STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Our colleague Scott Simon remembers the moment that he and his wife decided to adopt. Scott and Caroline Simon traveled twice to China to bring back children.
In his new book, "Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other," the Saturday host of NPR's WEEKEND EDITION says they decided to adopt after struggling to conceive.
SCOTT SIMON: We'd both been around the world. We'd both seen different places. We had - we'd both been in places where there were a lot of children who'd been abandoned, and we just looked at each other and said, why are we doing this? There are children in the world now who need our love, and we sure need them.
INSKEEP: This really is an emotional choice that you make. If you made a rational - if you had a rational thought process about it, if you tried to consider it as a business decision, you wouldn't really do it. It's something you do because you want to do it.
SIMON: It is an emotional choice. And for some people, adoption is just something that will - that they think will never work with them, and so they decide not to do it - all of that being said, I would like to open that door for people.
It is difficult, time-consuming and expensive to adopt a child in this country, whether it's - whether you adopt internationally, as my wife and I did, whether you adopt domestically, may I say, as your family did.
SIMON: As your parents did.
INSKEEP: My parents did. Yes.
SIMON: And because of that, for a lot of people, the assisted fertility industry is just an obvious alternative of that. That being said, look, the instinct to adopt, to take children into our lives, is, I think, practically as old as childbirth.
INSKEEP: How much did you think about the fact, in advance, that the baby you were going to adopt from China was going to be a Chinese baby?
SIMON: You know, we knew it, but I can't say we thought about it much. And we certainly didn't think about it - we went to China to get both of our little girls. We want to travel back to China every few years, so they can get a chance to see the country up close as they grow up. But all of that being said, it's a feature of their personality. It's, I think, not the defining trait of our relationship.
INSKEEP: You write that somebody asked your wife: Do you feel guilty for taking your daughters away from their native culture?
SIMON: Yeah - a very learned woman who we like a lot, who's a friend of the family. And my wife just answered: No, not really. I think I would have had a tougher time holding my tongue. And that's because - when we talk about ethnicity, we say Chinese. To someone who's Chinese, that's not necessarily their ethnicity. There're almost one hundred ethnicities that are living in China. So, in a sense, we don't really know their ethnicity, so we shouldn't get, I think, too preoccupied with it.
One of my favorite vignettes that I have in the book is about Martin Simon, who is the son of the late Paul Simon, senator from Illinois - no relation to me, alas - and Jean Simon, who grew up with - it appeared on his birth certificate that he was Native American. And he grew up - his father was an influential member of the Senate Subcommittee on Native American Affairs. He deliberately (unintelligible)...
INSKEEP: Deliberately - I know, I've got a - yeah. Got an adopted son.
SIMON: And people of his, high school friends would look at him and say, you know, Martin, he's part Cherokee. And people would say, yeah. Yeah. You can tell when you look at him. And you might see where this story is going.
Years later, he's 28 years old. He meets his birth mother, who's only 15 years older than him. They're talking and reaching out to each other and enjoying getting to know each other. But as he said to me, she looked just about as Native American as Diana, Princess of Wales. And he finally said to her, how we are Indian? And she said, Indian? He said, yes. On my birth certificate, it says Native American. And she said, oh, they asked me what we were, and I said we're all American.
(Soundbite of laughter)
SIMON: And he said, you know, I spent all that time going to powwows. I mean, he felt Native American. He didn't feel Scandinavian, which turns out to be his ethnic heritage.
But I think the point of that, firstly, is the power of suggestion. He said, all of those years, nobody ever looked at him and said, come on, now. You're not American Indian. And I think it's also an instruction to us to not invest too much of our identity in ethnicity.
INSKEEP: You're kids must be getting to that age - if they haven't practically always been in it - when they start asking you awkward questions about everything. What are some of the hardest questions you've heard from your kids?
SIMON: Oh, the hardest question I've heard is from our seven-year-old daughter, Elise, who says: Why did my mother give up? And that's a rough one.
(Soundbite of crying, laughter)
SIMON: I'm sorry. As you know, I get this way when I talk about my children.
INSKEEP: It's okay.
SIMON: That's a rough one, because she's old enough to understand that she was given up by a woman who, when we tell her you're mother loved you and she wanted to take care of you for the rest of your life and she wanted to be a mother to you, but she just couldn't. Yet it's hard, I think, for a seven-year-old to understand - how do you explain China's one-child policy? How do you explain...
INSKEEP: The bias towards that one child being a boy, rather than a girl.
SIMON: Exactly, yeah. How do you really explain that? She also - you know, children tend not to be metaphorical the way we are. They're literal. So she asks - because we've told her the story that we know, that she was left in front of a light bulb factory. And she says - she asks: Was I cold?
SIMON: And, well, we say no, you weren't. Your mother wrapped you up before she put you there on the sidewalk, pretty confident that you'd be discovered by someone who would help you. So she wrapped you up.
But, you know, I think to a degree, I really respect in both of our youngsters - and it's audible now with Elise. They're comfortable with being adopted. There is no way that we're going to be able to spare them the sting and the hurt of feeling that, at some point, there was someone who gave them up, no matter how many times we explain your mother loved you, no matter how many times we explained that we're grateful for the courage your mother had to even bear you in China.
I don't think we can spare her the hurt. But, you know, we learn from hurts in life, don't we? You know? We put something over them, and we keep on going. And I think our two daughters are going to be very strong, in part, because of that. I don't think they're going to be broken by that.
INSKEEP: Scott Simon's latest book is called "Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other."
SIMON: Thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
INSKEEP: Visit Scott's family here at NPR.org.
It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer.
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