When we adopted Lily, she was 3. Things changed for us at a speed we were not expecting. When we had our son, Thomas, biologically, we found the pressure and the stress of parenting to be the same, but the level of support was very, very different. Looking back, we didn't get the support we so desperately needed when we brought Lily home. I think people -- even today -- don't think that adoptive parents go through the same things that you do when you have a biological child. People say some pretty insensitive things to me about adoption almost on a weekly basis. These days, we don't really talk about Lily's adoption, since it has been six years. But in the beginning, a barrage of ridiculous, utterly insensitive crap came from the mouths of people around us. Since it's National Adoption Month, I thought it would be fitting to maybe help people reword some of their questions when speaking about adoption. All of these statements have been said to me more than a handful times. I know! It's crazy!
1. "You are so lucky you never had to go through childbirth and gain weight and experience depression and contractions and all of that stuff. Adoption is so much easier." (This is usually accompanied by an equally inconsiderate laugh and nudge.) No! Instead, I went through two years of heartache, waiting and stress to birth my adopted child from my heart! While there isn't a biological change in your body, there is the same sort of mental state when you have a child. Check in on your friends or family who have adopted a child. Regardless of the child's age, the adjustment to life with a child is still exactly the same and sometimes a little more challenging, depending on what the child has gone through.
2. "So, will you have your own children?" This is the most insulting, insensitive thing you could ever utter. Think about this statement: Your OWN children... so what is my adopted child? Maybe the term "biological children" would be a better way to word this.
3. "We've always wanted to adopt, after we have a couple of our own first." What does that mean! That's awful to say. Don't say that. You are setting yourself and your children up for confusion. Get rid of that "my own" children part. When a child enters your life and your family, he or she becomes YOUR child, regardless of how that happened.
4. "She looks nothing like you." Thanks for pointing out the obvious... in front of my child. I have encountered this so many times, and now I just smile at the person saying it and give them a death stare! Lily gets nervous and waits to see how I respond. Why would someone point this out, anyway?
5. "So, where are her REAL parents?" What do you mean, real parents? I am the real parent. You mean the biological parent?
6. "Does she have any issues?" I have had strangers ask me this question. Why in the world would you ever think this is appropriate to ask? Why would I tell you -- and why do you assume that all adopted kids have issues? Not all have issues, and even if they do have issues, they're the same sort of issues all kids have.
7. "Are you afraid she will want to see her real mom one day?" Again with the "real" word. I am her real mom, and yes, I'm sure that one day, she will want to meet her biological parents, and we will deal with it. Just remember that this topic is very sensitive to adoptive parents. It's something we know will happen, and we have been prepared for it from birth -- so imagine going through a decade or more always knowing in the back of your mind that your child might want to meet his or her biological parent one day. As supportive as I am of this, it tugs at my heart.
8. "Now that you've adopted, you will totally get pregnant!" Not OK to say on many levels. Why do you have to think that everyone who adopts tries to get pregnant first? Not everyone wants a biological child. And for those of us who have tried to conceive and haven't been able to, that was a rough, emotional, expensive road... so joking about how a mom will get pregnant is not funny or welcome.
9. "How much did she cost?" What an awful question to ask someone. We are talking about a child. She cost nothing. Do I ask you how much your biological child cost, with her hospital fees, doctor visits, shots? Yes, we had adoption fees and travel costs, but "SHE" did not cost anything. She is a child, just like my biological child.
10. "That's so sweet. We adopted our dog, too." Not the same, people. We are talking about children here. I like to say, "We rescued our dog." The term "adopted" being used related to dogs or highways can be very demeaning to kids. Kids hear this and think... oh, it devalues me. We've had conversations about this with Lily. So please, find other words to describe your rescued dog or cleanup of the highway.
11. "So, if you could get pregnant, why did you adopt?" Because some people like me believe in adoption and don't really worry about having biological children. A child is a child... is a child.
We have been blessed with the best of angels, who has made my life complete and shows me ways to be a better human every day... just like my biological child. I love talking about our adoption process, and I love talking about Lily. These comments and questions hurt the heart, and when the child hears some of this, it's particularly confusing.
From "30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days," a series designed to give a voice to people with widely varying experiences, including birthparents, adoptees, adoptive parents, foster parents, waiting adoptive parents and others touched by adoption: