Choosing adoption is brave. It’s also difficult — as any birth mother who has gone through an adoption journey will tell you. When an expectant mother chooses adoption, it comes from a place of deep love. Even though the phrase “give up for adoption” is commonplace, there’s nothing that even resembles “giving up” in this decision.
Just like “give up for adoption” is a widespread misunderstanding of this choice, so is the stereotypical image of mothers who choose adoption. Typically, people assume that young, single women are the only ones who choose adoption. And yes — young, single women experiencing an unplanned pregnancy do sometimes choose adoption. But, they are not alone. Women from all walks of life decide that adoption gives their baby and themselves the best chance at a fulfilling life. This includes women who are already, or in the future will be, mothers.
Surprising? Unfortunately, it is to many. But it shouldn’t be. Just because a woman is already a mother of three doesn’t mean she is prepared for a fourth. Or, just because a woman has made the brave choice to place a baby for adoption doesn’t mean she won’t be ready to choose parenting in the future. Life changes. Situations are fluid and circumstances are challenging. Anyone, from any walk of life, may come to the conclusion that adoption is the best choice.
This blog is for these mothers, because they face an additional layer of complexity: how do you answer questions from your other children about choosing adoption?
First Things First: Every Situation is Unique
Let’s get this out of the way right up front: we can’t tell you exactly what to say. We wish it was that simple — a copy-and-paste answer that gets right to the heart of challenging questions from your children. But, that’s just not the way it is.
Everyone’s adoption story is unique. Your circumstances, your relationship with your children and even your potential relationship with the adoptive family (through open adoption) will all impact the way you answer questions.
When forming your answers to the questions you hear, there are some good policies to follow.
Honesty is the Best Policy
We’ve all seen the story in one form or another, maybe on TV, or in a move or book: the teenager who finds out through an unexpected turn of events that they were adopted. It makes for a decent movie, but it’s a terrible way to approach adoption in real life.
At American Adoptions, we encourage adoptive parents to begin telling their child his or her adoption story from a young age. This helps frame adoption in the positive light it deserves, and later on it will help the child build adoption into the foundation of their identity in an uplifting way. As a birth mother, you can do the same.
It takes honesty to do this. Adoption is personal and sensitive, and we generally don’t like to talk about things that are personal and sensitive. But, if you have the opportunity to talk about adoption with your kids, you can take it. There are age-appropriate ways to explain the process (you don’t need to tell a 3-year-old all about the ins and outs involved in creating an adoption plan), and you can help your children understand the decision.
As a good rule to follow, start with love. This choice came from a place of love, and the love is still there. You can explain, even to very young children, that you chose adoption because you loved the baby so much and knew that an adoptive family would give this baby the best chance to thrive.
Always be honest, and try to take opportunities to take about adoption early on, even when it seems uncomfortable.
Questions You May Hear – And Some Helpful Ways to Answer
What about specific questions? You may already have a few in mind. You may have heard some questions this morning, or right this moment. Let’s look at a couple common things kids ask about adoption, and hopefully give you a helpful answer.
Why did you choose adoption?
Women choose adoption for many different reasons. These reasons typically have several things in common:
- I loved the baby and wanted to give her/him the best life possible
- Parenting would have been impossible for me at the time
- I believe it was the right and best thing to do
You know your reasons better than anyone. Try to be honest about those, and emphasize that, at the core of it, you wanted to do what was best for the baby, even though it was incredibly difficult to do.
Are they still my brother/sister?
Again, it’s up for you to decide how you want to answer this. In general, we would say: yes. Even though they have a different mom and dad who love them very much, they are still your brother/sister. It’s a different kind of siblinghood, but there is still a bond that exists.
Did it make you sad?
Loss is inherent in adoption. If any adoption professional tries to tell you otherwise, walk away. This process has difficult moments and emotions. To the extent that it is age-appropriate, it’s good to share this with your children when they ask about it. You can explain how the most important things in life are rarely easy, and how it did make you sad, but you also knew the child would be so loved by the adoptive parents, and that brought happiness.
Where are they now?
If you have an open or semi-open adoption, this is a question you may be able to answer more specifically. In general, even if you don’t know exactly where they are, you can say they are in a place full of love. They are in a home with a family who cares for them deeply. They are safe. They are loved.
There are many more questions you might be asked — kids do have pretty crazy imaginations, so who knows what they will wonder about. But with these principles, and your own knowledge of your story, you can answer any question that comes your way.