I remember clearly the first time someone said, “I’m sorry,” in response to my decision to place my son for adoption. It was two days after placement, and I was sitting in my stepdad’s hospital room in the University of Utah Neuro-ICU. (That was a terrible year for my entire family). A nurse, who had seen me just a few days earlier (and about 15 pounds heavier), came into the room to check vitals and his tracheotomy tube. She asked me where the new baby was.
“I placed him for adoption, so he is with his mom and dad,” I told her, in the most confident and loving way I could while fighting back the BIG emotions just behind my eyes.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” she quickly responded, and turned from me. I felt like a cartoon character with a giant question mark over my head. Sorry for what?
Sorry that I chose adoption? Sorry that you asked? Sorry that I must not have had boyfriend support? Sorry that I must be a deadbeat? Sorry I didn’t have another option? Sorry for what?
Of course I didn’t ask what she meant, though I wish I could have. Looking back, I imagine that she simply meant it as, “I’m sorry, that must be difficult to go through.”
I try to give people the benefit of the doubt when they say something that could be taken as rude, but I honestly would love if people would stop saying, “I’m sorry,” when they learn my story. So please, don’t say you’re sorry that I placed my son for adoption. I’m not.
Instead, please just ask me what you want to ask. Worst case scenario, you’ll find out that I had plenty of financial and family help, and I simply decided that he deserved two married, loving parents. Hopefully that will destroy your mental image of me as a drug addict. Best case scenario, you will learn more about what adoption really is. My adoption story is not a made-for-TV story—it is WAY better!
Of course, you can be sorry that I went through a difficult ordeal, but don’t be sorry that adoption was the outcome. I worked incredibly hard to make an informed and loving decision, and saying you are sorry invalidates all of those decisions. Compassion is wonderful, pity makes me feel small.
My go-to response now, when people tell me that they are sorry, is “Don’t be, it is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and he is exactly where he is supposed to be. So am I.” Which, of course, usually leads to more questions… and I enjoy sharing.
If you have a go-to response when you hear someone say, “I’m sorry,” please share in the comments below. I would love to know how others react!