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6 Things To Say (And Not To Say) To An Adoptive Parent

April 30, 2018

It has been five years since we adopted our rainbow baby. She is marvelous in ways that cannot be expressed. When she was an infant I was often asked probing questions and listened to opinions about adoption that left me wondering how to respond. Most often those questions were about pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.

Over the years, I have been offended by many comments about adoption. Here are a few common questions and comments I’ve heard, along with ideas of what could be said instead:

  1. Is that your own child or is she adopted? Let me tell you, my adopted child is all mine. This question makes it seem as if “your own” is preferential to adopted. Is that true? I would believe for almost all adoptive parents, that is not the case. There is no part of her that I don’t love or consider as my child. I feel so lucky to be able to call her my daughter. Also, be cautious when using words in the present tense. My child WAS adopted. Unless we are actively in the process of adopting, her adoption is over and done. It happened: she was adopted and now she’s my own.Instead, you could ask, “Tell me how you came to be ___’s mom?”
  2. If we can’t conceive, we’ll just adopt. As if it is that easy. You can just snap your fingers and come to that decision. Snap them again and poof! you’ll have a baby. For many, adoption takes mountains of paperwork and years of waiting, yearning for your child to find his/her way to you.Instead, say, “Perhaps we’ll consider adoption in the future.”

    Related: Adoption After Loss Isn’t a Last Resort

  3. What an experience you missed in not giving birth and carrying a child. Many women grow up dreaming about one day having that divine experience of birth and having it end with a chubby, pink, crying baby. Perhaps the mother did experience pregnancy and it did not end with a living child. Or perhaps they went through years of suffering, waiting, and just hoping for a child. What a special gift this child must be to them. I can only imagine that the experience of birthing that child is not forefront in their mind.Instead, say, “What a gift your child must be to you.”
  4. When someone finds out your child was adopted… Is he/she yours then? Umm…yes. “Adopted” means that legally he/she is my child. No more or no less than your kids are your children.Instead, ask, “Was the adoption finalized?”
  5. Those ingrate mothers don’t deserve the choice to continue getting pregnant. (Yes, this has actually been said to me, in front of my daughter!) I love her birth mom, she gave us the most precious gift in our lives. Birth mothers who choose adoption often explain how they love their babies so much that they want a better life for them than they perhaps can offer at the time. Imagine a love so great for your child that you do everything in your power to ensure a good life for them, even placing that child for adoption with another family. I realize in some situations it may not be the birth parents’ choice to place for adoption, and I cannot speak for them. Adoption comes in many forms, as does fostering children. Yet these children deserve to live in a loving and supportive environment, regardless of the circumstances in which they joined the family.Please keep opinions such as this to yourself.
  6. I don’t know if I could love a baby that isn’t mine. This is terribly offensive for an adopted child to hear. It’s offensive to the parents of that child that he/she might be considered less than their own. Let me tell you, she is my child. I love her so completely that I often forget that I didn’t give birth to her. I don’t discount your feelings that perhaps adoption isn’t the right choice for you. I understand that it is a risk and the thought of it might make you feel vulnerable in many uncomfortable ways.Yet, this doesn’t need to be said at all. Your thoughts and feelings on adoption are irrelevant to my experience as an adoptive mother.

I recognize that many of these statements are said in honesty or inexperience, but some can really sting. I have learned to navigate the waters of infant loss and acquired adequate responses to those painful questions. Now with adoption, I’m learning to use these unwanted comments or questions as a chance to educate others about adoption. These type of statements are an important reminder for me to always choose my words wisely. I ask you to also please consider your words when speaking to adoptive parents about their child and their adoption experience.

Related: The Impact Of Words


Photo by: Ramdlon/Pixabay

  • Emily Grorud

    Emily is a very proud mom to two babies in heaven and one adopted miracle on earth. She is endlessly curious about feelings, emotions, and the ways of the world-much to her husband’s chagrin. In her free time Emily enjoys traveling, baking, and spending time with those she loves.

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