Our language around a lot of things has changed in recent years. While some people may lament the rise of “political correctness,” in many cases, it’s just about being sensitive to people’s feelings and recognizing how powerful language can be.
Adoption is no exception. People used to refer to a birth mother as “giving up a baby for adoption.” Not only can that be hurtful, but it’s not an accurate description of what a birth mother does when she makes the often-difficult decision to take steps to give her baby a better life than she believes she could provide.
Adoption professionals prefer more adoption-positive phrases like “place a baby for adoption” or “choose an adoptive family” for a child. They reflect in part the fact that birth mothers who choose adoption for their child typically have more of a say in the decision than they once did – including how much (if any) contact they want to maintain with their child. Even if they choose not to be in their child’s life, they may want them to be able to find out more about their origins if they choose to when they’re old enough.
Who is the “real” parent?
The idea that the birth parents – particularly the mother — are the “real” parents also runs deep. However, both the birth parents and adoptive parents are “real” parents in some way.
As an adoptive parent, you may have people ask you about your child’s “real” parents or at least their “real” mother. That can be extremely hurtful. It’s up to you to decide when and how you want to correct people – like asking, “Are you talking about her birth mother?”
Your child is likely going to be asked all kinds of inappropriate and intrusive questions throughout their life – particularly if they are of a different race or ethnicity or if you and your same-sex spouse adopted them. That’s something you’ll have to prepare them for so that they don’t let other people’s careless language affect their self-esteem or sense of identity. As long as they feel loved and secure, other people’s words and actions will be easier to dismiss or perhaps be used as a chance to educate them a bit about adoption.
If you’re considering adoption, it’s wise to have experienced legal guidance. This can help you explore the various options and allow the process to go more smoothly for everyone.