What Not to Say to Adoptive ParentsAugust 22, 2017
Proverbs 12:18 - The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
As an adoptive parent, I have heard so many unintentionally ignorant things. I am sure that, given some extra thought and care, many of the questions that have come off of people’s lips would have been rephrased if given the chance. I understand that not everyone adopts or has a heart to adopt so there will be questions. Don’t get me wrong, I do love the questions. I love sharing our adoption story. Our daughter’s adoption was a perfectly timed miracle in our lives. I have learned so much about God and about people because of it.
And so, I wanted to create somewhat of a public service announcement for those who have not adopted but have family and friends who have adopted or are currently in the process of adopting – particularly those that are adopting because of fertility issues. These are some statements and questions that we were on the receiving end of that I would recommend you re-think before saying them to others. I do not share them to condemn or shame anyone. Please don’t feel badly if you may have said any one of these to us or another adoptive parent. That’s the beauty of grace. My prayer would be that we would make more of an effort to think before we speak (something I need to work on daily!).
- “As soon as you adopt, you’ll get pregnant. It happened to so and so…”
As much as I appreciate the sentiment of encouragement here, this was actually painful to hear. God, in His sovereign will, allowed us to be infertile and guided us to adopt our daughter. This statement, while maybe true for a select few, was not true for us. In actuality, it came off as negating the amazing thing that God was doing in our lives through enabling us to adopt our daughter.
- “Do you know your daughter’s real family?”
Real… as opposed to fake? The last thing I consider myself to be is my daughter’s ‘fake’ mom. My husband is not a ‘fake’ dad. We got up with her in the night throughout her infancy. We changed her diapers and (barely) survived potty training. We drive her to and from school. We make sure she is fed and clothed. There is nothing fake about the day in and day out living that we do with our daughter. A better way to phrase this question would be to call her birth family what they are: birth-mom, biological mom, birth-father, biological father, maternal grandparents, paternal grandparents, etc. Those are welcomed terms.
- “Why did your daughter’s birth-mom get rid of her?”
Firstly, that’s a personal question for a third person who I can only speculate about. Secondly, when talking about a child, the term “get rid of” is a bit harsh. Our daughter’s birth-mom did not terminate her pregnancy. In choosing to give her life and give her to a family that could care for her, she did the furthest thing from getting rid of her child. She gave our daughter a life more full than she was capable of giving at that time in her life. We are so grateful for her!
- “If you took oral contraceptives, they probably made you infertile.”
Three words: GOD IS SOVEREIGN. I fully and firmly believe that there is nothing that I could have done differently to alter the outcome of any difficult circumstance in my life. God chose that I would have to go through infertility even before my body was created in my own mother’s womb. It was not a surprise to Him or an after-thought. And, He has used it for His glory as I have a deeper faith than if I hadn’t suffered at all. I live because He lets me live. He is full of grace and He is fully in control.
- “Don’t you worry that your daughter’s biological family will come and take her back?”
Actually, no. There are laws in place for that. She is legally our child. On the other hand, we have an open adoption. We see our daughter’s biological family a couple of times every year. They are wonderful, caring, gentle-hearted, and giving people. Our daughter enjoys spending time with them and we love that she will always know where she came from and have a connection to her birth family. That is not threatening to us at all. We are blessed to have extra family to love our daughter.
- “You had to adopt? That’s too bad.”
It’s too bad that we had a loving home waiting for a child who was in need of a loving home? I don’t think so. Yes, our fertility issues ended in us adopting. We don’t believe our choice was second-rate compared to if we had further pursued treatments. Adopting a child to grow our family is no less of a miracle than if we had conceived one ourselves.
- “Aren’t you still going to try to have your own kids?”
Our adopted daughter is our own child. Why would we continue on the arduous journey of fertility treatments when God gave us a child through adoption? The physical, mental, emotional and spiritual toll of an infertility journey is overwhelming. I wouldn’t return to that time in my life for anything. This question again targets this preconceived notion that an adopted child is less-than a biological child. We did not settle when we adopted. We followed God’s leading and are continuously blessed because of it.
- “How are you going to tell your daughter she’s adopted?”
We are actually very open with our daughter about her adoption. It’s something she’s always known about. In today’s day and age, closed adoptions are simply not an option. And, why would I want to hide this miracle from her? The past stigma and shame of adoption needs to be eradicated. I am not ashamed of my choice to adopt and I will never allow my daughter to feel any shame related to her adoption either.
- “How much did your child cost?”
The journey that lead to adopting my daughter cost me years of anguish, plenty of tears and a near mental breakdown. The actual adoption was the easy part. As a rule of thumb, don’t ask adoptive parents questions you wouldn’t want to field about your own biological children.
- “We went through fertility treatments. We must have wanted kids more than you did.”
This statement is another painful one as it’s coming from the perspective of someone who also journeyed through infertility and still felt the need to say it. Just because my husband and I decided not to subject ourselves to potential years of fertility treatments for the minimal chance of success, doesn’t mean that our choice to adopt was a lesser choice. We wanted a child. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have adopted.
- “Was it hard to love a child that you’re not blood-related to?”
To be honest, I wondered this as well. Would I be able to love anyone enough to live the sacrificial life of a parent? I wasn’t sure. But, I absolutely love our daughter as much as one can love a child. I don’t feel differently about her because my blood isn’t flowing through her veins. I ask this question of God daily: Is it hard to love me? In my humanity, I would assume so. But, God isn’t human and His love is all encompassing. What a wonderful picture adoption gives of a loving God who also adopted us into His family through no effort of our own. Ephesians 1:4-6 says, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.”
Here’s one final thought… I don’t want to over simplify all of the above, but what this all comes down to is stated well in Luke 6:31, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” If you wouldn’t appreciate being asked one of the above questions, simply don’t. But if you do, there is love and forgiveness and grace offered to you by all of us adoptive parents. We absolutely appreciate that you care enough even to ask us about our adoption experience. But, maybe don’t ask any of the above mentioned questions. :)
- “As soon as you adopt, you’ll get pregnant. It happened to so and so…”