If you have a friend or family member who’s considering adoption or is in the adoption process, consider these tips to help you be the best pal on the planet.
Get excited! When making the big announcement, any mama–paper pregnant or otherwise–is nervous and ecstatic; and she wants her friends to share in the joy. This is not the time to look surprised or ask questions. The last thing a gal wants to hear after she’s just shared news of adoption is: So why are you not having kids of your own? This is wrong on so many levels.
Jump up and down. Squeal. Give her a hug. Buy her a balloon. Throw confetti in the air. These are acceptable responses.
Ask her: What can I do to help you? Show your support. No matter how this mama came to choose adoption, adding a child to her family through adoption is not second best. And she sure doesn’t want you to feel that way. Don’t suggest other options like infertility treatments or surrogates or no-fail sex positions. (Oh, if only I were making this up.) Don’t act like adoption is nothing more than a last resort. It’s not.
Follow her lead. When it comes to why she’s adopting, allow her to tell you in her own way and in her own time. Let her share as much or as little as she wants. The same is true regarding the adoption process and adoption updates. During our first adoption journey, we shared with friends and family each time a possibility arose for the first three instances. But then it became too painful to explain why it didn’t work out 25 times to 25 different people and then deal with their responses. If your friend wants to be an open book, great. If she doesn’t, great. And if she changes her mind along the way, great.
Simply put, respect her privacy. In some instances, prospective adoptive parents are not allowed to share pictures or specific information about a child until the legal paperwork is finalized.
The next tidbit is a sensitive topic for me, likely because it bothered me the most when I entered the adoption process. I had well-meaning, loving friends and family, who in their kind attempt to relate to me, insisted on comparing my experiences with pregnancy. “Oh, let’s say this stage is like finding out if it’s going to be a boy or a girl . . . . Or this anxiety is like your morning sickness.” Um, no. Don’t compare adoption to pregnancy.
Dear sweet friends, here’s the truth: Adoption is not pregnancy. Pregnancy is not adoption. I do not know what it feels like to experience pregnancy or labor. Similarly, if you have not adopted, you do not know what it is like to travel that road. While different, they do share one thing; both are beautiful.
It is okay if you do not understand what your friend is feeling or experiencing. Just love her and be excited for her journey.
We females are also very handy at handing out unsolicited advice. (I am preaching to my own choir here, friends. I do this all the time. Agh!) Please don’t share every adoption story you know, especially the ones that sound more like horror movies. Don’t advise. Don’t offer alternate adoption options. Don’t go hunting for available babies. Don’t tell her about your friend’s aunt who adopted 20 years ago and the kid turned out just fine . . . . Or comment on what type of adoption would be best for her family . . . .
And most certainly don’t label her a saint. I never quite know how to respond to people when they say:
- She’s so lucky to have you.
- You’ve done such a noble thing.
- I could never do what you’ve done.
I do not believe or feel–and neither does your friend–that creating a family through adoption is a charity. I did nothing more than build a family just like the majority of people in the world. It just so happens our means to a family is not the most common route. That’s all. I’ve not done some great thing. If anyone is blessed in this arrangement, it’s me. My daughter is my treasure. Your friend likely feels the same way.
While I’ve listed a lot of don’ts, please do not think you need to be mute on the subject of adoption. Don’t be afraid to ask. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the differences between her story and yours. That shows your friend that you “get it.” Just always temper the questions with respect, support, and love.
And if you do nothing else, celebrate! Celebrate the possibilities. Celebrate the journey. Celebrate what love can do. Celebrate when she calls you and half screams, half cries: We’re bringing baby home!