10 Taboo Topics of Adoption

How respectful discussion can heal and educate others.

Terra Cooper December 27, 2014

Each adoption taboo topic in this slideshow can bring up questions, negativity, and differing opinions. This list was compiled by asking adoptive/birth parents what they thought the taboo or awkward topics of adoption were. I fully respect that others have different views on adoption, just as I know each situation and person is unique. With that said, I hope that adoption can be discussed more openly and that these topics don’t have to remain ‘taboo’. The word taboo means to prohibit discussion of a person, thing, or idea due to social customs. I hope that by talking openly about taboo topics that we can open the doors to honest communication.

adoption taboo topics howard zinn quote responsibility

“We all have an enormous responsibility to bring to the attention of others information they do not have, which has the potential of causing them to rethink long-held ideas.” – Howard Zinn

Choices that expectant parents make.
1. Choices that expectant parents make.

When expectant parents make an adoption plan, they most likely have specific things they are looking for. Some look for couples without any children, some look for a family with pets, some choose to go through an agency. They can choose if they want an open, semi-open or closed adoption. The most important thing is to respect their choices. It is a very, very personal decision and EVERY situation/adoption is different. What works for them may not seem like the right thing to you, but if they are happy with their choices, please support them and love them! They are trying to find the family that feels like the perfect fit to THEM-not to you, and that's ok!

Choices that adoptive couples make.
2. Choices that adoptive couples make.

Before an adoptive couple arrives at the choice of adoption, there is much heartache that comes before. Whether they choose adoption because they have infertility issues or because they just feel adoption is right for them, it is THEIR choice. After choosing to focus on adoption, there is then the choice of what kind of adoption feels right for their family. If an expectant parent doesn't agree with their preferences (whether it is race, gender, drug use, etc) then that couple isn't right for that expectant parent. If the family has more children than you think they should have and still be adopting, please remember it is not your family and they are the ones making the choices for their family that they feel is right. Think of it like dating. You have a list of things that you would want in your ideal partner, but when it comes down to it, a lot more is involved in that decision process. What you put on paper isn't always what happens in real life. You are not trying to find any child/expectant parent/adoptive couple. You are trying to find the RIGHT one for you, so it's ok if not everyone agrees with your preferences and what you feel is right for YOUR family.

Adoptive couples are not perfect parents-they are parents.
3. Adoptive couples are not perfect parents-they are parents.

Many adoptive couples feel the pressure of being a perfect parent all the time. Not only do they feel they need to be perfect for their child's birth parents that they are so grateful to, but everyone else around them that looks at them thinking, "Well this is what you wanted for so long. Why are you complaining about it?". They are parents. They are humans. Kids are hard; being a parent is hard. The next time you hear an adoptive parent complain about their child that just hit the terrible twos, sympathize with them and tell them you feel their pain.

Birth parents can be happy after placement.
4. Birth parents can be happy after placement.

Many birth parents feel guilty if they feel happiness after placement. They feel if they are happy it shows that the adoption wasn't hard on them. The truth is they will always have pain from it; they just have to learn to live with their new normal. They have to learn how to move forward in their life, not move on, but forward. The deserve all the joys life has to offer them, just like everyone else.

Birth parents may also feel criticized for their unplanned pregnancy prior to placement. After placement, they may sometimes feel as if they have to live a perfect life. Birth parents are human and are grieving the loss of being that child's parent, so life will never be quite the same for them. They may also compare themselves to the adoptive mother, which they shouldn't do. They each have a unique and significant role in the child's life and each should be celebrated.

Adoption is not a cure for infertility.
5. Adoption is not a cure for infertility.

Many people, including hopeful adoptive couples, think that as soon as they adopt a child, all of their issues that came with infertility will just disappear. The truth is that they don't. They are two separate issues. Sometimes after an adoption, many adoptive couples find that they have post-placement depression. They may have problems bonding with the child for various reasons. They may have severe guilt for the pain they see the birth parents are in. They may feel responsible to be the perfect parent at all times. All of these things, plus the heartache that infertility has caused them, can be overwhelming.

The right way is the way it works for the parties involved.
6. The right way is the way it works for the parties involved.

Something many adoptive and birth parents wanted others to know was that they were often criticized for the choices they made regarding adoption. For example, an adoptive couple may get criticized for choosing adoption when they have biological children or adopting more than two children. They may be looked down on for choosing domestic over international or doing foster care. What you have to know about adoption is that EVERY situation is different and complex and unique to those in it. It is very much like telling someone how to make choices in their marriage or telling them they should do a natural birth or home birth over one in the hospital. It is their family, their life and their choices. It's ok to not agree with them, but you need to love and support them irregardless.

Being different isn't a bad thing. It means you're brave enough to be yourself.
7. Being different isn't a bad thing. It means you're brave enough to be yourself.

Many people in adoption feel that because their situation isn't like someone else's it must be wrong. That isn't true. Some birth mothers chose closed/semi-open adoptions and that is what is best for them at that time in their life. They are sometimes criticized for not having or wanting open adoptions. Some birth parents chose semi-open or closed adoption and now long for open adoptions. When that doesn't happen, it can be devastating to them. Some adoptive couples long for a more open adoption with their child's birth parents and sometimes their birth parents want to keep it closed for various reasons. You may not know the pain are in because of it, so please be kind. Be supportive. Give them love; it is hard.

You can sympathize and be supportive, but you will never fully understand what it is like to be in the adoption world until you are in it. It is like a family who has lost a child. You can grieve with them and sympathize with them, but you will never fully know what it is like to lose a child.

There is great potential hiding in your fear.
9. There is great potential hiding in your fear.

There are MANY fears in adoption on all sides. Many are irrational fears. A common one among adoptive couples is that the child who was adopted will one day leave your family for their biological family or that they will resent you for adopting them. A common fear among birth parents is that the child that they placed will be angry at them for placing them. It's ok to think about these fears, but don't dwell on them. Choose love instead. Love your child. Love your adoptive couple. Love your birth parents. Love yourself.

One of my friend's who was adopted told me something his mom said to him after he had finding his birth mother 28 years later. "You didn't need two moms. Two moms needed you." I thought that was so insightful. Children are open to loving others. It's ok for them to love and have more than one mom, just like it is ok for you to love and have more than one child.

Pain makes you stronger.  Heartbreak makes you wiser.  So thank the past for a better future.
10. Pain makes you stronger. Heartbreak makes you wiser. So thank the past for a better future.

When there is a failed placement, the adoptive couple may feel like they have lost a child and are grieving because of it. I have heard many people say that it was never their child, so they shouldn't grieve the loss. I have mixed feelings on this. I do feel like the child before placement is NOT the adoptive couples child-and as we all know, technically isn't theirs until finalization. Having said that, does that mean that there will not be feelings of loss, especially after bonding with the expectant parents? No. Should we comfort those that are grieving after a failed placement? Yes! Just remember to be respectful of the expectant parents decision to parent; they have the right to do so and it is in fact their child. Please know that the expectant parents may also be hurting if they chose to parent because they feel they are hurting the adoptive couple that they have become close to. I hope these expectant parents know that although it may hurt for a time, adoptive couples learn and grow from these experiences and their child/expectant parents will find them one day.

The second part relates to the first-it is when an adoptive couple chooses not continue with an adoption placement or says no to a potential match. I have also heard people saying "they should be happy with what they get." Well, if we all believe what the first point was about, that in fact, this child is not theirs until after placement, then the choice to say no or back out of a situation is rightfully theirs as well. I feel like every situation is so different; please don't generalize an expectant parent or adoptive couples decisions with regards to placement.

So to sum up--on both sides before placement there is choice-whether to parent or place, whether to move forward with the adoption or to not. And whatever decision both parties make should always be respected or at least not judged. We never know fully what someone may be going through. I know, easier said than done, but I hope that this one gets us all, me included, thinking more about loving more, not judging others, and just giving someone the benefit of the doubt...or at least maybe just a kind word-because we could all use more of those.

Sometimes adoption is exhausting.
11. Sometimes adoption is exhausting.

Adoption is a lot like marriage. When you adopt, you not only have your marriage, but you also have each child who was adopted's birth family to build and grow a relationship with. Each one of those families have their own unique set of circumstances, personalities and issues to deal with. The dynamics of these relationships are complex. In your family, relationships with each other is implied. In adoption, you must continue to prove your relationship to each other and those around you. When you say that your birth family is family, people question it. They ask how often to you "have" to see them. Do you ever ask someone how often they "have" to see their sister? Sometimes you just wish you could just be a "normal" family that doesn't have all of the extra layers. That doesn't mean that you are not grateful to your birth parents - it just means you are adjusting to your new normal. You see your friends that don't have to do all of the extra things you do when it comes to every day activities, but without your birth parents, you wouldn't have the blessing of that child to do those extra activities.

As a birth parent, you think about your child that you placed every day. You love that child more than anything in the world. The exhausting thing is that sometimes family and friends don't understand that. They don't know what to say when you want to talk about your adoption or when you don't want to talk about it. You may feel like never move on. And that can feel overwhelming.

Don't let adoption overwhelm you.

Do your best. Try. Choose love.

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Terra Cooper

Terra Cooper is a Staff Storyteller at Adoption.com. She is a mother of three-- two boys and one girl who was adopted. She is also a professional wedding photographer, a self-proclaimed foodie, and a TV/movie addict. Visit her website.

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