What Not to Say To A Woman Waiting To Adopt

This guest post is by Preetha, a hopeful adoptive mother.

Being a woman, and a childless woman at that, I’ve been on the receiving end of all kinds of comments and questions related to family planning. More recently, since I’ve experienced infertility issues and made the decision to adopt, the kinds of comments I receive have morphed a bit. I understand that people mean well, but some of their comments have stirred feelings of irritation.

It might be best to steer away from certain comments or questions to women who are going through the adoption journey. Based on my experiences, these are some things that get said to me often and here’s how I usually handle them.

Now that you’re looking to adopt, you’ll get pregnant.

This seems to be a common misconception. Although it may have happened to some women, the probability of it happening to women with infertility issues is small. Also, it subtly implies that having a biological child is the preferred option. I’ve dealt with this question by politely telling the person that I’m committed to adoption. I also explain that the only way I can have a biological child is through fertility treatments, and that is not in my plan. Sometimes educating people may be a good option.

You’ll make such a good mom. How come you’re not getting picked?

Although there is a compliment in this statement, it could still hurt. The implication of this question might be that somehow we are not doing something to make our good side stand out to potential birth parents. This question irks me, but I take the time to explain to people about how open adoption works and how potential adoptive families generally get picked.

You don’t know how lucky you are to not have children.

With this comment, people may be intending to highlight the flexibility and freedom that childless women may have. However, it is still a reminder of what we don’t have. On occasion, I have chosen to not say anything to this comment.

There have been a couple of times when I have reminded people about my pregnancy loss, the difficulties I am going through to achieve motherhood, and the difficulties I sometimes experience to be part of women’s cliques . That gives them a perspective and reminds them to count their blessings.

Well, you can always consider my child as yours.

That’s very nice, but it is simply not the same as having our own. When people have said this to me, I understand that it is said in sympathy. Although it irritates me, I simply say “Thanks” and let it go.

Why did you wait so long to start a family?

If I could go back and change what I did, I would, but I can’t. This kind of a question is hurtful because some women (especially those who started planning a family relatively later) may be already feeling guilty, and this only exacerbates those feelings. When I’ve been asked this, I usually explain by saying that circumstances got in the way of my plans and there is nothing I can do now to go back and change things.

Women who are going through the adoption journey are likely to have mixed feelings that could include hope, uncertainty, and a loss of control. I think some appropriate comments to them might be something like “Good luck on your journey” or “We’re thinking of you as you go through your adoption journey.”

If others have best practices with regard to how they’ve handled questions or comments, I would love to read about them.

Preetha and her husband, Don, have been happily married for ten years and are currently living and working in Bloomington, Illinois. They are looking to expand their family through open adoption and are working with Independent Adoption Center (IAC), a licensed, non-profit organization.



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