Adoption Faith

Why Christians Need to Be Aware of How They Speak About Birth Parents

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37 replies on “Why Christians Need to Be Aware of How They Speak About Birth Parents”

I’m so sorry that this happened to you. There have been so many incredibly hurtful things said to my daughter’s birth mother (and I’m sure to many other birth mothers out there). I know what a life altering process that adoption is for all of us – birth mothers and adoptive mothers, and I hate that there are people who inflict even more hurt out there. I’m sure that she didn’t mean to hurt – we have a lot to learn over the years as adoptive parents. But I’m still so sorry that you had to have that experience. Thank you for sharing it so we can all have a reminder to think before we speak.


Thanks Jenna. I haven’t been over here for months (taking some time away from things for awhile) but saw your title on twitter and had to see what you have to say. It pains me so to know that someone said this to you (and in fact that is what she did, as I know as I speak publicly it is with constant awareness of “how will this sound to all who hear what I say”), but at the same time, I am thankful you do what you do, as your words of rebuttal are important for everyone to hear. I continue to constantly struggles (and you would thinkg after 7+ years of this, people would get it) with things people say about my children’s other, and equally important families, and how they often will say “why do you even try?” when something is hard or when my kids ask questions, and I constantly have to say “it is worth it because all of their people matter to them, and they matter to my children”. I wish I was shocked that this was an uncommon occurrence, that people who are considering adoption would finally get it, but I guess it takes daily/constant and insistent speak from those who are trying to see and acknowledge the truth. Thank you for your honesty, and blessings on you and your family.

Don’t apologize for taking time for other things. I do it, and I expect others to do it when they need to as well. It’s important for us to take care of ourselves.

That said, thank you. It was a hard moment for me at the conference, and it still kind of smarts a little bit. It’s hard to go to a place that you assume is “safe” and basically be thrown under the bus. It’s why I have such a hard time telling new people in my life, like my MOPS group, that I am a birth mother.

I am so appalled by this. I pray that my ‘chocolate’ children never think their birth parents passed over them. I hope they know they were loved and wanted, by all of their parents. And I hope that Lisa meets the woman who will be the first mother of her child. I hope she sees how loved that child is and realizes just how wrong her statement is.

I use any number of terms. If I know that the people I am speaking to are adoptive parents, I use either birth mother or first mother. If I know that they have no idea about adoption things, I say that I “placed my baby for adoption” or “relinquished my daughter at birth.” I generally feel the situation out before I choose my language.

“Birth mother” could be the term that is disempowering you in the midst of others. It differentiates you, even if the context is clear. :/

No, the disempowering, differentiating thing is where I say that I had a baby and I gave her to other parents. The thing that makes people look at me isn’t the words I use or the words I don’t use: it’s the fact that I did something so viscerally against what motherhood means to so many. Ask them and they’ll tell you: “I would never do that.”

An outstanding post about a horridly inappropriate statement. It kills me that she didn’t know better, and it’s even worse that no one she ran this speech by said “hey, ya think maybe that’s not the best way to phrase that?”


I’m a new reader and an adoptive parent. Thank you for being so honest here. It’s refreshing and if it’s okay with you, I intend to share your blog with other adoptive parents I know. Maybe the less sensitive/informed among us will learn something. ;)

And please also refrain from referring to human beings as a flavor of the month. If you are truly intending to adopt transracially please educate yourself on the reality of what that will mean to your child and family. Continually check yourself on your assumptions of what it is like to be a minority. Respect the culture and roots of the child and nurture his or her self esteem.

Amen to that. I get so damn sick and tired of hearing babies referred to as if they came in Easter baskets, wrapped in foil. It’s not okay when the parents call themselves “vanilla” either. It’s stupid and dehumanizing. Period.

Jenna, I am so sorry! Those who have never walked down certain roads know no danger that hide down those roads. It’s so easy to casually speak with no real frame of reference. The most important thing though is, you know and God knows your heart! And it is full of love for your sweet daughter!

You’ve written good words, and words I’ve wanted to say to people who just don’t get it. An I agree with you- as a public speaker, she needs to be educated about what she speaks, and, not offensive (chocolate? Really?!?).

I went to the WOF conference when it was in Columbus, but missed hearing Lisa Harper speak . . . . maybe for the best.

As an adoptive mom and a Christian, thank you for this. This is important stuff. REALLY important stuff.

(p.s. Angie Smith made me cry too.)

I am not christian. I am single and adopted domestically. AND i cringe every time some well meaning christian says it was “god’s plan” or i am ” a blessing to her” or i am “doing god’s work”…UGH. STOP with that.

I love my daughter and don’t want them to say anything bad about where she comes from or her birth mom, whom i talk to every 2 weeks.

People please stop assuming that where an adoptive child comes from is “not as good” as where they are now. It is just different. Can you believe that was even one of the questions i had to answer at court (” would i provide her with a better life?” – i said i can’t predict what her life would have been like but i will do my best by her).

I sometimes feel like i have to school EVERYONE on the correct verbiage to use. But i will keep it up so that one day – stuff like that doesn’t happen.

“Can you believe that was even one of the questions i had to answer at court (” would i provide her with a better life?” – i said i can’t predict what her life would have been like but i will do my best by her).”

I love your answer. A lot. More than a lot. Thank you for sharing it.

“Can you believe that was even one of the questions i had to answer at court (” would i provide her with a better life?” – i said i can’t predict what her life would have been like but i will do my best by her).”

As Jenna said, I too thank you for your answer. As a birth mother, it brought tears to my eyes and Im’ crying now as I type. Happy tears, unbelievably happy tears.

As a Asian-American, Transracially Adopted Christian, thank you for this post. I’m about to present my adoption workshop in my church for the first time – and your point is SO important.

My feeling for my birthmother are a blend of gratitude and compassion (we have not met – closed adoption…) – and can only hope that my workshop next month will have birthmothers/first parents in the room. Their/Your perspective is invaluable when it comes to educating people about forming families through adoption.

Wow, that’s rough. Chocolate? Passed over? Like, they were shopping items on a shelf and just passed their babies over in search of something else? Wow. She may want to review Matthew 25 and think about who is the least among us in that chocolate parent scenario she’s prattling on about.

Such a powerful post, Jenna. It sucks that this happened to you, and the other birth mothers in the room. There are so many things wrong with the statement she made. And so many things right in your words responding to it.

And I bet if she had a birth mother up there on stage and that was the presentation, she would be saying the woman did the Christian thing and was a hero–which is why I think the whole thing is disingenuous.

God doesn’t “erase” it when YOU don’t do the obvious homework. That’s your job, and God gave you a brain to do it with.

Sounds like she has a long way to go in understanding adoption from any angle–including an adoptive parent one. I hope she does her homework on that and doesn’t just ask God to erase the avoidable mistakes she makes raising her kid if she ever has one.

I really almost became sick reading this. I love WoF too and wasn’t able to make it this year (though my MIL & SIL were at the Pitt one).

It is just so sad to me that someone in that position would even think, for a minute, that was acceptable to say. She’s got a long hard road ahead of her if she thinks that is what adoption is all about.

I was at a christian adoption “meet-up” recently, and we were going around the room giving a brief introduction of ourselves and our family situation. One family introduced themselves and said we have 3 adopted children and 3 of “our own”. I’m glad this person was across the room or I might have smacked her myself. I’m also glad her children weren’t with her to hear that, but I’m afraid that this is really how she introduces her family. These poor children will be classified as “adopted” and “our own”.

I hate the differentiation between “adopted” and “our own.” It’s especially difficult for me to hear as my daughter’s mom has one of each as well, though she doesn’t introduce them as such to anyone (but will clarify if asked politely). It would kill me if she felt less than.

Wow. I am a Christian adoptive mom of a biracial little girl. I can’t believe she had the nerve to stand up there and say that. I mean I know alot of people who have said a lot of hurtful things about our daughter’s birthmom and I have stood up for her every time. Some people need to realize that what they’re saying is hurtful to more than one person.

Thanks for sharing your take on this Jenna.

I hope I don’t offend with what I’m about to say/ask, because it’s something that I’m genuinely curious about–but, as someone who previously worked with child welfare, I have worked with kids whose parents, I felt like, did pass them over. In my experience, there *were* parents who didn’t want contact with their children, even if the adoptive placement was willing to have an open adoption. There *were* parents that, at the birth of their babies, said, “Do whatever you want with her–I don’t want her.” So, I sort of understand the sentiment between Lisa Harper’s statement, though I don’t agree with how she said it. But, I also recognize that the scenario that I sometimes experienced at work is the exception, rather than the rule.

So, I guess I’m curious with whether it was the thought that a (singular) birth parent might “pass over” their child that was hurtful, or the generalization that made it seem like that was the case with most birth parents?

Again, I hope my comment wasn’t offensive–that really wasn’t my intent. I’m just trying to understand this from your perspective…because I might be able to be more sensitive in regards to how I speak about adoption and birth parents as well.

Her comment was of the collective birth mamas (plural) and daddies (plural).

And it doesn’t matter how she meant it.

The truth is that you cannot take the extreme cases of a larger group and smear the majority of the rest of the group. If anyone was to stand on a stage and say something about one race (take your pick) being all bad because they abuse and neglect their children, it wouldn’t be tolerated. Sure, some people in every race abuse and neglect their children, but they are the outliers. They are the extreme. They are not the majority. They are not the norm.

I’m tired of it being okay for people to talk poorly about birth parents because one birth mother one day — who was probably poorly educated by an unethical agency or social worker — said she didn’t want to see her baby. I’m tired of being lumped in with the bad examples instead of the good ones. I’m tired of it being expected that I didn’t love my daughter instead of it being understood that I did. And I certainly don’t expect to hear it at a Christian event. We preach and preach and preach about how these women need to choose life! Choose life! Choose life! And then when they choose adoption after choosing life, they’re talked about in that manner?

Nope. I don’t buy it. I don’t appreciate it. And I certainly don’t support it.

The truth is that adoptive parents are not perfect either. But we don’t stand on a stage and berate them for the mistakes of those who happen to hold their title. We need to stop doing it to birth parents.

You know, after reading your response Jenna, I sat down and thought about all the adoptive situations that I’ve encountered both when I was working and outside of work…and those situations that I mentioned in my original comment really were like 2 in 500+. They stand out because they were tragically sad, but they really are outliers (as you mentioned in your response)…not just ‘the exception to the rule’, but OUTLIERS. And yet, they tend to be what I think of when I think of adoption and birth parents. I wonder why that is.

You’re right that it’s not fair to you (and all other birth parents and adopted children out there) for that to be what I immediately think of, and the frame of reference that comes to mind for me. I’m sorry, and I’ll try to remember to be more aware of how I speak (and think) about birth parents in the future.

I think what I want to say has already been said. Let’s hope that Lisa Harper gets a clue from this.

The term chocolate is used in the black/african american culture as a term of love, affection and description. You hear it in songs, read it in books. I’ve used it with my girls in private moments. It’s one of those terms that has to be used carefully or it is majorly misunderstood and as a white mother I am very careful when using it and don’t use the term in public. I don’t think Harper should have used the term at all.

The (amazingly talented) sister from the group Mary Mary also used the term chocolate when talking about how they were the only women of color when they first began attending Women of Faith. I’ll be honest: I had less of an issue hearing them use the word in that manner. I would even have less of an issue with Lisa’s use of the word if she had already adopted a child of color and that child had already used the word herself in a conversation and she was simply relating it.

I just feel like Harper dropped the ball big time in this case. She had a chance to relate to so many different kinds of people with her story, and she alienated too many instead.

Ughh….I’m sorry you had to sit through that. And seriously “chocolate babies” ? It sounds like she wants to start a collection rather than raise a child. Adoption is a heart-felt, serious subject and it’s hard to hear of people talking about it in flippant stereotypes. Your response is spot on.

Yes, yes, and yes. Those of us in struggling in the childhood cancer world also know just what it is like to have to listen to stupidity. Oh the platitudes, flippant retorts and off-handed comments that sear to the bone. Ugh.
My own precious and dear sister released her baby for adoption in 1983. It is no easy path, no lack of deep agony. Oh, there was deep agony.
Kirsten E. Butler

[…] Why Christians Need to Be Aware of How They Speak About Birth Parents. Jenna at The Chronicles of Muchkinland was in an audience of 8000 women when a highly regarded speaker put at least one of her stylish boots in her mouth. Jenna calls her out on speaking disparagingly:  “Please think before you speak on a stage. Your words hurt me, and I wasn’t alone. Your words run the risk of hurting children in the future, one of whom might be yours someday. Think, Lisa. I’m a real, faithful, hurting child of God who made a decision that altered the course of my life. I am not less than you, and neither is any other birth mother or father.” […]

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