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Things You Should Never Say to a Birthmother

Speaking as someone who is a birthmom, there are certain (sadly common) things you should never say to a birthmother that most people aren't aware of.

By Ossiana TepfenhartPublished 6 years ago 9 min read

When I fell pregnant with my daughter three years ago, I wasn't prepared for anything. I wasn't prepared for the physical damage pregnancy would do, and I definitely wasn't prepared to be a parent. I didn't even have the money necessary for me to eat or pay rent, let alone have a baby.

So, I did the most responsible thing I could do. I gave her up for adoption to a loving gay couple who yearned for a kiddo, and kept the adoption open. She's happy and cared for, which is all I could really ask for as a parent.

It sounds like a happy ending, right? Well, it is. However, the sheer amount of crap I get from others has ruined a lot of my days. Birthmoms are not allowed to grieve, and are often judged for doing the right thing for their kids. I'm not going to lie, it's brutal.

Speaking as a person who has put a kid up for adoption and set up an LGBTQ adoption, there are certain things you should never say to a birthmother. Here are some of the most common things I've heard that should never be uttered in the presence of someone who had gone through the adoption process—and what makes them so offensive.

"Why didn't you keep your kid? Don't you know how wrong it is to not keep your child?"

This is one of the most common things I hear when I tell people I'm a birth mom, and is one of the easiest ways to make me walk away from a conversation.

There are certain things you should never say to a birthmother, and certain things you should never ask a parent. This duo of phrases can be found on BOTH lists, and remain two of the most offensive things that you can say to a person in my position.

I get it; people have an innate need to judge people who give up kids for adoption. We live in a judgy society that seems to think that raising a kid in dire poverty is worse than letting a family take them in for a privileged lifestyle.

Nobody, and I mean nobody makes the decision to have a baby and then give it up for adoption easily. If someone does that, you better believe they have a damned good reason to do so—and you absolutely have no reason to judge them for their decision.

This kind of speech shows how ugly a person really is, or at the very least, how little they think of your ability to judge what's right for everyone's wellbeing. It also opens up wounds that are still healing, and

I've personally cut off contact with people who said this to me. To date, they still don't understand what they did wrong, making it all the more an epic fail on their part.

"She's not your child, why are you crying?"

Yes, some people say this. Even if you are not into the idea of having kids, giving birth to one and then putting your kid up for adoption hurts. It hurts more than people will know.

The best way I can describe that pain of having to say goodbye to your child is akin to a miscarriage. It's a grieving process that takes months or even years to cope with. Some women who give up their parental rights never really recover.

You don't walk up to a woman who just miscarried and tell her, "Your stupid fetus died, why are you mourning?" So why would you say the equivalent to a birth mom?

"You're not a *real* mom."

Holy gatekeeping, Batman!

Though it's undeniable that my daughters' dads do most of the parenting, I'll be the first to say that I still see her and still make an effort to have an impact on her growing up. A birthmom is still a mom, even if we don't have much time with our kids.

I am a lot more understanding about this statement than others in my position. That being said, it's still one of those things you should never say to a birthmother unless you're okay with getting chewed up and possibly slapped.

"Why didn't you just abort it instead?"

Considering how everything related to abortion tends to be viewed, I really hope I shouldn't explain why this isn't really something anyone should say to a birthmom.

Birthmoms often find themselves in a lose-lose situation when it comes to judgey people. Most people will judge you for aborting the baby, but if you choose to carry to term, you better expect to be judged if you decide your child's better off with someone else.

In an ideal world, every child would be born into a healthy, happy family that wants them and has the means to raise them. However, reality is not ideal; far from it.

To a lot of birthmothers, hearing this is a slap across the face. Some of us didn't have the choice to avoid carrying to term. Others will take it as a sign you think that they should kill children rather than see them live lives away from them. Either way, it's a very ugly thing to say.

"Won't your kid feel unwanted?"

This is one of the very few things you should never say to a birthmother, the adoptive parents, or the kid's extended family unless you're looking for a straight up fight.

Let me set this straight: adopted kids are wanted. They are wanted so bad that their birthparents sacrificed the time they could have spent with them so they can have a better life elsewhere. They are wanted so badly, a loving couple spent tens of thousands to be their parents.


Insinuating anything other than that is a great way to get everyone related to said child pissed—and not just "polite pissed," either. I've seen family members get heated enough to fight over this. Don't say it.

"Didn't you want her?"

See above.

Of course the parents wanted to keep the kid. It's their flesh and blood! Saying otherwise is extremely insensitive and often is grounds for birthparents to shut you out of their circle of friends.

However, circumstances can arise where it becomes clear that the chances of seeing your kid live a happy life while with you are too slim to rely on. In such cases, adoption is an option.

Also, I really just want to know what the point of this question is. Are you looking to change her mind? Shame her? Just feel morally superior?

"Won't your baby be mad at you?"

This is so hurtful, and yet so many people really seem to think it's totally okay to ask. This is very similar to calling someone a murderer for pulling the plug on a relative who is in palliative care.

Adoption is painful for just about every person involved, though the overall benefit tends to be much better in the long term. That being said, asking this is never necessary. Just don't do it.

"I would *never* have done that."

In the adoption world, there are very few phrases that are more detested than this one. Sadly, it's also one of the things you should never say to a birthmother—particularly if it's right after the moment when they had to sign the paperwork.

Even if you don't mean it that way, it comes off as very condescending and judgmental. It takes a huge amount of courage and love to give up your kid for adoption, knowing that you can't provide for them.

A lot of birthparents can't stand hearing this because it suggests they were uncaring. I don't see it that way at all. If anything, saying this just suggests that you are too selfish to do the right thing in the same situation. What's the matter? Too scared of people judging you for choosing something better for yourself?

"Your baby is so much better off now." OR "You can go back to living life normally now."

Even if both of these are true, it's still not a good idea to remind birthmoms of their loss. That's what makes these two consoling phrases things you should never say to a birthmother.

We are well-aware that our kids are in happy homes. We are also aware that we can go back to sleeping in our beds, working 40 hours a week, and not changing diapers.

Sadly, we're also well-aware of the fact that the family we may have yearned for will never be. We are glad that our kids will have a better future, sure, but the price we had to pay was far greater than we let on.

These two phrases are some of the worst things you can say to console a birthmom. A better option? Tell her how brave she is, and how you admire the strength she had to make that decision.

"You took the easy way out."

If there's one way to get a normally docile woman to punch your lights out, this is it. There's nothing "easy" about giving up a kid for adoption, no matter how cold-hearted you are.

While I personally have not heard this "zinger," a friend of mine who went through similar actions did. She ended up bursting into tears in the middle of a restaurant because of it, and yes, that person stayed looking smug. The fact that some people actually have said this to birthmoms is horrifying.

Seriously. What's with the hatred birthmoms get from onlookers? Adoption is a beautiful thing, even if the adoption process isn't that easy to work with.

"I heard you can get millions for a healthy white baby. You must have made a killing!" OR "How much did you get for your kid?"

As far as things you should never say to a birthmother go, this is about as high up as it can get. I hope I need not point out why asking how much money a birthmom got for their child is so inappropriate. Just in case I need to explain it, here goes:

  • You're making adoption sound like human trafficking. This kind of insinuation suggests that the person you're talking to is heartless enough to sell a relative for cash. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Giving your child a better life by surrendering your parental rights is the biggest sacrifice you can give—and one many people would be too weak to make.
  • You make it sound like it's about money. Though adoption takes thousands of dollars to make happen, birthmoms don't see any of it, really. By law, adoptive parents have to provide for a birthmother's living expenses and medical care during the days leading up to the birth plus the month after. Every penny is accounted for, and cash is not allowed to be transactioned. So, no, we didn't get millions.
  • It's also racist. I can't even name how many people mentioned that I'd find parents because of my "fully white baby" status. It's so racist, and for the record, also shows a commenter's real thoughts on race.

Unlike other statements on this list, this one generally can't be forgiven. It's just a really ugly thing to say about adoption.


About the Creator

Ossiana Tepfenhart

Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer based out of New Jersey. This is her work account. She loves gifts and tips, so if you like something, tip her!

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