We Had to Adopt :: Adoption Language

I often hear people refer to adoption as a “had to” – as in we tried all the traditional routes, they didn’t work, so we “had to” adopt.  I will fully admit that hearing those words makes me cringe and get a little riled up.

Parenting is a Gift

A child is not something we are “owed”.  It’s a priviledge and an honor to parent a child, regardless of how that child joined our family.  Frankly, when someone says we “had to adopt” or they “had to adopt”, it’s not only offensive to me as a mom, but it’s offensive to my children.

Every child is a gift from God.  Regardless of the family situation he or she experienced upon birth, that life is a gift.  Adoption is not a consolation prize, as a friend so aptly put it recently.

My family is my family plain and simple.  Do we have unique challenges as an adoptive, multi-cultural family? Yes, of course, but I would assume that every family has unique challenges.  Does it mean we are any less real or cohesive? Not by a long shot.  

I don’t look at biological families and wish that for myself.  Ever.  Really, not ever.

I love and value the uniqueness of our family.  I appreciate the plan that God had in store for us.  Even though it’s not always easy and my children sometimes struggle for answers that we can’t provide, this is the fabric of our family and we will, with God’s Grace, persevere.

Choosing Adoption Language Carefully

Words matter, so please don’t say the following:

1.  We had to adopt
2.  Nothing else worked so we ended up adopting
3.  We always thought if we adopted we would get pregnant

Please don’t say those words to your friends, family and acquaintances, and most certainly not in front of your children.

Adoption for us has never been and never will be a last 
resort.  Our children were longed for, prayed for and wanted.



  1. Denise Dean says

    Great post!!! If I had a nickle for every time I heard a comment related to adopting first since we couldn’t have “natural” children (seriously?????), I would have several rooms full of nickles! Followed closely by the “of course once you gave in and adopted, you got pregnant” comment. Drives me crazy!!!! At first, I gave people the benefit of the doubt because I think most people really are well meaning and just don’t think before they open their mouth. But now that Isaac is older and at times it bothers him that he is the only one of the four that is not a blond haired carbon copy of his dad, I am not so kind about it. Everyone needs to read this post!

  2. TheReluctantWidow says

    Adoption was a choice for us. It was how we built our family. Yes, we struggled with infertility, but we knew that when it didn’t happen naturally, it was because God had different plans for us. We have always said that we knew these children were meant to be ours. They weren’t a fluke, second choice, or a back-up plan.

    Great post! And seriously, if I had a dollar for every person who said to me “oh, as soon as you adopt, you will get pregnant,” I could take that trip to Europe that I want to take. So annoying.

  3. Patty says

    Beautifully written, Jen. I think my biggest pet peeve is to hear people say, “Oh, you adopted just to get a son”. Really? I still haven’t found a good response to that (beside my jaw hitting the floor.)

  4. Lyn says

    Just because you have to do something, does not make it a
    bad thing! We “had to” adopt!
    My husband and I wanted to share our love with children and hoped to
    have as many as God blessed us with! We
    bought a big house in a perfect neighbourhood for raising our future
    family. But children did not come. We tried all the reproductive
    technologies. And then ten childless
    years later, we adopted. Your article,
    and the comments so far, share lovely sentiments. But let’s be honest. Most people who adopt are like me. We adopt because we had to. Because it was the only way to extend our
    family. If we had been blessed with
    biological children we would not have adopted.
    Yes I know there are some wonderful people out there who have/can have
    children through natural pregnancy, and they choose to adopt. They are the exception however. Most adoptive parents are like us. We had to because otherwise we would be
    childless. If we had gotten pregnant, we
    would not have considered adopting even one child. That is the truth. But it is not a sad truth. Our inability to have natural kids gave us
    our wonderful adopted kids! Our kids
    know we would not be their parents if we had been able to get pregnant. Nothing wrong with them knowing that! Because they also know that they are the best
    thing that ever happened to us! They
    know that they were welcomed and loved, and could not possibly be loved more if
    they were our biological children. They
    know that we believe that God had other plans for us when he made us wait to
    start our family. They know that God
    wanted us to wait for them! They know
    that we believe they were worth the wait!
    They know we “had to adopt”.
    And they know that looking back we would not have had it any other way.

    • Jewel says

      We are in the process of adopting, in our situation I cannot have children. I don’t remember saying I have to adopt but instead “we get to adopt.” I see nothing wrong with had to adopt because as you stated its the reality. If most people are honest that adopt when infertility is involved you don’t have a choice if you desire to have children.

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