As we wrap up National Adoption Month, we reflect on the tough stuff of adoption. Yes, this is a month to celebrate the beauty that is a family coming together, but we don't forget that it is often forged out of a heartache. This is absolutely a month for sharing positive adoption language, because without it we perpetuate the negative stigma for birth parents and adoptees. However, we acknowledge some adoptees are processing how they feel about their own story. Their love for their parents may be strong, but it may still come with doubts and frustration about the choices other people made for their life. We'll close this month with a reflection on bonding from one of our adoptive moms. We hope that no matter where you are in the adoption circle, you can come to appreciate the love shared in this difficult journey...
Dare I say it out loud? Am I willing to speak my reality when it seems as though no one else is talking about it? For me, bonding didn't happen immediately. In a lot of ways, it has come more intentionally than naturally. Sometimes it was downright hard and I found myself grieving the loss of the fairytale idea that love flows easily.
But there is so much beauty in our story. There is comfort in knowing that love doesn't just happen or not... and if not, then what? There is hope in knowing that love is a million tiny choices all strung together. Many of my choices were not made out of innate and immediate boundedness, but rather, out of the vision I have for the relationship I desire with my son in the future - and making choices now that actively lead us there.
Thankfully, in other ways it has felt so beautifully natural to love him. In fact, as he has grown, there has been an obvious shift. The momentum of bondedness has taken off and the moments of natural closeness have started to outweigh the need for intentionality and suddenly all those moments of actively making the choice to love all seem more than worth it!
It's okay, healthy even, to acknowledge when love doesn't flow easily. I can tell you that there is rich reward in the choice to let it grow intentionally. My heart beams when I can honestly say my love for him is deep and rich, and it's much more real than a fairytale.
"Things not helpful to ask an adoptee"
1 Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
I wanted to start out with this verse as a beautiful reminder to be faithful stewards of God’s grace to everyone in any situation. There have been times in my life that things have been asked or said about adoption to me that have caused some pain or hurt feelings. But I constantly remind myself that almost always, people are not intentionally causing hurt with the questions they ask, but genuinely want to know about the life of an adoptee. This is where grace comes in. I find it beautiful when people ask me about being adopted because it shows that they really truly want to know my story and reminds me of how God handcrafted my unique life.
For those of you who are not adopted—keep asking questions about adoption stories. You will see the power of love, courage, strength, hope, and many other qualities in adoption journeys—you may even shed a few tears. Included below I have a few helpful tips on how to ask questions with adoption friendly language and a few examples of questions that have not been the most helpful.
Have you ever met your “real” mom?
This question is completely valid and one that I get asked quite often. To reword this question, I would say, Have you ever met your birth mom? Both my birth mother and my mother play a role in my life in helping me shape the woman that I am today. Using the word “real” takes away this importance role that my mother plays. Both these women play real roles in my life and both deserve the respect of the part that they have played in my life. I always distinguish the woman that gave birth to me as my birth mom, and the woman who adopted me as mom. One word of encouragement is to always ask the adoptee how they would like you to refer to the individuals in their adoption story—this always means the world to me when people ask this simple question!
Is that your “adoptive” family?
This question once again is a valid but adding the word “adoptive” makes it seem as though my family is different than others. I don’t view my family as my “adoptive” family—they are my family despite that our DNA and genetics are different. Love is what creates our family and I have never felt different or out of place in my family. I have the same relationships with my parents and sisters like any other typical family that had their kids biologically. To distinct the two, I call the family that adopted me simply as my family or the family that adopted me and my biological family as my birth family. The simple switch of words from “adoptive” family to family that adopted me really makes a difference.
Why did your birthparents “give” you up?
I believe that my birthparents didn’t “give” me up. I believe my birthparents instead gave me the gift of love and life. They put my needs above their own wants and desires, which gives me the upmost respect for them. After meeting with my birthfather for the first time, he made certain that I knew how hard of a decision it was for them to place me up for adoption. By saying that they simply “gave” me up, makes it seem as if they didn’t want to keep me as their own—which was one of the hardest choices in their life. They wanted me to have the best future possible; which they knew wouldn’t happen at this time in their life. I have nothing but love and respect for the birth family that loved me. Removing the words that my birthparents “gave” me up, validates the tough choice that they had to make. Instead this question could be asked, Why were you placed for adoption?
I know that every adoptee may feel different emotions when questions are asked about their adoption story. In the moments when questions are asked that may cause pain or hurt; I encourage the adoptee to respond first with grace and help explain to the one asking questions what examples of positive adoption language. By implementing adoption friendly language, all people involved in the adoption journey will feel valued, important, and loved for their role in the journey. The adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family equally play an important part in the adoption story—the story simply wouldn’t exist without each of them.
Your story matters,
1 John 3: 1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God…”
Working with expectant parents who want to make a life-affirming decision. Preparing couples to grow their family through domestic infant adoption.