6 Adoption Memes and Why They Might Be Hurtful

When it comes to adoption—a complicated process with lots of big feelings—an internet meme often misses the mark.

Stacey Stark February 27, 2018

Briefly scroll through your social media feed, and you will surely find someone sharing a meme—a photo with a funny or inspiring quotation shared repeatedly via the internet. A meme might be silly, goofy, serious, or thought provoking.

When it comes to adoption—a complicated process with lots of big feelings—an internet meme often misses the mark. I am not quick to take offense (and neither should you), but these are just a few things to keep in mind about how certain quotations or phrases could be hurtful—to adoptees and biological parents in particular.

We all perceive things differently depending on our role in adoption, so rather than being an exhaustive and definitive analysis, I hope this might provide some tools to look at these sentiments from a different perspective.

What are some of your favorite quotations or memes about adoption? Are there any you find particularly cringeworthy, and why?

Paper Pregnant?
1. Paper Pregnant?

I get it. The adoption process involves lots (and LOTS) of paperwork, and waiting for a child to join your family at some undetermined point in the future is difficult. But adopting is not the same as pregnancy, and that's okay. Is it simply expressing excitement over expecting a child via adoption? Fine. But claiming a pregnancy and child as your own while waiting or being matched can be hurtful to expectant and birth mothers.

Grew in My Heart
2. Grew in My Heart

Using language about "growing in my heart and not my tummy" with a young child might seem helpful. But they did not grow in anyone's heart—they grew in their birth mother's womb. There are ways to explain adoption age-appropriately without erasing the very real role of their birth mother, and this language just has not felt like a good fit for our children's stories.

"You're Adopted" Jokes
3. "You're Adopted" Jokes

We all realize this is intended to be funny, but as a mother by adoption, I never want to communicate to my children that being adopted is embarrassing or shameful. In this meme, why is the baby crying? Because adoption must be a bad thing. Again, these sorts of jokes are nothing to be up in arms about—but are definitely in poor taste.

"Give Them Up"
4. "Give Them Up"

Parents have joked, when their kids are being difficult or acting up, "I'll just give them up for adoption!" I know this is meant to be humorous, but jokes about "giving up" kids for adoption because they are being annoying is hurtful and inappropriate. The decision to make an adoption plan and place (not "give up") one's child for adoption is difficult and never chosen lightly. Jokes that imply these children were difficult, annoying, or unwanted are not funny.

Abortion and Adoption
5. Abortion and Adoption

Abortion is understandably a polarizing topic and comes up frequently in discussions about adoption. The reason memes such as this could be hurtful is because the issue of abortion and the topic of adoption are entirely more complicated than this image implies.

Biology and DNA
6. Biology and DNA

Families certainly are defined by much more than DNA, but it is possible for me to celebrate my motherhood through adoption without minimizing the motherhood of my children's biological mothers. What makes this popular quotation or meme potentially hurtful is calling a mother's biological tie to her child "the least." Yes, motherhood is infinitely more than DNA—but this sentiment (and others like it) could be communicated in such a way that isn't also dismissive of the importance of biology.

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Stacey Stark

Stacey lives in Kansas City, Missouri, and is mom to two young kiddos via local, open, domestic infant adoption (did you catch all that?). She works part-time as a nonprofit bookkeeper, and spends the rest of her time going on adventures with her family, reading, and drinking lots of coffee. She is passionate about openness in adoption, and you can connect with her further on Facebook or Instagram.

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