The Most Helpful and Hurtful Things You Could Say to a Birth Mother – Part One
Whether you are interacting with a woman who is considering adoption or a woman who has already chosen adoption, you may be wondering what you could say, or not say, to help her.
First, use the correct terms. Prospective birth mothers are women going through an adoption process, or even women who are seriously considering adoption. Birth mothers are women who have already been through the adoption process for the children they chose adoption for.
Both the prospective birth mother and the birth mother would likely give you the same advice in interacting with them on this topic: Be sensitive and use common sense when engaging in a conversation.
The Most Hurtful Ways to Interact with a Birth Mother
There are few things that affect a birth mother like insensitivity surrounding her adoption decision. No matter who it is interacting with her, when she receives judgement, pity and invasive questions, it’s inappropriate and hurtful. While you may have good intentions with your comments, that doesn’t change the fact that your tone and wording may harm a birth mother. These comments and questions are often lack sensitivity and common sense.
Judgement: As a human being, I recognize that everyone has different values and experiences in every area of life. One person’s best decision could be a negative decision for someone else. All of our decisions and actions have a reaction, and we need to be responsible for ourselves in these areas. We also need to recognize that we have no place to judge another person’s situation, especially if we haven’t walked in their shoes.
Judging a woman for choosing adoption is truly ignorant. If you do look at another person in judgement, I challenge to ask yourself the following question: Why does their decision bother you?
Even if someone’s decision for adoption affects you, it’s not your place to judge them for the choice they are making. I have faced quite a bit of judgement as a prospective birth mother and as a birth mother, and I can tell you that judgement does not help in any capacity and can cause a lot of harm. Please remember that being in a similar situation doesn’t qualify you to know what decisions are best for a specific woman’s situation. Please do not pass judgement in your interactions with a prospective birth mother or a birth mother.
Pity: Looking down at someone with an air of superiority for a decision they are making or have made is pity. I think pity bothers me more than anything else when it comes to my adoption decision. Women who choose adoption are not victims. If anything, they are empowered women who have the opportunity to make a healthy and happy sacrifice for their child. Voluntarily choosing adoption is not something that makes me a victim; it is something that makes me a strong woman.
I always feel like people who talk to me with pity in their voice don’t appreciate the awesome sacrifice I made for my child. Instead, it’s as if they see me as a young girl who was backed into a corner with no other options. We always have choices, whether we feel like we do or not. Choosing adoption is a conscious decision that a prospective birth mother makes for her child.
Becoming a birth mother is not something I need to be pitied for. In fact, it’s something I believe should be celebrated. Please don’t pity birth mothers, for it diminishes the sacrifice they have made for their children to have happy and healthy lives.
Invasive Questions: I think that curiosity is a normal aspect of human beings. We are meant to be curious about the world around us from the moment that we are born. However, just because we are curious about something doesn’t mean it’s our place to be invasive in another person’s business. There is propriety that must be respected in every relationship.
Because I’m an author, my story can be an open book. But, because I’m a woman, my life is personal. As a birth mother, my relationship with my child is my business.
If you are curious about why a woman chose adoption or want to know more about her situation, I highly suggest you assess whether those questions are your business to ask in the first place. Just because I tell you I chose adoption doesn’t mean I’m going to relinquish all the personal details to you. Invasive questions are socially inappropriate, and for a birth mother who isn’t comfortable with such questions, they can be detrimental to her healing process. Please consider, before you ask a birth mother a question about her adoption decision: “Is it my business to ask this question?” Chances are, it’s not.
Just like anyone dealing with hurt and grief, or even joy and revelation, a birth mother will share information with you when she is ready. If she chooses not to broach the subject, or ends the conversation abruptly, respect that. Adoption is a personal decision, and invasive questions are not appropriate.
If you have a birth mother in your life who needs additional support for an adoption decision, then please encourage her to reach out to an adoption professional. If she is already on the path of adoption, then her agency should be able to support her with counseling services and financial resources. If she is a birth mother living post-placement, encourage her to find a support group or church that can help her heal.
Always remember to use common sense when interacting with a birth mother, and you will be just fine.
Lindsay is a guest blogger for Considering Adoption. She placed her son for adoption 7 years ago and hopes to use her experience to support and educate other expectant mothers considering adoption, as well as adoptive families.