“So you just gave your baby away like it never happened, and now you don’t have to deal with the consequences.”

His words made my eyes sting and my cheeks burn. “I didn’t just give her away . . . ” I murmured. My head spun as memories of placing my birth daughter for adoption  raced through my mind. Waking up at midnight, crying because I couldn’t take the pain of contractions. Holding little R and sobbing, wishing I didn’t have to do this to keep her safe. Walking out the hospital doors, feeling like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. No consequences – yeah, right. How could I explain that to this man who had just criticized the hardest choice I have ever made? Here were some of my options.

Educate.

I could have said, “Actually, there have been consequences. Placing my baby was a very hard choice, and I miss her very much. But I believe that it was the right thing for her.” Sometimes, people criticize because they just don’t understand. It’s easy to take questions as criticism – “Why would you give your baby up?” certainly doesn’t feel good to hear. But most people who ask these kinds of questions are simply curious. Talking about positive adoption language and sharing whatever parts of your story you feel comfortable with will often lead to more questions, and the person you are talking with will walk away with a better understanding of birth mothers and adoption.

Remember- you don’t have to educate. Being a birth mother is very personal, and you don’t owe your story to anyone. If someone is asking you questions that feel invasive, you can simply say, “This is very personal and close to my heart, so I don’t feel comfortable talking about this right now.” Most people will back off.

But sometimes, they don’t. In cases like this,

Walk away.

When this man accused me of not loving my baby, I chose to walk away. Most people who are rude to you about choosing adoption have already made up their minds, and trying to educate won’t help. Maybe they’ve had a bad experience with adoption themselves, or have simply been conditioned by society to believe that birth mothers are terrible people. Either way, people who judge you for doing what you feel was best for your child don’t deserve your time.

This might be difficult – maybe the person attacking you for choosing adoption is someone close to you. In cases like this where you don’t want to lose the relationship entirely, it’s probably best to establish a rule that adoption will not be a topic of discussion between you. If they don’t respect that, then they don’t respect you – which means they don’t deserve you. It hurts, but it’s better in the long run. You do not have to sacrifice your mental health to please someone who refuses to understand you.

Learning how to respond to people who are critical of your choice to place takes a lot of trial and error. You get a feel for people who are simply ignorant and people who are simply angry. Your responses will vary depending on who is asking and how you are feeling, and that’s okay. Because in the end, as long as you did the right thing for you and your baby, the saying is true – “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”