I thought I'd get all serious on you, yo.
I've noticed something after adopting: People feel the need to tell me that I love Maya as much as if I had my "own" child.
"The love is the same," a neighbor told me.
"My friends love their adopted children as much as they would their own," a very good friend (whom I love dearly) told me.
Neither woman has adopted, but both have been very supportive to me. (Which is somewhat more bothersome than if they had been unsupportive to begin with, because it shows how ingrained this thinking is. It's almost like they were reassuring themselves.)
I'm not sure why they told me this, because I wasn't lamenting my lack of love for my daughter. I wasn't saying "I'm afraid my love isn't the same as a biological parent's." It was just something that came out, slipped out easily, like water, during the flow of conversation.
Here is why these statements bother me (and these two women are incredible--so it's not the women I'm upset with, it's the fact that these statements are such "normal" things for people to say).
First: That it was so easy to say. When you read it again, it's almost consoling: there, there, you're a real mom too, your love is real. It implies something needs to be said. And it's so ingrained in our lexicon that if you say something back, you get the overused "you know what I mean." (The other day a veryclose family member said to me, "He never wanted to look for his real father." I said, "real father? Am I not a real mother to Maya?" The family member said "You know what I mean." I said "Yes, unfortunately, but 'real' is not the right word to use.")
Maybe we need to change the words we use to reflect what we really mean instead of expecting people to extract and discern meaning from the sub-par words we use.
Second: The dreaded use of "own." I HATE the use of "own" to describe a biological child. And it is so prevalent in our society--it's very much part of our common language. I read those words all the time, and I hear them at least three times a week--from family members who are ecstatic we've adopted, to very good friends, to casual acquaintances, to other adoptive parents. "I wanted to have my own, but I couldn't, so I adopted." "I know this couple who has one adopted and one of their own." My parents have used these terms also. This is what I usually say: "One of their own? Adopted or biological?" Or "You know, after you adopt that child is your own." Usually the person doesn't even notice I've said anything. Because I'm supposed to know what they mean.
But "own" carries a lot of (perhaps unintended) meaning. Something your "own" belongs to you. Own implies belonging. So a child "of your own" is one that "belongs" to you, a child "of you." And the membership button to announce belonging is blood (at least in our society). The flipside is a child not of "your own," not "of you," a child who does not "belong." And this is not a message I want to give my child, who very much belongs, who is very much our "own" AND her own person. She has someone's dimple in her left cheek, someone's infectious laugh, and someone's shiny black hair, but she's starting to pick up mannerisms from Random and me--she tries to dance like I do (God help her), she is starting to love books (like me), and she adores shoes (like me). Maybe these things also came from her genes, from her birthfamily, but to say that she is not Random and my "own" child suggests that she doesn't belong with us, that she is not "of" us--and although she is not of our blood, she is part of our family.
Third: Saying "she loves the adopted child as much as she would her own" suggests that the love for a biological child is the supreme, trumps-all love that other meager loves have to live up to. (And yet we all know that blood ties do not automatically equal love.) But there doesn't need to be a comparison. It's like comparing an apple to an apple--love is inherently love, pure and simple, it doesn't need to be compared. You don't need to tell me that I love my Cheeks as much as I would a biological child--when I look at her, I don't think "I love you like you came from me," I just think "I love you." Saying that an adoptive parent loves their child as much as they would a biological child would be like me saying "she loves her biological child as much as if she'd spent two years compiling paperwork and traveled across the world to adopt her." Silly, right?
Fourth: Well, there is no fourth. But this morning Maya climbed on my lap and gave me a spontaneous hug. Then she pulled away, looked me dead in the eye, and patted my chest. "Mama," she said. I smiled and said "yes!" And then my daughter kissed her hand--MUWAH!--and placed her hand on my mouth.
There is no "I love my daughter as much as if...." There is just "I love my daughter." I don't need to clarify or qualify. Maya may not have been a part of me for those nine months in utero, but she is a part of me now.