10 Things Adoptive Moms Wish You Knew

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us,
that we would be called children of God; and such we are.”

1 John 3:1 

When I was young, I only knew one adoptive family. Looking back, I can’t remember much about their story, but for some reason I gained the impression that the parents adopted their son only because they’d been unable to conceive a child. Based on what I’d heard, I saw no reason to celebrate adoption. I drew the unfortunate conclusion that adoption was what you did when you finally realized you couldn’t do what you really wanted.

I don’t think I was alone in my thinking. Not too many years ago, the word “adoption” seemed inseparably linked with secrecy and shame. Thankfully, the church and even our culture have both experienced a dramatic shift in their perspectives on adoption, and the number of those who look negatively upon the idea continues to dwindle.

Do You Get It?

In spite of the positive progress made in recent years, every once in while I’m reminded that many Christians still just don’t “get it.” That’s where this post comes in.

As an adoptive mom, I’ve been sharing my adoption journey with all of you over the past few months in large part to help more people see the beauty of adoption and understand the unique joys and trials that adoptive families often experience. Toward that end, I want to explain 10 things that we as adoptive moms wish you understood about us… 

1. We are fundamentally opposed to the idea that adoption is second-best.

Although you may find a rare exception somewhere, the vast majority of us are thrilled that God chose to bring our children to us through the process of adoption. If I could go back in time about 7 years and choose to conceive and give birth to a biological child instead of waiting a few more years and then going through this 2 1/2 year process to bring Evangelle home, I wouldn’t even consider it.

Adoption was always God’s perfect plan for me. Anything else would be second-best.

2. Our children are our real children.

Adoptive moms are not little girls playing house and merely pretending that they have children. The children God has given us through adoption are our real children. When a mom has been doubly blessed with the privilege of both adopting children and bearing biological children, she will tell you that they are all equally her children. As a result, asking questions like, “But don’t you want to have children of your own someday?” or “Which ones are your real children?” is offensive and hurtful. 

3. They don’t necessarily dream of being pregnant.

This point follows closely on the last one. Although some adoptive moms may still long to experience pregnancy and childbirth, not all do. Take me for instance—any desire to conceive and give birth to a child was long ago replaced by my desire to adopt. I don’t want to be fertile; I want to be a mom. God has graciously answered my prayer for motherhood through the miracle of adoption. 

So, please, do adoptive moms a favor and realize that not all of us are secretly pining for pregnancy.

4. Our fertility (or lack thereof) really is a private matter.

While having my hair cut by a total stranger this week, the subject of traveling to Ethiopia to bring Evangelle home came up in conversation. Although the woman said nice things about our adoption, I was more than a little bit shocked when she asked, “So, you just can’t have kids or what?” and then went on to promote the difference that Vitamin B-12 can have on attempts to conceive.

I don’t think I need to say more on this, because I think it should be painfully obvious how inappropriate and impolite it is to question someone on such personal matters.

5. We are moms.

Although there are certain experiences that may be unique to adoptive mothers, we’re still moms just like all the other women with children. I was recently part of a Bible study where the leaders decided to put all of the adoptive moms in one group. While I appreciated the good intent that I know was behind their decision, I was surprised they assumed that we would all need or want to be together.

In my mind, it would be similar to grouping women according to whether their children entered the world through C-sections or natural deliveries. Sure, the moms might have some things in common with those in their group, but should their fellowship be based on their commonalities alone? Personally, I think it would be more beneficial not to make assumptions or decisions about women based on the fact that they have or have not adopted. We’re mainly just moms! 

6. The process of adoption is more emotionally, physically, and financially exhausting than most people would ever imagine.

I have friends who waited 4 years to bring their daughter home from China.
4 years! Some of you probably have horror stories about your labor and delivery, but I have yet to meet anyone who was in labor for that length of time!

At least with pregnancy, you know your pain will be limited to approximately 40 weeks of time. With adoption, you just never know how long it will take or how many times you’ll be disappointed. The payments are outrageous, the paperwork seems endless, and the pain can be overwhelming. If you know someone who’s adopting, even if she looks like she’s doing fine, just ask. She’s probably hurting more than you’d imagine and would welcome a listening ear. 

7. It hurts when people ignore our adoptions.

You may be unfamiliar with or unsure of the process of adoption, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to act like it’s not happening. I’ve been in conversations with people who know me and are fully aware of our adoption, yet don’t ask one thing about it. As you might imagine, that hurts. If you’re not sure what to say, just try, “So how is your adoption going?” and things will probably get easier from there. :)

8. Some comments and questions are better left unsaid.

For example…

“So are you trying to be like Brad and Angelina?”

“You don’t see animals adopting outside their own kind.”

“Can’t someone else take care of the child?”

“You can’t save all the orphans, you know.”

“What’s wrong with American babies?”

(Yes, these are actual statements and questions that my friends and I have received!) As always, you’ll never go wrong by comparing your comment to Ephesians 4:29 before speaking!

9. Your encouragement, support, and prayers mean the world to us.

Throughout the last several months, I’ve been repeatedly amazed by the compassion that so many of you have shown me. On numerous occasions, the Lord has used your prayers and sweet words of encouragement to reverse my course when I was sinking into despair. When we know that you love, care, and are excited about our children coming home, it strengthens us to continue on in obedience to God’s call. You play a vital role in the adoption process.

10. If you’re a Christian, you’re adopted too! 

Adoption is a divine, not human, invention. The only way any sinner can enter God’s family is through the process of adoption (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:4-6). If you’ve been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, then you are an adopted child of God.  

So when it comes to the topics of physical and spiritual adoption, Christians, of all people, should be the ones who really “get it.” Other people may adopt, but no one else on the face of the planet has reason to celebrate adoption like
we do!

In Conclusion

I hope this post has helped you to learn some ways that you can better support the adoptive moms around you. We’re nothing special, just moms who love our babies like many of you do. Thanks for understanding. 

Photo: roli seeger

24 thoughts on “10 Things Adoptive Moms Wish You Knew

  1. Good job Missy!!! Great post! I can’t count how many times I’ve forgotten or family has forgotten I’m adopted, lol!!! We start talking about what’s hereditary in our family and then we all laugh when we realize we forgot again:). Even my gramma forgot once and said something to my mom like “look at your little flesh and blood outside skipping” and then she realized what she said and was embarrassed. My mom looked at her and said “mother, that might be one of the sweetest things you’ve ever said to me”<3. I love how God glues everything together. Love.

    • Thank you, Alica! It’s great to hear the perspective of someone who knows what it’s like to have entered her family through adoption. You are truly a living testimony to what a beautiful thing adoption is!

  2. I could not agree more. My sister in law adopted a little boy from Peru 2 years ago. It was unbelievable to hear how others perceived adoption! I enjoy reading about your journey! Thanks for sharing! I will continue to pray as you continue your new adventure in bringing your precious daughter home!

  3. I’m going to share a different perspective. I’m a 50 year old adoptive mom. My children are now 19 and 20. If I had written this article, I would not have written #1 quite so strongly. We DID turn to adoption because pregnancy wasn’t happening and we couldn’t afford fertility treatments. I love my children with all my heart, but that doesn’t take away the pain of not giving birth to them. I wouldn’t have written #3 at all. I still grieve that I missed out on the pregnancy and birth experience, that I didn’t get to look at my babies and delight in finding physical resemblances to family and watch them develop other similarities and differences. I miss not knowing their heritage. I couldn’t have written #6, because we adopted here in our county. When we couldn’t have children, we became foster parents, not knowing that God’s plan was that we adopt. We received our first two babies from the hospital b/c the mothers were addicts. Eventually, all known parents voluntarily gave up their parental rights, and we adopted our children. Because they were special needs adoptions, the process was free! We had eight other foster babies and toddlers over the years, but only our first two were released for adoption — or I would have adopted more. (I always wanted a big family.) There are other ways to adopt than going to other countries, and I would have made that clear. Not everyone can afford international adoption.

    It’s always been obvious that we’re a family by adoption. People have assumed that my children came from Haiti or Africa. (One strange man thought my daughter was from London because of her speech impediment…) My two young adults are now bothered by the questions after hearing them for so many years. My daughter especially does not want to explain our family one more time! However, she and her brother are still proud to call me Mom in public, even when I thought they might choose not to call me anything in order to avoid strangers’ questions.

    I am proud of them and probably continue to take way too many pictures. (I’ve taken pictures of both kids at their jobs!) I don’t think of them as “second best.” But I do wish I’d been able to make at least one baby myself. And adopt one more. But that was not meant to be.

    • I appreciate you sharing your perspective. I tried to note (without getting too wordy) that not everyone feels exactly the same about these points, but I wanted to share my own sentiments as well as those I’ve heard expressed by the majority of other adoptive moms that I know. Thanks for your comment!

  4. I really appreciate the candor and thoughtfulness of these insights. One thing I would add though is that we must be careful not to take up offenses – not that you have, but I can see where it would be easy to when such comments become regularly hurtful. Though not the same thing, I too can identify with the oftentimes insensitive comments people make about the fact that I am in my mid-thirties and still unmarried. You all know them – “Don’t you want to be married?”; “When you become the best Christian you can be, then God will bring you a husband”; and many more! When I was in my late 20′s and just coming to grips with the fact that I was still single, I was quick to become exasperated and even hurt by the sometimes thoughtless comments people make. But over the last few years, as I have aged and as I have studied more, the Lord has taught me how important it is to overlook the things that people may say – there are many times these comments are not intentional. It’s often the case that people don’t know what to say and then fumble the conversation. Or maybe they have never been exposed to the spiritual implications of adoption and are simply making a statement based on their limited knowledge. Yes, we can “educate” them by offering insights such as those listed here, but above all we must remember that “it is a glory to overlook an offense” and when we think of eternity and all that God is for us in Christ Jesus, then these things are really very small matters. Our adoption into His kingdom gives us the strength and hope to remain gracious and kind despite any painful words others might say. It is in our responses to these comments that we can give others a beautiful picture of the Gospel, as we seek to reflect Christ and His image more and more.

    • I apologize – did not intend to leave that comment as “anonymous” – I am new to the whole commenting thing and just hit enter too soon!

      • Thank you, Melissa, for sharing your thoughts. I agree that we as believers must be careful about being easily offended. If I write a post with advice for adoptive moms in the future, I would definitely address how to properly deal with hurtful comments.

        In this post though, my goal was to try and help others who don’t know much about the struggles faced by adoptive moms to better understand how they can share encouragement and avoid causing unnecessary pain.

  5. Thanks for writing this, it gives insight into the mind of an adoptive mother. My only beef is with #6, where instead of promoting adoption you downplay pregnancy/birth. It doesn’t take 4 years to bear and birth a child, no, but both are equally valid to be emotionally/physically/financially exhausted about. I couldn’t walk for most of my pregnancy due to extreme pain. I think most, if not all, adoptive mothers can walk during those 4 years. :) They are just different situations: not comperable, but equally valid.

    • I’m sorry that you thought I was trying to downplay pregnancy and childbirth. I tried to acknowledge the difficulties of pregnancy by using what I thought was an appropriately descriptive term — “horror stories.” I wasn’t being sarcastic with that!

      What I was trying to point out is that pregnancy has challenges and adoption has challenges, but while pregnancy lasts months, adoption can drag on for years. The duration of the pain is what I was trying to emphasize, because it is not equal. I still stand by my statement–I don’t know anyone who’s been in labor for 4 years! =)

  6. I really appreciate this post! When you’re ignorant on the whole process, it’s very easy to do a number of the things you listed. Thank you for educating us a bit more…Matt and I are so very excited for you!!

  7. Thanks for posting this Missy. I appreciate you sharing your adoption journey through your blog with us, and I have learned so much from it. Not to mention, that after praying for you, and crying with you many times (though miles and miles apart), I am THRILLED that Evangelle will soon be home!!!! So happy for you.

  8. That was awesome. As someone who had miscarriages / biological son & adoption going on all at the same time, I agree with every word you said.

  9. Great article! I think that I will be sharing this with people myself as I have heard people in person and online blunder terribly when talking with adoptive moms. I think that we tend to compare everyone else’s situations with our own, and when we can’t relate well we tend to say something hurtful or just plain stupid. I appreciate your honesty and clarity as you address this important issue.
    Even though we have biological children, we feel that God is leading us toward adoption, partly because of your example. We have already heard some discouraging/hurtful comments but we hope that God will use our family to help change peoples’ perspectives about adoption. We are thrilled to be led on this journey, and even though we have no idea who our next child will be, I can honestly say that I am as excited about adopting him/her as I have been about any of my pregnancies. It is a beautiful thing to be in God’s plan, and I have been awed and blessed many times with the way He has worked in your family.

  10. Very well put Melissa! As a momma of bio and adopted children, each point is very valid. I’ve heard some of those same comments and i’m sure there are more to come ;) Many times I want to roll my eyes, but it also opens the door to share the gospel with people. Blessings for a safe trip to bring your little angel home! Hope to see you soon

    Angie

  11. Thank you soooo much for posting this!!!!!! Daniel and I would like to adopt as well, and reading your blog has opened my eyes to alot!!!!! I am proud of you for being so open and honest with your emotions and feelings! Thank you! I’m soooo excited for your family!!! We’ll be praying! I love u!

  12. This post made me smile! I am a newly adoptive parent from Ethiopia, as well. I just received my referral about two weeks ago; therefore, i am going through many of thess issues. Each of your points are valid issues that adoptive parents encounter. I completely understand your views, and I may even share them on my blog. :-)
    You have definitely been a wonderful influence in my process. I look at your blog daily, and I pray that Evangelle will have an easy transition home!

  13. Thank you for this post. I am greatly encouraged by your desire to adopt. Evangelle is so beautiful. Thank you for the reminder that all of us as Christians are adopted.

  14. Thank you for this post! My husband and I are going through infertility issues right now, and we have always wanted to adopt (whether or not we have biological children)! Your blog has helped open my eyes to see what adoption is really about. A good friend of mine once told me that she didn’t desire to be pregnant…she desired to be a mom. I’m praying that I can say that soon too without any reservation! Praise the Lord, that you will be bringing your sweet daughter home! She’s beautiful, and I pray you are having safe travels!

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