No offense, but people say some incredibly dumb things to people who have adopted or are in the process of adopting. Most of the comments are bred out of well-meaning inquiries or a lack of understanding about the process, so adoptive parents have some degree of patience answering questions. But there are a few that are downright offensive, even if you don’t perceive them to be when asking. To save yourself and adoptive families some embarrassment, here are six things you should never say to adoptive parents.
1. How much did the baby cost?
The adoption process does not consist of adoptive parents going to the baby store and picking out a baby. There is no price tag. No matter how you grow your family, having a baby is expensive. Think of the doctor’s appointments and hospital bills that come with pregnancy, not to mention all the stuff the baby needs. Adoptive parents just pay for the “having a baby” costs in a different way and with different timing versus the costs of giving birth. It isn’t a relevant question.
2. Are you ever going to get your baby?
This is a question adoptive parents receive when they are in the waiting stage of adoption. This period is full of anxiety and stress with the occasional wild jubilation every time the phone rings. Asking for a timeline puts more anxiety on those who are wanting to know the answer to the question themselves. Just be there to support them during this time.
3. At least you can be thankful you didn’t have to go through the pain of childbirth and the damage pregnancy does to your body.
Adoptive parents would usually have been absolutely thrilled to go through pregnancy and labor, regardless of the pain. Plus, although they may not actually go through labor, they do experience pain during the process of adopting. They may have had years of infertility treatments while trying to conceive. They may have had adoption application rejections. They may have had birth parents choose them early in the process then change their minds. There are so much heartache, worry, fear, anxiety and other emotional roller coasters that are painful.
4. Where are the real parents? Why did the real parents give him or her up? Are they real siblings? Which one is your real child?
Any question that uses the word “real” in it is not a question you should be asking. There is no “real” or “fake”; the people who adopted are the parents of that child since they are the ones caring for them and raising them. The correct terminology to use is “birth parent” if you want to ask about the child’s biological parents. However, I would only inquire about the biological parents if you are very close to the adoptive parent.
When it comes to siblings, whether the family has any biological children or not doesn’t matter. The kids consider each other brother and sister without the filters of biology. You should as well.
5. You know you will probably get pregnant now that you have adopted.
This is a very insensitive comment to make if you don’t know the family’s history. Many people assume families adopt because they can’t get pregnant, but that is not always the case. Perhaps they adopted because they just wanted to. Even if it was because they could not conceive traditionally, this comment is insensitive because they went through the rigors of trying to conceive. Comments like this make it seem like the process of getting pregnant is simple when to many it is not. And, to top it off, this statement is flat-out wrong. Statistically, those who have adopted are no more likely to get pregnant than those who have not. It’s just one big myth. And, if those aren’t reasons enough to avoid this statement, consider the implications of it. In a not-so-subtle way, it implies that adoption is second best and that they should be happy because they still might achieve their original and “better” goal.
6. What are you going to do if the birth parents want them back?
This question is harmful to both the adoptive parents and the birth parents. The adoption process is set up in such a way that there are many stages of decision making and extensive legal measures. Of course there are horror stories in the news with custody battles, but they are rare. Asking this question creates unneeded fear in the adoptive parents’ minds.
When asking questions about the adopted family, be mindful of what you are saying and how you are saying it. A little sensitivity and compassion for their journey goes a long way.
Nicole Witt is the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared towards families who have gone through infertility. You can visit the website at BeyondInfertility.com. She is also the owner of The Adoption Consultancy.