Everyone knows about Mother’s Day, but few know about the holiday the day before: Birth Mother’s Day. All of my clients who have used my adoption consultancy services understand the amazing gift these brave women provide. Birth Mother’s Day honors their sacrifice and their role in the lives of families. Yet there is a lot of misunderstanding, so here are some things you should never say to a birth mom.
1. “You’re giving your baby up for adoption?”
This terminology is never OK to use. The wording assumes the birth mother got rid of the baby because she did not want to deal with him or her. It is much more complicated than that. Instead, use the term “placed” as in, “You placed your baby with another family?”
2. “Why don’t you want your baby?”
This is a very personal question and makes what is most likely an incorrect assumption. Not only is this insulting, but it overlooks the complicated factors that go into every adoption decision. Almost every woman wants her baby, but for a multitude of reasons chooses adoption as the best option for her child.
3. “If you change your mind, can you get the baby back?”
First, choosing adoption is not an arbitrary decision. A birth mother carefully chooses a family and signs parental rights over to them. After signing the paperwork, there is sometimes a short window of time for a birth mother to change her mind, sometimes there is not. But by the time she gets to the paperwork, the birth mother has carefully weighed her options.
4. “Do you think your baby will be mad at you?”
This question is extremely hurtful. Most adoptive parents explain to their child as he or she grows up how wonderful their birth mother is. They explain that she loved him or her so much that she sacrificed her own needs for that of the child by placing him or her with the adoptive parents. The child grows up understanding the deep love that their birth mother has for them.
5. “How much money did you get?”
Not relevant. Birth mothers don’t get a check made out to them for the purchase of their child. He or she is not an object. In some situations, pregnancy-related medical bills and/or living expenses are subsidized, but that’s only so that it doesn’t cost her anything to place the child. She doesn’t receive any sort of payment.
6. “Where is the father?”
None of your business. He may or may not be involved in the adoption process but this is a private and emotional topic.
7. “Are you allowed to see the baby?”
This question seems innocent, but can be incredibly complicated. Most adoptions have some level of openness, meaning the birth mother still has some form of contact with the child and his or her adoptive parents, but it is a complicated relationship that is difficult to answer with a “yes” or “no” question.
8. “The baby’s life is going to be so much better.”
Often this comment is made to provide comfort, but it stings. The birth mother feels like you are trying to imply she would have been a bad mother if she had not chosen adoption.
9. “It’s nice you don’t have to take care of the baby.” Or “You can go back to your normal life now.”
After a birth mother has a baby and places them with a family, her life is forever changed. “Normal” doesn’t exist anymore. While there is relief that the adoption process is over, there is still grief and loss.
The best rule to follow is think before you speak. Weigh every word before you say it because it is easy to hurt someone in such a complicated situation.
Bio: Nicole Witt is the owner of The Adoption Consultancy, an unbiased resource serving pre-adoptive families by providing them with the education, information and guidance they need to safely adopt a newborn, usually within three to 12 months. She is also the creator of Beyond Infertility, a community support site and online magazine geared towards families who have gone through infertility. You can visit that website at Beyond Infertility.