Carrie is an adoptive mama with spunk. She and her husband, Tory recently adopted their daughter this spring and have been enjoying parenthood. Throughout their journey to becoming parents, she blogged openly and honestly about the challenges they faced. I wanted to share her thoughts from her blog, Recipes for Lemons, about what to say (and maybe more importantly what NOT to say) to a couple adopting...
I think every infertility blogger at some point has a post on what to say/not say to people struggling with infertility. The "just relax and it will happen" is one comment that is ridiculously common and likely makes the recipient want to punch something.
Less often, I see blog posts on what to not say to people going through the adoption process or those that have already adopted. Yet, I feel this area is just ripe for insensitive, malicious, or simply uneducated comments. I'm probably more open right now to talking about our adoption plans with strangers than friends...more than likely because I won't have to backtrack if there is ultimately a disruption. I can have more unadulterated excitement. So when my dental hygienist yesterday was asking if we had kids, she received a whole mouthful (in awesome mumbling fashion, given my state) of our plans. She was the nicest person ever, but said so many stupid things that it made me want to write this post as soon as possible.
Many of these don't apply to close friends. One, we know how to shut you down or correct your language if necessary. Two, we've discussed our whole journey in such lengths to you that we know exactly why you may ask something. But realize your openness with us may not apply to someone else you know less well, so these are still very valid concerns.
So off we go:
Did you try to have your own children?
"Did you try to have a real child?"
"Are you sad you're not having your own child/a real child?"
"Aren't you excited to finally have your own child/real child?" (to someone pregnant after adopting their first)
No. No, no, no. Our adopted child WILL be our own child. We will love her unconditionally, nurture her, fight for her, kiss her boo boos, discipline her, become frustrated with her, and bond with her so much our insides will ache when she is hurting in any way. She will be our child, our parents' grandchild, our siblings' niece. While she will always know her adoption story, her relationship to us will not be defined by that.
If for some crazy reason we ever have a biological child, there will be no difference between them besides how they scientifically are connected to us. We would never differentiate them to anyone. Yes, our adopted child will have a birth family that is very important to us, but that birth family will also be very important to a biological child in that case. They will be extended family to our ENTIRE family.
I understand the intent behind the question, and if I'm open to talking about our infertility struggles, I will certainly acknowledge that. But "own" is not the appropriate modifier to use ever. And I can't even comment the use of a "real child" without throwing up. Yes, this adopted child is not real. Her poops will be rainbows, and she'll fly away to her home in the clouds every night.
You know you'll get pregnant now that you've adopted.
Probably not. If we do, it was going to happen whether or not we've adopted. But we love kids and want kids and, as stated above, they would all be our kids. Many people active in the adoption process have worked through painful infertility issues, so please be cognizant that this comment belittles that struggle. We have worked very hard to grieve for our loss of the pregnancy experience and move on. Let us.
How much did she cost?
Ouch. Icky. What do I say to that? "She was $5 - they gave us a 10% discount because she didn't have blue eyes." Yes, the adoption process costs a bundle. Our child won't cost us anything (beyond diapers, formula, clothes, extracurricular activities, ER co-pays for broken arms, college education, and our sanity.)
If you are genuinely looking into adoption, I'll happily walk you through the costs and what drives them. If you are just grotesquely interested, I'll certainly note the process can be costly, but it is worth it. If your response is that the birth mother must be happy because she is getting so much money (from said dental hygienist above), I will try to squelch the desire to stop talking to you and remember that you just simply don't know.
For education, the majority of our expenses (like 90% worth) never see the birth mother at all. They are agency fees, legal fees, travel expenses, state paperwork, etc. The birth mother receives some money related to specifically identifiable expenses related to the carrying of the child. It is not that much, and she sure as hell isn't able to change her lifestyle because of them.
Is the birth mother young/a deadbeat/a drug addict/mentally unstable/a one-armed albino?
I get curiosity, especially if one has or desires children in his or her own family. But this question is none of your business, especially if you are a stranger to me. Granted, somehow the fact that I am adopting/have adopted has come up to elicit this question, so I get it is a normal one. But a birth mother is a person with emotions, struggles and triumphs like the rest of us. She is not just a piece of paper with checkboxes, and her motives are complex. Her life decisions are her own, and not for you nor I to judge. My answer will be that she does not have the stability in her life right now that she needs.
That's so cool. I totally think I'm going to adopt my third child. Especially if I have another boy - I can get a girl that way!
Great for you! Please just go down to the adoption superstore and pick one out! They are having a blowout sale on girls! Adoption is a difficult, stressful, expensive, mind-numbing journey. It involves multiple people and their struggles. The baby doesn't just pop up from nowhere.
I'll just smile and nod to this one.
Any sort of adoption advice from someone who hasn't gone through it.
This one is tricky because it does include my lovely friends. But I just sat through someone explaining to me that FMLA exists and I can use it for taking adoption leave. And another at work who literally just today forwarded me the adoption policies from our employer intranet, and was excited to tell me she found information for me (bless her heart). You can trust that I have done every ounce of research there is, and if you found something by searching "adoption" and clicking on the first or second link, you have not discovered anything I don't know.
I'm sure I'll have a bunch more down the line, but these are the ones that stirred me up recently. Also, I haven't remotely delved into those that are related to transracial or international adoption families (the expectant couple we are matched with are both Caucasian), but I implore you to especially think before you speak in those cases.
But to offset, here are some of the totally fine (and some lovely!) comments I've received (again using "strangers" as the measuring stick. I expect nothing less of my good friends and family, wink, wink).
Are you able to meet the birth parents? How does that work? (or after placement- asking how communication is going is perfectly okay)
How long does the process take?
Are you planning to be open with the child about the adoption? Will she be able to meet her birth family?
I am so happy for you and your family. I will keep you and the birth family in my prayers.
I think you guys will be such awesome parents.
I can't wait to meet my granddaughter. (thanks mom!)
You are going to be so blessed. Yeah, I know.
For more information on using positive adoption language, click this link.