A Birth Mom Reacts: The Phrase “Give Away”

“I could never give away my baby.”


Let me make this as clear as I possibly can.


I did not “give away” my baby. I didn’t put her out on the curb with some old furniture and a cardboard sign, or post a Craigslist ad reading “Free To A Good Home.”


I had the option of raising my beautiful, perfect, sweet baby daughter, and I decided that the life she would have with me was not good enough for her. I spent weeks agonizing over the decision, and I looked through countless families looking for the perfect people to raise my child, because they had to be right. It was the hardest decision I have ever made in my life, and it caused me total emotional upheaval for at LEAST a year after I’d signed the papers. I still struggle with it sometimes, and I’m about four years removed from it now. I have never met a birth mother who made the decision easily or lightly, or without significant emotional impact.


I deeply resent the implication that I simply “gave” my child away, like it was a simple handoff. I chose a better life for her, matched her with parents of my choosing, and finally understood that quote about how having children is like watching your heart walk around outside your body.


I also resent the idea that people assume they couldn’t choose adoption. It’s not something I ever imagined for myself either, believe me.

Adoption is simply one of several options, and every single situation is different. It was the right decision for me and for my daughter, but it may not be right for others. But it is also very easy to judge what you would or wouldn’t do in an impossible situation because you haven’t lived it. Your thoughts and ideas and feelings might change if you were actually put in that position. It’s presumptuous to imply that you know how you’d feel. I promise, you don’t. You have absolutely no idea what you are or are not capable of doing. Not until you’re there and it’s happening to you.


Also, adoption is such a beautiful and incredible and amazing thing. I hate this idea that adoption is a last resort or an “easy way out.” Adoption literally creates parents, assembles families, who never could have existed otherwise. Adoption adds to existing families, connects people who never would have met. Honestly, it’s just more people to love and obsess over a child. How can that possibly be a bad thing??


In a semi-related tangent, the jokes about how the baby must have been ugly, or annoying, or cried too much in hospital, (etc etc etc) and that’s why we must have chosen adoption? Not funny, ever — literally ever. I’ve never heard one that didn’t hurt, even when it came from people who meant no harm. I know you’re trying to get us to crack a smile, or lighten the mood. Just please don’t.


I, and most other birth moms I’ve met, also take issue with the phrase “gave up for adoption,” or “put up for adoption,” as if we handed our kids over to the adoption gods and rode off into the sunset without them — or set up an auction for the highest bidder. You “give up” bad habits. You “give up” smoking, or sweets, or whatever. You don’t “give up” a human child who you love more than the earth. Adoption was, and often still is, an emotional roller coaster of a process. It was a process that I was very much a part of, and the phrases “gave up” or “gave away” reduces it to something impersonal and transactional — which doesn’t even resemble the actual experience.


So if you’re trying to talk about adoption (to a birth mom or to adoptive parents, or even to adopted kids), please don’t say “gave up” or “put up” for adoption. We like to say that we “placed” our child with a family, or that we chose adoption/ parents/ families for our babies. “Placed” is much more accurate, and captures the very deliberate choice we made, rather than implying that adoption is some kind of state fair that offers free babies, or something equally ridiculous.
If by saying you “couldn’t do it,” you’re trying to say you think we, as birth mothers, are stronger than you are, or braver, or that you can tell we’ve been through something difficult that you couldn’t have survived, or whatever — say that instead. Say something like, “It must have been hard for you.” “I think you’re very brave.” “You’re a strong person.” “I can’t imagine what that must have been like for you.” “That must have been emotional.” Don’t judge us; empathize and acknowledge. Take the judgement out of the phrase.


One thought on “A Birth Mom Reacts: The Phrase “Give Away”

  1. Yes yes yes!! Thank you for saying that.

    And for couples who adopt, we don’t “just” adopt as if it were easy or simple and we didn’t “buy” or “save” a child (don’t even get me started on the “savior” mentality in the Jesus-told-me-to-adopt circles). If I hear ‘bless you for adopting’ one more time…my goodness…to be chosen by a birth mother/family will be such an honor for US.

    Sigh… hope you are doing okay, I am guessing the holiday season probably brings up a whirlwind of emotions…


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