Over the past few years, I have reduced my basic story down to a couple of quick, sometimes shocking, sentences. When working, I am often asked how many children I have, if I am pregnant with my 1st, or how old I was when I started having kids, etc., and due to the nature of my job, I don’t always have time to give a full story.

“I have older children. A 6-year-old boy, who I placed for adoption—and it is very open, and a wonderful situation—a 4-year-old girl, a 2-year-old boy, and this one on the way is a boy.” This explanation usually shuts people up from saying the dreaded “I’m sorry” in response to placement. It is not something I am sorry about, which is why I throw in that it is a good thing.

“This will be our third, we also have a daughter and a son.” This explanation is my go-to when I gauge that the person asking may want more details if I say something about my birth son. By saying “our” and “we”, I am including my husband in the conversation, and since my birth son is not his child, I am still being truthful.

Because I view my adoption story a something very sacred, I don’t always want to “cast my pearls before swine.” When I first began my journey, I would sometimes get stuck and felt that I had to explain everything and defend my decision. What usually came out was what I call word-vomit. It went something like this -

“When I was 20 I got pregnant, my boyfriend—with whom I had been discussing marriage—decided he wasn’t ready to be a father. I spent months and months praying and trying to decide what to do, and then I met this amazing couple and decided to place my baby for adoption. I would have been an awesome mother—I wasn’t on drugs and I was very stable—but he just deserved more than I could give him at the time. My boyfriend and I didn’t want to necessarily stay in each others’ lives because we were toxic to each other, but we both loved our son. So we have an open adoption and I get to see him and always know he is safe. I absolutely adore his parents, and they have become some of my very best friends—even 2,500 miles away.”

While it is a short and sweet story, this can be a lot of sensitive information to suddenly hear from a stranger!

I used to feel guilty if I didn’t immediately explain about my birth son, or if I intentionally made people believe that I only had the children I was raising. I somehow felt I was being disloyal to him. Now, I realize that it is very much the opposite. I want people who truly care about me to know about him, because they will best honor his existence and understand. People I may never see again don’t always have to know . . . he is a sacred person in my life, and deserves to be spoken of with the utmost respect. Though I am not his mother in the sense that I am raising him, I will still protect him in any way I can.

How do you tell people—or not tell people—about your adoption story?