When I first placed my son for adoption two years ago, I was very sensitive to all comments in reference to adoption, motherhood, and pregnancy. Every time someone used incorrect adoption language like “put up” instead of “placed,” I would spiral into hysterics and then proceed to give them a 45-minute lesson on what the correct terms were and why we use them. I just wanted everyone to understand and share my perspective about the situation, even though that is very obviously impossible.
I still remember the first time someone said something so offensive I literally felt like I’d been punched in the stomach. I was on a family outing to the zoo with my cousins and their parents. At lunchtime, the children were very restless and misbehaving. As one kid emptied his plate on the floor, my uncle turned to me and said, “Sometimes I wish I could give my kids up for adoption.”
I seriously just froze on the spot and willed myself not to cry in public. I was so very hurt at the insinuation that I had placed my son because he was naughty or burdensome—when in reality, I would have given anything to watch him squirt ketchup on the ground at the zoo.
I’m sure my uncle was just trying to make a joke in a frustrating situation and I know he didn’t mean me any harm. But those words stuck in my head for the rest of the trip and I sat in anguish on the ride home, feeling so misunderstood.
In an overwhelming moment of defeat, I realized I couldn’t and hadn’t changed the world just by placing my son for adoption. It was naïve of me to think everyone was going to be sympathetic, compassionate, and understand exactly what it meant to place your child in someone else’s arms and hope they love them as much as you do.
Media and poor adoption education have taught the world that a negative viewpoint of adoption is okay. They have painted such a poor perspective on adoption—and of birth moms in particular. People outside the adoption community don’t really understand the love, sacrifice, and beauty involved in adoption.
After a few more offensive comments like, “You probably wouldn’t have been a good mom to him anyway!” or “I’m sure you did what was best for you,” I realized that the world still needed so much education, and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t change it all in one day. I needed to step back from the pain of these situations and realize that most of these people were saying these comments in ignorance. They weren’t trying to hurt me or be offensive, but they just didn’t know better.
I could probably list a thousand other comments that have at some time or other hurt my feelings. And as much as I try not to, sometimes I’m on the other end and say something offensive to others. Everyone in the adoption triad can be susceptible to hearing offensive comments. Birth moms are not alone in feeling pain caused by someone else’s remarks.
The turning point in my life, though, came when I made a decision that I wouldn’t hold a grudge against every person who accidentally said these things because then I would rapidly run out of family and friends. Unless they were intentionally trying to be offensive, I would just shrug it off or, if appropriate, point out that maybe those things could be hurtful if taken the wrong way.
At the end of the day in every situation, we are the ones who choose to be offended by others, and ultimately, it’s only ourselves that we are hurting. I’m sure my uncle doesn’t even remember that joke he made at the zoo, but if I chose to, I could let it become a barrier in our relationship permanently. But that would only be hurting myself, and I feel like there is already enough pain in this situation that I don’t want to make it worse by resenting others.
For the most part, everyone is doing their best, including me—and knowing that makes it easier to deal with these situations. I may not have changed the entire world by placing my son for adoption and therefore becoming a birth mom, but I can slowly educate the world one person at a time and show, with my “slow-to-offend” personality, how beautiful the miracle of adoption really is.