I Prefer an Unused Uterus
When I was very young, I heard someone use the word “bastard” and I asked my aunt what it meant.
“Well,” she said, “it’s a word used for a child who is created before the parents are married. Like you, sweetie. You’re a bastard. So is your Aunt Dana. You’re both bastards.”
And, just like that, my vocabulary expanded and my innocent child self-esteem crumbled a little bit. Had the word been used in a loving manner, perhaps I would have never known the negative connotation, but it wasn’t used that way. It sounded like other nasty words that I knew not to use. The truth of the matter was, I was a bastard child and it didn’t sound good.
I don’t think my aunt meant to hurt or offend me at all. She was always very loving and funny. I just don’t think she truly thought about what she was saying to a little girl who was keenly observant and wise beyond her years. However, her words stuck with me throughout my childhood and anytime I heard one of my parents complain about parenting, I was struck with the awareness that I was not planned and that my existence had made a great impression on their lives…and not always a good one. My parents loved me dearly, but I always lived in the paradox that I was loved and wanted, yet simultaneously I was an inconvenience that had brought together two teenagers that didn’t necessarily want to be together. When they divorced years later, I often felt responsible.
In high school, I became close friends with two girls who were adopted. When they each shared this with me, all I could think about was that they were chosen. They were longed for. They were dreamed about. I knew two girls who had two separate families that wanted a baby so desperately that they filled out tons of paperwork, waited patiently, dealt with the court system, and then brought home baby girls and cherished them. They were answers to their parents’ prayers. They were celebrated. They were never referred to as bastards by their aunts. I knew that someday I would adopt a baby girl and cherish her in just that same way… And, so I did.
What stunned me most during the adoption process was how everyone assumed that adoption was my second choice. Seriously? Even the instructor in the required adoption class referred to the collective group as individuals all struggling with infertility. Don’t worry, I was very quick to correct her and recommend that she be mindful of the fact that adoption was the first choice for many people. Once I filled out tons of paperwork, waited patiently, dealt with the court system, and then brought my baby girl home to cherish, I was lambasted with friends, colleagues, neighbors and even strangers often asking me why I didn’t “have a child of my own” or a “real” daughter. Were they seriously asking me that question?
My list of snarky responses grew quite long over the years. Some of my favorites were: “I prefer an unused uterus” or “I wanted a make believe daughter so I went with this option”. Or my personal favorite, “I was going to, but then I forgot that we weren’t protected and signed some paperwork on the wrong day so she’s our little surprise baby.” The blank stares afterward were entertaining, but it didn’t stifle the frustration inside… so, as my daughter grew older, I did the best thing EVER.
When people (typically strangers at this point) would ask if she was adopted, how much she cost, why I didn’t have a child “of my own” or about where she was from, I would ask my daughter if she wanted to tell her adoption story. 99.99% of the time she would respond with a sweet little, “No thank you, mama” and the conversation would end. Right there. Right then. I didn’t need to scare them away with details of my unused uterus any longer.
Not only did this winning parenting method dissuade any further awkward personal questions, it also empowered my daughter to only share what she wanted to share. It taught her that we were not required to share intimate details of how our family was formed no more than the next woman in the grocery check-out line would need to share details of her vaginal birth with a perfect stranger.
This all being said, I do believe that as people begin to have more and more mindful conversations about adoption, the more normalized it becomes. There is less cause for fear and unruly curiosity and there is more celebration. Our world and our culture is changing. It used to be that families never spoke of adoption and feared sharing details of the process with their own adopted children. It was the unspoken. But, not in my house. We talk about adoption all of the time. And, if a stranger asks to speak to me about our adoption process or adoption agencies, I am happy to engage in that dialogue. If my daughter wants to share her story with someone, I support her in that decision in any way I can. Even though I armed my toddler with verbiage to stave off inappropriate conversations, I have also filled her heart and mind with the awareness that she was my first choice. She was chosen. She is forever celebrated.