Sunday, July 12, 2009

Adoption Pet Peeves

This post was originally published in MEM's MEMOS on November 2, 2007

Here are three or four "Adoption Pet Peeves" I'd like to share in order to educate others about what NOT to say to anyone who has been adopted, placed a child for adoption, or who has gone through the adoption process.

#1) If you'll notice the terminology I used above, you'll see that I used the phrase "placed a child for adoption" rather than "gave up" for adoption. The reasoning behind this should be evident- if you were adopted would you want to believe that your birthparents "gave you up" like a piece of trash being thrown into the garbage can? Of course not. Furthermore, if you were a birthmother or birthfather who decided to unselflessly put the needs of your child above your own wants or needs by carrying the child to term and searching out for the best possible family for that child's future would you like people to describe your choice as "giving a child up"? God bless those wonderful birthmothers out there for their selflessness!

Even though someone may come to the realization that the term "gave up for" is not the best one to use, many people still use it out of habit. (I used to say it too, not because I was callous, but just because it's what everyone would say to describe adoption.) Here's a suggestion: The next time you happen to hear someone say "gave up" in reference to adoption just gently say, "You mean "placed"?" and it will make them a little more aware of the implications of what they're saying.

#2) Another term I hate people use is when they say of an infertile couple, "They had to adopt." (As if it's a terrible thing). This reminds me of when I hear Mormons say, "I can't drink/smoke/etc. because I'm a Mormon." Well, I happen to be L.D.S. and I can drink, smoke, or rob banks as much I want to. However, I choose not to. The same goes for adoption. My husband and I didn't have to adopt. We wanted to adopt- we chose to adopt!

#3) If a couple has decided to adopt because of infertility issues, please be aware that this is a very personal part of their life and they may not want to discuss it with complete strangers. Case in point: I met one of my husband's relatives for the first time a couple of years ago. As I was being introduced to her I smiled and stuck out my hand for her to shake. The first thing to come out of her mouth was "Alice [name has been changed] tells me you can't have children."

I was stunned and now that I look back on it I love to imagine all of the comments I could have said in reply i.e. "Well, nice to meet you, too!" "You must be head of the Weloming Committee!". "Yeah, ever since that sex change operation my body just hasn't been the same." "I'm sorry- I didn't get the memo that we were going to be discussing my breeding abilities today.". . . You get the picture. But in actuality, I was so taken by suprise that I just stood there with a blank look on my face and nothing would even come out of my mouth. Perhaps I was a little sensitive that day, but that comment felt like an unexpected slap in my face.

Something interesting to note as well, is that "Alice" did not know at that point in time if the cause of our infertility was actually because of me or my husband- [It turns out that the problem did lie with me- but we didn't know that until later]. It's just interesting to note how people always assume it's the woman.

So, what should you do if you want to talk about infertility issues with someone who may be going through them? (And I'm just assuming it would be someone close to you and not a compete stranger!) I have felt that the best thing to do is ask that person if it is something they are comfortable talking about. It's as simple as that. I have another relative who knew that my husband and I wanted to have children but were unsuccessful and she sensitively approached us and asked us if it was okay if she talked to us about some possible options of fertility treatments and specialists of which she had first-hand knowledge. Although we didn't end up pursuing any of those options, we appreciated her concern and her tact in approaching the subject.

#4) This one is not as big of a pet peeve of mine as it is of my husband. He reminded me the other day that I need to be a little more assertive about how I handle these situations when they come up. When talking about an adoptive couple's child's biological parent, please refer to them by using the term "birthmother" or " birthfather" instead of "mom" or "dad". Here is an example of what I mean: Someone was recently noticing our baby's beautiful eyes and they asked, "What color are her mom's eyes?" I immediately tried to remember what color of eyes our baby's birthmother had, but at the same time I was thinking. . . "Wait a minute-I'm this baby's mom. She didn't grow in my womb, but she is mine." I answered the question, but my husband says that the next time someone asks "What color hair does her mom have?" or "What's her mom like?", etc I should look directly at them and say, "You're looking at her."

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