photo by JayGirlsMom
A while ago I was thinking of adopting a child. When I told a friend she asked, "But don't you want any of your own?" I was floored. Years later, a co-worker always referred to her friend's kid as "Lisa's adopted baby." That would be like saying, "Lisa's egg donor baby" or "Lisa's IVF baby" or "Lisa's got-drunk-and-forgot-to-use-a-condom baby." Grrrr.
I just don't get it. Even the press feels the need to distinguish between a couple's biological and adopted children: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have "three biological kids and three adopted kids." Why don't they just have six kids? I never did adopt (although I haven't ruled it out), but all of this drives me completely nuts. I can't imagine how such remarks affect someone who has adopted a child.
I know moms who conceived their children in all kinds of ways and I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So I asked one of my friends here at CafeMom who has adopted, JayGirlsMom (the very proud Baby Mama of 13-month-old JayLyn), if she could help us out. Here, she gives us five don'ts when speaking to someone who is considering adoption or who has already adopted.
1. Don't Tell Her Horror Stories
If someone is starting out in the adoption process, don't tell her about all the failed
adoptions you’ve heard about, read about, or even been through yourself. "Congratulate her!" says JayGirlsMom. After all, when someone tells you she's pregnant, you don't warn her about miscarriage and all the other things that could go wrong. If something does go wrong during the adoption process, support them.
2. Don't Refer to the "Real" Mother
JayGirlsMom was at the social security office filing a name change for her daughter after the adoption had been finalized. The clerk asked, "Does her real mother have anything to do with her?' JaysGirlMom quickly responded, "Yup, I'm with her every day!"
3. Don't Ask if The Baby is "Hers"
"The other day while shopping with my daughter, I was asked by four people, four people, while just in one store, if JayLyn was mine," says JayGirlsMom. "Yup. She's mine all right. All Mine! Why do people think it is their business to say that to a stranger?"
4. Don't Say, "Where is the Baby From?"
"Our daughter is Native American, Asian, and Hispanic," says JayGirlsMom. "We are Caucasian. While out, people look at her and say, 'China?' She is from Iowa! Born Here! Adopted here! Just because she is not Caucasian that doesn’t mean she was an international adoption. The United States is a culturally diverse country. In many domestic adoptions, the child has a different ethnic background than the parents."
5. Don't be Afraid to ask Genuine Questions
JayGirlsMom says, "I can only speak for myself, but I love to talk about our adoption if the person asks in a nice way. I just hate the rude sideways looks and blunt questions. All someone has to do is show an interest in our story and I love to share. I always figure they could be thinking about adoption and then I know they are really asking because they are scared about their own journey."
The bottom line: When you're talking to another mom, remember there are many ways of becoming a parent. Some women get pregnant the old-fashioned way, some use sperm donors, some use egg donors, and some adopt (and there's a whole lot more that I'm leaving out). None of these ways is better than another—a mom is a mom. Lord knows, years from now when you're trying to get your kid to brush her teeth or do her homework, you won't be thinking about how you conceived her.
As Bob Considine, a writer in Chicago once said, "I have four children. Two were adopted. I forget which two."
I would love to hear from all of you out there who have adopted (or who became moms in other ways) if you'd like to share your stories, or your "list of don'ts."