Thursday again? That means it’s time for another list of thirteen things that are related to the birth parent experience in adoption. This week I thought I would hit on thirteen comments that I’m “cool with” hearing when I share my adoption story. (You might be able to guess what I’ll share next week!)
Just like every other member of the triad, birth parents have been subjected to comments that make their skin crawl. Over the years, I’ve found that certain comments are either less offensive or fully acceptable. Sharing an adoption story is no easy task. The responses of others can either make or break the whole situation.
This list is somewhat personal. All birth parents will differ as to what falls under somewhat acceptable and totally unacceptable.
1. “She’s so beautiful.” Obviously, this comment comes with the sharing of a picture. Like any parent, I love to hear that my children are beautiful. Sure, I’m biased but I’m allowed to be! This comment has no offensive undertones and is simply a compliment. Also under this heading, I like to hear, “Wow! She has your eyes.” Because she does, folks. She does!
2. “What does she call you?” This question is usually an honest-to-goodness inquiry. For the general public, open adoption can be somewhat confusing. As long as this question isn’t presented with an overly negative or accusatory tone, I have no problem answering it. It educates the question asker as to how our specific adoption works.
3. “Do you still have contact?” This question is usually asked before I have shared the fact that our adoption is open. In fact, it has been asked most often by my health care providers with whom I have to share that I have had three live births, not just two. When I say that, I have to explain that the first was placed for adoption. Then comes the question. I enjoy the fact that these people have a basic understanding of openness in today’s adoptions and are inquiring whether or not we are walking that path.
4. “It must have been a very difficult decision/time for you.” This statement acknowledges the fact that the decision to place was not made on a whim nor was the aftermath. Sure, maybe it leaves out the fact that the grief and loss associated with placement are on-going but if someone is willing to acknowledge that it was hard, I’m not going to be too nit-picky.
5. “But you’re such a good mother.” I’ve only heard this once and it was very reaffirming for me. Yes, I am a darn good mother. And I would have been a darn good mother to my relinquished daughter. Hearing the shock in someone else’s voice just helped further confirm my awesomeness. (I say awesomeness with my tongue in my cheek. Kind of!)
6. “Was the agency reprimanded?” Or anything of this nature. When I delve into the nitty-gritty as to what the agency did wrong and someone is able to look at it from their own vantage point and realize that there were some pretty crappy things done on the part of the agency, I feel validated. No, they weren’t reprimanded but I’m pleased when others are able to recognize their wrong doings.
7. “What a special bond the two of you have.” People have said this in response to some of the stories I have shared about my adventures with the Munchkin. I’ve also heard it in response to a few pictures. Yes, we do have a bond. Thank you for noticing!
8. “When’s the Munchkin coming out next?” This may seem like a simple question. To me it means a lot more than a normal inquiry into our visiting schedule. To me it means that the person asking has accepted the fact that the Munchkin is a part of our lives and not only lacks any issue with that fact but is supportive enough to be interested in her presence.
9. “I’d like to meet her someday.” I’d like for you to meet her, too! Thanks!
10. “You’ve helped me understand xx about xx.” By sharing my story, I’ve come across various groups of people doing various things. Some have been potential adoptive families trying to figure out how or why openness can benefit their family. Some have been current open adoption adoptive parents trying to figure out an appropriate way to handle a situation or an entire relationship. Some have been birth parents in various stages of openness and healing who just wanted to know that they weren’t alone. Some have been adoptees who wanted to know that their plight wasn’t being ignored. Some have been people not touched by adoption that have learned something different than what they had been lead to believe by stereotypes or the media. Sharing my story is healing for me, of course, as I don’t believe silence serves any purpose. But when that sharing helps someone else? Well, that’s a good feeling, too.
11. “You guys must work awful hard to achieve the level of relationship that you have.” Sometimes this is said in a negative way with the commenter alluding to the fact that open adoptions like ours aren’t for the everyday kind of family. Sometimes this is said in a positive manner, acknowledging the fact that we do put in a lot of work to this relationship. Either way, negative or positive, it’s true for us. We do put in a lot of work! I’m proud to say that for both sides and I fully accept the compliment even if the commenter was trying to get a “dig” in on me.
12. “What a unique family you have!” Again, this is one of those “are they saying it to be nice or are they saying it to be snotty” kind of comments. I’ve learned to let this one roll of my shoulders as well and accept it as a full compliment. (Doing so to those who intended it to be snotty only further aggravates them which makes me grin from ear to ear.) Yes! Our family is unique! In many different ways and not just solely related to the adoption factor.
13. “She’s lucky to have you in her life.” This one is my favorite, obviously. So, I saved it for last. I love hearing this. I love the acknowledgment that I bring something to the table in the relationship with my daughter. I am important to her, she has said so herself. But when others recognize that importance, I again feel validated. I’m not just someone random. I’m someone important. I celebrate that fact and continue to do the work that I need to do on my end so that I can continue to be of importance to her. Sometimes that importance is just simply playing with her during a visit. And sometimes that importance is recognized when she freely tells me that she loves me and accepts the same sentiment back from me. I will be available to her for any questions in the future. And my love will always be unconditionally available. That’s what I promised her and that’s what I intend to offer!
There are other things, obviously, that are great or okay for me to hear from other people. I just hit on thirteen that stuck out in my head as I sat down to write. Quite frankly, anything said that acknowledges my hard work, my grief or the importance I have in my daughter’s life is a comment that I’m “cool with.” Over the years, I’ve learned to accept even half-hearted compliments and turn them into something beautiful as I showed in a few examples above. I try not to let others’ blatant negativity or judgment get the best of me. But sometimes it does.
Tune in next week for what some of those things are!
(Oh, and Happy Valentine’s Day!)
For more Thursday Thirteen stuff here on the birth/first parent blog, read these posts.