Yesterday, I wrote a list of things I wish people would stop saying to birthmothers. So, the logical question is: What should people say to birthmothers?
As a general rule, people really should refrain from saying much of anything. That’s not to say that close family and friends should sweep the adoption under the rug, but as a person who honestly cares about the mother, listening instead of speaking is the best thing you could offer. Here are some things I wish people would say more of to first mothers:
Nothing can replace your child, I am so sorry you are going through this.
It must be difficult to not be able to express the love you feel for your child.
Is there anything I can do to help you move forward? What do you need from me?
It is heart wrenching that you were put in that position.
You don’t always need to be strong, I am here for support.
How are you feeling about the adoption?
I can’t offer anything to take away your pain, but I can offer you a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen.
I am really struggling with sadness today over the loss of your child, can we talk about it? (This would be a welcome statement from any of my immediate family)
Most people close to me feel like they can not bring up the adoption, for fear of reopening an old hurt. The truth is that the hurt is both old and new. The truth is that NOT talking about it does not help.
1. You have given the adoptive parents such a gift.
A human being is not a gift to be given, period.
2. You can always have more children.
Human beings are not interchangeable. Even if I go on to have more children, they will never replace my child that was given away for adoption. If you wouldn’t say this to a mother who lost their child to death, don’t say it to a mother who relinquished their child.
Also, this statement may not be true. Secondary infertility is a known issue in birthmothers.
3. Your child will always know how much you loved them.
There is no way to know how an adoptee will feel about their relinquishment. Some feel that adoption was great, some do not. Some harbor righteous anger against their birth mothers, some do not. Some live with pain and anxiety their whole lives. There is a higher risk of suicide among adoptees. There is no way of knowing how an adoptee will handle their adoption status.
4. Time heals all wounds.
Maybe it does for some. For me, it has not. For many, it has not. The grief I experience today is different than the grief I experienced when I first relinquished, but it has never left me. The wound is more like a festering sore that opens and closes without provocation. It will never heal. Again, if you wouldn’t say something like this to a parent who has lost a child to death, don’t say it to a first mother.
5. Take solace in knowing your child has been given a better life.
Adoption can never promise a child will have a better life, only a different one. Although this statement probably represents the main reason most women give their child up for adoption, it just is not true. The only person who can promise to give their child the best life is their biological parents. Once the adoption is finalized, the life is out of their hands.
6. Everything happens for a reason.
Okay, but maybe it is a piss poor reason. There is no reason that I would be comfortable with that would explain why my child had to be given away to strangers.
7. Thank you for choosing adoption over abortion.
This has been covered many times, but again, the choice is not between abortion and adoption. Don’t assume that a I am pro-life just because I gave my child up for adoption.
8. You are so strong, I could never give my child up for adoption.
So wait, am I a better person than you or a worse person because I just can not tell what you are thinking here.
9. You need to move on with your life.
Please do not give me a timeline to grieve. Moving forward is inevitable, but moving on…well that’s tricky. I have not moved on, I probably never will move on. I think what you really mean is that you are uncomfortable hearing about my grief and do not want to talk about it any longer.
10. Your child’s birthday must be so hard for you.
Hmmmmm, yes it is, but guess what? So is every single other day since the adoption. Some are harder than others. I’m sure it makes you feel more comfortable to believe that I only think about my son on that one day a year, but that is not an accurate representation of my grief.