A lot times when the topic of adoption or foster care comes up I get a lot of comments like-"what? I thought she was your *real* daughter! Or I always thought you were their *real* mom!" To which I reply - “they are & I am." Usually they think I do not understand what they're trying to say, so they go on -"no I mean like I thought she was your own daughter-like you had her!" The word they're looking for is ‘biological’. Here's the thing-I don't mind you telling me that our daughter looks like my husband and me! I actually enjoy it! I don't even mind if you ask if they were adopted. Hey, you can even talk to her about it and she'll proudly tell you that she's adopted and chosen! And I'll chime right in and share with you about foster care & adoption-I always love an opportunity to talk about the need for good foster families! But what I don't like is asking if she is my *real* daughter.
Terminology matters. Certain terms and phrases support stigmas about adoption that we are fighting against. One thing I refuse to let anyone place on my children or any child is the idea of "less than." And the words of a stranger, a family member, or a loved one (no matter how well intended) can damage, hurt, and cause a child to question their placement and value in their family. The words that we don’t give much thought can hold a lot of power. What many don’t realize is that when we say things like “can you not have your own children?” we are insinuating that the children that we have are not a part of us, that they are secondary, plan B, a good choice but most definitely not the first. Oh-how untrue that is!
You see-My children are just as much ‘my own’ as the children you have birthed are to you. We love them just as much as you love your biological children & we fight for what's best for them just as you would yours, their pain is our pain, & their happiness is our light. And trust me when I say I'm their real mom. I was really there when they were teething & pushing boundaries, I was really there for the shots, blood draws, ultrasounds, and hospital stays. I was really there as they wobbly took their first steps. I was really sleep deprived as I rocked and prayed over them. I really battled through the curve balls that the system threw our way. I was really the one who fought for their safety and right to permanency. I really had to learn how to navigate relationships with birth family, I really had workers in my house monthly, I really prayed, begged, and wept for MY children. I really am the one who is there every moment of every day. It doesn’t get much more real than that.
No, my love for my children is not altered because they didn’t come from my body. When my daughter excitedly calls me to come see one of her many creations she doesn't call “Adoptive mama!” She calls ‘Mama’. When my son runs to me in tears because he fell he doesn’t yell “non-biological mother!” he cries for ‘Mama.’ When I look at my babies I don’t see children I could love more if they were flesh of my flesh. I see my heart outside of my body. Blessings that make my heart swell every time I look at them. I see God’s love, protection, grace, redemption, and I see His mindfulness. I see my children. My very real children. My own children. Period.
I beg you-Educate yourself. Let’s make sure that our speech is one that celebrates and acknowledges adoption in an accurate way. Remember your words have the power to perpetuate the dated and wrong assumptions that adoption is something that is shameful, to be kept secret, and inferior. As adopted children of the King it would do us good to remember that the Lord Himself placed adoption in high esteem-may our words reflect that.
~ Shelby Doss