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Feb 26 2014

Dear Media People: Quit Using the Word “Adoption”

By at 10:39 am

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Dear journalists, scriptwriters, and other members of the media: I officially revoke your ability to use the word “adoption,” in any of its related forms.

The lead story on CNN recently (which was not about adoption in any way, shape or form) pointed out not once, but twice, that a couple adopted their son. In one instance, they use the line, “…[She] carried him out of the hospital in her arms, as ecstatic as if she’d carried and birthed him herself.” A sensation, indeed: imagine, a woman whose name is on her own child’s birth certificate is over-the-moon at the anticipation of parenting her actual son. A banner day for mothers everywhere, to be sure.

Also on repeat, a show named “Bubble Guppies” on Nick Jr. (listen, I know it’s not exactly Masterpiece Theater, but sometimes I need to do things like take a shower) described adoption (in this case, the adoption of a puppy…or a mer-puppy, to be specific) as “giving someone a nice place to live.” If that’s all it takes, then I’m going to skip the college fund and start vacuuming more often.

(As a side note: While I applaud a marketing-job-well-done by the animal rights industry, until a cat is able to go to court and sign away her or his parental rights, there is absolutely no connection between pet ownership and parenthood.)

And of course, any publication associated with celebrities LOVES to label children. My favorite is when the article goes something like this: “Nicole Kidman will begin shooting her movie next week. Kidman, who has two adopted children, one biological daughter, and another daughter born by surrogate, cut her hair for the role.” It’s a good thing they point that out, too, as a reminder to Angelina Jolie that she should be running a “Sneetches”-esque household in which the children she adopted get sprinkles on their ice cream and the rest of them don’t.

It is time for the phrase “adopted child” to be eliminated from our lexicon. In no other circumstance do we identify our kids by their incorporation into our families: “This is our IVF daughter, Maisy. My husband ejaculated into a cup, they fertilized three eggs, I hung out in stirrups for an hour, and voila! She is also fairly proficient at piano.”

My son had as little to do with the adoption process as I assume he did with his own conception and birth. He didn’t fill out any paperwork or take any tests. Yet, if he were elected President of the United States tomorrow, the first line of his biography would probably read, “Our new Commander-in-Chief was born in North Dakota, where he was raised by his adoptive parents.”

For some impossible reason, adoption is perpetually marketed as a lifelong consolation prize. The day my husband and I brought our son home, our very first visitor remarked, “Watch–now you’ll get pregnant!” As if my new child, already my truest love, was simply a placeholder for real parenthood.

Comments such as this are so casually tossed out, yet their impact lasts and lasts. Soon after my son was born, my co-worker pulled me aside and told me proudly, “My parents adopted me, too, and they treated me the same as their biological kids.”

“Of course they did! You’re their son!” I exclaimed. “What would make you say that?”

“Well,” he shrugged, “Everyone always asks.”

(Another side note: Besides the obvious benefit of a lack of stretch marks, parents who adopt get the advantage of meeting a host of new, wonderful people. For example, our pediatrician, who was also one of our adoption references, recently asked me if we were considering having any more children, and I told him that we had just gotten back on the adoption list as a heads up that we would probably need his assistance again. His nurse sneaked back in our room a few moments after he had left and whispered: “I just wanted to tell you that my parents adopted me.”

“I knew you looked like a genius,” I told her.

She grinned. “That’s what my mom always says, too.”)

I have been a mother for two-and-a-half years, and my limited experience has shown me that your success as a parent is not defined by the moment your baby is placed in your arms. It is defined by every single moment after. I know this because I just had to have a discussion with my son about what you do and do not put up your nose, a topic I am pretty sure has never shown up in an adoption pamphlet or Lamaze class.

The fact is, parenting is parenting. There is no asterisk next to my name on my son’s birth certificate. My “Mom” necklace is not surrounded by quotation marks. In the eyes of my country and God, I am my son’s mother.

I repeat, parenting is parenting, and we parents love our children so eternally and deeply that we write blogposts such as this out of the fear that one day another kid will tease him or her about something over which they had no control or participation based on some nonsense they read on the Internet or saw on Nick Jr.

So knock it off, People.com, or I’m telling your mom.

Sincerely, Amanda.

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