Last year during National Infertility Awareness Week (#NIAW), I posted 5 Things I Want You to Know. This year, I'm revisiting those five things and also giving a bit of an update. I would love to hear from you, so make sure you blog back to me!
Along the same lines as #1, sometimes people will ask about our adoption process(es), and I'm always up for talking about that. If it's a particularly hard time or moment in the process, you may get a "canned" answer of, "we're just continuing to wait and pray," but other than that I'm good to talk about adoption all the live long day.
You'd be surprised how many people take it a step further, though. Not only have people asked Jason and me this question, but people have asked my parents, my sisters, and other close friends: "Can you not have your own kids?" or "Do you want your own kids someday?"
Look, I'm not going to pick a part everything about why people should not ask these questions or how they could be asked differently, but just know that it's not okay to ask things like this.
Here's the deal, these are awkward questions. I'm a fairly modest person, and I don't want to think about someone asking my mom and dad about all this, but it's happened. And how am I supposed to answer? "Yes, I want to have biological kids someday but by golly we keep trying and trying and every month I'm not pregnant." Um, no. Or, "No, I don't want biological kids." Well, that's a lie. And what happens if I do get pregnant, then am I a liar or unhappy that I'm pregnant? No. It's weird. It's awkward. Let's just talk about adoption.
The other thing is that Brighten is, and Judah will be just as much my own child as any child I may or may not birth someday. They are real people, with real hearts, real souls, and we are their real family and their real parents.
Also, our track record says that we won't be able to have biological children now or anytime in the future. I've spent over a decade of coming to terms with this, so while it's okay with me that I may never be pregnant, many women and families are struggling with infertility, and even if they have chosen to adopt it doesn't mean they aren't still grieving the realities of infertility.
If you find yourself in a conversation with someone who is adopting, please phrase your questions in a way that won't rub that raw place. I know it's unintentional, and I'm not mad or angry when people do this, but I also want you to understand that as an adoptive parent, I have gone through a process of letting go of the "imagined child," which can be a different and difficult process for every family.
If you're unsure of what to ask, simply say that. I have a close friend who is a champ at prefacing conversations with, "I want to say the right thing and ask questions the right way, but I'm not sure how, so please stop me or correct me if I say something hurtful."
For me, transparency is the ultimate gift, and a little empathy is all I'm asking for.
I'm going to mostly focus on one element of the second thing I want you to know. Although this series is mostly about infertility awareness, many families come to adoption and/or foster care from a journey through infertility and I think it's important to focus on some adoption/foster care elements of this as well, especially since that is how we've chosen to build our family and it's only fair to focus on my own experience.
Also, I think it's important to point out that for families who come to adoption through infertility, the child(ren) they adopt is/are not plan B kids. Just as I talked about God's first and second best in post ONE OF FIVE, adopted kids are not God's second best for a family who has walked through infertility.
So, based on this topic from last year about asking if I want my "own" kids, I want to offer a few alternative conversation starters. If I'm being blunt (and I am), using the phrase "own kids" is no-no in the orphan care world. The mindset behind this is that whether someone is fostering or adopting, any kid that comes into their home will be loved, cherished, and treated just as much "their own" as a biological child is or would be. Referring to an adopted child or a kid in care as anything other than "their own" implies that they're treated, loved, or cared for less than or differently than a biological child.
Here are a few questions and conversation starters when talking to an adoptive or fostering family:
I'm so excited that you're adopting/fostering and I would love to know more about the process and how you came to make the decision to build your family in this way.
- I don't know that much about adoption/foster care, is there something specific I can be praying for either for your family or for your child's biological family/family of origin?
- I love that your family is adopting/fostering, and I'll be sure to keep your process in my prayers. Did you know for a long time before you started the process that you wanted to adopt/foster?
- What are some good blogs/books/podcasts I could read or listen to on the topic of adoption and foster care so that I can pray for your family more effectively?
- It's incredible to see how God builds families and knits them together in His perfect way. (this is for if the person also has biological children or another adopted child. don't ask if they're "real" brothers or sisters - obviously they're all real and they're a family -- if a family wants to share who is adopted, in care, or biologically related, they'll share that information on their own. in reality, it doesn't matter who's biologically related or not)
- I love hearing about how God built your family. Do you plan to grow your family any more through your adoption/foster care?
Please, please, please, stay away from trying to get information about families of origin (are they on drugs, did they do something bad, why did they place for adoption or have children removed, etc.). If a parent or foster parent wants to share, they will, but most of the time we feel as if those things are our child's to share and not our own.
Remember that asking "how" is always better than making your own assumptions. Also (and this seems obvious, but people have asked us this before), don't ask a family how much their kid costs or even how much their adoption costs. If you're truly interested because you'd either like to contribute to their adoption or someone else's, or you're family is interested in adopting, ask if you can plan a time to talk to them about their process and some of the logistics. Nine times out of ten, they'll say yes and one of the first things they'll talk to you about is fees and how they raised funds or saved up for their process.
Last, don't ever assume that people don't want to or can't have biological children. For instance, when we began our adoption journey a little over four years ago, we had not begun this journey of infertility that we're now walking through. My answer back then was that I had no idea if I could have get pregnant, but now, that's an emotional question for me to answer. Also, sometimes people don't know if they want to have biological children, or medically it wouldn't be safe for them to get pregnant. God builds families in all different ways and He leads us down different paths in different seasons as He sees fit.
Thank you for indulging my honesty and transparency (and bluntness) on this topic. I know it can come across as aggressive sometimes or make people feel like they shouldn't say anything at all. Please do not make that your take-away from this!! Let me explicitly say that infertility and orphan care can feel very lonely and isolating, so please show your interest, just be sensitive. And if you're not sure what to say, don't be afraid to say that that you have questions you want to ask, but you want to be sensitive and aren't sure what to say!! I love it when friends do this, and it gives me an opportunity to educate them on my perspective without being passive aggressive. I hope you'll take these conversation starters and use them as tools for friends and family members who need you to be in their corner throughout their journey to adopt/foster, from the beginning of their process and especially once their child(ren) come home!