Tuesday, September 27, 2011

How You Can Talk to Me About Adoption

I started this post with the title "What TO Say and What NOT to Say to an Adoptive Parent." It's been since revised.  I am just not confident enough that I know what I'm talking about to make such a generality.  Thus, the title.

I recently came across a post titled, What Not to Say to Adopted People. Among other reasons I was not comfortable with the article, it just didn't give any explanation to why comments might be hurtful.  The author assumed the general population should know our perspective. Rather, my perspective.

I hope after reading this, you'll still talk to me and ask me about our adoption.  Seriously.  So many people have said so many positive encouraging things to me.  Here are some super positive ways to approach the subject:

  • "I am excited for you in this process and look forward to hearing your reflections when you look back on it."
This statement shows you assume the positive, that you believe we will have a family, and that you will be there for me in the future.

  • "How can I specifically pray for you?"
What better way to offer support than prayer?  There have been times I've been so lost that I've relied on others to pray for me, knowing I didn't have the faith or strength to pray on my behalf.

  • "What are you most excited about in this process?"
No matter how I am feeling, I can always share how excited I am to watch Lainey play soccer, learn to manage her hair, go on walks with her, and  introduce her to her Opa and Grandma.

  • "Are you willing to share your fears with me?" 

Like any parent, I do have fears.  Sometimes I would like to talk about them, but most of the time I'd rather not focus on them.


Now...onto the section of the post about what not to say.  At least, what not to say to me.  General rule is simple: Unless you and I are seriously tight and it is completely necessary, please, please, please refrain from saying anything remotely negative about adoption.  Just as you wouldn't mention the hemorrhoids, weight gain and heartburn to a newly pregnant woman, please avoid mentioning the alternates, risks, and unknowns of adoption to me.

Here are a few examples of what I mean.

  • "You just wait, you are going to get pregnant right after you adopt."

Avoid this statement and ones like it because it simply isn't true.  If you are speaking to me, this is not true because I am on birth control.  We have chosen adoption as our path to start a family, and statements like this one implies you believe having a biological child is the better way.  To us, it just isn't. And if I do get pregnant, I am fairly certain the correct formula for getting pregnant wasn't adoption.

If you are making this statement to another adoptive mother, please consider this:  You likely do not know what she has been through or how and why she decided to adopt. Perhaps she has grieved over multiple miscarriages, or she or her husband cannot physically have bio children. You may have reminded her of the hurt, pain, tears, and grief she has overcome.  Or maybe, just maybe, she chose first to have a family through adoption. Comments like the one above carry the tone that family completion is achieved through having biological children. For many people, for a variety of reasons, this just isn't the case.

I do understand that you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who got pregnant right after adopting.  But for every one of those women, there are thousands who have a different story.  If it weren't unique, it wouldn't be so interesting.

  • "I know a couple who adopted and sent the kid back because she wasn't the right fit for them." or "Are you worried her personality just won't fit with yours?"
We would no more send Lainey back than a biological mom would return her child to her womb. We are emotionally attached to her and have claimed her as our child.  She is our daughter.

The latter statement, no matter how well intentioned, still can hurt. Of course we worry about that! Most parents are hopeful their child is even tempered and adjusts well within her surroundings, and we are too. But statements like this one remind us of the little control we have.

  • "Let me know if your feelings on adoption change after the process."

OK, this one doesn't need explanation. But I still had to include it.  Why would someone say something like this?  I'd never say that to someone, on the eve of the most exciting, challenging part of their life.  Wow.  Kill-joy!

  • "Why don't you just adopt from our own backyard?  Plenty of kids are needy here, too."
True.  And maybe we will.  But we choose not to place value on children based on where they are born.  Our hearts were led to adopt from Ethiopia .  We believe God "hand-picked" Lainey for us from the side of the road outside a little village there. We did not choose to adopt from Ethiopia to save the world, or even to save one child.  (We know adoption is not the answer to the orphan crisis in Africa.)  Regardless, we DID choose Ethiopia, and it wasn't a decision we made lightly.  


Again, I hope you won't avoid talking to me about the most exciting thing in our lives right now.  But whatever you say, I'd so appreciate if you give me "an out" to the conversation. Sometimes I am overwhelmed, tired, and just plain scared this will all fall apart any minute.  During those times, I really just want to get through the day without talking about it.

I need friends and I need support.  Thanks for being open to learn alongside of me!


  1. Thank you for writing this - I appreciate your candidness and honesty. My faith leads me to believe that all of mankind was written by God long, long ago. Lainey was always going to be yours, that was God's intention from the beginning of time. He was just waiting on you to make the choices that he had already made. Miraculous, isn't it?

    :) Meredith

  2. SUPER. GREAT. POST! Sensitive, gracious, and truthful. Love it!

  3. Hey there I don't comment often enough so you would know I keep you in my regular prayers, but I do and will continue. I can't wait to hear you parenting stories, and see your wonderful family grow and develop. Julie