Thursday, May 12, 2016

6 Things Not to Say When your Friends Decide to Stop Trying to Adopt

My husband and I have been trying for over 3 years to adopt another child, via the same domestic open adoption process that brought us our 6-year-old son.  After three matches in which the mothers decided to parent once the baby was born, we have decided, for a number of reasons, to stop our quest.  

We are going to be fine, and we truly appreciate all the help, prayers, and good wishes you’ve given us throughout the process.  Sometimes when things like this happen, well-meaning friends say really painful things by accident.  So, I’m just going to lay this all out here up front and spare us all the trouble.  Thanks in advance for your patience with the forthcoming rant, and I still love you even if you've said one of the things I snark about below. I just need to vent my spleen a little. Please forgive me.

Here are 6 ways you should not react to people in our situation:

1) Don’t badmouth moms who choose to parent.

Expectant mothers who make an adoption plan have every right to change their minds before they relinquish their rights.  Our dashed hopes and empty arms don’t make them bad people for choosing to parent their children.  If they weren’t sure, then I’m glad they changed their minds in time.  The last thing I would want is for them to regret their decision.

And don’t say that those kids would have been better off with us.  There’s no way to know if that is true.  They are probably perfectly happy and healthy where they are, and they don’t have to carry the losses of adoption through their lives.  

Please do not cast shade on those mothers and their kids.

2) Don’t ask, “Have you thought of trying . . .?”

Yes.  Yes, we’ve thought it.  Whatever it is, we’ve freaking thought of it.  I promise.  Yes, we’ve considered international adoption.  Yes, we’ve thought about foster care.  Yes, we considered a facilitator, a lawyer, a new agency, IVF.  Yes, we’ve heard of surrogacy.  We read the New York Times, too, you know.  And yes, we have our own, very good reasons for not choosing any of those paths.  Do you really think that people who are longing for another child didn’t consider every possibility?  Does it occur to you that we may have ethical or practical concerns you don’t understand or haven’t fully considered?  

When someone tells you they’re stopping the adoption process, she’s not looking for advice.  That ship has sailed.

3) Don’t say anything along the lines of, “Don’t give up on your dreams!  Your baby is out there somewhere!” or, “My friend waited for 7 years and had 5 reclaims and finally adopted a baby so perfect that she cured cancer and won a Nobel Peace Prize in the 8th grade and went to the Olympics so you should just hold out a little longer.  You never know when you could get THE CALL!!!! :) xoxoxox”

Bite me.  And if you know anything about adoption, you should know better, so bite me twice.  Nobody gets to decide for other people when enough stress and difficulty is enough.

The most egregious offenders in this department tend to be other hopeful adoptive parents early in their wait.  Look, I realize that seeing people quit after a long and painful wait is disheartening because it forces you to acknowledge that in a few years, that could be you.  And you want to fight against that with all the rainbows and sunshine in your arsenal.  

But the truth is, it could be you.  Regardless of whatever your agency or adoption professional told you to get you to write the first check, there are way, way more potential parents hoping to adopt than there are babies who are placed.  So don't say things that make me feel guilty or weak for doing what's best for me and my family.  It's not encouraging.  It's just obnoxious.

4) Don't say anything like, “Well, at least you won't have to get up again for those 3 am feedings, huh?” or, “You can have one of mine, har dee har!”

These also fall under the “bite me” category.  Take your fertile uterus and insensitive comments elsewhere.

5) Also unhelpful are saying, “How much money did you lose?” or, “Can you get your money back?”

None of your damn business, and it's not the money that hurts.

6) Any variation of, “It's probably for the best,” or, “It's part of God's plan,” or, “At least you have your son.”

This one bothers me the least, and it is the one I get told the most. But the thing is, I already know that there are good things about having one child and not two. I already know how lucky I am to have my son, and to have his birthfamily in our lives.  I'm already grateful for the family I have.  I'm genuinely happy with my life even with this particular disappointment in the mix.  

But I am allowed to be sad about this sometimes, and there's no need to rub in the fact that God and I aren't as yet on the same page on this one. You can just be with me when I'm sad or telling you about it. You don't have to fix it by telling me it's all for the best. What's going to fix it is time and some work on our part.

Conversely, here are some things that are perfectly okay to say to people in our situation:

“I'm sorry.  Would you like to talk about it?”
“I'm so sorry.  Do you need help getting the baby stuff out of your house?”
“I'm sorry that your family is turning out different than you had originally hoped.”
“Let's go out for coffee/ice cream/cupcakes/outlet mall shopping.”
“I brought wine.  Where's your corkscrew?”

Thanks so much for coming along on our adventure, even if we wound up climbing a different mountain than we thought it was. And thanks for being here for us as we hit a few rocks on the way down. :-)


  1. I love you. :) Sometimes, you just have to put this stuff out there, I know. We have comparable moments with Autism where you're just like ENOUGH already. I wish I could bring you wine.

  2. I love you, cuz. I know I am across the country, but I am here for you. I will happily drink some wine with you over Skype anytime.