It's interesting to me what kinds of conversations come up when people find out that we're adopting.
Usually it starts with a comment along the lines of, "Oh you're finally getting your girl, huh?"
We smile, sometimes give a little giggle, and then explain that, no, actually, we're adopting another little boy.
They usually look at us a little confused for a moment, and don't know what to say. Honestly, I hate that awkwardness, so I usually try to head it off by explaining that girls have a much better chance at finding a forever family, and since we already know and love raising boys, we're the perfect candidates for a little boy's forever family.
Eventually the conversation ends up turning to the fact that we're adopting a special needs child, one with Down Syndrome. The conversation usually ends up going one of two ways. Either we get asked 1) why not adopt a special needs child domestically instead of from halfway around the world or 2) don't you realize that you're going to be a caregiver to this child for the rest of your life - you'll never be "free"?
I'll be totally honest here. I'm not really sure how is the best way to handle these conversations. Each one kind of lends itself to another awkward pause. Maybe some of you out there who are either more tactful or more experienced (or both!) than me could leave some suggestions below. I typically end up stumbling over my words, and never know just how much information to give out, or how much to keep in, and if I decide NOT to give full answers, how do I do that without seeming offensive or standoff-ish? It seems like a catch-22: Either I give the truthful answer and risk stepping on toes...or I try to evade - or condense - the truth and end up stepping on toes as I retreat from the conversation.
We really feel called to adopting a child with Down Syndrome. It's hard to explain that to someone, especially if they don't happen to be religious. How do you explain - without seeming like a nutcase/Pollyanna type - that you just know that this is what you were meant to do? That you felt that you were being called to this role, by God Himself? It doesn't fit nicely into words. And then how do you go from there - being called to adopt a DS child - to answer the question of why not domestic adoption.....without stepping right into the pro-life/pro-choice mess? Adopting a DS child domestically isn't really an option, as over 90% of children with DS are aborted in our country. It's a sticky question to try and answer without stepping on toes. There has to be a non-offensive answer....I just haven't found it yet.
And then we move onto question #2. This one is even harder for me, I'll be truthful. I did struggle with the idea of physically caring for a child for the rest of my life, with a good chance of said child never leaving home or living on their own. Yes, I know there is some chance that he will be able to live independently, but there is also an inherent chance that he won't be able to ever get to that point. To give you a bit of background, Mike and I are both young. We started our family when we were barely 23 years old, after being married at just barely 22 years old. We're young. We used to often joke about how "nice" it would be to be in our early 40s when the kids were leaving home for college. We'd dream about traveling internationally again - without kids - in our 40s, while we were still quite young. Accepting the fact that adopting a special needs child was going to have to change those dreams a bit (we can still travel...just most likely won't be alone) was a hard bridge for me to cross. I'm a selfish person. I think we all are, deep down, unless we're one of the Saints. Our culture is one that breeds selfishness - always working to better ourselves without helping those around us. That's the culture I was living in - and I was being called to turn around from it and walk against the current. It was a hard call to answer in this regard, and I still don't know how to answer that question without seeming snarky or giving too much personal information. It seems to simple (and snotty, honestly) to say "Yes, I realize and accept the future caring for a child with Down Syndrome," but the long answer, including my struggles coming to embrace that future, seems too personal in a casual conversation. At the same time, though, I don't want it to come out sounding too "happy-go-lucky" and implying that we haven't given it much thought, prayer, or discussion. I would worry that a response like that would feel like I was "blowing off" the person's concern.
But the truth is that I haven't given up on any dreams - - they've just been adjusted to include this new, wonderful reality that we're walking into. My dreams aren't being crushed...they're being expanded!
Now how do I take all of this and condense it into short, socially appropriate answers?
I'm SO not good at this kind of thing....