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Intrusive Questions - International Adoption and Infertility

By Tracy Desserich

Intrusive questions lead to thoughts on international adoption and infertility.

I realize that we are going to get attention probably for the rest of our lives. It will probably not all be quite as forward as it was when we were adopting our baby in Vietnam (it may just be in the form or stares or whispers), although I'm sure people will be forward too.

Our Vietnamese guide on the boat, Hai, spoke English well, but did not understand it so well. On the way to Ha Long Bay he asked if we were in Vietnam on vacation, and I explained that we were here adopting Zoe, and even that she was from Phu Tho. He acted like he understood, so I didn't think any more about it.

However, apparently, the crew had been trying to figure us out all day. At the end of the day he said, "They say she looks like a Vietnamese baby." Then he said, "Is she just yours?" as he pointed to my husband, apparently thinking that I had had an elicit affair and gotten pregnant with this child by someone other than my husband. I explained again that she was a Vietnamese baby, and this time he got it. I could tell he had an "ah ha" moment, and he began explaining to the rest of the crew in Vietnamese. Then he pointed to Noah (my one year old birth son) and said, "Both of yours?" I know he was trying to ask if he was adopted or biological, but I felt like saying, "No, another affair."

When we were applying for Zoe's passport, an older Vietnamese woman began talking to (one of the other adoptive mothers) and me. The woman said the usual, "Lucky baby," comment, and Stephanie said, "No we are the lucky ones to have such beautiful children." The woman asked if they were boys or girls, we replied that they were both girls, and the woman said something to the effect of "You think girls are better. Why don't you want boys?" We both replied that we have boys (Stephanie's boys are 17 and 14). Then she asked "Why don't you want more of your own?"

This is a difficult enough question to answer when there is no language barrier. There are several ways to answer. One is to say, "She IS our own." Another would be to say, "Because she was waiting for us in Vietnam."

I know that many people adopt after infertility. For Christian and I that was not the case. Noah is a blessing, and I am so thankful that we were able to have him, and that we had the experience of pregnancy and child birth, but I am glad now too that we have had the experience of adoption. We had made another appointment with the fertility specialist when we decided that we really wanted to adopt, so we cancelled the doctor's appointment. We had talked about adoption before, even before we knew that we would end up having fertility issues. I really believe everything happens for a reason, but that it's sometimes difficult to see what that reason is when you are in the middle of hardship. Maybe we would not have talked about adoption as seriously, and actually done it, if we had gotten pregnant easily. We might have children, but we would not have THESE children, and I cannot imagine my life without Zoe or Noah.

Before we came here, I got the questions about money a lot when I talked about adoption. Someone actually asked Christian, "How much does she cost?" I was very proud of him that he answered, "You don't mean how much does 'she cost.' You mean how much the adoption costs." He then said, "It's expensive, but no more expensive than it would be to have a baby in a hospital if you didn't have health insurance." Another question people ask is, "Why does it cost so much?" The answer to that is that you are paying lots of people for their services in facilitating the adoption: your agency, lawyers, doctors, the orphanage, and the United States and Vietnamese governments. Travel expenses are also a major part of the total expense. But just as you aren't "paying" for a baby when you give birth in a hospital (you are paying for the services of the hospital, the doctors, the nurses, etc.), you are not "paying" for a baby when you adopt.

Some people will tell you it's a shame that it costs so much, but the people who help facilitate adoptions do so as their professions, and they have families to support too. It's not volunteer work. I doubt many professionals in any field would provide their services to everyone for free. You expect a paycheck when you go to work, don't you?

Tracy Desserich is the mother of four children; her youngest was adopted from Vietnam. She has a blog at
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