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Adoption Isn’t Something to Praise

I have a daughter who looks nothing like me. Her features are those of a little girl with a native bloodline, and while I don't really know my own lineage, it's pretty clear from looking at us that I don't share her heritage. As a result, most people assume upon encountering us that she is adopted.

It doesn't really bother me. I've come to expect the comments and questions. I mean, sure, it's totally possible that she could be my biological child—I could simply have a partner who is native. But she's not, and I don't, so why get my panties in a bunch when people assume the truth?

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Still, there are some comments that make me uncomfortable, especially those framed in the context of what a "great thing" I did by choosing adoption. Adopting her has been the best thing to ever happen to me. Being her mommy has been the most amazing blessing I have ever received. So yeah, it feels awkward when someone tries to praise me for doing something I would do again a thousand times over.

We were at my little girl's gymnastics class a few weeks ago when another mother came up to me and, with admiration in her eyes, said, "I just want you to know how amazing I think it is that you adopted your daughter. If more people were like you, there wouldn't be so many kids who need homes."

It makes me really uncomfortable to be framed as any kind of hero ... the reality is I'm the lucky one.

I didn't really know how to respond. For one, while I have my foster care license, my daughter was not adopted through foster care. Ours was a completely private adoption, the result of a chance encounter where her other mother specifically asked me to take her. I was in the hospital room the day she was born, and she was mine from that moment forward. She was a happy, healthy, beautiful infant, the kind of baby thousands of adoptive couples are desperate for. Whether I took her or not, she was never at risk of not having a home.

But even beyond that, it makes me really uncomfortable to be framed as any kind of hero in the milieu of our family. I'm just a mom, like every other mom, and the reality is I'm the lucky one. I truly believed for a long time that I would never get to be a parent, and then just like that, I was offered the chance to a be a mother without having to really do anything at all to make that opportunity fall into my lap. So many couples wait years to adopt and are never given the opportunity to adopt an infant. I didn't do anything heroic; I just leapt at a chance my heart had long been yearning for.

Even beyond that, as an infertility sufferer, I really dislike the suggestion that more people should "just adopt." Adoption isn't for everyone, and the comment that "if more people were like you" makes it seem like more people should be adopting. The reality is, there are a lot of complicated pieces to adoption that not everyone is able or willing to take on. And that's OK! Knowing that, and respecting your own boundaries, is healthy.

Even for me, there was a lot I had to resolve regarding my own feelings surrounding infertility before I was able to open myself up to the idea of adoption. It certainly didn't happen overnight, and not everyone who has dealt with infertility will get to that place nor should they have to. Adoption is complicated. It's OK to acknowledge that. So I don't like the implication that adoption is somehow the superior path because it's not for everyone. It was the right path for me, but that doesn't mean it should be for others.

Unfortunately, in the moment, I had no idea how to get that all across. I felt like I should correct this other mother, but how? How do you explain the intricacies of adoption in what is otherwise just a passing conversation? How do you make that other person understand that there is actually something slightly offensive about suggesting that you might be some sort of savior for taking your child, when in reality, you feel like it was your child who saved you?

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Instead of saying anything, I simply nodded my head and muttered a "thank you." Paralyzed by my own discomfort, and not wanting to hurt this woman whose intentions I knew were sincere.

But if I had it to do over again, I might try to find the words to somehow say that having adopted doesn't make me special. It's not something worthy of praise. It's just the way I became a mother. The way my little girl was brought into my life.

I'm no hero for being her mom. I'm just ... a mom.

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