Adoption is a wonderful, and weird, process. I hesitate to use the word “journey,” as many people do, because I never felt like I was going anywhere. I just felt like I was waiting and filling out pages and pages of forms.
Adoption, while a completely wonderful way to build a family, still has stigma attached to it that compels people to talk in hushed voices. But adoption is rarely a secret for anyone, including the adoptee. Try to think of it as something common, like brushing your teeth or hiding in the bathroom to snarf down a piece of chocolate before your kids find you.
I think part of the secrecy is no one really knows what words to use for fear of offending someone. I’m here to tell you that my adoptive family would much rather have you ask what terminology to use than not ask any questions at all.
For example, one of the most common phrases that trips people up is how to refer to the woman who gave birth. The answer is birthmother. There is no “real mom” or “biological mom.” No one in our situation is fictitious or a science experiment. Although sometimes I feel like an experiment in testing the limits of how long one human can go without quality sleep.
When asking after the birthmom, please tread lightly. It’s perfectly wonderful to ask after the health and wellbeing of her after birth, just like you would anyone else, and it’s only natural to be curious. But when you start asking specifics, adoptive parents can bristle for two reasons (maybe more). The birthmom’s story is hers and the adoptee’s. It’s not really polite to tell it without permission, which adoptive parents probably don’t have. But if the adoptive parents or the adoptee want to talk, by all means, listen.
Which leads us to our second reason: please don’t judge the birthmom. Someone once made a cruel statement to me about our birthmom and her morals and I was surprised at my reaction. I was protective and offended. Our birthmom will always hold a special place in my heart, so please be mindful of how precious she is to us.
I’ve had people ask if my kids really are brother and sister. Yes, they are adopted, but by nature of being twins, they are related. Even if they weren’t twins, they really would be brother and sister. Adoption is cool like that.
Nope, we didn’t get to choose the gender of the kids. Adopting isn’t like walking into a 7-11 on a hot day to pick out a cool drink. A good rule of thumb: Kids are people, not Slurpees. Much like having a kid the good ol’ fashioned way, you get what you get.
All in all, please, ask your questions. Erase the stigma. Be mindful. And if you’re ever unsure remember this: Google is your friend.
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