I've been struggling with the discussion of embryo donation/adoption lately. Before our daughter was born, I was very open about our journey and what avenues we were considering in our pursuit to parenthood. But now that she's here, it's her story too, and I'm afraid of giving too much away without her consent.
I know too many ignorant people who do not censor their thoughts before they speak. Case in point. Last night we were getting our check at a restaurant when the waitress, looking at Maya, asked, "Who does she look like?" Awkward pause... "She doesn't look like either of you!"
Hmm, I chickened out and took the chance to focus on my daughter not spilling her drink so that I wouldn't have to address the waitress. Alex, luckily, responded with a vague truth that seemed to satisfy our rude inquirer, "She's got a little mix in her."
Apparently, as Maya gets older, she is growing more into her Filipino looks. To be honest, we both assumed that we could bank on her being mistaken for Hispanic and therefore, since Alex is Latino, not have to face these sort of questions. We've been getting comments about her beauty since the beginning, and I've had two different men ask me - when Alex wasn't with us - if she were "mine". Alex generally sailed by on their daddy-and-me escapades, until just this month.
Apparently, he recently got his first comment questioning where Maya gets her looks from. There was a guess that I - his wife - may be Chinese. He got the exact same comment from someone else just the day before the restaurant situation. So if even he's getting these comments now, we have to be proactively prepared to respond in a way that lets our daughter know 1) that she absolutely belongs in our family regardless of resemblance, and 2) what an appropriate response to such a nosy question would be if she ever gets asked something like this directly.
The other piece of the puzzle is that we do want to celebrate her British and Filipino ancestry. We want her to be proud of it, though to be honest, I don't know what that means. What does it mean to be proud of a group that you belong to? To be proud of the accomplishments of those who share your DNA? Your ethnicity? Your cultural history? Why is that something to be proud of? I'm not saying it's not, I'm just wondering what makes this phenomenon relevant in a person's life.
Regardless, we can no longer ignore that Maya's ethnicity is not Polish-Latina. Don't get me wrong - she absolutely still is Polish, by virtue of having a Polish mother who speaks Polish to her, and she absolutely still is Latina, by virtue of having a Latino father who speaks Spanish to her. Furthermore, she is American - that which unites the three of us. But to think that this last identity would take precedence over race, ethnicity, or culture is a bit naive.
Several months ago, Alex and I agreed that if the topic of conversation naturally presented an opportunity to share Maya's unique beginnings, we would matter-of-factly share. I had the chance to do just that with a new friend whose husband is Filipino. It made more sense for me to share this information with her than to go out of my way to hide it, since I was asking all sorts of questions about Filipino culture!
But there are other friends, both old and new, who don't yet know. Not because we're hiding it, but because we don't think of how she came to be in our family anymore. I don't want anyone to ever question how "real" our relationships to each other are. I don't know what I would do if someone said something like "does she know her 'real' parents". Would I cry? Would I curse? Would I start yelling or even lash out with a backhanded slap to the back of the accuser's head? I honestly don't think I could just calmly correct the person.
Quick aside. I was recently asked if I "just stay home" with my daughter. I tried to make light of the phrasing. As in, yeah, I don't really do anything much. But it didn't catch on and the person asked if I did anything before having Maya. I took the bait and responded that I taught ESL, and the moment was gone after that. But the implication was heavy and is still with me, though I don't think what I do is easy at all (hence the word "just").
Based on my lack of a witty yet polite reaction to the "just staying home" conversation, or the "she doesn't look like either of you" exchange, I can't say that I would know what the best way to respond would be to a "real parent/own child" interaction.
I think the best defense is offense, as counter intuitive as that may sound. I should probably test the waters one person at a time, until I am very comfortable sharing just enough but not too much information, so that I am prepared for the inevitable stranger comments and questions.
By the way, here's what I've come up with regarding any future comments about our family's resemblance to each other:
1. Yeah, I don't look like my mom either.
2. Really? You don't think? Everyone else says she's a spitting image of her dad!
3. No, she looks like herself.
4. I know, aren't genetics a fascinating phenomenon?
5.Well, she's all ours! I gave birth to her myself, naturally at home, even.
6. Why do you ask? What makes you say that?