Adoption: What Not to Say [and what to say instead]

National Adoption Month
Melonie is an adoptive mom in Iowa. Like many parents via adoption, she's had her fair share of questions that can be hurtful.

Here's Melonie in her own words with 5 questions NOT to ask an adoptive family:

1-What do you know about their “real” mom?  

I am their real mom.

This statement should in no way take away from their birth mom.

We respect and admire her more than words can describe.

She chose an adoption plan.

She is their mother.

Out of pure unselfish love she chose to give her baby a life that she could have never given her.

She chose us.

I am the one who feeds them, clothes them, provides for them, cares for them, loves them, tucks them in at night, and will do anything I can to protect them, make them feel safe, and keep them healthy.

I am not their babysitter, their daycare provider, or a substitute.

I am their mom.

My kids get confused when they hear people ask about their “real” mom.

We do talk about their birth moms and they know they are adopted but I am the only mom they have ever known and I am real.

I am their mom.

And they are my “real” kids.

They are not substitute children, second best, or a consolation prize.

They are my children.

When people ask that question I simply respond back with “Oh, you mean her birth mom?"  to gently remind them of their word choices.

If people feel the need to ask/know about the woman who gave them birth a better way to ask would be, “What do you know about their birth or natural mother?”
National Adoption Month
2- Are they sisters?  

Yes, they are sisters.

They share both a mom and a dad.

There are so many ways now to form a family that this question always shocks me.

There are full biological sisters, there are half-siblings, there are step siblings, and yes there are sisters through adoption.

If you are wanting to if they are blood related, you could ask, “Are the biological siblings?”

The important thing to understand is no matter what, they are sisters.

3-When did you get them?  

Oh this is a tough one! I didn’t run to the store and pick them up.

We spent 8 years on fertility drugs and 5 years in the adoption process, so to insinuate I just went and “got” them one day takes away from all the pain, anxiety, excitement, love, and blessing of adoption.

For us, we “got” them on the day they were born.

Even people that know we brought them home from the hospital will say things like, “It was right about the time you 'got' her?” 

I would prefer, “It was right about the time she was born.”

Instead talk about her birthday.

If there is a family that did not have a child from birth ask, “How old was she when she joined your family?”

4- Why did their mom give them away?  

This one also hurts my heart.

These women--these birth moms--did not just toss their children aside.

She made what I would imagine as the most difficult decision of her life.

She chose an adoption plan and carried a child for 9-months taking care of herself and the baby.

She went through a physical pain, a pain I will never know, when she delivered them.

She went through an emotional pain, a pain that I cannot even comprehend, when she walked out of that hospital without a part of her.

Asking why she gave them up minimizes the tough choice she made.

I pray daily that our children birth moms are at peace with their decision and now how very loved these little girls are.

When asking that question, please honor my kids birth moms by instead asking, “Why did she choose an adoption plan?”

5- Why didn’t you adopt through Foster Care? International?  

There are different ways to form a family- through birth and through adoption.

There are also many ways to form a family through adoption- step parent adoption, foster care, domestic, and international.

There is no right or wrong.

There are choices that are made as a couple, choices that not only impact you but everyone around you.

It is a choice that will affect you and your child for the rest of your lives.

It is a choice that is never taken lightly.

It is a choice that needs to be respected.

I don’t question people on why they chose to have biological children so why should I be questioned on how I chose to complete my family and which avenue I took based on that choice?

Respect our choices for you do not know what transpired to create those choices.

One more thing that I feel is important to add is something I am sure a lot of adoptive families deal with.

It is not really a question but a statement; please do not assume my child's behavior is because she is adopted.

Things like, assuming my child's shyness is because her birth mom screamed the entire pregnancy so my child withdraws when there is confrontation, assuming my daughter is a good sleeper because she must have been drug affected, assuming my daughter must have attachment disorders because she was adopted.

These are all assumptions and quite frankly ridiculous.

Are there adopted children that suffer from real things like this? Absolutely.

Are their families that have biological children who also deal with these issues? Absolutely.

I was talking to someone one day about my oldest daughter's behavior and how she does not like any arguing or confrontation of any sort.

She is growing up and things are changing in her body. She is having new emotions that she has never experienced.

As I was discussing with a friend on how I should approach this with my daughter to help her through this, I was shocked by her response: “You got her from birth, right?”

Wait, what?  

What does any of this have to do with her being adopted?

I am her mom, she is my daughter, and she is struggling with a situation that I am seeking help with, end of story.

Assuming my daughter is quiet, shy, a good sleeper, out of control, disrespectful, suffers with a learning disability, or any other trait that a lot of kids have simply because of the fact that she is adopted is offensive.

My family wants adoption to be more accepted, and I love answering questions.

They're a great way to spread the word and educate people.

So ask away, but please remember when asking those questions to chose your words carefully.

These are my children, my family, my whole world, and my entire heart.
National Adoption Month
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