A conversation I never want to have

(This entry was originally posted as a guest post on Stirrup Queens as part of Geohde’s Great Blog Cross-Pollination.)

Because I have chatted with some of you, I know that many readers here are looking for travel brochures to Adoption World or are considering relocating there. Periodically I’m going to write about adoption language and why I choose some words and phrases over others.

The first phrase is give up for adoption (and variations). And here’s the conversation I never want to have.

“Mom, why did Michele give me up?”

“Well, she loved you very much. In fact, she loved you so much that she found Daddy and me to be your forever parents.”

“She loved me so much that she gave me away?”

“Well…not exactly…”

“If she loved me less, would she have kept me?”

“That’s not what I meant…”

“And through the rest of my life, should I be afraid of anyone loving me too much because then they will reject me?”

“Let’s start over, Reed.”

Some may call it semantics or political correctness, but I DO have reasons for choosing certain words and phrases and rejecting others. In this case, I prefer made an adoption plan to gave up for adoption.

First of all, made an adoption plan implies conscious thought. Michele thought about her baby as she decided what to do. She was aware of him. She planned the best future possible for him, given the resources available to her at the time. She was not forced out of parenting him (although this does happen in some cases, which I’m told is devastating for a child to realize).

And more importantly, it doesn’t include rejection. Gave you up and gave you away are inherently rejective (to make up a word). And they could make the child feel like an old toy or an outgrown article of clothing, a toss-away. Imagine if you lived your life thinking you really weren’t worth keeping.

It’s not such a leap from she loved you so much she gave you up to big love = rejection. This is NOT a belief I want to impart to either of my children.

I want them to know that their firstmoms loved them enough to make a difficult choice. I want them to go through their lives fully capable of giving and receiving love. I’d rather have THIS conversation.

“Mom, why did Michele do adoption with me?”

“Michele loves you so much. She knew back then that she wasn’t ready to be a mommy to any baby. Even though she really wanted to be with you, she made a plan to make sure you had parents who were ready to take care of you.”

“That’s you and Daddy?”

“Yup. You have so many grown-ups who have loved you from the very beginning. You are so lovable! (devolve into a tickle session.)”


Other terms I plan to cover:

  • “birthmom”
  • “our” birthmother
  • the birthmom “changed her mind”
  • “He is adopted.”
  • “a child of my own”
  • “born in my heart”

Please let me know if there are any others you’d like me to have addressed.


I’m honored that Jenna and Pamela Jeanne have included me in a fabulous group of women who have been awarded the Blogger Flame of Fortitude. Jenna created this award to recognized our battle scars, our victories, our defeats and our courage in facing infertility.

I now pass the torch to Furrow, Yoka and Lea Bea and Niobe. Let’s keep on supporting and keep on going, no matter what.

10 thoughts on “A conversation I never want to have”

  1. I don’t know how I missed this on Mel’s blog. It could be that I was reading all those blogs for the cross pollination at work. Thank you for reposting this so I didn’t miss it. I agree – semantics matter. I am looking forward to reading your thoughts on the other phrases.

  2. Geohde — thanks for reading again.Kami — I so appreciate your regular visits here.Furrow and Lea Bea — you’re welcome!My BIL was adopted, too, and he could care less about what adoption words are used. I wonder what percentage of people have preferences. Seems like online people are pretty vocal about it, but that’s hardly a random sample.

  3. Thank you, Lori. I really appreciate the FOF! I’ll post it on my blog and pass it on asap. I also plan to get back around to commenting soon. I’m also interested in good adoption language. As you know, my hubby is adopted, and although they don’t seem particularly sensitive about language (anymore, maybe), I know it matters to most people.

  4. PJ — I’m interested to know more about your work in this area. We have this in common.Yoka — it’s well deserved. I guess if you’re gonna be in this club, you might as well get a few perks.

  5. Thank you for this great post!!I feel so honored for the torch. Thank you so much for it. I will write more in my post.

  6. I know more than most how important “positioning” is having spent much of my work life in marketing. You’re very wise to get the words right up front. It will avoid a world of hurt.

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