Kim Kelley-Wagner never married, but she always knew she wanted children. So when she saw a story in Time Magazine about Chinese adoptees, she suddenly found herself looking into adoption.
After taking some time to be sure of her decision, she made the leap. In 2001, Kelley-Wagner adopted 10-month-old Liliana. Later, in 2008, she adopted 2-year-old Meika.
Adopting two daughters didn’t make Kelley-Wagner feel any less of a mother than the women who gave birth to their children. Being adopted didn’t make Liliana or Meika feel less like daughters. Unfortunately, many others didn’t seem to share their sentiments.
“The comments began right from the start,” Kelley-Wagner says. “We would be shopping, and cashiers or store clerks would say things like, ‘How much did she cost?’ or ‘You could have bought a car for what it probably cost to adopt her.’”
Some were so insensitive that they began attacking the younger daughter Meika who had a bilateral cleft lip and palate when she was born. People openly questioned why Kelley-Wagner didn’t choose a “perfect” child.
Rather than allow these comments to anger her and her daughters, Kelly-Wagner decided to turn this into a project. Hoping to teach other people about their hurtful comments while simultaneously providing an outlet for her daughters to express themselves, she came up with a photo project where her daughters hold up the comments that were thrown at their family.
Both of her daughters agreed to the project and agreed that it could help bring awareness to how hurtful statements can be.
Rather than respond with anger, Kelley-Wagner encourages her daughter to instead make people realize what they’re saying. “My advice to them is, leave your offenders speechless,” she says. “I think people are curious and don’t know any better.”
The daughters seem to be following their mothers footsteps. Kelley-Wagner recalls a woman who said she could not truly love someone she didn’t give birth too. Liliana then responded, “Oh, did you give birth to your husband?”