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Positive Adoption Language Primer

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shelley    2
So here is something I've been thinking about for a while, and I thought you call could help me with it. Since we don't have any contact wtih Mikey's birthparents per their own decision, I keep thinking it's going to be harder for us to explain to him his adoption story than if we had contact. We still send pictures and cards to Abrazo, hoping his BP will someday call and ask for them. But everytime I think about how to start this conversation with Mikey when he's a bit older... I can't find the right answer. We have a picture of her, and I've shown it to Mikey a couple of times. But how do we teach him to understand who she is, if we don't know how likely it is that he'll ever meet her?

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

I have to say that I feel terribly unqualified to answer this - but I find it a compelling question.

I don't have an answer, but it reminds me of how I feel about my Daddy, who passed away in 2004. I hate that Sloane will never know him, but I want her to have a sense of who he is. So I have a picture of him, in his prime (skinny with lots of thick, dark hair) framed in her nursery. It's not in a very prominent place, but it's still there.

And I talk to her about him in way that makes him seem "real" - not like he's going to pop in for a visit, but in a way that lets her know that although she'll never meet him, he matters because he had a significant role in shaping who we are as a family. I think the biggest thing that will help her understand who he is/was is letting her see and feel my love and appreciation for him.

I know your situation is very different than mine, but I believe Mikey will learn so much just from his perception of your feelings toward his birth family. The fact that you continue to send cards and pictures says a lot about your committment to his birthfamily - and to him. I hope someday they choose to establish some sort of contact and tangible interest in him.

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Dear Fabi and Paul,

Hi. I have framed pictures of the boys birthmother's in my house either on the family wall in the hall or in their rooms. I also have their half brother's photos in their rooms. Our contact has changed but I continue to send monthly letters and pictures. So I guess the amount of contact from Zachary's birthmom has changed mostly.

We've already started with Zachary reading adoption books to him. Mostly How I was Adopted by JOanna Cole.

Another one we have is Did my First Mother Love me? a story for an adopted child. (I don't really like to refer to either of them as an adopted child rather they were adopted.( It shaped their past history and it is part of who they are but not a label) Don't know if that makes any sense. Anyway that book is by Kathryn Ann Miller. Making a life book with their story and telling it over and over helps. I want Casey to make a hard back picture book just for Zachary and Joshua with their stories. I guess I need to sit down with him or go through loose pictures and help him with it. I have two in my purse from one of those on line snap fish or co. like that.

Hope this helped.Take care.

Laural

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Laural, thanks so much for the suggesions about the books. WE havae a photo album of Mikey's life, and a CD about his life, but not really a lifebook. I reallly need to put that together soon.

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HeidiK    94

Great new web site called Heritatge Makers- they have some great book ideas - easy to use up-load and go style book - more details then like Snap fish books- I love using them. PM me is you have more questions - and I don't work for them - but maybe I should LOL

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On the subject of "positive adoption language," here's the perspective of one offended person (herself an adoptee) who shared her thoughts on this with the readers of the Dallas Morning News and who tells it like it is-- for her, personally:

Posted by Laurel @ 5:45 AM Wed, May 27, 2009

Yes. Letting someone else raise your child is brave and loving and responsible. That's why everyone does it. In fact, whenever I love anyone very much, I make sure to get them out of my life as quickly as possible, because to do otherwise would be selfish...not.

Actually, I really do tend to push away those who love me. Why? I'm adopted, and I grew up hearing "Your mother loved you so much she gave you up." Think about that. Think about getting raised with the notion that love=removing yourself from the beloved's life forever. It's almost always a lie, and it damages children.

The "reality of the adoption decision" is that your gain is someone else's loss. Adopted children also suffer loss, and we suffer unnecessarily when our adoptive parents tell us lies to spare our(or their own)feelings. There is enough secrecy in adoption. Secrecy causes shame.

But yes, let's do embrace these women--at least until we've got what we want. It's very transparent, this "love-bombing" someone who has or had something you want badly. Something that, if you've already got it, might make you feel the tiniest bit guilty about benefiting from a "wonderful decision" very few women have ever wanted to make.

I do agree that "terminology can make or break attitudes toward embracing adoption." That's why I loathe the term "birthmother" or any variant thereof: it reduces women like my mother to breeding machines for the convenience of the higher-class infertile. It's also often applied to women who have not even given birth yet as a means of coercion. Nobody is a "birth mother" until she has given up her child.

Yes, my mother _gave me up_. There is no better or more accurate term. Had I been born at a time when giving birth out of wedlock was not so heavily stigmatized, I would probably not have been adopted. Now that the stigma is gone, most women keep their babies. I guess they would rather have their own family than help form someone else's. Selfish creatures! Don't they know they could be mature, selfless, courageous soopa-heroines?

For more on this subject and the public response to it in Dallas, click here.

I just read this, then went to the link, and it is loaded with this kind of anger.

I'm speechless, tears welling up as I read and look down at the beautiful baby boy sleeping in my arms that I will love for an eternity.

so tiny and perfect...I pray his first mother, bill, and I are able to ward off these feelings.

the part that hit home is that as an infertile woman, there is a lot of guilt in taking a perfect child from a woman and causing her pain....even if she feels it "is best" as she puts it. these writings re-lit the feelings of terror that i am profiting at someones loss....which I am....but because I was asked too. although I prayed for it...

Edited by waiting for a miracle

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vanfam    0
the part that hit home is that as an infertile woman, there is a lot of guilt in taking a perfect child from a woman and causing her pain....even if she feels it "is best" as she puts it. these writings re-lit the feelings of terror that i am profiting at someones loss....which I am....but because I was asked too. although I prayed for it...

Lori - I think that the guilt is normal, and in a way, healthy. There are days when I'm horror-stricken about how Rosa must have felt knowing that some complete stranger was going to be raising her daughter. On those same days, I feel guilty and also incredibly grateful. I will never be able to clearly express those feelings to anyone that hasn't been through a similar experience - which is why it's nice for all of us to have each other. The worst days, for me and I would imagine for Rosa too, are Elena's birthday and the day we brought her home. It's a very odd situation to have the happiest of days also bring on guilt. My guess is, if we didn't have the love and respect for these amazing women, then we wouldn't feel the guilt...guess I'm ok with feeling it when you look at it that way. I don't know if this is helpful, but I wanted you to know that you're not alone.

faith

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karen&scott    247

On the subject of "positive adoption language," here's the perspective of one offended person (herself an adoptee) who shared her thoughts on this with the readers of the Dallas Morning News and who tells it like it is-- for her, personally:

<!--quoteo--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE </div><div class='quotemain'><!--quotec--><!--fonto:Courier New--><span style="font-family:Courier New"><!--/fonto--><b>Posted by Laurel @ 5:45 AM Wed, May 27, 2009 </b>

Yes. Letting someone else raise your child is brave and loving and responsible. That's why everyone does it. In fact, whenever I love anyone very much, I make sure to get them out of my life as quickly as possible, because to do otherwise would be selfish...not.

Actually, I really do tend to push away those who love me. Why? I'm adopted, and I grew up hearing "Your mother loved you so much she gave you up." Think about that. Think about getting raised with the notion that love=removing yourself from the beloved's life forever. It's almost always a lie, and it damages children.

The "reality of the adoption decision" is that your gain is someone else's loss. Adopted children also suffer loss, and we suffer unnecessarily when our adoptive parents tell us lies to spare our(or their own)feelings. There is enough secrecy in adoption. Secrecy causes shame.

But yes, let's do embrace these women--at least until we've got what we want. It's very transparent, this "love-bombing" someone who has or had something you want badly. Something that, if you've already got it, might make you feel the tiniest bit guilty about benefiting from a "wonderful decision" very few women have ever wanted to make.

I do agree that "terminology can make or break attitudes toward embracing adoption." That's why I loathe the term "birthmother" or any variant thereof: it reduces women like my mother to breeding machines for the convenience of the higher-class infertile. It's also often applied to women who have not even given birth yet as a means of coercion. Nobody is a "birth mother" until she has given up her child.

Yes, my mother _gave me up_. There is no better or more accurate term. Had I been born at a time when giving birth out of wedlock was not so heavily stigmatized, I would probably not have been adopted. Now that the stigma is gone, most women keep their babies. I guess they would rather have their own family than help form someone else's. Selfish creatures! Don't they know they could be mature, selfless, courageous soopa-heroines?

<!--fontc--></span><!--/fontc--><!--QuoteEnd--></div><!--QuoteEEnd-->

For more on this subject and the public response to it in Dallas, <a href="http://dallasmorningviewsblog.dallasnews.com/archives/2009/05/wording-critica.html" target="_blank">click here.</a>

One of the things that bothers me about disgruntled adults who were once adopted, is that they may not take into account that their birthparents may have had another option which may have been considered, the other "A" word. And after weighing all their options, made a decision they could live with and their baby could live with. Maybe this is love, maybe it's not? It's all how you look at it, I guess.

Why is it so far-fetched for an adult adoptee like Laurel to come to the realization that just maybe her birthmother does love her, even if her placement decision goes contrary to Laurel's way of thinking?

And in the case of rape or incest and the subsequent decision to place, is love automatically out of the equation just because of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy?

Karen

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kristal    4

One of the things that bothers me about disgruntled adults who were once adopted, is that they may not take into account that their birthparents may have had another option which may have been considered, the other "A" word. And after weighing all their options, made a decision they could live with and their baby could live with. Maybe this is love, maybe it's not? It's all how you look at it, I guess.

Why is it so far-fetched for an adult adoptee like Laurel to come to the realization that just maybe her birthmother does love her, even if her placement decision goes contrary to Laurel's way of thinking?

Karen I think you need to realize that just because some gives birth to someone or is related to someone that deosn't mean they love them. Women give birth to babies they don't care about at all.

I don't think this woman doubts that her mother loves her though, that's the root of her problems according to her statement. The problem is that her mother "loved her so much she gave her away" That hearing that made her think that loving someone meant getting rid of them. Honestly I can see where that could be a problem.

I think its hard for you to hear of disgruntled adoptees for the same reason it is hard for me. Because someone very important to us was adopted and we played a huge role in making that happen. Its terrifying to think that maybe we did wrong by that person who we only wanted the very best for.

Edited by kristal

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karen&scott    247

I don't think this woman doubts that her mother loves her though, that's the root of her problems according to her statement. The problem is that her mother "loved her so much she gave her away" That hearing that made her think that loving someone meant getting rid of them. Honestly I can see where that could be a problem.

Me too, which is why I prefer to say "your birthmother loves you very much" and not tie it to "that is why she placed you for adoption". If pressed I prefer to say, I know this because I was there when she made this very difficult decision.

Again, Laurel was hearing this from her adoptive parents. Would it have made a (less negative) difference if she could have heard it from her birthmother?

I think its hard for you to hear of disgruntled adoptees for the same reason it is hard for me. Because someone very important to us was adopted and we played a huge role in making that happen. Its terrifying to think that maybe we did wrong by that person who we only wanted the very best for.

You're right about this.

Thanks Kristal!

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Stork Central    1,050

Just wanted to bump this up for any new families who may need help teaching their relatives about positive adoption language!

(And for any relatives out there who are reading this, please help ensure that anything posted on social media prior to the adoptive placement is respectful of the fact that before and until the legal paperwork is completed 2 or more days after birth, the baby still belongs to his or her mother-- so hold off on congratulating the prospective adoptive parents, however excited everyone may be, until after the baby is officially placed with them.)

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