feels unnatural to you, when couples like us decide we want to adopt without trying to have biological kids first (and maybe even choose to never have biological kids). But God has worked so deeply in our hearts through Gideon, and the five children we currently sponsor, and the photo of the little boy in red shorts from my sister’s time in Africa (the first time I imagined my family might look a little different), that we truly don’t grieve what might have been. We don’t imagine our “belly babies” that might never be, because we know God has placed us right here, right now, in this story.
But you want to know why I really started this series with this particular post? It’s not because the questions are the most awkward we’ve been asked, or because we need you to know why we’re adopting as our first choice. It’s because adoption isn’t part of everyone’s story, at least not yet. It’s because we have close friends and family deep in the trenches of fertility treatments, because we’ve witnessed the tears and the waiting and the innumerable ovulation tests. We know couples who stay home from church on Mother’s Day because they can’t stand their own empty arms. We know couples who would give anything in the world to have a belly baby. And when you ask someone you don’t know if they are trying to have kids, or if they are infertile, or if they want kids and when, you don’t fully know what you’re asking.
You don’t know if today was the day she expected to see two lines on the pregnancy test, but there was only one. You don’t know if today was the due date, the long-awaited day she would have held her treasured baby if only the pregnancy hadn’t ended. You don’t know the guilt or shame or helplessness he’s carrying, because he doesn’t seem to be feeling the same weight of grief as his precious wife, because he can’t seem to fix the broken inside of her.
You don’t know.
And that’s why I hope you’ll get a few laughs at our expense, imagining the red cheeks and hammering heart I had when I asked that stranger if she was really inquiring into our sex life (and maybe even a little relief that I didn’t ask you the same question I asked the last stranger). I hope you’ll start using words like “biological” or “belly babies” instead of “own” or “real.” But mostly, I hope you’ll stop to think before you ask the question again. Because infertility may not be a significant part of our story, but it’s the secret story of so many people around us. And I know you probably don’t mean to hurt anybody, but sometimes the reckless words hurt the worst.
As always, we love you despite your awkward questions, and we would love to answer any other awkward questions you may have, so long as it would be edifying to do so. We hope you’ll love us too.
Love and laughs from these two strangers,
Callie and Brian
P.S. If you’ve made it this far, again we’d like to extend an open invitation for all awkward and deeply personal questions to our friends, family, and other couples who may be interested in adoption. If we’d have you over to dinner, we not only welcome, but expect, you to ask us the hard questions. Just like the social workers helping us bring our kiddo home, we want you to know our hearts backwards and forwards, and we want you to learn about this whole adoption thing right alongside of us. We love y’all very, very much. (But now just don’t be this stranger to someone else, okay? ;))