It’s All Semantics?

fabric storeOn Friday, *A* and I headed to our local small metropolis for an evening out.  One of our stops was a fabric store for some projects I’m working on for the Littlest Brooks-Livingston’s eventual arrival.  You’re probably familiar with how fabric stores operate, but if not, I’ll explain: fabric is displayed on bolts and to purchase it, it must be cut from the longer piece on the bolt by a fabric store employee.  You pick out the fabric you like, decide how much, wait in line (almost inevitable) until your number is called, and proceed to the fabric cutting person.  There’s usually a long, wide counter, and just about everyone waiting for their number to be called stands around it.  Our number was called, we unloaded bolts of fabric to be cut, and came to a fabric for which we needed a specific part of the pattern.  There was some discussion over the amount we needed, and the cutter-of-the-fabric jokingly made a comment about someone being awfully persnickety, with a raised eyebrow in my direction. Everyone laughed,  including the person standing about 5 feet away at the counter, who I noticed had been watching the whole scene with rapt attention.

When she laughed, I glanced in her direction and smiled.  She asked what I was making and I told her that I’m working on several different projects, all baby-oriented.  Anticipating this might propel the discussion into questions about a due date, *A* said, “We’re adopting.”  Both the rather stoic fabric cutter and the person at the counter suddenly brightened and congratulated us and told us how exciting that is.  We agreed, both of us sort of giggly at making such an announcement to complete strangers.

The person next to us continued, saying “I think it takes special people to take in another person’s child. That’s just a great thing. Bless you for doing that.”

Well, halfway through that statement, I saw where she was headed, as did *A*.  One of us stumbled through a response – I don’t remember who-thanking her for her kind thoughts and saying that we’re very excited to be adopting.  Our last piece of fabric had been cut and we were about to walk away when she said it.  What she said didn’t really hit us until we were back in the car. And then we had a 45-minute ride home to mull it over.

*Sidenote* – this post has the potential to be huge, and I’m sure I’ll address many of the points from our discussion on the ride home at some point, but for now, I just want to focus on the fabric store encounter.

After some discussion, *A* and I concluded that we think that the person we encountered is genuinely happy for us, she truly wishes us the best, and she sees adoption in general as a positive thing.  It’s how she sees it as a positive thing that bothered us – or rather, how she sees adoption as positive is not congruent with how we hope our adoption will be a positive experience for everyone involved.

Since we’ve been talking to people about our adoption, we’ve gotten an array of responses, so far all positive, but each person has framed their comments a little differently.  Like I’ve said before, there are a lot of misconceptions about adoption – what people believe / how people think about adoption is a result of how they’ve encountered it.  What *A* and I are pursuing, open adoption, means that we will meet and match with an expectant mother, and we will (hopefully) meet her family and develop a relationship with her and with them.  To us, open adoption is not “taking in another person’s child,” which, to us, connotes that we are just glorified babysitters and that the child is not our “real child” and is “really” belongs to someone else, who “gave them up” (picture me with air quotes here).  Oh, so many things about that sentence that make us cringe, and we’ve heard variations on the theme several times, all from people with good intentions.

Here’s the thing: the child we adopt will be our child.  That child will also have birthparents and a birth family, with whom we hope we will have a good, life-long relationship. Our child’s birthparents did not “give them up,” the child was not “abandoned” or “unwanted.”  His or her birthparents made an adoption plan, taking time and great care to find the person or people who they feel can best parent the child they are expecting because, for whatever reason, they are unable to do so.


We don’t want to be preachy, because nobody likes that.  And we don’t want to be tiresome, continually on a soapbox about adoption, especially as we believe that everyone has a right to his or her own opinion.  We certainly don’t want to silence anyone, nor do we want people to refrain from bringing up the subject because they are afraid we will take what they said the wrong way (fodder for a blog post down the road!).   When it’s just the two of us, the things people say about adoption might bother us, but we can handle it.  We’re imagining how our stomachs will clench ten-fold when this happens when we have our child(ren) with us.  Especially if the fact that our family was constructed through adoption is evident (if we adopt transracially, for example).

*A* and I feel compelled to point out (right place, right time)  how what was said might not be accurate for our situation.  And we feel that it’s important, going forward, that we figure out how to respond to well-wishers with grace, with the intent of gently educating them about how we are approaching adoption and maybe correcting a few of their misconceptions in the meantime.  We’ve gotten lots of ideas about how to go about this from books that we’ve read that have featured interviews with adoptive parents, who have encountered the same statements and questions.  Other adoptive parents’ blogs have been similarly helpful in giving us ideas.  Why we couldn’t remember these at this moment – well, who can ever think of the right thing to say on the fly?  But we’ll figure it out so we’re not so blind-sided in future.

Like I was getting at above, for us, it boils down to the fact that we’re not saviors, nor rescuers – we just want to be lucky enough to be parents, and we hope that we can raise our child to know and have relationships with a big family, made up of the family we will be together, as well as birth parents and their families, my family, *A*’s family, and our friends.  That’s a lot of love – that’s the real family this child will belong to.

Fabric store image courtesy: ; Soapbox image courtesy:


8 thoughts on “It’s All Semantics?

  1. What a great post. We’ve experienced similar situations from strangers and even some family and friends. We don’t expect everyone to understand open adoption and the comments have never come from a negative place, so we approach it much the same way you do — as educators. We attend a monthly adoption support group hosted by our agency, and it helps us to hear similar stories from others and hear how they handle it.

    • Thanks for reading! I know other adoptive (and pre-adoptive) parents are experiencing the same things – it’s good to get ideas from each other on how to talk to these well-meaning folks without making them uncomfortable.

    • Yep, we’re with the IAC, too. I wish we could attend the monthly support group our office offers, but we live three hours away. They are held on Thursday nights, so we’ve never been able to make it.

  2. As you said, the lady had the best intentions when she wished you and Angela well. Interesting discussion however.

  3. Pingback: Pre-adoptive Openness: Self-Advocacy’s Challenges | The Littlest Brooks-Livingston

  4. Pingback: Guest Post on America Adopts!: “Yes, We’re Adopting. But Please Don’t Call Us ‘Special’” | The Littlest Brooks-Livingston


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