He’s known the word “uterus” since he was probably three years old–not because he was particularly precocious, though he is that, but because of a book about adoption he loved to hear again and again that featured a birthmother who had “a baby growing in her uterus.” He always seemed to be as intrigued by the language of the book as he was by the concepts. And for the last five years, this is where Oscar’s questions hovered–about what happens in said uterus, how the baby comes out, and what happens next. I answered each question without embarrassment as it came up and simply waited for the next.
However, recently the question I knew was coming but caught me off-guard nonetheless arrived: How does the baby get in there in the first place?
Every parent has to field this one, and every parent does it differently. However, when your family is formed through adoption, these questions require, beyond the science, a different approach. In adoptive families, biology is not even in the background–it’s nonexistent. We don’t talk about how Edgar looks just like his paternal aunt or how August must have inherited a particular propensity from his maternal uncle. We don’t have stories about pregnancy cravings and corresponding food preferences in our children. The phrase “mini-me” is not ours. Adoptive families have their own stories and their own phrases–just not the same ones as biological families.
And all of this is okay–more than okay, in fact. It’s just that when it’s time for this talk, there are added complexities that reside in questions that render the biological ones simple: How did my birthparents meet? Did they decide to have me? Did they love each other?
I have always believed that if children are able to articulate a question, it deserves an honest albeit age-appropriate response. And I’ve never been uncomfortable with telling my children I don’t know something.
What does trouble me is when I do . . .