We all have triggers: when someone can ask a question or makes a comment that affects us emotionally. When in the process of building our families, this may manifest differently at various stages.
Birth mothers also may have triggers. Understanding what they might be and how to react can help us manage our own emotions well as our responses when we see this in others.
For Adoptive Parents
Think of a time when you were asked a question that seemed to spark sudden emotion for you. It may have brought tears or at least made you fight them back. Or it may have made you angry or resentful, or feel flooded with a wealth of emotions that you thought had already been dealt with. These are triggers.
Common ones for parents trying to build their family may relate to fertility, why a birth mother isn’t choosing them, or why they aren’t open to adopting ANY child. Others may include comments suggesting they should just give up on achieving parenthood or settle for an older waiting child.
Usually, people aren’t intentionally trying to be hurtful but have just hit a nerve that brings up emotion than they (or you) were not expecting. If you can plan for the moments, you will be a little prepared for managing your emotions.
First, don’t feel bad about the tears, but rather acknowledge that this is a difficult subject. It is ok to say, “This is hard to talk about. And today, I’d really rather not.” Or talk about it if you want but show the emotion you feel. Don’t feel guilty or embarrassed that emotion is part of this journey.
You may want to consider a quick response with a subject change. It addresses the question or comment but quickly moves things along, like, “That is something to consider. Hey, have you been to that new restaurant in town?”
For some people, they may want to be brutally honest or set firm boundaries. “While I appreciate your input, our adoption preferences have been agonized over and I hope you will respect that.” Or a simple, “I’d rather not discuss this right now.”
Just being aware that it can and will happen, is the first step in being prepared.
For Birth Parents
When speaking with a birth parent, you may ask a question or make a comment that suddenly brings up a flood of emotion that you may not have been expecting. Common trigger questions are:
- Share with me why you are considering adoption?
- Is the baby’s father in the picture?
- What are your goals for the future?
- What are your hopes for your child’s future?
Even though these may be potential triggers, don’t shy away from them. The emotion you get is a beautiful indicator of where their need lies. Tears and emotion can show you where you need to show empathy, how you can help them, and where you can reassure them that adoption is a wonderful option and you are committed to helping ensure their child has the life that they desire for them.
Birth parent emotion shows where you can offer caring and compassionate care as they consider adoption, and where you can show acceptance to them as a person.
Not all birth parents will express emotion. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t there, but you may see results of a trigger question in other ways, such as going quiet, not wanting to talk about things, or changing the subject. Again, honor this, but know that is a place you can show that you care in the future.
Adoption is very much a matter of the heart, and where the heart is involved, so is deep emotion. Pause and reflect on the emotion you’ve experienced so far and what may be to come. Staying in tune with this aspect of adoption will serve you well.