Adoption from the family/friends perspective

I can still recall their expressions when The Man and I excitedly shared our news -- "we are adopting a baby".

They stared at us blankly. It was dead silent. You could practically see their wheels turning as they tried to wrap their brain around the word "adoption" and process all the stereotypes that go with it.

Why are they adopting? Can't they have their "own" child? Adopted kids can be trouble. Are they in for a long road of heartache? When is this happening? 

They made a swift recovery. With smiles on their faces they said "that's great" and followed it up by asking where and when.

From South Korea we answered. 

Another blank stare. Another grind of the wheels. Another pain in our hearts.

A Different Reaction
As we shared news of our adoption, this was the reaction we occasionally encountered from both family and friends. Those reactions were brutal and searing. We were sharing a decision that was so emotional for us, and something we'd been considering for years. We were ecstatic, and thought we'd be greeted with the same squeals of excitement and enthusiasm when someone announces they are having a child. But it wasn't like we pictured it.

Why the difference? Perhaps it was because they were shocked? Family and friends had assumed that because we hadn't had a family after 17 years of marriage, we weren't interested.

That might be part of it, but it's likely more than that. The people that had those reactions had very little exposure to adoption. Their understanding of what it all entails is probably limited to a tragic Lifetime television movie. They know the appropriate response when someone announces they are pregnant. They aren't so sure how to respond when someone says they are adopting. Should we be happy? Is this a good thing?

Once we could step back from the hurt we felt as potential parents (and I could quit crying about it) we started to think about this news from another perspective. From their perspective. We are bringing adoption into the lives of those around us.  Although we are prepared for this, our family and friends may not be.

The Family
We never really thought about our preparing our family for our adoption. Our discussions with them are usually about the process and timeline, but not about behavior or race issues.

I'm a bit torn about this. Our family is far away so we could easily avoid "educating" (for lack of a better word) them about this stuff. But I want them to feel comfortable talking to us about this, and more important, want them to feel comfortable around our child.

We found a good book that explained a lot of basic adoption stuff, and thought it would be helpful for our parents, but didn't want to be presumptive or pushy. It felt like "Hey, WE are adopting so we want YOU to read this book and learn this stuff to make OUR lives better." I tentatively inquired if they might be interested. Of course they were! We sent it to both sents of parents and they were thrilled to have the book as a resource to learn more. (Yay!)

Now that I think about it, I guess new parents educate their families about their children all the time. They just do it as the kids are growing up. They set boundaries for grandparents. Talk to cousins about not teasing one another about their looks. Ask the aunt not to sneak candy to the kids when they come to visit.

We'll need to do those things too. The difference for us is that we need to start doing it before our child even arrives.

Moving Forward
The reactions to our adoption news taught us that people aren't always comfortable with this topic. They aren't even sure about how to talk about adoption (you don't have to whisper about it or avoid it altogether) and because we are introducing this into their lives, we are now the official adoption flag bearers.

We realized that we need to foster conversations about things like race, stereotypes, and positive adoption language. Those weren't conversations we typically had in the past with family and friends, but  they are things we would love to be able to freely talk about.

We want those close to us to be able to ask questions and learn more about this process. We've enjoyed sharing our lives with them and want to share this too! This isn't necessarily easy because it's new territory that we are all treading through. There will likely be missteps, overstepping of boundaries, and hurt feelings along the way, but we hope it's something we can work through together.

Here's a few sites with more information about talking to family and friends about adoption.


  1. Oh man, sorry you had those reactions. It's so emotional, and then to not have it play out in an "ideal" fashion... ugh!

    GREAT links here though!

  2. Yeah, we got some of that too. People just don't know how to react to the news. It's a bummer.

  3. I'm sorry to hear that people didn't give great reactions. I really wish people would smile and say how happy they are. This is why we haven't told many people that we're adopting. Not that we're keeping it a secret or anything, but we just haven't told people yet.

    ICLW #86

  4. Yes, we have been there too. We still get the blank stares and turning wheels from people that still don't know. Even better is when you show them your referral picture....and someone says "Oh, wow, he/she really looks asian". ?

  5. This is my first time to visit your blog and I actually like it. I have a knack in searching for blogs related to Tummy Tankz.

  6. That reaction you described from people is exactly what would happen in my family. Same with my friends...thanks for putting up those websites, lots of good info there...;)
    Happy ICLW!

  7. P.S. Love the title. I'm a fellow cheesehead. In fact one of my most recent posts was entitled "How to eat a bag of cheese curds in 24 hours or less." And yes, I did.

  8. I'm so glad I found your blog! This is such a helpful post. Many blessings to you as you adopt! My husband and I have this same dream and it is so nice to have all this info at our fingertips! Thank you so much!


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