My wife, Heather, posted the following on her Facebook page yesterday, and I have been given special dispensation to reproduce it here:
I have three beautiful children through the wonderful gift of adoption. Over the years I have had many conversations about adoption with well-meaning people. Many of these people have no idea what it means to adopt, and therefore blunder into some innocent mistakes of etiquette. Here are a few of my somewhat blunt thoughts on aspects of those conversations.
1. Know that when you ask me about my children’s family, I automatically assume you mean me and my husband. So when I give you that confused look, I am just processing what you just asked and translating it into what you meant. What you really meant was my children’s birth family or biological family. Family of origin is also an acceptable term.
2. Know also that I am not a full time babysitter. I am a mother. I did not give birth to my children, but, as a very wise and dear woman told me once, they did not grow under my heart, but in it.
3. Yes, there are many differences between being an adoptive mother and one that had the privilege of carrying her child in her womb for nine months. I can’t talk to you about pregnancy, labor and delivery, or breastfeeding. But there still is postpartum depression. It’s the low after you get off the roller coaster. I have had two very short “pregnancies”, two very painful “miscarriages” and one fourteen-month “pregnancy”. Actually, that last one was almost two years if you count it from the time we first heard about him. I have been up at all hours of the night for feedings, diaper changes, sicknesses, and night terrors. Just like any other mother.
4. If every person that wanted to have a baby had to go through the paperwork, background checks, and homestudies that border on confessions or intense psychotherapy sessions, then there would be a lot fewer babies out there.
5. Very important! I have the utmost respect for my children’s birthmothers, and the choice that they all made to give birth, rather than terminate, their pregnancies. I can’t fathom the difficult decisions they had to make to choose life, and the courage that it took to do so. They are heroes to me.
6. When you talk about my children’s “real mom” it baffles me. I am not a fake mom, last I checked. I feed them, and clothe them, kiss their boo-boos, and comfort them. I tuck them in at night with a bedtime story, kiss and a hug, prayers and more kisses and hugs. It doesn’t get more real than that. Oh, and did I mention changing the diapers and cleaning up the vomit?
7. Nature versus nurture. No, it doesn’t make it any easier knowing that I have no genetic influence on behavior, aptitude and personality. It makes it harder because I then blame everything on nurture.
8. I love my children and would do anything for them, wouldn’t you?
9. When you talk about having children of your own, once again, I might give you that slightly confused look. My children are my own. They do not belong to someone else. I have the birth certificates, with our names as parents on them, to prove it. I also have the memories, both good and bad, to prove it.
10. For those of my Christian friends, understanding and/or appreciating adoption should be somewhat easy. We are adopted sons and daughters of God, called to be full and real members of the family of God, the Church, with all the rights and graces and privileges of one born to Him. Children who are adopted share fully in the life and love of their adopted parents; their sonship and daughership is real, not merely metaphorical or poetic.
These points might seem a bit negative. But that is only because the point of this note is to highlight those aspects of conversations that seem a bit odd or off to me, when well intentioned people try to converse with me about a subject that can admittedly be sensitive. But they do so without realizing how they should be sensitive, and charge ahead, full speed, not realizing the offense they cause. So maybe this will help someone in the future who may find themselves in a conversation with another adoptive mother. I, personally, am almost past any shock or hurt feelings. I’ve literally heard it all before.
To her last point, we've now been adoptive parents for over ten years, and we've heard a lot of encouraging, kind, and lovely comments during that time. But we've also heard some strange and even surreal remarks, oftentimes made directly to us by good people who don't seem to get that saying things such as, "Oh, it must be strange raising chidren who aren't yours...", or, "Will you let them meet their real parents some day?" are, well, hurtful. And, frankly, weird. I'm convinced that there are some folks who cannot, for whatever reason, wrap their heads or hearts around what adoption is and is not. Be that as it may, I think Heather's comments, far from being negative, are both heartfelt and helpful.