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What Not to Say to an Adoptive Mom

After a two-year wait that included painful periods of uncertainty and roller coasters of hope and despair, we finally got the call from our adoption social worker: "There's a birth mother who would like to meet you. Can you have dinner with her tonight?" We met a frail, hugely pregnant ginger-haired young woman for dinner at a burger joint, decided we all liked each other and four days later our spirited, magical baby Grace Magnolia was born.

I sent an email to my coworkers, announcing my sudden maternity leave and included a snapshot of my proud, smiling self with my new daughter, my first child. Amid the hugs, tears and well-wishes that flooded in, one woman I'll call Peg stopped me as I was cleaning up my desk. "Did you sign the papers? Just make sure it's legal."

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My euphoria sank to somewhere under my spleen. Did Peg think we just took the baby out to the park and did some kind of ceremony with a candle and called it good? Or did she think this was some kind of black-market, back-alley deal?

"It's fine," I said. "We went through our agency. The birth parents don't have any interest in getting her back. I'm not worried about it."

"I don't know, I hope it works out."

Now I know Peg meant well, as she'd just heard about a difficult foster-adoption situation from a friend and was probably just trying to impart some level-headed advice. She brought over a handmade blanket and always coos at Grace's newest picture.

But even now, nearly a year later, I still get irritated thinking about how she didn't trust that I went about the adoption the right way, that she pierced my happy bubble with a fear needle, or that she thought I'd do the most important negotiation of my life in some kind of half-assed manner.

It's fair to say that most journeys to adoption are fraught with anticipation, high emotional peaks and low spiritual valleys—much like planning for and bearing a child. What makes it different is that there's still mystery and misconception surrounding adoption, which makes people more prone to inadvertently ask insensitive questions or offer unsolicited advice. With an upward of 130,000 U.S. adoptions every year, that's a lot of conversations people can have that can turn awkward really quickly.

Click through for the 10 things people shouldn't say about an adopted child—but do.

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