What NOT To Say To Adoptive Parents

“Now that you’re adopting, you’re sure to get pregnant!”

“Oh, it happens all the time. Once you take the pressure off, you’ll get pregnant!”

I have been through adoption twice. Biological birth, once. Happens all the time? Yes, it happened to us – one time. But the first time? No.

Our world was turned upside down and our adoption threatened when we found out that I was 10 weeks pregnant. #1son was already assigned to us and we were waiting for him to come home.

Please, don’t say “Oh, that happens all the time!” It doesn’t.

It didn’t after #1daughter was adopted. And I know of only one instance where pregnancy happened during adoption – out of all the families I’ve come into contact with through the course of our journey.

While we were waiting for a decision from the agency if we could still adopt our son because of my pregnancy, those comments were of little comfort. We were already in love with our son from Korea. He was already born to us, as far as we were concerned. We had pictures. We had named him. To lose him now would be devastating. The pregnancy was no consolation prize.

I can’t tell you how many times someone said to me, “Oh, now that you’re adopting you’ll get pregnant!” I waited 11 long years for that to finally happen. So, I suppose they were right. Eventually. But I had given up all hope of pregnancy. Those comments, as well-meaning as they are, can be little stabs to your heart if you aren’t physically pregnant and you desperately want to be.  It takes away from the joy that you are pregnant in your heart with your adoptive child on the way.

In our case, in our second case, I was actually pregnant, with an adoptive son on the way. All of the well-meaning, but mildly thoughtless comments, took away from the joy of our #1son and HIS place in our family – as if he were second best. As if he were the consolation prize.

I am so grateful that I was able to experience the joy of giving birth. Of being physically pregnant as well as mentally pregnant. If it weren’t for my age, I’d go back on the fertility roller coaster all over again.

But forming a family through adoption is no consolation prize. It is an amazing, wonderful and perfectly viable way of creating family. The planning, wishing, hoping and heartache that accompanies the adoption journey makes it that much more beautiful.

Be excited for the once infertile mom if you ever hear of this happening. Be delighted for her that she gets to experience the joy of adoption and the joy of pregnancy.

Most of all, be thrilled that she is creating this amazing family.

Out of biology.

Out of need.

Out of love.


Filed under children, Motherhood, parenting, Soapbox

20 responses to “What NOT To Say To Adoptive Parents

  1. Beautifully put Jane.
    I’m reading The Red Thread by Ann Hood right now, which is about adoption. Adding a child either way to our families is the biggest blessing. How cool that you experienced it both ways.

  2. You have expressed it so beautifully!

    Lucky kids. . . lucky mom! I LOVE that picture of the brothers. (How often does THAT scene happen, by the way?! 🙂 )
    How wonderful for your two little guys to have a best friend with them all the time!

    And your beautiful, talented daughter… ! I got have a few grey hairs just from watching the cheerleading video. Moms are made of tough stuff!

  3. Neither son could possibly be the consolation prize. Both are beautiful, unique, and so loved!

  4. What a precious picture. And you say it so well–that boy was absolutely not a consolation prize.

  5. What a honest and beautiful post. I agree with my fellow bloggers, neither son is a “consolation” prize.
    What a gift is to experience childbirth in two different, but equally special ways.

  6. My 2 BFFs have children who were adopted…and they have an endless list things of never to say that I could add here!! I’m sure you’ve had them too. How about people just say “Congratulations!” and move on?

  7. unabridgedgirl

    One of my good friends just adopted a little girl. She also told me how much it bothered her when people would say, “Oh, now you’ll get pregnant!” This is a great post, Jane.

  8. As a woman who plans to add to her family via adoption as well as pregnancy, I’m captivated by posts like this. I’ve heard similar refrains from other adoptive parents and it seems that foot-in-mouth syndrome is rapant in such situations.

    As much as I agree with what you’ve said, I think these faux pas statements are as much a barometer of social uncertainty as lack of consideration. Adoption is a long, draining, and hopefully ultimately joyful experience. But learning someone is going through the adoption process can be uncomfortable for people who aren’t familiar with it and don’t know how to respond. Does it mean that they couldn’t get pregnant? Should you say congrats when they don’t have the baby yet? How to be supportive if it’s just a casual acquaintance and you don’t want to get too personal.

    Hopefully, as adoption becomes more and more common – international adoptions particularly – society will learn how to navigate these conversations in a way that is affirming but not invasive; encouraging but not dismissive.

  9. What a gorgeous picture of your sons!

    It never ceases to amaze me the foolish things decent people say. I’m sorry for the way in which their insensitive words took any shine off of your celebrations.

  10. When we went through the adoption process with both our daughters we were always considered as “substitute parents” or “second best”. That hurt.

    I love that photo.

  11. Becoming a parent is amazing, no matter which road you take to get there.

    As people, we try to say the “right thing”, but sometimes it’s very difficult to know what the “right” thing is. And sometimes we are insensitive, even though we don’t mean to be.

    Your post was beautifully put.

  12. Cheers to you Jane. Well said.

  13. No child is EVER a consolation prize… each is a precious gift. Some are given to you, some are chosen. Each is beautifully done. So glad you said it.

  14. Great post, I’m so glad you shared your insight here with others. My brother-in-law & sister-in-law have an adopted son, and one more on the way and I’m pretty sure there are even more unthinking comments that people make that they just shouldn’t. I know that people mean well most times, but it would be nice if they’d think just a little bit before sharing some of their thoughts. There is more than one way to make a family. 🙂

  15. So perfectly said. So beautifully written. I was always amazed by the things people would say to me as I was going through my fertility nightmares. We were very close to starting the adoption process as we were convinced getting pregnant was not going to happen. And I was shocked by many of the insensitive comments I got. But people were just uncomfortable with our situation I guess and TRYING to say the right thing, without thinking about what I was really going through.

    Thanks for sharing this!

  16. Amazing Jane! Kudos for you to giving a voice to all the women out there who experience the same thing 🙂

  17. Well stated–no consolation prize at all. Excellent post.

  18. Beautiful picture of your boys. What a lucky Mama you are. Thanks for sharing (and educating with) a piece of your adoption story.

  19. Wonderful post. It’s amazing what people will say to fill the silence. Of course, I’m one of those stupid, well-meaning people.

  20. That picture is so adorable! 🙂 I once heard someone tell an adoptive parent that her daughter was lucky that she (the mother) found her (hinting at the whole “rescue” thing….) She said, “No. WE are lucky that she found us.”

    Now whenever I send a congratulations card to friends who are welcoming their children home, I write, “Congratulations! You are truly blessed to have found each other.”

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