The decision to place one’s child for adoption is no easy feat. It takes a lot of strength and courage on the birth mothers part, and often, is overlooked. Birth mothers are often stigmatized and don’t always receive the respect that they deserve from the rest of society. These are some common and often harmful phrases that are frequently used by people talking to birth mothers. Here are some things you should not say when talking to a birth mother.
10.“I wouldn’t have done that…”
The choice to place a child for adoption is one of the most difficult and selfless acts a birth mother can give her child. Comments like this, whether intentional or not, can seem condescending, judgmental, and unsupportive. A birth mother is already struggling with her decision even though she knows it is for the best and comments only bring the birth mother down. It is important to remember that it is not your choice to decide what is best for the child and that it is your place to remain supportive of a birth mother in her time of grief.
- “What about the father?”
This is another insensitive topic to ask as it is both an emotional and personal topic for the birth mother. Maybe the birth father is aware of the adoption and is helping the birth mother through it or maybe he is not. Regardless, it isn’t a question to ask unless the birth mother chooses to share it with you. This question could bring up a lot of painful emotions and is not beneficial to the birth mother’s mental health. It also suggests that you are judging her for her pregnancy in the first place.
- “Can you see the baby?”
Another complicated question that could bring up a lot of painful emotions for the birth mother. While many of today’s adoptions do have a degree of openness, it is still a complicated topic for the birth mother to answer. It especially might be difficult for a birth mother to open up about if she feels like the adoption wasn’t open enough or if the process is painful for her.
7.“How much money did you make?”
This is an incredibly problematic question for many reasons. First, it is not your business. Second, it is untrue. Yes, adoptive parents must help pay for some living and pregnancy expenses for the birth mother, but no birth mother is paid to place their child for adoption. Third, it assumes that the baby is an object to be bought and sold. This baby is not an object, he or she is a human life. The baby deserves the same respect and dignity that anyone else would have.
- “You took the easy way out…”
This is an insensitive and completely unfounded accusation. There is nothing easy about placing a child for adoption. It is one of, if not the most difficult decision for a birth mother to make. No mother wants to make this decision, but they do it because they believe that they are doing the right thing for both their children and themselves. It’s also horribly insulting and hurtful to say to someone.
5.“You’re not a ‘real’ mom…”
Birth mothers are in fact ‘real’ moms. They go through the same experiences and feelings that all mothers have, even if they do not get to spend as much time with their child. To suggest that a birth mother is not really a mother is highly insensitive and it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding about motherhood and the adoption process in general.
- “Why didn’t you have an abortion?
It is no one other than the birth mother’s decision about what is best for her child and herself. Nobody is in a position to judge the mother’s decision. There are all kinds of reasons why a birth mother might choose adoption over abortion, but that is nobody else’s business.
- “How do you think your child will feel?”
Many people think that an adoptee will feel unwanted or harbor negative feelings towards their birth mothers as a result of being placed for adoption. Regardless of whether this will happen or not, asking the birth mother how the child will feel is insensitive. The birth mother is making the ultimate sacrifice and is trying to do what is best for her child. No birth mother wants to place her child for adoption, but circumstances force her to do so.
- “You gave him or her a better life…”
Many well-intentioned people say this phrase to birth mothers in a way that is meant to be comforting and supportive. In fact, that is probably exactly what the birth mother is thinking. However, telling the birth mother this is insinuating that she wouldn’t have been able to give her child the best life. It is damaging to the birth mother’s mental health and it further instills societal stereotypes that unfairly stigmatize single-mothers.
1.“You’re giving your child up for adoption?”
This phrase is never a good thing to say to a birth mother. The terminology “giving up” suggests that the birth mother wants to get rid of her child. It is insulting and hurtful to the birth mother to insinuate this. A better phrase would be “you’re placing your child for adoption.”
Tepfenhart, O. (2018, July 10). Things you should never say to a birthmother. Retrieved March 20, 2019 from https://families.media/things-you-should-never-say-to-a-birthmother.
Witt, N. (2018, July 10). ‘Why don’t you want your baby?” and other things you should never say to a birth mom. Retrieved March 20, 2019 from https://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/1082718/things-you-should-never-say-to-a-birth-mom/.
AstridBeeMom. (2015, October 8). Top 5 Things Not to Say to a Birthmother. Retrieved March, 20, 2019, from http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/top-5-things-not-to-say-to-a-birthmother/
Julianna McKenna is a college student at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana double majoring in English Writing and Psychology. She is passionate about adoption and foster care and is considering a career in adoption law or counseling. In January 2019, Julianna became an intern for Virginia L. Frank and joined the Adoption Choices Inc., team. She is incredibly dedicated to promoting children’s rights and is excited to research and advocate for children.