"The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?"
- Laura Bush
Seventeen waiting mothers chimed in on what we Do and Don't want you to say to us about adoption. Here is an abbreviated and anonymous collection of our thoughts.
The Words That HURT Us:
"The worst is when people say " oh when you get your kid watch out you will probably get pregnant, then you will have your own.""
"...most people don't say anything at all- I'm sure it's because they
don't know what to say. But to me, that's one of the most painful ways to
respond. I want to talk about it. It is real to us and I want it to be real to
them too (especially to the people we are closest with). To not bring it up is
to both deny the pain of what we're going through and to deny the reality that there really will be a child for us at some point. Can you imagine someone going through a pregnancy with their friends and family never asking how they are doing or how the baby is doing?"
"...my very least favorite thing to hear goes something like this: "Well, why don't you just try to get pregnant" or "Are you sure you don't want to just have 'one of your own'" or "Are you going to try to get pregnant now?" "You should get checked out, it might be an easy fix". I could go on but I'm starting to make myself angry :) The problem doesn't lie in whether or not we can become pregnant. The problem lies in the assumption. The assumption that since it is a harder and longer journey to our Ethiopian
child, we would want to 'take the easy road and just get pregnant'. That a
biological child would be more desirable."
"I guess my advice would be to be mindful of an adoptive mom's
feelings at baby showers."
"...everyone wants to tell me about "someone they know" that got pregnant as soon as they adopted and then proceed to tell me how I shouldn't worry because "it's" going to happen for me, clearly meaning pregnancy."
"We have been waiting so long, that people have stopped asking me about it. And when I bring it up they say, "Well, I was going to ask but..." trailing off with a regretful look. To which I want to say, "But WHAT?!"
"I too, having dealt with infertility get the "don't worry, as soon as you adopt
you will get pregnant". To which I respond "I hope not! My kids are in
"The average person doesn't see that pregnancy and adoption are so very similar. My friends asked me to co-host a baby shower, without thinking that it might be an emotional issue for me. My friends ask me to go see a new baby in the hospital, without understanding that it is a loaded environment. My daughter probably won't be born in a hospital. My daughter's mother could die without ever seeing a doctor. My daughter- the one who I will raise, and love, and take to college and shop for wedding dresses with- will be born without me. I'll never hold her as a newborn. I may never know what she looked like as a newborn. That is heartbreaking. I know that it is what we asked for and I will endure that loss for my daughter. But it is something I am walking around with on my heart every day. And I wish the rest of the world would respect that right now."
"We had a good friend who asked us after a garage sale adoption fundraiser (loudly between church services), "so did you make enough money to buy your next baby yet?" Yikes! Talk about the wrong comment to make!"
"My mother has asked a couple times about how I feel about how the process is going. When I get emotional about it, she gets worried and thinks this isn't a good idea and asks me again, "why don't you want to have your own kids? (don't even get me started on the whole "own kids" thing!). It is really beyond her that I would willingly put myself through all this pain. I think she thinks there is something wrong with me...some horrible fear of pregnancy or some deep psychological issue on why I don't want to get pregnant instead of feeling God calling us to this life."
"It drives me nuts when people say we should just give up and have our own child (which we can do, adoption is a choice for us). When people say this I really want to launch into the statistics of orphans, starving children, the aids pandemic, or some other truthful, but unhelpful conversation and then ask them if I should really just give up and try to conceive."
"During one [baby shower] I was sitting by a pregnant friend (not the one the shower was for) and person after person came up and said things to her such as, "You will have your baby here before you know it!" and things like that. And all of them knew I was adopting and I couldn't help but feel a little offended that no one said anything to me. I might not have a big belly but I'm still carrying around a child in my heart and longing for the day I get to see his or her face and have him or her with me in person."
The Words That HELP Us:
"To me, the most helpful and loving thing that people can do is to acknowledge and validate the pain we are feeling, to cry with us, and to pray for us, especially as we are in this waiting process. We just want the people in our lives to say, "We love you guys and we are so sorry that you are experiencing this pain right now. We are praying for you." That to me is so much more helpful than the person who glibly responds that we need to trust God and it's all going to work out."
"I just like it when people ask me real and honest questions. Questions like,
"So what happens next?" or "Why does it work that way?" Honest, real questions mean a lot to me. It lets me know that they are concerned."
"I like being able to educate people and be an advocate. I love when people walk away saying "Wow, I never realized there was so much to it..."
"I love when people ask questions about adoption, especially when they really seem interested."
"I just want them to say something, ask anything. I ache sometimes to share and don't know how to bring it up. There is no new news about our adoption, but I love to talk about it. About how my heart longs for my Ethiopian Children, how there isn't a night that goes by that my heart cries out to our Father in Heaven for them. It is such a silent process for those of us in the wait, but I think it is a beautiful thing to share our passion for God's children. So I would tell anyone who wants to say something or ask a question. Do it. Speak up. We would love to share!"
"I would rather have someone say something like, "I have no idea what that must have been like and how you must be feeling, but I love you and am here for you.""
"I guess I WOULD like people to acknowledge that this is hard road, a note of encouragement (not trite, easy answers), or a hug with a genuine, "let's go to lunch and you can share your struggles with me"...and then actually follow up and listen without getting that glazed look on their faces! I guess I want some support from people, even if it is a quick note to say they were thinking about us with genuine concern."
"...we have friends here in Flagstaff who brought their 9 month old son home from Ethiopia in August. This is their 2nd ET adoption as well and we have become good friends. I was at her baby shower once Makeo was home. I was overjoyed to go to the shower and celebrate with them, but for the next week, I was a mess. Irritable, moody, and quick tempered. I didn't realize what the problem was until she sent me a note. She sent me a thank you note for my shower gift, but also wrote, "I appreciate so much that you attended our shower. I KNOW how hard it must have been for you to be there knowing how much you ache to have your little one in your arms. Your friendship is so valuable to us! We are praying for you and for your referral. Thank you!" I couldn't stop crying tears of relief when I got that note. It was probably the most thoughtful note I had ever received concerning the adoption process and I felt validated that this is indeed difficult."
"The very best way one person has reacted is every.single.time she sees me she gets really excited and asks if we've heard anything yet. I always have to say no but she reassures me it WILL happen."
"Our small group also prays for us to get our referral every week. Even when I feel defeated and shrug my shoulders saying they can pray if they feel like it. They pray with such sincerity and urgency that I always end up in tears."
"I want people to acknowledge that we're adopting and even though it has taken longer then we hoped, that it will happen and that they are happy for us."
These were our uninhibited feelings on this emotional and sensitive subject. I truly hope that our words help those around us to understand what we need right now. In the comments I received from the waiting mothers, there were so many beautiful words about the children we are waiting for. I will close with some of those thoughts...
How We Feel About The Children We Are Waiting For:
"As a Momma who has been blessed with 2 children of my womb and 2 of my heart (one of those whom I will finally meet in 3 weeks), let those who tell you such things know from my own testimony ... that ALL my children are MY children, MY OWN ... loved the same and as much as the next. Nothing different in the way I love and adore them, except the way in which the Lord brought them into our family. All of them call me Mommy and all of them are MINE ALL MINE (Well ...of course HIS first and foremost)."
"And to the lady that said "you wouldn't understand unless you have had your own" I would say, "and you can't understand the love of adoption unless YOU have experienced it". As hard as this extreme slow down in Ethiopia has been, I am still so grateful that God has called us to adoption. I am amazed every day at the miraculous way God grows a love in my heart for a child on the other side of the world. It is a beautiful, beautiful thing."
"Those people who say that it is different to have your "own," they don't
understand the tremendous blessings and gifts of being called to this journey. They may never know. So I always try to say something like, "Well this has been different, but it has been every bit as exciting, emotional, and wonderful as being pregnant. I'm so THANKFUL that I have gotten to experience this.""