I’m not even sure how it began. I just know that there was a Facebook post to an adoption group. One of the prospective adoptive parents (PAPs) said that her friend didn’t consider her to be “expecting” because she was adopting. A birthmother, who writes a well-known and respected blog, took issue with adoptive parents expecting children, “as a birth mom, I don’t like ‘expecting’ from an adoptive mom’s perspective (hoping would be better in my opinion)”. The adoptive parents pretty much piled on her, some more nicely than others. She continued to state that PAPs should not use the word expecting, and gave her reasons why.
In fact, she wrote a blog post about it. Then Dawn, the owner of the Facebook group, wrote a blog post about it. Then Elisabeth, another Facebook group member, wrote a blog post about it. And now, I’m writing my blog post about it.
According to dictionary.com, the word expect means:
to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of
You would think that would end the argument right there. Of course adoptive parents are expecting children. They are looking forward to having children. They regard it as likely that they will adopt children. They anticipate the coming of their children. All of these things are true regardless of the type of adoption they are pursuing.
However, Monika doesn’t see it that way. On her blog and in Facebook comments, she has stated her arguments.
- “To me, it focuses the attention on the hopeful adoptive parents, which is exactly where it should not be.”
Monika’s attitude comes from the assertion that adoption should be all about the child and not the parents. I reject that argument entirely. Just because adoptive parents aren’t pregnant doesn’t mean that their journey to parenthood shouldn’t be respected and celebrated as much as pregnancy is in our society. Furthermore, part of expecting a child is to prepare for that child. Prospective adoptive parents need to prepare for their children at least as much as pregnant parents do.
- “[T]he term is not child-centered but centered on the selfish wants and desires of the adults involved.”
Unless you’re pregnant with the second coming of Jesus, or you were raped, you’re pretty much pregnant for selfish reasons – you wanted to have unprotected sex with a man. Now, hopefully, you intended to become pregnant, or at least you didn’t mind either way. Again, that’s probably also for essentially selfish reasons – you wanted a child. When you adopt, you should be adopting, at least in part, because you want children. No one should adopt only to save children. Parenting isn’t selfish, but deciding to become a parent? I’d say that pursuing parenthood is, in some ways, selfish. A lot of people would agree with me.
- “When a woman gets pregnant and decides to carry the pregnancy to term, she’s expecting that child to arrive around the due date and in a healthy condition. There’s expectation there because millions of women throughout history have had pregnancies happen similarly… When a couple that wants to adopt starts the process, there is no absolute guarantee that a baby will be ‘delivered’ to them, even if they’re trying to adopt internationally and not domestically or via foster care.”
I reject this argument as nonsensical. Every year, tens of thousands of adoptions are completed in the US alone. According to one source, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage. According to another source, 1 in 160 pregnancies in the US ends in stillbirth, or about 26,000 stillbirths per year here. Following Monika’s argument, no one would be able to call themselves “expecting” until they were in labor. On the other hand, whether you wait for 6 weeks or 6 years, the only time PAPs do not adopt is when they give up.
- “[T]he difference between what hopeful adoptive parents and biological parents experience is that even if a miscarriage happens with a biological pregnancy, there are no other people directly involved.”
First, there are other people involved in miscarriages and stillbirths. There are entire families involved. Second, what does it matter how many people are involved in looking forward to a child’s arrival? The number of people involved has nothing to do with expecting something.
- “To imply by use of the word expectation that there are no other humans involved and that different choices can’t be made simply because someone desires it to be so seems too simplistic at best.”
But the use of the word expecting does not imply that there aren’t any other humans involved. The word expect does not say anything about the presence or absence of other people or decision-making processes. A person can expect a promotion, an award, a visit from a relative, or an acceptance letter to a college, all of which depend on other people and their choices.
- “When ‘expecting’ as a term is applied to domestic infant adoption, it carries darker implications… I see greed and desire for a child overwhelming the greater sensibilities of the people involved when ‘expecting’ is used.”
OK, this I understand. I don’t think it makes the word expecting any less applicable, but I do see the issue. It’s one of expectation vs. entitlement. Often, when a PAP in a private domestic infant adoption is matched with a pregnant woman, he/she may feel entitled to that particular baby. PAPs need to separate the expectation of any child from feeling entitled to a particular child. However, that’s a bigger issue. PAPs are still expecting a child, even if they ultimately do not adopt the particular child they thought they would adopt.
- “But in domestic adoption, it’s not your child. And in international adoption, it’s not either. There’s still legal stuff that has to happen in both cases, and in domestic infant adoption, the mother still has a choice in whether to give her child up legally or not. That’s why I have a problem with it. I look at it through the lens of domestic infant adoption and think that it’s coercive.”
You’re still expecting a child, even if you don’t know which specific child it is. The word expect has nothing to do with biology or legality, for that matter.
Many adoptive parents are tired of the terminology wars. They’re tired of being told how they can and cannot feel, what they can and cannot say, or call themselves. One woman commented, “We just want something to sound or feel normal. Why do we have to be the bad guys all the time?” I don’t even think there’s any “good guy” or “bad guy” when you use the word expect. I don’t like the word normal in most cases, because really, what is normal? But the point is, why do PAPs have to be other, yet again?
One of the terms Monika proposes is “hopeful adoptive parent.” At least one woman who had experienced infertility commented that she was done being hopeful. To her, hope was a dirty word. Hope had died, time and time again, when one procedure after another failed. She would become a parent through adoption. She expected it.
A few people have mentioned needing a new term, or additional language. Some women who have experienced pregnancy and awaiting adoption say that their feelings about the children involved are the same, so the term that is used should be the same. I agree. I don’t think we need a new word for something that is so clearly applicable.
I’m not saying that all PAPs should go out and get maternity t-shirts or fight for the right to park in the Stork Parking spaces at Babies R Us. I’m certainly not saying that PAPs should tell the pregnant women they’re matched with, “We know what it’s like to be expecting too.” Although one’s expectations are the same from a pregnancy and an adoption – that is, a child – an expectant mother who is considering placing is obviously in a very different situation than expectant PAPs.
While we must be cognizant of others’ feelings, that is a two-way street. Some birthmothers may take offense at PAPs calling themselves expecting. However, those birthmothers should also take into account that a PAP’s road to adoption is not easy, and that they’re not expecting their children to offend you. They are expecting their children because they are looking forward to becoming parents.