Tag Archives: biracial kids

Another Not-Adopted Tale

While we were being admitted to the hospital ward, a nurse came in to ask me questions about Violet’s health history. The first question out of her mouth?

“I assume she’s adopted.”

No. No, she’s not.

The nurse was looking at chart information that included Violet’s extremely Asian last name. If she was adopted, she would probably have an American last name, no? I know I was throwing her off because I was a white woman standing with an Asian-looking baby, but the last name was there. In fact, I’m pretty sure MY name was also on the paperwork. I remember them taking my name at the ER triage. Our last name’s are the same. In fact, I took that very Asian last name to avoid this sort of confusion.

I explained that Violet is my biological daughter.

“Oh wow! She looks like she’s completely Asian.”

Um, ok. Thanks for your input. It would be fine if Violet did look 100% Asian, but she really doesn’t. For starters, she has brown hair. This was the first time anyone has ever told me that Violet didn’t look enough like me to pass for my biological daughter, and though this has happened with Rose a few times and once with Lily, I was really surprised. It’s hard to imagine that people think your baby didn’t come out of your body when you are still nursing her.

“Well, this will make the medical questions easier because you’ll know all the answers.”

Now that I can handle. I could see why medically it would be important to know if my daughter was adopted, but we probably should have gone straight to the questions about birth without voicing assumptions about my kid. If she was adopted and I didn’t know the answers, I’d tell you.

Seriously, we have the same Asian last name and I believe I’d already told someone she was still being breastfed. It’s pretty obvious that I married an Asian, took his last name and then had half Asian children.

Now I’m wondering how often people make that assumption while we are in public and are too polite to say anything.



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That Time I Paid a Specialist to Tell Me My Child is Asian

Violet was really cross-eyed when she was born, but that’s not uncommon. I had thought that the problem had corrected itself, but a couple months ago it seemed to come back. She looked slightly cross-eyed to me most of the time. At a check-up, her pediatrician saw the crossing and referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist.

I was terrified we’d walk out of that appointment with a baby wearing glasses. As adorable as baby glasses are, I really didn’t want to deal with fighting her to keep the glasses on.

Luckily, my fear didn’t become a reality.

Our ophthalmologist happens to be of Korean descent, just like my husband. After he examined Violet, he pulled a picture of his own daughter out of a nearby drawer and said Violet AND his daughter have pseudoesotropia, which basically means pseudo-cross-eyed. They look cross-eyed, but they aren’t cross-eyed at all. It’s a common physical trait in Asian kids. It’s my understanding that what happens is the epicanthal fold (what makes an eye look Asian) can obscure the view of the eye and make it appear like it’s crossing when it is not.

I essentially took my child to a specialist to have her diagnosed as Asian.

When I reported the doctor’s findings to my husband, the son of Korean immigrants, he laughed and said “YOU should have known that!” as a joke. Really, he’s the one who should have known this and warned me! But he didn’t. He’s completely oblivious to most of the things I need to know as the white mother of three Asian kids. As a result, white girl me took my daughter to a specialist to get her diagnosed as having Asian eyes. “Why yes, ma’am, your Korean daughter DOES have an epicanthal fold! Good job noticing it!”

What’s sad is this is not the first time I’ve worried about a common Asian trait. When Rose was a baby, I was scared about what appeared to be a vicious bruise on her lower back. It turned out to be a Mongolian spot, which 90% of Asian children have. My husband was oblivious to this too.

And these are the things you never consider when you become the mother of biracial children. You might just take your child to the doctor to have them diagnosed as being a member of that other race. In my defense, the source I linked to says pseudoesotropia is one of the leading reasons parents take their infants to ophthalmologists! So, I’m not the only idiot running to the doctor to have their kid diagnosed as Asian.

(I’m aware pseudoesotropia is not limited to Asians and does not equal Asian, but the way it was explained to me just made me laugh at myself.)


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The White Swan

While we were at the zoo today, a woman came up to me and asked if I’d stayed at the White Swan. I didn’t understand what she’d asked me. White Swan? What? Why would I be staying at a hotel? I live 30 minutes away from the zoo. Why would she ask that? She repeated herself and then added “in China?”

It took another moment to register. China? I’ve never been to China! Why the hell would a random stranger ask me about a hotel in China? Why would she assume I’d been to China?

Oh wait. I’m surrounded by Asian little girls!

Apparently she thought I’d been to China to get my children. According to Wikipedia, the White Swan is a hotel many American adoptive parents stay in while waiting for their children’s visas to go through. Perhaps asking if I stayed at the “White Swan” was code for “Hey! We’re both adoptive moms!”. Later on, I realized she had an Asian little girl in tow.

I’ve only had a couple of people ask me if the girls were adopted before. For the most part, people are either too polite to ask or are wise enough to figure out they are mixed. More often, I get the “What’s their father?” question. Is “a human” an appropriate answer to that question? How about “a chemistry teacher”? Why do so many strangers want to know the answer to that question? How could they possibly benefit from that information?

This was the first time a Chinese adoption mother vocally assumed I also adopted my children. It really surprised me. All three of our kids have brown hair. I thought someone who lived with an Asian kid could see that my kids were not full blooded based on their hair alone– though I suppose you could adopt biracial kids from China too. I had three little girls with brown hair with me. It seems unlikely that I would be able to three mixed race kids from China.

Though I usually find the “Are they adopted?” question completely rude, for some reason when it comes from an actual adoptive mom it is ok. She assumed we had a shared life-altering experience in a foreign country when in fact all I’ve done was make my own Asian kids in my uterus.

What a bizarre experience. I wonder if there is a secret world out there where this is how people greet each other. “Did you stay at the White Swan?” Maybe it is code for the whole “hey fellow adoptive parent!” thing and the rest of us are just completely in the dark about it.

I suspect as my kids start moving through the school system the adoption question will start popping up more, but for now it’s still few and far between. Insider tips: Unless you have adopted or biracial kids yourself, you are only allowed to ask questions about someone’s kids orgins AFTER you establish a relationship with the family and never in front of the kids.


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Fun with Birthmarks, Part 1

My children both have birthmarks that I stupidly confused for other things for months and, in one case, YEARS. How can a mother be so ignorant? We’ll explore my stupidity today and tomorrow.

When Rose was born, she had what seemed to me to be a tremendous birth bruise on her poor little bottom. I felt horrible that she’d gotten squeezed so tightly on her way out. The bruise looked so painful! But none of the doctors ever said anything about it, so I figured she would probably be ok.

Days passed, then weeks, then months. The bruise didn’t seem to be healing. We’d been to the doctor for check-ups without the doctor noticing the bruise and I kept forgetting to bring it up, but I was starting to worry. All of her other birth scrapes and bruises had disappeared. I couldn’t figure out why this giant, purple and grey bruise wouldn’t go away.

Finally it occurred to me that maybe it wasn’t a bruise. I googled it.

And it wasn’t a bruise at all. It was a Mongolian spot (click to see how much these things look like bruises), a type of birthmark so common among Asians that it actually has an Asian name. In fact, 90% of Asians are born with Mongolian spots. Mongolian spots look so much like bruises, that some parents in the US have been accused of child abuse because of them. You are actually supposed to have your pediatrician document Mongolian spots just in case someone tries to claim you’ve been hitting your kid.

Um, somebody needed to warn the white girl giving birth to a half Asian baby about these things. I had no clue. None. It seems like something I should have known. Maybe my husband’s parents just assumed all people had or knew about Mongolian spots, but no. I didn’t know. My husband was ruefully ignorant of all things baby, so he didn’t know about it either.

I felt so dumb when I found out I’d been mistaking my daughter’s birthmark for a bruise for MONTHS. (But not as dumb as I felt when I realized something I thought was dirt for YEARS was a birthmark. More on that tomorrow.)

The good news is that the bruise birthmark should fade by the time Rose goes to kindergarten. It’s already faded a bit since her baby days, but it still very much looks like we’ve been beating her.

We haven’t.



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