Some chicks are cool and can just have a few drinks and roll around in the back seat of a car and nine months later…bam! Baby city. Some are like me and have a much tougher go of the whole baby making thing. So, my husband and I adopted. And I take every opportunity I can to tell people how wonderful adoption can be and show off my magical little girl.
National Adoption Day, which falls on Saturday, November 19, is a day to celebrate adoptions and raise awareness for the more than 100,000 kids in foster care across the country. To do my part, here are 9 things adoptive moms want you to know about our families.
1. “Adoption” isn’t a dirty word.
Most adoptive parents know it’s good to talk openly about adoption with their kids, and you shouldn’t be afraid to bring it up either. People want to be respectful and polite, so they’ll often whisper or just mouth the word adoption when it comes up. If we truly want to normalize and encourage adoption, we can’t be afraid to talk about it. Chances are the topic makes you much more uncomfortable than it does me. I’m totally used to it.
2. But you have to respect boundaries too.
While it’s good to talk about adoption openly, it’s equally important to realize there could be some nitty-gritty details surrounding our individual adoption stories that are just too personal to share. Adoptive parents get questions like, “Do you know where her birth mom is?” which can be kind of touchy.
In our family, we’ve gotten good at telling people there are just some things “we don’t talk about.” Respect that. But if you hear something like that from an adoptive mom, she’s probably not offended—and you shouldn’t be either. There are just some things we need to keep private to protect our babies. As for our kids, experts say we should teach them it’s fine to choose not to talk about it at all, so if they seem uncomfortable with the topic, let them off the hook.
3. We are our kids’ “real” parents.
For the record, the correct terms are “birth parents” or “biological parents.” We are our adopted kids “real” parents. And interesting fact: Once the kids are adopted legally, the adoptive parents’ names are added to a new birth certificate—just like we were there in the delivery room (even if we were thousands of miles away when our LO was born).
4. Adopting is not the “easy” way to go.
We might not have stretch marks or engorged boobs, but adoptive mothers go through just as much pain in the process of getting our own babies. We endure waiting, longing, and hoping just like any other mother. And the day we bring our babies home for the first time is no less joyful. Then, there are mothers like me who came to adoption after years of heartbreak not being able to have babies of my own. Talking about adoption like it’s as simple as a quick trip to the baby store is kind of insulting. Just. Please. Don’t.
5. We aren’t all against abortion.
Contrary to the backasswardsness someone like, say, Vice President-Elect Mike Pence believes, adoption is actually not an acceptable alternative to abortion. And just because I adopted doesn’t mean I think adoption is the right choice for every mother or every family, or that women should be forced to have babies so that there are more kids available for adoption.
6. We’re not saints for adopting.
One comment I will always shut down immediately is when someone tells me how “lucky” our daughter is that we adopted her. Nope. We’re the lucky ones. She was just a kid being a kid, and our family came together in an unconventional way. By the same token, we aren’t saints for “saving” her. My husband and I are just two people who wanted a kid, and it was our privilege to finally become parents. Let’s not get it twisted up in some hero fantasy version of reality.
7. You don’t have to fit a stereotype to adopt.
If you’ve ever thought about adopting, I want you to know this: You don’t have to be rich, beautiful, or a superhuman in any way to be a successful adoptive parent. If you’re adopting through foster care, like we did, you have to prove you have a safe place for them, can take care of them financially, and meet basic physical requirements, but other than that, kids just need someone to love them. It’s getting easier, though still not easy enough, and far more common for LGBT parents to adopt too. Don’t be afraid. You can totally do it. No one is judging you, least of all the kids.
8. Adopted kids aren’t “damaged goods.”
Everyone has a nightmare story of a friend of a friend who adopted a kid that turned out to be a pyromaniac spawn of Satan. Those stories are usually total crap. The fact is that only about three out of 10 kids in foster care has any kind of diagnosable disability, according to a report from the United Cerebral Palsy and Children’s Rights. Kids in foster care and up for adoption are beautiful, healthy, wonderful kids who just need someone to love them and help them thrive. You have just as good of a chance of completely screwing up an adopted kid as you do a biological kid when it comes to helping them develop mentally and emotionally.
9. We don’t require any special treatment.
Yes, our families came together differently than yours perhaps, but we’re really just like anyone else. I don’t feel the need to coddle my 6-year-old just because she had a little trauma in the first few months of her life. Besides the few times a year it comes up, we operate just like any other family. We laugh and make fun of each other, but mostly we rip on Dad. We have family traditions and meltdowns and try to instill in my kid who her family is and where she comes from. Her path might have included a quick detour through another lady’s uterus, but that’s really all just semantics.
Happy National Adoption Day to all of the adoptive families out there and to anyone who is considering adopting a child of your own!
Although every story is different, I can tell you without hesitation adoption has brought me the greatest joy and sense of purpose of anything else in my life. Yeah, my house is messy AF now, but adoption made me whole. Don’t be afraid to go out there and get your own baby and support and celebrate the families created by adoption all around you. It’s a beautiful thing.