We know you’re not trying to be mean.
We know that you’ve got a good heart. You’re just trying to start a conversation. To learn a little bit more about something you really don’t understand. We know all of that.
There are just some things you can’t say. A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy is going through one of the most challenging curveballs life can throw at you, especially if the timing for the pregnancy couldn’t be worse. And if this woman is choosing adoption for her baby — a brave, loving, courageous decision — this is an even more challenging time for her.
It’s up to the people around her — friends, family and community — to educate themselves. She needs all the love and support possible. Letting an accidentally offensive question slip isn’t okay. Even though your intentions are in the right place, you have to use the right words.
Here are five things you should NOT say to a woman considering adoption.
Why are you giving up your baby?
“Giving a baby up for adoption” is one of the most common phrases in our cultural lexicon for adoption. Its use is so ubiquitous that we rarely stop to examine what we are actually saying. Think about it; what does it mean to “give up?” To quit. To fail. To stop trying.
None of these things accurately describe what a woman is doing when she chooses adoption. She’s not “giving up” at all. She’s making a proactive decision from a place of deep love that creates a better life for herself, an adoptive family and her baby.
You probably don’t mean to imply anything negative when you ask this question, but the implication is there. Instead of asking about “giving up” her baby, you can ask a woman about “creating her adoption plan” if you would like to better understand the process she is going through.
What if you change your mind?
Big decisions require serious commitment. Any woman considering adoption isn’t being frivolous. She’s thinking long and hard about what is going to be best for her life. Once she’s reached a decision, questions like this can reintroduce doubt, which can be hurtful.
What other major life decisions would it be okay to ask this about? We understand that it would be rude to question someone’s new job, or engagement or home purchase. Once someone has made a choice, it’s important to respect that. The same goes with adoption. Rather than prod with questions that could lead to wavering, offer support, encouragement and trust.
I could never do what you’re doing.
This is a great example of good intentions gone awry. What you may be trying to say is, “You are so brave, and I don’t think I could be that brave.”
What it most likely comes off as, “I would never do that.”
Even though you may be meaning to offer praise, it could come off as judgement. One way to avoid this is by removing the “I” from the equation. If a friend or family member is choosing adoption for their baby, it’s not about you. Instead of talking about what you could or could not imagine doing, offer direct encouragement.
You are making a brave choice.
You’re doing a really good thing.
Focus on them and you’ll be a more supportive presence during the adoption process.
A lot of people would love to be pregnant.
This is true, but not helpful. Pregnancy is deeply personal. What one person wants has no effect on a different person. While many women do dream of pregnancy, your friend (or family member) was not dreaming of this. Now she’s left figuring out the best way forward.
By choosing adoption, she’s doing something brave. She’s making a choice that gives herself and her baby the best opportunity for a bright future.
Why don’t you want your baby?
Women who choose adoption love their babies. As we said earlier, adoption isn’t giving up. It’s also not a matter of “not wanting” a child. It’s about what is possible and what path gives everyone involved the greatest opportunity to thrive.
For many women, parenting is an unrealistic response to an unplanned pregnancy. There are plenty of reasons for this, all equally valid in their own ways. The important thing to know is that a woman choosing adoption loves her baby. She’s created an adoption plan and is choosing an adoptive family so that her baby can grow up feeling loved and safe in a home that provides opportunity.
This is why the assumption that a woman does not want her baby can be so hurtful. If you know someone who is placing a baby for adoption, don’t ask why they don’t want their baby. Just ask if there any ways you can be helpful and supportive.
Adoption is a personal and emotional topic. It can be difficult to discuss. Just remember to avoid these five things, and to instead offer consistent encouragement. Your support means a lot to someone who is placing a baby for adoption.