Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Something to Talk About

As we get closer to our little Peanut's fifth birthday, I am more and more grateful for the miracle of adoption.  There really aren't words, my friends.  Somehow this little life that you didn't conceive, that you didn't carry, that you didn't birth -- somehow this life has born a love in your soul that you didn't even realize was possible.  My favorite thing to tell people about adoption is that "I wonder if I could love a biological child as much as I love Lilia."

Thankfully our culture has come a great long way in its understanding and acceptance of adoption.  This is a good thing (especially because God has always celebrated it, both spiritually and physically -- lots of adoption in the Bible, folks).  Thankfully my experience with people who find out Lilia is adopted has been, generally speaking, quite positive.  I have lots of friends with adopted kids, too, and most of them usually have the same kind of experience.  Not all of them, though, or not all of the time.

So even though, yes, our culture has come a long way in its understanding and acceptance of adoption, there are some steps that would still be well worth taking.  And since I am an adoptive mommy with a Ferocious Mother Bear Love for her adopted bear cub, I thought that I might take a few moments to lay out some guidelines as gently and tenderly as I can.  Hey, none of us is perfect, and if you've said something really stupid to an adoptive mommy (me or someone else), then chances are I've said ten more stupid things to John Doe about any number of topics under the sun.

But here are some things to keep in mind:

1. Do not ask, "Are you going to have any of your own children?"  We all know what you really mean, but please do NOT word it in this way.  The Fierce Mommy Love is just hugely offended by this wording, rightly or wrongly.  This kid is my own.  Period.  A better choice of wording would be, "Are you going to have anymore children?"

2. When referring to the biological mom or dad, PLEASE use the phrase "birth mother or birth father."  Again, we all know what you mean when you say "REAL mom," but just follow the logic of the above point.  I'm the real mom.  My husband is the real dad.  That "real mom and dad" stuff just rips our hearts to shreds.  And worse, it may confuse our kid if she happens to overhear you.

3. If you ask, "Does she know that she's adopted?" please do not ask it in the presence of said child.  If she happens not to know, she will undoubtedly know by the time the final syllable of this question has escaped your lips.  (And yes, she does know).

4. Please do not say something like, "Well, now you'll be pregnant in no time," or some other such remark involving reproductive fertility.  
First, most adoptive parents -- but not all -- have experienced fertility problems, and with that, no small amount of emotional pain.  They probably do not want "to go there" on the topic of pregnancy.  

Second, adoption is not a means to an end (hey, if we adopt this kid then we'll probably get pregnant -- yay for us!).  Please, please, please hear me on this one.  The child given through adoption is just as precious to the parents (and yes, maybe even a teensy bit more so) as the child given through pregnancy.  Also, this precious adopted child has brought a great deal of healing to the parents over the pain of not conceiving.  We do not regret the absence of pregnancy.  We regret that we could not carry the adopted child.

Thirdly, there is probably still some lingering pain there for the parents involving infertility and how this might affect family size (if a larger family is wished for).  It's probably best to simply avoid the topic altogether. 

5. If you happen to come across parents with kids of another color, and if this happens to offend you, and if you cannot think of anything beautiful or tactful to say, then PLEASE do not say anything at all.

6. If you happen to be gung-ho about breast feeding, please do not get on this soapbox in the presence of an adoptive mommy.  We adoptive mommies cannot breast feed our children.  We did not produce milk.  We must give them formula.  And we would like to hold on to some small shred of hope, however feeble, that feeding our babies formula will not be the means of completely annihilating their physical, emotional, and social development through the years.  (Sheesh).

7. Please do not speak about the "inevitable" problems that will arise because of genetic heritage.  Wherever you are on the Nature versus Nurture spectrum, I think most of us can agree that there is a fair number of factors on BOTH sides that contribute to a kid's personality, the good or the bad.  Whether raising an adoptive or a biological child, there WILL BE problems because we are all sinners.  But there will be beautiful things, too, because we are all created in God's image.  Parenting is hard enough without worrying about things over which we have zero control.

8. If you are someone who has considered adoption and then decided against it, please do not explain by saying, in the presence of an adoptive parent, "because I never thought I could love an adopted child as much as I love my own."  Hopefully I do not have to elaborate on this one.  It should be a no-brainer.

9. Please respect the adoptive parents and their decision on the Open versus Closed Adoption spectrum.  My hubby and I happen to lean toward preferring a more Closed Adoption, and we have our reasons.  Lots of our friends have more Open Adoptions, and they have their reasons.  The last thing we need is people telling us "we should have done it that way."  It is a decision based on conscience for every adoptive family, and all of us are doing what we believe is truly the best thing for our families and our children.

10.  This one is a little different, but... Please give baby showers for adoptive mommies.  We are just as excited about the baby coming to us as a pregnant lady is for hers. We have waited and longed for the child, too.  And even though it's not in our tummy (or maybe baby is already here!), we still really really really want the joy of opening baby gifts and celebrating with our family and friends.  And please DO go all out -- invites, plans, decorations -- yes, even if it's post-baby!  Let those Adoptive Mommies get the full-on experience. 

So in summary, please just be careful how things are worded in the presence of adoptive parents (or the adopted child!).  We know that things are very rarely meant to hurt; but the hurt can be real, nonetheless.  There's lots of anxieties attending adoption, anyway, so please celebrate with us and choose your words carefully.

And to end on a truly eloquent note -- Yay for Adoption!!  And Yay for a little Peanut named Lilia, who has spent the better portion of the past five years teaching Jerry and I what it means to love.