Adoption Etiquete

Most of you will be familiar with the post that Tertia has on her blog, the one about being a good friend to an Infertile, well yesterday Joni and I got chatting about how we should do something similar, put together a piece about Adoption Etiquette, what to say and what not to say.  We agreed to think about it for a while and then sit down and put the whole thing together. I know off the top of my head there are a few that come to mind straight away, but as each adoption is different, each adopter’s experience will also be different. With that in mind, I thought it would be kind of cool to make this a collaboration between us all, check out what I’ve listed below and then in the comments section leave your points as well, note, you don’t have to have adopted to participate, if you considering adoption or still in the treatment phases but adoption has crossed your mind at some point, then drop me a comment on what would and wouldn’t be ok for you.

So here are the things I thought of off the top of my head:

1. Any comment or question pertaining to the race of the baby, remember its nobodies business. So no matter how subtle or innocent you think your question is, it’s not ok to ask if the couple are adopting a child of colour and in the same vein, it’s not ok to expect a couple who have adopted a white child to explain their choice or decision to you.

2. Questions or comments relating to the birth mom or birth parents, again , this is none of your business. I HATE it that people think its ok to ask questions about our birth mom. That is Ava’s story, it’s for her and her alone and has nothing to do with anyone else. I will not share her history with the world, it is her story to tell and she alone will tell it.

3. Do not assume that the birth mom is a slutty whore who threw her child away, if you haven’t adopted, you cannot begin to imagine or know all that goes on behind that mother’s decision to give her baby up and its been my experience that in fact all the birth mom’s I know of, through friends who have adopted, are beautiful women with selfless spirits that love their children so much they choose to offer them a life they know they’re not in a position to give.

4.  The statement: “I’d never be able to adopt” or “I’d never be able to raise someone else’s child”  should never be said to someone you know has adopted – firstly, you don’t know what you’d do if you were faced with the choice of being childless, nobody knows till they get to that point where living childless becomes a very real and terrifying possibility/reality.  Secondly, children from adoption are not someone else’s child, they are our children, in every possible way, bar one.

5.  (the one that really makes me see red) That you could never adopt because you want to leave a legacy…. live in the 21st century please…. a strand of DNA does not make a legacy, a legacy is raising a loving, fair-minded, intelligent child who grows up to be an active and contributing member of society, who, through your nurturing, leave their mark on society, that is a legacy, that is what others will know, not a strand of DNA.  An adopted child is recognized by law as your legacy, all traces of their birth parents are removed from their birth certificates and their records are sealed, our names, as the adoptive parents are then put in their birth certificates, this means that the adoptive mom becomes the birth mom and the adoptive father becomes the birth father in the eyes of the law and the state.

6. But you don’t know what you’re getting… well wake up and smell the coffee… even if you had a child that was genetically your own, you wouldn’t know what you’re getting! You could land up with a child that has any number of problems. So adopting or  not adopting has very little to do with that.

7.  But what if you don’t love them like you should? Well seriously, did you ever get a new puppy and not love it? Believe me when I say to you that the love one feels for that tiny, helpless being the second you know they’re your responsibility to raise and nurture comes NO WHERE CLOSE to the love you feel for your puppy. As infertiles we often compare our dogs/cats to what it must be like having a child one day. As somebody who recently crossed over, let me assure… there is no comparison, if you take the way you feel about your furbaby and multiply that an infinite number of times you still wouldn’t get to anywhere near the love of a child, your child. You couldn’t possibly love a biological child anymore than you would an adopted child. If you believe that then you have no understanding of the human heart and of the human spirit to nurture and love.

8. What if they’re ugly? Well honey, have you looked in the mirror lately? Do you really believe that you’re going to create a Mr or Mrs Universe? And besides what on earth has that got to do with the love of a child, your child? Again, don’t confuse a strand of DNA for the love of a child.

9. And the one that makes me want to smack people, really hard, on the back of the head…. “Oh so you adopted, you know you’re going to fall pregnant now hey?” Really? That is the exception and not the rule people!

What have you got to add?

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  • Reply nolene123

    Refreshing post. As someone with my foot constantly in my mouth, this helps alot. I really do not mean to be mean, but this gives me some insight.

    My SIL was the exception to the rule. ( falling pregnant after adopting )
    Somebody actually asked her if she regrets adopting now that she can have her own. She answered very politely that he is her own.

    She also hates people telling her : I knew it would happen once you adopted. You freak ? You see into the future ? Whats the lotto numbers?

    July 20, 2010 at 11:26 am
  • Reply vroutjie

    Excellent!! Can’t think of anything to add at this stage, but will let you know if I think of anything!

    July 20, 2010 at 11:29 am
  • Reply bratty37

    Another famous line against adoptions “Don’t adopt…adopted children are always problematic because you are not their “real” Parents”….

    July 20, 2010 at 11:59 am
    • Reply Sharon

      Scchhhaaa! Unlike their un-adopted counter parts who grow up problem free and to be model members of society!

      July 20, 2010 at 12:00 pm
  • Reply holland713

    Someone made a comment a few months back that really touched a nerve. We have a beautiful little girl whom we adopted 6 years ago – she is the joy of our lives and we cannot imagine life without her. By the grace of God, we are now expecting our own biological child with the help of an amazing women who is our surrogate. We turned to surrogacy after waiting for a second adopted child – we waited for 5 years and unfortunately that was not meant to be for us – only then did we look at surrogacy. To us an adopted or biological child is truly the same – anyway, someone commented that perhaps I should freeze some of my eggs just in case we decided that we wanted a second child of OUR own. I was rather taken aback – she was basically implying that our daughter was not really ours. I wasn’t angry, just amazed at the ignorance of a well educated women. At the same time, really try and not let other people get you down – it’s not their business and oh so easy to criticize and offer advice when you have not been in the same situation. Just ignore silly comments and move on with your own life – your life has nothing to do with them and their life has nothing to do with you, so don’t take ignorant comments too seriously. Half the time, people are not meaning to hurt you, they talk before they think.

    July 20, 2010 at 12:12 pm
  • Reply tzipieastwest

    Very good initiative!
    Will think about it …

    July 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm
  • Reply gailsnail

    I can’t believe people even think of asking you some of that stuff!? I actually had a laugh at some of it – amazing!

    July 20, 2010 at 12:35 pm
  • Reply little29

    phew you covered most of the major bloopers Sharon – I have a few friends who have adopted and have heard some of those classics mentioned to them and I can literally see their blood boil,,,,,
    It is also true for “most” that some time the comments made are not meant to purposelfully hurt but rather said in pure ignorance. Just out of interest – what do you say if someone not knowing if a child was adopted mentions that he/she looks just like Dad or Mom….I am also a great one of opening my mouth to change feet and the other day whilst at a friends braai I was cooing all over this cutest baby – she really did look just like her Dad… before I could say anything the mom mentioned something about the adoption and I thought to myself…… great I almost said something that could have been uncomfortable..? Maybe or maybe not?

    July 20, 2010 at 12:45 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      Those are my best comments! 🙂 Ava has come out almost a blue print of Walter, she has my nose and my chin but everything else is Walter through and through and EVERYONE comments on that! I love it! I just smile when they say she has my nose and say yes, she does, but you should see what a carbon copy she is of her father!
      Those comments don’t hurt, they’re just confirmation that people truly do see what they want to see.
      I realize that the comments aren’t meant to hurt but there are a few people who I’ve actually told that what they’ve said is not appropriate or kind and they insist on still doing it anyway, I have no patience for that.

      July 20, 2010 at 12:48 pm
  • Reply Mash

    Number 4 has already happened to me. Followed by – nothing wrong with a life without kids you know.

    Also, any IMPLICATION that the reason you are considering adoption is so that you will magically fall pregnant, as if that is the whole reason for filling in the forms, and not to actually be blessed by the adoption.

    I feel that people are trying to find reasons for me not to adopt, as if it is some kind of a failure or a second prize. Have you tried…. (acupuncture/naturopathy/). Yes. I have. And even if I hadn’t, what’s so wrong with adopting?

    July 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm
  • Reply Nisey

    Great idea! For me the toughest is the sneery look of disbelief when people ask me if he’s my child. Well, he does call me mommy so i guess the answer is yes. its an acceptable question just wipe the look of sneery disbelief from your face please!!

    July 20, 2010 at 1:36 pm
  • Reply mandybrophy

    What really gets me hot under the collar is when people say “she is so lucky that you adopted her, imagine where she would be if you did not”. This is so heartless. Do they not realise that this magnificent little human being was meant to be ours from the time she as created. At the moment the way that we react to these statements are to express how lucky we are that God chose us to be her parents.

    July 20, 2010 at 2:41 pm
    • Reply Sharon

      I agree Mandy! Adopted children are meant for us, exactly the same was a a biological child is meant for others, just because we never birthed them does not change that fact…
      And seriously I also hate it when people say that because I don’t believe Ava is lucky for having us, I think we’re lucky to have her!

      July 20, 2010 at 4:01 pm
  • Reply TJ

    I think this Etiquette Idea is fantastic!

    July 20, 2010 at 3:41 pm
  • Reply skrambled

    Very well done….and I am in full agreement with each one.
    I can’t think of anymore though I think you have covered it.

    July 20, 2010 at 3:59 pm
  • Reply shirl34

    Awesome post Sharon!!!

    Ive been on a few parenting forums where I haven’t shared the fact that I gave a child for adoption…
    When I hear **How can a mother carry a child for 9 months and then give it away?? I could neeeeever do that!!**, It makes me want to scream. Very insensitive besides excruciatingly hurtful. And the words *give away* is so flippant. Its not like that,People!!!

    July 20, 2010 at 4:08 pm
  • Reply suestuart

    One that really upset me was “I’ll congratulate you when he’s really yours”. He really was mine the minute I held him. I don’t need to be reminded of the possibility of his BM changing her mind, it is a constant worry.

    July 20, 2010 at 4:57 pm
  • Reply zamom

    I’m just so sad that you guys have had to hear all this hurtful stuff and be subjected to everyone’s “very wise” opinions/advice.

    July 20, 2010 at 5:19 pm
  • Reply orbit365

    Thank you so much for this awesome, awesome piece of writing.
    I have a question. Not sure if it is appropriate. My friend has also adopted and the more I see her and hubby with their girl the more she looks like them. There is A LOT of love between them and they are sooooo close. Would it be inappropriate for me to say to my friend: “Karen, she looks so much like you!”?
    I am dying to tell my friend this but I am afraid that she may find it offensive. Would you find it offensive if someone said for example that Ava looks just like Walter?


    July 20, 2010 at 7:12 pm
  • Reply pandoragelb

    My worst was also some one that congratulated me, then said “I don’t know how anyone can just give a child away, I could never do that!’ Great thing to say to someone that just adopted.

    Or ‘You will never know what it is like to love your own child!’

    And despite the fact that my daughter is of a different race, someone did comment how much she looks like me! I didn’t disillusion them with the fact that she is adopted, I just said Tahnk you! I was not offended in the least, but it just confirms that people see what they want, and if that is what they want to see, carry on!

    Any questions about her history, birth parents, circumstances, ‘Registered’ name (or as they say, ‘real name’) is no-ones business.

    I also think we are lucky to have our daughter, she would have had parents who love her even if we had not adopted her.

    And of course ‘Are you going to tell her she is adopted?’ No, we are going to fob her off with lies about why she looks different to us!

    July 20, 2010 at 7:39 pm
  • Reply theresak80

    Very good, S.
    Although we haven’t adopted, we are using donor. My own mother tells me often “But what if one day he/she meets their brother or sister, not know it and start dating or even marry each other”.
    O.M.G. Give me a break.

    July 20, 2010 at 8:57 pm
  • Reply ttcnot2easy

    This is awesome Sharon. One other thing that we are going to address a little more diligently is how our siblings tell their children. We had Travers’ niece refer to the BM as her “Real Mommy”. While this is strictly speaking, the truth, when Bella is older, I am not sure how comfortable she will feel about hearing that… It pinched my heart when I heard it – but it’s not about me, it’s about Bella. And I cannot imagine what she would think when something like that gets said to her. People need to try to explain the concept to their children – particularly siblings, and your closest friends with children.

    July 21, 2010 at 7:09 am
    • Reply sarahandgia

      Hi Sharon ,

      This is great thank you .
      Mine are as follows . My niece asked while my little 7 year old (Sarah)was standing next to me why I had to buy her ? I know little ones can be cute aned yes I did try explain and educate her while her Mom stood by. We need our siblings / grandparents and other familry members to explain to there children that although Sarah and Georgia did not grown in Auntie J’s tummy they are still your cousins and they are still her daughters . I couldnt help feeling angry at my Sister in law for not explaining to her daughters about adoption – Was I wrong to feel angry? Should I have sat them down before hand and explained about adoption. I was just hurt for Sarah ,Georgia was to young to understand the comment how was she to feel that her cousin though that her Mommy and Daddy bought her , luckily as Sarah knows her story and we talk openily about adoption she knew it was not true and actually just laughed it off.

      The next one is a difficult one that I come across alot . So Sarah our first born is White and as you say Sharon she also looks identical to my husband Raoul and I also love it when people say she looks like him. Our second born Georgia is mixed race so this is what happens alot to us we always get questioned if she is our daughter , nobody asks if Sarah is ours and I understand this as she is white and looks like us. I do but here is where I get stuck I tell them yes Georgia is our daughter she was adopted then I normally go on to say just like her sister Sarah is adopted should I just leave it with the answer that Georgia is adopted and not mention Sarah’s adoption wouldnt that seem to Sarah that I dont want or am not willing to share her story ? Any Advise here?

      July 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm
  • Reply ksmind

    Love this post – keep the ideas coming.. and actually laughed out loud at some of the things you said (cos they seem so ridiculous in my mind) but also learnt a little bit, so thank you xxx

    July 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm
  • Reply coachmarcia

    I considered adoption MANY a time (did you know that, Sharon?) but D was never on board so there we go.

    Maybe because we are different races so we were always getting questions anyway (esp in the early days, just after 94…….) and didn’t want our kids to also have to answer additional questions.

    i don’t know………. but I do know I would have done almost anything for babies…….. and I love your point about not saying “oh, i could never adopt”. I said I would never do IVF until I was in that situation and HAD to. Here we go, 2 ivfs later. And I would have done more.

    But the thing that MOST gets me when I hear about any adoption is this – how LUCKY the babies are to have someone to “rescue” them.

    OH MY WORD – I can just flip. I’m afraid in my case (and maybe yours?) there is nothing altruistic about it – I wanted a baby for ME and probably I would be more blessed than the baby, every single time 🙂

    July 22, 2010 at 1:11 pm
  • Reply coachmarcia

    p.s. 2nd most annoying thing is that you will magically fall pregnant after adopting! Gosh, people can be such idiots!

    July 22, 2010 at 1:13 pm
  • Reply emk808

    Very good to know!! I’m really bad about etiquette and usually end up saying the wrong thing even when my intentions are good. (Well, I know what my father used to say about good intentions–the road to Hades is paved with them.) But anyway, thank you for posting this!

    July 23, 2010 at 8:19 am
  • Reply natshenman81

    Ah when people ask, are you her mommy in her eyes? Um well she calls me mommy, knows me as her only mommy and tells me that she comes from my heart and loves me. What else would I be to her? I nearly smacked that lady.

    I also giggle when people say Hannah has my eyes but otherwise looks just likes her daddy!

    Once I ahd someone ask me whose pretty little girl is this…so I said mine why?

    People don’t realise they bless our lives as much as we bless them! I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Great post Shar

    July 23, 2010 at 9:01 pm
  • Reply Beth

    I have truely and horrible put my foot in it in the past. As you say it wasn’t intentional and certainly not out of malice.

    I have a friend who adopted a little boy. It was a long and hard struggle but it had a very happy ending. She was very open about it and the adoption story was something her LB was often told and included in.

    Another friend adopted a litlle girl after losing her first adopted daughter to SIDS. She is also very open about how the adoptions went and will happily chat about it in front of her daughter.

    A lesbian couple I know also adopted a little boy and we had great chats about their experience.

    I don’t think I ever made too big a blunder while chatting about their children.

    One day I went to visit a friend of mine. His mother had adopted a little boy. I started chatting with her about her son’s adoption only to be shot down with a scathing look and to be told that they don’t discuss that in front of their son.

    My error was to assume that everyone approaches adoption with a similar openess and instead of letting the parent direct the flow of conversation I approached topics that were personal and out of bounds. It left me feeling like such a shit but I hope I have learnt a lesson from it. I am a pretty open person and I sometimes forget that not everyone is comfortable with discussing their lives in as much detail as I am.

    I try not to get too angry with people when they as inappropriate questions about how my boys were conceived and tactfully deflect. I was shock though with the vitriol that the mom in the above story displayed. Surely as an adoptive parent you need to realise that people will sometimes be inappropriately curious as much as they are with me as a gay parent?

    I think educating people one at a time is more healthy than being angry and defensive no matter how idiotic the question?

    My favourite inappropriate question as a lesbian parent is “Who is the father?”

    August 3, 2012 at 1:43 pm
    • Reply Lise

      Who is the father? I had such a giggle about that. Father Christmas – it is the gift that keeps on giving!

      I don’t mind people asking questions and we are very open with M as well about his fostercare. But when people keep asking questions in front of him, I get irate. It is one thing to acknowledge that he isnt out biological son, but another to keep on with the questions.

      My tack was always to be open about the situation and make it a non event. But seriously we aren’t the You Magazine’s gossip pages!

      October 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm

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