Whether we like it or not, being a birth mother frequently leads to some awkward conversations. They stem from all kinds of places, and sometimes it can be incredibly hard to handle them, especially if you feel put on the defensive. Here are three things that I do to handle these types of situations.

1. Remember, people are just people.

Sometimes people say hurtful things without meaning to. Some of my favorites include, “Oh, I could never imagine just giving my child away” and “Wow, what a great solution to your problem!” It helps me to remember that people can only speak from their own experience. It’s difficult to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Most people mean well, but they just can’t understand the specifics of your situation because they haven’t been there. Remembering that helps me to cope with the insensitive things people say, so I don’t take it too personally.

2. Take the Opportunity to Educate.

Many people that I have talked to are unfamiliar with how much adoption has changed over the last few years. Most of the hurtful things they say come from them just not understanding the situation. I have found that sharing whatever details you feel comfortable with and explaining how much adoption has evolved helps to change people’s viewpoints. You have the power to break down the stereotypes and help the next birth mother they encounter be met with more compassion, love, and understanding.

3. Respect Others’ Opinions.

You can’t force someone to change their mind. Sometimes, people say hateful or judgmental things and really mean them. Many times, the people like this that I have met have some sort of anger attached to the concept of adoption. This is okay. Their opinions do not have to affect you, or make you question your decision. Standing firm in the face of people who judge you is one of the hardest things to do, especially if that person is someone you love and respect. But you know why you placed, and no one else’s opinion makes your reasons any less relevant. I have found that arguing with these people and trying to get them to see it from my point of view has been fruitless, and just left me feeling bad about myself. Getting defensive hardly ever does any good.

People are flawed, opinionated, and sometimes even judgmental. You are strong enough to handle that. You are strong enough for anything. Remember, you can understand them, teach them, and when all else fails, let them alone. Never forget who you are, and that you are an incredible woman who can do hard things!