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5 Questions to Never Ask a Birth Mother (and Three Ways to Encourage Her)

Humans are curious by nature, so it’s understandable to want to know another person’s background. Along with curiosity, though, comes judgement, which can sometimes get out of hand. All types of mothers are constantly judged by how they parent. They are given unsolicited advice, usually from people who are unqualified to give it. Despite some people’s intentions, certain words and phrases can come across as hurtful or rude. When choosing adoption, the questions seem to multiply. Both in quantity and judgement. 

Here are 5 questions to never ask a birth mother, and alternative things to say to be supportive.

  1. Why didn’t you have an abortion?

This is a very private question that comes with a lot of judgement. The birth mother gets to decide what’s best for her and her baby, no one else. Abortion is a very sensitive subject that can bring about a whole slew of feelings. There are all kinds of reasons why a birth mother would choose adoption over abortion, but it’s no one’s business but her own. 

Before asking this question, put yourself in the birth mother’s shoes. How would you feel if you were asked this question? If this would upset you or make you feel offended, then she would most likely feel similar. This is why it’s so important to think before you speak.

  1. What about the father?

Asking about the birth father is extremely insensitive. More often than not, the subject of the birth father is sensitive and can cause the birth mother pain. Perhaps she hasn’t told the birth father that she is even pregnant yet — let alone considering placing their baby for adoption. Maybe the birth father is aware, but has no interest in helping. Then there’s the possibility that the birth mother doesn’t even know who the birth father is. 

Whatever the case may be, asking about the birth father is inappropriate. If the birth mother feels comfortable sharing information about the birth father, she will on her own time.

  1. Can you see your baby?

This is a very complicated question that can bring up a lot of wanted, painful feelings for the birth mother. While many of today’s adoptions have some degree of openness, not all of them do. Thus, this is an especially sensitive topic for the birth mother. Perhaps she did have a closed adoption and now regrets that decision. Maybe she and her child aren’t getting along at the moment. You never know what she might be experiencing, so it’s best not to pry into areas that are none of your business.

  1. Why are you giving your baby up?

The biggest issue with this question is the wording. “Giving up” is a phrase adoption specialists tend to stay away from, as it has a negative connotation and can make the birth mother feel as though she did something wrong. A birth mother is not “giving up” her baby. Rather, she is humbly surrendering her parental rights in the name of love. She is choosing to place her baby in the hands of someone who will care for him or her in a way that she isn’t able to. 

This question is also insinuating that the birth mother doesn’t want her baby. Choosing adoption isn’t an easy choice for any birth mother. It’s not a decision that’s taken lightly or chosen overnight. Of course she wants to keep her baby, but she isn’t able to. The reasons behind that vary, yet she doesn’t owe anyone that explanation. This is a very personal and private question that the birth mother only needs to share with whomever she trusts most — like very close family and friends. If she hasn’t explained to you why she placed her baby for adoption, you don’t need to know. Overall, asking this question is inappropriate and disrespectful. 

  1. How do you think your child will feel?

Many have the belief that an adoptee will harbor negative feelings towards their birth mother. Some think that adoptees feel unwanted and unloved because their mother placed them for adoption. Whether or not this is true, asking this question is completely insensitive and provokes a birth mother’s insecurities. She has, no doubt, gone through the exact same thought processes, fearing that her child will grow up to hate her. 

Every birth mother wishes to keep her child, but life happens and circumstances arise in which adoption becomes the best choice for her and her baby. The birth mother is making the ultimate sacrifice. You should focus on her feelings, not her child’s feelings.

Best ways to encourage a birth mother

Now that you know of 5 questions to never ask a birth mother, you should know of a few encouraging things to say to her. One of the hardest parts of the grieving process is feeling alone. This is your time to support the birth mother and let her know she has the right to feel and any all emotions that may arise.

  • “I’m here when you need to talk.” Remind the birth mother that although you can’t understand completely, you are there for her. There’s nothing you can say that will erase all the pain and suffering the birth mother went through. But sometimes, being a shoulder to cry on means a lot.
  • “You are enough.” Placing her child for adoption means that the birth mother had to acknowledge she wasn’t in the position to raise a baby. Many moms feel as though they weren’t good enough. Remind her that she is enough. More than enough! She did the best she could with what knowledge she had at the time. She is a good mom for putting her baby’s needs before her own. 
  • Acknowledge her child. You don’t need to bring up her child and the adoption process in every conversation you have, but you express your concern and understanding when appropriate. It’s natural to not want to bring up painful memories, yet this baby is her flesh and blood. Choosing adoption was a very real situation she went through that will be with her for the rest of her life. If the birth mother brings up her experience, don’t try to dismiss her. Listen and acknowledge. 

Adoption is a Beautiful Choice

Adoption is a very sensitive subject for birth mothers and it’s important to respect their boundaries. If she doesn’t voluntarily offer information, it’s because she is uncomfortable. Therefore, don’t ask the insensitive questions listed above, or any that are similar in any way.  Although you can’t make everything better, you can remind the birth mother of how special she is. Be the friend who helps validate her experience and doesn’t shy away from hard conversations. You can remind her of all the value she has and encourage her. 

For adoption resources or to begin your adoption journey, birth parents can visit us at Adoption Choices of Arizona or call or text us at 1-480-900-5520. If you are an prospective adoptive family hoping to adopt a baby, please instead, visit us here!

Meet the author: Sarah Aguilera, a Northern Arizona University linguistics and creative writing graduate, is an aspiring author with a passion for influencing others through written words. She has a healthy ardor for all things literature and is often found with a book in her hands. 

When she’s not working, Sarah likes to spend her free time swimming, playing with her dog, going to concerts with friends and having crazy adventures with her family. Her love for her own family is what pushed her to join the adoption writing team. She looks forward to educating those hoping to grow their family through adoption.

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