Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dear Lori

I'd love to answer your questions about adoption. I don't claim to be an expert but as you well know, I'm not shy about giving my honest point of view. So post your questions and I'll try to answer them either in the comments or in a separate post. We'll call this the "Dear Lori" series. Here's our first question:

Dear Lori,
I've had several friends adopt babies. It is really hard to know how to talk to them! Seriously - even though I struggled with infertility for 7 years before my first baby was born - there seems to be this invisible divider between "us" with normal pregnancies and "them" who can't (or don't). Does that make sense? Anyway, I'd love it if you'd write about the right and wrong things to say.


Signed,

Anonymous


Dear Anonymous,

Either I'm not that sensitive or everyone has been blessed with the right words to say but I haven't experienced many inappropriate moments. Since that wouldn't be a very helpful response from an advice columnist, I'll give you my top 5 list of what not to say.


  1. "Do you know Johnny's* 'real mom'?" - Uh yeah, that's me. I'm his "real mom." I doubt anyone would question that as the people who cared for Lillian every minute of every day, Jeff and I were her "real parents." That brings us to what we should call the person who gave birth to the child who is also, BTW, a real mom. Personally, I prefer the title birthmom over biological mom or natural mom. To me it honors the relationship and reflects the gift of life. "Biological" seems cold and "natural" makes it sound like being an adoptive mom is unnatural or something. Some birthmoms prefer the term first mom as well.

  2. "Was Johnny's* birthmom on drugs/really young/other negative stereotype?" - Not only does this insult the genetic heritage of the child but it's just plain disrespectful. This is an area of greatest misconceptions. At our agency, the average age of a birthmom is 25. 43% of the children placed experienced no prenatal drug or alcohol exposure and another 23% experienced only mild exposure. Regardless of the statistics, imagine the strength of character required to endure a pregnancy and delivery only to allow someone else to raise this beautiful baby. There are many other seemingly easier options but these brave birthparents choose to put their child's needs above their own. Birthfamilies are the true heroes of adoption and should be treated as such.

  3. "Aren't you afraid that Johnny's* birthfamily is going to want him back?" - Well if I wasn't before, I am now...thanks a lot. Once the birthparents have signed consents (about 48 hours after the birth), they have terminated their parental rights. And Oregon law favors adoptive parents. But really, why even bring this up? Don't parents have enough to worry about?

  4. "Once you adopt, you'll get pregnant." - Oh really? When did you become an expert in this area? I honestly think this happened to one couple in the history of the world and somehow EVERYONE knows them. It's like the 6 degrees of the adoptive parents who miraculously conceived. Sarcasm aside for a moment (which is hard for me to do), this rarely happens. And if it does happen to us, yippee! More kids to love. Oooo, and we can become the stuff of urban legend.

  5. "Can't you have children of your own?" - Adopted children or biological children, they are my own. 'Nough said.

Don't be afraid to say the wrong thing. As long as you are approaching the subject with a genuine desire to learn and without any preconceived stereotypes, I for one, won't be offended. But in return, don't be offended if I correct a mistake. That's how we all learn.

Sincerely,
Lori

*To make my life easier, the adoptive child in these scenarios will be referred to as "Johnny". He/she/the child/etc was just too confusing to write.

10 comments:

Anonymous July 19, 2007 at 6:17 PM  

I will start this one off :)

Dear Lori,

The burning question on my mind is about open adoption. Pros, cons, why to do it or why not to do it? Also do you know what you will do this time around? Personally I have heard nothing but good things about open adoption. The families that I have personally seen that have had some struggles are those children that are my age or older and the resentment or bad feelings about not knowing their birthmom or the struggle to find them now. Just wondering.

Beth

Anonymous July 19, 2007 at 10:29 PM  

Dear Lori,

What made you choose adopting within the US, as opposed to international adoption? Was international adoption even on the table for you guys? If so, what are some of the pro's and con's? BTW, you are awesome. :) Becci

Anonymous July 19, 2007 at 10:42 PM  

Lori,
You are AMAZING! And...
CONGRATULATIONS on your adoption process. I did a happy dance with the happy dance of happy tears when I read your "We're Having A Baby" blog. I can't think of a nicer way to honor Lillian than by sharing your love with another little person. What LOVE this child will be born in to. :-)

I have to thank you for your wonderful blog. I love your sense of humor and can often hear myself saying some of the same things in my head! (Yes, I hear voices...my own...) I, especially, enjoyed reading the visit to the doctor. I have found that after living in the hospital environment, I'm far more aware of my "hygenic" surroundings. Why DO people cough into their hands and not into their elbows? Why do they cough or sneeze into their hands, rub their noses or ears or eyes, then TOUCH the pens that I might want to use to write a check at the grocery store? (Of course, I carry antibacterial everything as well as my OWN pens now.) And, yes, the reason I don't go to the doctor is because EVERYONE there IS sick and I don't want what they've got!

Well, my friend. Back to the joy of it all. I am so happy for you and Jeff. You are incredible and inspiring.

Love and blessings,
Catherine

Lori July 20, 2007 at 7:50 AM  

Ever since we noticed the guy sitting 3 pews in front of us cleaning his ear with the church's pen, I carry my own writing utencils. Just goes to show you, you never know where stuff has been.

Anonymous July 20, 2007 at 4:44 PM  

Dear Lori,

I want to know if you will choose a baby again or weather you are looking for an older child? I know there are plenty of both out there to be adopted, so how do you choose which to adopt?
Best of luck in everything you do!
Joey

Cheryl July 22, 2007 at 3:37 PM  

Dear Lori,

I love this new series! It is so great to have a "safe" environment to ask questions and not feel dumb! I'll confess the whole world of adoption seems a bit overwhelming to me. It is all so--involved. Like having a physical as part of the application process...never would have thought about that...but it makes sense, doesn't it? I'm learning so much. Keep it coming!

Thank you again for allowing us to come on this journey with you. What a joy!

Laura July 22, 2007 at 7:59 PM  

ear Lori, I hope you don't mind if I put my two cents worth in but there are a couple of other no-no phrases that drive me nuts. My two younger kids are adopted and I heard it even today..."Oh I didn't know she wasn't yours" Then whose is she? Why the focus on genetics? Genetics take a couple of minutes to happen. Being a parent takes a lifetime. The other is "So when did you get him/her"(Like I picked them up at the supermarket) When I say "at birth" somehow the person seems to think that is better. Well, in my mind, had I adopted at two minutes or two years I don't think there is much of a difference. I know most people are very sincere and accepting and I never get too offended(well except at the woman who asked me had I known that McKenna would get cancer..would I have adopted her anyway...yep..true story..) but I just thought that since the forum here I would butt in with my never-to-be-humbled-opinion. Thanks, Laura Matteson

Anonymous July 23, 2007 at 8:08 PM  

What an absolutely brilliant idea! I love it! I love it! I love it! I should only exoect nothing less than brilliant from you. This is so exciting and I am ecstatic to be a part of this beautiful process. Hope to throw you that shower. I know. I know. Maybe you could do it for me. LET me. I am a great little party thrower, k? Seriously, like Chris said a few months ago.... "If anyone should be parents, it's Jeff and Lori". I am excited for the little angel that God gives you. They are going to have the life that people envy, having you guys as their parents.
love you both,
Robyn

Lori July 24, 2007 at 11:07 AM  

Laura, jump in anytime. I'd love for other families to give their point of view as well. I can't believe that someone asked you that question about cancer. Our children are our children. It doesn't matter how they came to us.

soccamama July 25, 2007 at 9:24 PM  

Well said! Congratulations on your decision to adopt again!

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