Yes, It Matters What You Say

Our words are powerful. Poet, Pearl Strachan Hurd said, “Handle them carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” They have the ability to speak life or destroy it. “The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21). They have the ability to heal relationships or break them. “The tongue has no bones, but is strong enough to break a heart. So be careful with your words” (Unknown Author).

Implementing positive adoption language is such an integral part of navigating the adoption process. I stress the importance of being mindful of our language to my families because it is so valuable to learn early on in their journey. How we speak of and to an expectant mother (before birth/adoption) or birth mother (after birth/adoption) can have positive or negative implications. How we speak of and about adoption can bring life or create dissonance.

Below I examine a few terms to avoid and examples of positive adoption language to implement.

***Side note: The intent of this post is not to point a finger. Rather, it is to provide awareness and education on the importance of our language when discussing adoption.***

Term to Avoid: “give up”/ “put up for adoption”
Positive Adoption Language: “place for adoption”/ “made an adoption plan”/ “choosing adoption”

The term “give up” and “put up” should be avoided because it implies that a birth mother gave up on her child. Also, when we discuss “giving up” something it’s typically attached to a negative connotation; “I gave up smoking” or “I gave up eating junk food.” What do these things have in common? They are bad for you. Using this negative terminology can send a message that the child was unwanted. Choosing adoption for your child is not giving up. It’s quite the opposite. Placing a child for adoption is a selfless act of unconditional love. It’s a life GIVING type of love.

 Term to Avoid: “children of your own”
Positive Adoption Language: “biological children”

I’ve heard many couples say, “We can’t have our own children.” And while I know what they mean, it’s important to be mindful of our choice of words here, as it speaks volumes to the world about how you view adoption. This explanation is faulty in many ways, namely because it implies that a child who was adopted isn’t really a part of the family or isn’t as loved as a biological child is or would be.

One of the most hurtful comments ever said to me was from a stranger, “Are you going to have any children of your own?” Perplexed, I looked down at my beautiful children and back up at the older gentleman. I could only muster up five words: “Yes, these are my children.” I regretted not taking a few minutes to explain why his choice of words was hurtful. But exhaustion prevented my lips from expressing what my heart wanted to say. Our children are our children. They are not any “less” our children because they didn’t grow in stomach for 9 months. They’re not any “less” our children because they don’t have our DNA. They are our children. Period. DNA doesn’t make a family. Love does.

Term to Avoid: “keep her child”
Positive Adoption Language: “chose to parent”

The term, “keep her child,” implies that the child is a possession or an object and gravely fails to consider the responsibilities that are involved in choosing to parent. It also undermines the difficulty that the mother faced while coming to terms with her decision. Using the term, “chose to parent” is a much more accurate, helpful and respectful description of the woman’s decision.

Term to Avoid: “real/natural parents”
Positive Adoption Language: A) Before birth/adoption: “expectant parents,” “expectant mother,” “expectant father” B) After birth/adoption: “birth parents,” “birth mother,” “birth father”

Using the terms, “real/natural parents” imply that adoptive relationships are artificial, temporary and somehow “less than par.” It diminishes and ignores the role of the parents. Using positive adoption language (expectant parents/birth parents) is a way to honor the parents and the birth family, as it demonstrates the important role that both play in the child’s life.

Term to Avoid: “is adopted”/ “adopted child”
Positive Adoption Language: “was adopted”/ “child”

The child was adopted (past tense). Continuing to use the phrase “is adopted” or “adopted child” is unhelpful, as it can create feelings of distance between the child and his/her parents. When our twins’ adoption was finalized they not only took on our last name, but a judge told us what we knew all along: they are our son and daughter as if they were born to us.

Yes, our words matter. Without intending to, sometimes the language we use in adoption can evoke negative feelings. Even though ill intent was never planned, words are powerful and have lasting effect. Choose your words wisely. Choose words that extend honor and respect towards all parties of the adoption triad (adoptee, birth family, adoptive family).

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Fear In The Adoption Process

How will we afford the cost associated with adoption? What if the expectant mother changes her mind? What if there is a history of mental health issues? What if the expectant mother used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy? Are we too old to be considered? Do we have too many children to be desirable to an expectant mother?

As an adoption consultant these questions, concerns and fears enter the conversation quite frequently. But, I can relate. When my husband and I started our adoption journey we had similar concerns. Below, I will examine a few of the most common questions I receive as a consultant.

1. How will we afford the cost associated with adoption?  Adoption can be expensive. The cost associated with adoption was one our biggest concerns before walking into the process. If this is one of your fears you are not alone. I would say it’s one of the most common questions I get asked about when a family is inquiring about adoption, “How will we afford it?” And yet, time and time again I see families blown away by the faithfulness of God through the generosity of friends, family and even complete strangers. At Christian Adoption Consultants, we also provide our families with resources and tools on how to fund their adoption through grants, loans, and fundraising.

2. What if the expectant mother changes her mind? Although Christian Adoption Consultants has a lower adoption failure rate (< 20%) than the nation wide failure rate (50-60%), there will always be some level of risk in the adoption process. When a woman is considering an adoption plan for her child, she is making one of the most difficult decisions of her life. Placing a child for adoption is a sacrificial and selfless act of unconditional love. Unless you’ve walked through this yourself, than you can’t possibly understand the thoughts and feelings that surround this decision. No one can predict whether or not an expectant mother will change her mind. However, if you are living and breathing on this earth, then risk is inevitable. You can’t be immune to it; it’s a part of life. A gynecologist can’t guarantee a full-term pregnancy, as there is 1 in 4 chances that a woman will miscarry. But that risk doesn’t prevent couples from trying. There are many potential side effects of prescription drugs and medicine, and yet the majority rarely think twice about taking a pill. At CAC we walk with our families and assist them in navigating the warnings signs to reduce the levels of risks associated with the adoption process.

3. What if there is a history of mental health issues or the expectant mother used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy? I often hear couples say, “We just want a healthy baby.” Drug and alcohol exposure during pregnancy and a history of mental health issues are not uncommon in adoption. The desire for a healthy child isn’t abnormal, but in reality this is something that can’t be guaranteed, even in what some would consider the “best case scenario.” My mother took care of herself, ate healthy and exercised, but in between my older sister and I had 3 miscarriages. When she finally gave birth to me I was diagnosed with cancer and given less than 10% chance of living. I know women who had healthy babies at birth that later developed physical, mental health and/or learning issues. If you are considering adoption, please know that I don’t share this information with you to evoke fear. Rather, I share this to remind you that risk is a part of life and adoption is no exception. I’m confident that God equips families with His grace and strength to handle whatever circumstances may come their way, as I have seen this to be true in my own life.

4. Will we ever get chosen? Many couples express concerns about whether or not their family will be desirable to an expectant mother. “Are we too old? Are we too young? Do we have too many children?” Every expectant mother has their own set of preferences for an adoptive family. Perhaps one expectant mother may desire a family with many children for her little one to play with. Another expectant mother may prefer a family who has a history of infertility because she feels as though she is giving them something they cannot give themselves. Regardless of your situation, God is using everything about your family to connect with an expectant mother, even when you can’t quite see what He is up to. 

When my husband and I were functioning and making decisions through a “what I can handle” lens, fear quickly became a familiar visitor. However, our worry began dissipating when we stopped thinking with an autonomous mentality and started reminding ourselves that our source of strength does not begin or end with ourselves. It is God who equips us with all that we need to journey through this life (and the adoption process)! It also brought us great comfort to know that we couldn’t mess up or miss out on the story God was writing for our family.

If we had let fear govern our decision-making, we probably never would have started the adoption process. And then we would have missed out on the two biggest blessings of our life: Roman and Ruby. Fears and concerns may arise and when they do my prayer is that you would remember the Author who is writing your story-the One who will equip with you everything you need to accomplish everything He will bring along your path.

 

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

More Than A Brave Decision

Roman charges at me from across the room and jumps into my lap, bear-hugging me with his arms gripped tightly around my neck, almost knocking me over, all while giggling hysterically. Ruby hears a good beat and instantly begins busting some moves as if she knows the song like the back of her hand, all while belly laughing so hard that she can’t help herself from falling over. She then gets back up again and does the same thing again and again. As I sit back and look at our beautiful children, my heart beams with pride and gratefulness. They are bright little lights to this world, so full of joy. They’ve filled our hearts and home to the brim. I love being their mama. But in these heightened moments of joy and laughter, I can’t help but think of their birth mama and the brave decision she made in choosing adoption for her children. However, it wasn’t just a brave decision; it was the most difficult and heart wrenching decision of her life.

Although I completely understand why people use the word “beautiful” to describe adoption, it’s also a deeply complex and difficult process and can’t be summarized in one word or phrase. There are juxtapositions and tensions in adoption that I sometimes find difficult to absorb. There are three legs to the adoption triad: the adoptee, the birthmother, and the adoptive parents. For the most part, society is only privy to one side of adoption: the parents who have adopted a child. And this is understandable. After all, it’s the relationship our friends and family witness for themselves.

In a perfect world, adoption wouldn’t exist. However, the reality is that we don’t live in a perfect world. We live on the other side of the Fall, where brokenness, pain and death reside. Although beauty can be found in the brokenness of life, it doesn’t erase all of the pain or hurt that one encountered to get there. Regardless of how beautiful adoption can be, there is loss and brokenness within it. When a woman chooses adoption for her child, she is making the most difficult decision of her life. Placing a child for adoption is a sacrificial and selfless act of unconditional love. As the baby grows inside of her womb, the birth mama feels the baby kick and respond to her voice, and she visually sees the child growing inside of her. Can you imagine the emotions she feels as she places her baby into the arms of another woman who her child will one day call “mama?” I can’t imagine that type of loss.

Imagine for a moment leaving the hospital without the child that you grew in your belly for 9 months. As you walk through the door to your home, the quietness overwhelms you. Someone is missing. There is no baby there to wake you up in the middle of the night, there is no baby to feed or sing lullabies to, there is no baby to swaddle and snuggle, and there are no more late night talks to the little one that was growing inside of your belly. Your baby is being cared for by another woman. And you chose this mother and father to be the parents of your child. But, even if you’ve found peace in your decision and are confident that you made the right one, that doesn’t negate all of the pain and feelings of emptiness associated with the loss. Imagine answering questions from curious co-workers and friends about the baby, and having constant reminders like stretch marks or possible scars from the c-section you painfully endured. However, the stretch marks and scars on your body pale in comparison to the scars on your heart. I can’t imagine that type of loss.

Sometimes I am reminded of this loss as I’m rocking the twins to sleep. Roman will look up at me with those beautiful big brown eyes and I can’t help but think of his birth mom. In that moment, I’m overwhelmed by the full weight of the juxtapositions surrounding adoption. Her greatest loss made me a mama. My arms are full while her arms are empty. My house is filled with the sight and sounds of toddlers running around, babbling, throwing toys everywhere and giggling uncontrollable, while her house is quiet. Thinking about all of the “firsts” she will never experience first hand brings the most complex feelings and emotions to the surface. Even now, I find it difficult to articulate these thoughts.

Adoption is more than a brave decision. Adoption is one of the most selfless, sacrificial acts of unconditional love that any human being can do for another, one that entails great loss. The grieving process for birth moms is complex, ongoing and a lifelong process to work through. These women deserve our utmost love, prayers and respect. They have given us a piece of their heart, one that they are entrusting us with forever.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***