3 Ways to Connect with the Down Syndrome Community

Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Let’s build bridges, not walls.” His words offer a challenge worthy to be considered.

For many years, walls were built to keep people with Down syndrome separate from their families and communities. Those with an extra chromosome were seen as immoral, the result of sin, a burden on the entire family.

Medical walls were built by surgeons who refused to provide life-saving surgeries for newborns diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Domestic walls were built by ‘experts’ who strongly encouraged institutionalization and forced sterilization of children with Ds.

Verbal walls were built by degrading language used to describe people with Ds.

Vocational walls were built by employers paying less than minimum wage for employees with Ds.

Educational walls were built by schools that will not include or provide appropriate services for students with Ds.

How sad that we humans have used our time, energy, and resources to stack bricks rather than dismantle them.

In the U.S., the walls of institutions and other social barriers continue to fall but there are still (less obvious) walls that need removed in order to include and build relationships with people who have Down syndrome. Sometimes these walls look more like fear, ignorance, or apathy:

  • Fear: “I don’t want to inadvertently say something wrong or offensive so I’ll just not say anything.”
  • Ignorance: “I don’t know how to relate to those people. I just don’t know what to say.”
  • Apathy: “I don’t feel like connecting. And why should I? It’s not my job.”

If we’re honest, each of us has some resistance or even aversion toward certain people who are unfamiliar or seem annoying to us. Avoidance is an emotionally safe response, the default that keeps us from risking a few splinters and laying down planks to bridge the divide. In church culture this avoidance might be couched in religious language, “I just don’t think I’m called to serve those kinds of people.”

I’m not suggesting that everyone in a church community should work exclusively with those who have disabilities. I am however, suggesting that those of us in church culture may be guilty of using religious language as an excuse to distance ourselves from those we’re called to engage. Serving with an ‘us-them’ perspective in any capacity isn’t effective for wall removal and bridge building–nor does it reflect the character and work of Jesus, the One many of us claim to follow.

So, how can we break down walls and build bridges to connect with those who live outside our socio-cultural circle? How can we move from knowing about Down syndrome to actually knowing people with Down syndrome, especially if they’re not a part of our daily life?

I offer these simple steps.

3 Steps to Connect with those who have Down syndrome:

1. Initiate. When you’re out in public and see someone with Down syndrome, make eye contact, smile, and say ‘hello.’ This simple gesture reminds the person with Ds and the parent of a child with Ds that they are worth your attention. If you really want to go bananas, you might even introduce yourself (gasp!). Take a moment to chat. Look to the parent or caregiver for cues, if needed. Ask about their day, the purpose of their outing, school, work, etc., (any topic you’d chat about with a typical family). Most parents appreciate when people make the time and effort to introduce themselves and get to know their kids. Don’t let fear, previously awkward meetings, or apathy squelch an opportunity to engage. You’ll likely leave that brief encounter encouraged and inspired–but even more, you’ll assure a family that they matter.

2. Invite. If you know of someone with Ds, a parent raising a child with Ds, or your child has a classmate with Ds, include them whenever you can. Whether you’re hosting a birthday party or a gathering in your home or meeting friends for a playdate, extend the invitation, even if you don’t know them well.

Sam and I recently attended a birthday party for a kid in his class at school. I was nervous as we knocked on the door of an unfamiliar home, where I wondered if he would be included. I silently chastised myself, as one of Sam’s classmates greeted us at the door and welcomed him with great enthusiasm and a gentle hug, “Hi, Sam! Hi! Wow! Sam, I didn’t know you were going to be here! Yay! Sam, you’re here!” This 5 year-old boy was so genuinely thrilled to see Sam that I dropped my purse and stood by the door for a minute, struggling to swallow the lump in my throat. I didn’t realize how much I wanted him to be included, to be seen and valued by his peers.

Be like Sam’s classmate and send the invite. You’ll leave a grateful parent speechless.

3. Volunteer. This third step in connecting with people who have Ds seems most effective with specific, consistent work over time. Your faithful presence in local organizations and programs and/or in a church setting provides opportunities for you to regularly connect with the Down syndrome community.

Our non-denominational church has worked hard to specifically include those with different abilities. They provide a buddy for Sam (and several other kids) every Sunday. Once a month, they host a family respite night, as well as a parent group for those raising kids with different abilities. Free childcare is provided at each monthly gig for all of the kiddos. Yep, you read that right. ALL of our kids. For free. I get all verklempt just writing about it.

This inclusive approach works well with committed volunteers (like you) and a compassionate community whose leadership not only values people with different abilities but also provides support, resources, and encouragement to their families.

For those of us who have minimal, if any, contact with people who have Down syndrome, we would do well to initiate, invite, and volunteer wherever and whenever we can. Choosing to do so will help dismantle walls and build bridges that connect us to a community full of wonder, where we can love the oft excluded, learn from each other, and find our lives enriched.

If you’re interested in connecting and developing relationships with those who have Down syndrome or finding organizations that specifically serve those with intellectual disabilities, here are a few options to get you started. Check your local area for more details.

  • National Down Syndrome Society: The leading human rights organization for all people with Down syndrome. Click here to learn more: https://www.ndss.org
  • Buddy Walks: Annual walks held throughout the country, with the goal of promoting education and acceptance of people with Ds. Click here to learn more: https://www.ndss.org/play/national-buddy-walk-program/buddy-walk-faqs
  • Special Olympics: This is the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities. A variety of volunteer positions are available to help serve and support athletes and their families. Click here to learn more: https://www.specialolympics.org
  • Gigi’s Playhouse: An organization that seeks to “change the way the world views Down syndrome through national campaigns, educational programs, and by empowering individuals with Down syndrome, their families and the community. We offer free therapeutic and educational programming to individuals with Down syndrome and their families.” Click here to learn more: https://gigisplayhouse.org
  • Night to Shine: Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, Night to Shine is an annual global event where people with disabilities participate in prom. From the limos and red-carpet entrances to professional photographers, karaoke, and dancing, this night was created to remind participants of their inherent worth. Click here to learn more: https://www.timtebowfoundation.org/ministries/night-to-shine

If you want to diversify your social media contacts by including people with Down syndrome, I recommend Instagram to follow these educational and entertaining accounts:
















Where do you see walls in your community and how can you help dismantle them?

Where do bridges need built instead?

What would it look like for you to initiate, invite, or volunteer?

*Bridge photos by Arcaion at pixabay.

When A Diagnosis Determines Your Worth

If you Google ‘Down syndrome’, you’ll find pages of online organizations and dictionaries that provide both general and specific definitions. Most will include something like this:  

“A congenital condition characterized especially by developmental delays, usually mild to moderate impairment in cognitive functioning, short stature, relatively small head, upward slanting eyes, a flattened nasal bridge, broad hands with short fingers, decreased muscle tone, and by trisomy of the human chromosome numbered 21.”

~Merriam-Webster English Dictionary

As one who seeks to communicate clearly through written words, I understand the need to provide adequate information and appropriate descriptors but as the parent of a child with Down syndrome, seeing his diagnosis in print is difficult. Those definitions simply do not capture the wonder that is Sam but, to be fair, they’re not designed to do that.

Sam, 1 month old–fresh from the NICU

I know that my son’s value is not determined by his diagnosis but sometimes our world tells a different story. The history of how American culture defined, perceived, and treated people with Down syndrome is quite dark. Here’s a brief timeline:

  • 1773. First insane asylum opens in Williamsburg, VA. In the next 200 years, thousands of people with intellectual disabilities were funneled through various state-wide institutions.
  • 1838. First document to ever record people with intellectual disabilities as ‘idiots’ (to distinguish from those who were classified as ‘insane.’)
  • 1866. John Langdon Down, who discovered Ds, refers to the collective traits he discovered as ‘Mongoloid’ because their facial characteristics resembled those from Mongolia.
  • 1883. Sir Francis Galton first uses the word ‘eugenics’ to describe how Americans must assign value to those with intellectual disabilities. As a result, laws were passed, demanding forced institutionalization and sterilization of those with disabilities.
  • 1912. The Kallikak Family, a best-selling book is released by Henry H. Goddard. The book builds and perpetuates the false premise that intellectual disabilities are connected with immorality. Mass social hysteria ensues, calling for forced sterilization and institutionalization.
  • 1939. Hitler demands the extermination of 200,000 people with intellectual disabilities–many with Ds.
  • 1946. Parenting guru, Benjamin Spock, states in his popular book, Baby and Child Care,If [the infant] merely exists at a level that is hardly human, it is much better for the other children and the parents to have him cared for elsewhere.” (p. 478)

Not until the 1960’s and 70’s did the U.S. begin to shift its perspective, thanks in part to President John F. Kennedy. S L O W L Y, public outcry led to the closing of institutions and the passage of human rights laws as parents, caregivers, educators, and people in power demanded equality for people with disabilities. Their tireless efforts and stubborn voices blazed trails for the rest of us to follow. The trail has widened as more of us speak up for and seek to empower those with Ds, while educating the general public on the benefits of inclusive spaces.

Sam, 2.5 months old

Humanity. Equality. Rights. Inclusion. These speak to progress, yet within the highly educated medical community, most doctors and geneticists continue to apologize to women when disclosing a prenatal diagnosis of Ds, often just moments before they suggest termination as a solution. Despite their ‘smarts,’ many medical professionals are quick to provide a dark and limited option for expectant mothers, “Either your life will be really hard or you can abort.” (Actual words spoken to a friend.) In a world where we can choose from 15 different kinds of toothpaste, this either-or nonsense seems like a cruel irony.

As I write, many European countries are inching their way toward eradicating Down syndrome. With prenatal testing considered normative (and I’m not at all judging the tests), the number of abortions continues to rise. If we believe that a baby in a mother’s uterus is a human, this would be genocide, no?  

Cognitively impaired.







Hardly human.

Really hard life.

Words like these make it easier to justify the extermination and ongoing exclusion of a vulnerable people group and the mothers trying to decide whether it’s worth the lifelong risk of birthing them. Why bring them into a world that doesn’t value them in or out of the womb? It seems we’ve failed both women and children.

Sam, 1 year old

I wonder, is this really the kind of culture we want to sustain? To refuse to stand with women who need support (financial, emotional/mental, medical)?

To leave pregnant women with limited options at a crucial time?

To offer an apology when she’s given a prenatal diagnosis?

To end life because of a possible diagnosis?

To vote for the traditionally *pro-life* political party, even when those candidates won’t sign bills that provide equal opportunities and fair wages for people with Ds? (I’m looking at you, Republicans.)

To maintain the status quo by keeping people with Ds out of classrooms and work spaces and airplanes?  

To associate only with people who look like us by hosting parties and gatherings in which we don’t invite those who have Ds?

To refuse to consider the authenticity of our ‘seeker friendly’ churches, which don’t really create space or provide resources for those with Ds?      

If we claim to be pro-life advocates, we need to rethink the issues of diagnosis and worth and inclusion and what they mean for both mothers and their children with Down syndrome. 

Sam, 2.5 years old

We must provide ongoing support and updated, accurate information when expectant mothers receives a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. If we really value women, we must work to improve employee maternity leave and insurance coverage. (In related news, Down syndrome is considered a ‘pre-existing condition’–which means ‘limited/no coverage’ with most private insurance companies.)

We must use appropriate language and terms and offer more than one option for expectant moms.

We must remember that a baby in the womb deserves a chance to be born.

We must be graciously present for women no matter what they decide.

We must show up for new moms and their families, embrace the gift of their friendship, join them in Buddy Walks, vote for candidates who advocate for the differently-abled, and find other ways to engage this new community.

Children with Down syndrome are more than limited definitions, their mothers more than mere recipients of a diagnosis. Both bear Divine fingerprints, offering beauty, joy, and delight to our world–if we’re willing to see. We must endeavor to become a society that takes their hands and says,

“You are seen. You are loved. You belong.”

What Down Syndrome Can Teach Us Now

When I married nearly 16 years ago, I never dreamed I’d be parenting four kids, one with Down syndrome. I had no intention of managing what feels like a circus most days–not that I was opposed to circus life or extra chromosomes–I just wasn’t thinking about motherhood in any form when it chased me down.

After birthing my two oldest and struggling with post-partum depression, I waved the proverbial white towel, calling a truce with my mind and body. I needed mental space and rest to find my sanity (and sleep) with two Littles.




But, dear readers, babies just don’t keep. Eventually, diapers morphed into undies, sleepless nights rolled into sweet dreams, and my once helpless cherubs began to feed and dress themselves. ThankyaJesus.

I shed the zombie look (sort of) and my capacity to form coherent thoughts returned at last (still debatable). This was the season in which I sensed a holy nudge, a gentle Voice asking, “Are you willing to let My dreams become yours? Are you willing to rethink your own ideas about your family and future?”

As many of you know, that nudge led to prayers and conversations and new dreams and eventually, a baby boy with Down syndrome–our Sam.

Prior to Sam’s arrival, I read all I could about Ds, sought advice from experienced parents and professionals, and grew in my awareness of potential issues related to this diagnosis. I researched possible medical complications, physical care, therapies and education, finances, future work, state and federal policies, and our culture as it relates to people with different abilities. Even with all my experience working with people who have Ds, months of personal education, and now 4+ years of parenting Sam, I’m still discovering new truths and learning important lessons.

In a time of divisive politics, hateful rhetoric, and social media outrage, I want to highlight this truth as we celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month:

Choosing to believe stereotypes creates distance between ‘us’ and ‘them.’

While Ds is its own culture with a handful of common traits, those with Ds are individuals. Each person brings his own genetics, personality, family, life experiences, needs, preferences, education, and more. Just because we might know a few people with Ds who have sunny dispositions doesn’t mean all people with Ds do. (This is probably the most common stereotype.)

Like any social group, people with Down syndrome cannot be put into a ‘one-size-fits-all’ category. When we do that, we miss the unique gifts found in each person. 

This idea goes beyond the community of Ds to other neighbors who don’t typically fit the majority profile, whether immigrants, refugees, Muslims, people of color (POC), folks with disabilities, the incarcerated, those who identify as LGBTQI, or anyone else who might be considered the ‘other.’ 

Choosing to believe stereotypes can actually prevent us from learning from people who differ from us, who have very different experiences, who look at life through a lens other than our own. We take one conversation or experience or person and craft stories about what we think is true of an entire group and as a result, fail to see the Divine imprint on each human.

In our pride and ignorance, we may write another narrative, one that pens an incomplete, often negative story. Confident we have the whole truth, we often assign motive and value to groups of people we haven’t taken the time to know. Instead of graciously moving toward individuals, we use our limited knowledge and assumptions to determine whether to engage ‘the other.’ I wonder who we miss connecting with when we do this? 


Photo by gerault at pixabay.com

I’ve noticed people writing a limited story about Sam. In social settings, I watch as kids and parents determine his physical differences. Most observe that he doesn’t engage like a typical peer, his mannerisms more juvenile, his marked delays perceived as a nuisance. I witness the furrowed brows, rolled eyes, heavy sighs, and the turning away to avoid him–my son, the ‘other.’ With imaginary pen in hand, they hastily make note, “This kid is so annoying. I don’t know how to relate to him. I’m uncomfortable. I’m going to find someone who’s more like me.” 

I grieve not only for what this incomplete storytelling means for Sam as he begins to understand his differences but also for what those kids and their parents are missing by choosing to ignore him. 

I wonder what we might be missing, too, when we don’t acknowledge the image of God in the ‘other’, when we refuse to find ways to connect with those who differ from us.

Sam’s life reminds me to resist the easy route of stereotyping, to lean in and listen to those whose perspectives and lifestyles don’t mirror my own. Down syndrome spurs me on to move closer to others so I can more clearly see the Imago Dei in each person and love them as I’ve been loved. 


Who might you be avoiding because of your assumptions or limited perspective?

What is one step you can take this month to move toward someone (or a particular group) you consider ‘the other?’


On Bullying and Boundaries and Belonging

I don’t know what your life looks like these days but mine is bursting with the colorful personalities of four kids who bring a variety of preferences, peculiarities, and pet peeves.

One gets slightly enraged at the sound of chewing (pretty sure that’s genetic), the other oblivious to flapping molars.

One gets irritated with all the singing and dancing while the other enthusiastically belts out every lyric of The Greatest Showman.

One is meticulous about good hygiene while the other needs encouraged to wash off the funk.

One hustles out of bed in the morning and speed dresses (is that a thing?) while the other burrows deeper under the covers, savoring those last few minutes of shuteye.

And two certain cherubs are consistently L.O.U.D. and early risers. I’m not namin’ names but thankfully, they’re still contained in their tiny baby jails.

With all the differences wrapped up in each kiddo however, I have found one common thread woven through their diverse DNA: All four want to belong.

Photo by Becca Neufeld Photography at www.beccaneufeldphotography.com

Last year, our family experienced bullying for the first time. (I refer to the person who bullied as “Bee” in this post.)

Bee was in our home.

Bee sat at our table and enjoyed meals with us.

Bee played in our yard, twirled on our tire swing, and made slime with our kids.

We offered her encouragement and time and compassion. We wanted Bee to feel a sense of belonging with us, especially when conversations revealed that her home was not often a place of warmth and welcome. Despite some of our concerns with her occasional meanness toward Selah, both at school and in our home, we prayed to be hospitable and kind (and sometimes struggled to do both).

Perhaps in our naivete, we thought our open home would lead to a changed Bee–a Bee that could work through unresolved anger and begin to soften toward a Love far greater than our own.

A couple of months into 2018 however, we learned that her emotional needs exceeded our abilities and we made a difficult decision that wracked me with (false) guilt. After weeks of prayer, wise counsel, and ongoing conversations with school personnel, we set a boundary: Bee would no longer be welcome in our home until she provided a sincere apology and Selah came home with zero complaints about Bee’s aggression.

For our oldest, school no longer felt like a safe place where she could focus on subjects and friendships without wondering what Bee might do to her. Despite the many ‘tools’ we gave Selah to help build her resilience as she related to Bee, the attacks continued. While Selah felt supported by a few adults at school, her ongoing concerns fell silent on the ones who had the ultimate authority. As a result, home became her main place of belonging and we would do whatever necessary to ensure that remained so.

A few days after we set this boundary, Bee showed up at our front door, wanting to come in and play.

After consistently, aggressively, physically hurting Selah.

After writing hateful notes about Selah and passing them around to other girls.

After threatening to seriously injure Selah and another student.

After lying to teachers, faculty, and us about the extent of her behavior.

Bee still expected to join us in our home, as if her bullying had no effect on our relationship with her.

My response to her that day could be summed up in the words of Simon Cowell, “Um, that’s a ‘no’ for me.”  

I told her that we cared about her and wanted to have her in our home. I also gave her a choice to admit and apologize for the ways she had hurt Selah. (She yelled, denied any guilt, and stomped off the porch.)  

Some might think our boundary too strict.

Some might think our family unforgiving.

Some might think our family unloving.

To these I would say:

Love often sets healthy boundaries for the good of others even when others refuse to see the good.

Sometimes the best way to love those who bully is to set a boundary and offer them an alternative–an opportunity for them to own their actions–not another invitation for them to treat you with contempt.  

Bee was not allowed to hurt, taunt, and degrade Selah at school and then expect connection with us in our home. Our permission only enabled her to bully in our home, albeit more subtly. As the drama at school increased, maintaining status quo in our home seemed to communicate to Bee that we were okay with the bullying. We were inadvertently teaching her that she could intentionally hurt others and never be required to endure the relational consequences of her behavior. She could use and abuse people as she pleased and still enjoy the benefits of their company whenever she wished.

By allowing our relationship with Bee to remain unchanged, we risked emotionally disconnecting from Selah and breaking a sacred trust we’d spent a decade building. Refusing to set a boundary would have said to our daughter, “Your needs are trivial. Don’t speak up–even when someone relentlessly hurts you. No one will listen to you, anyway–not even your parents.” That was not the kind of message we ever intended to communicate.  

We care about Bee.

We pray for Bee.  

We choose to forgive Bee.

We want to see redemption and restoration in the life of Bee.

We love Bee.

Boundaries don’t make those statements less true. Boundaries don’t make us unkind. Boundaries aren’t rejection. Boundaries (in this case) offer protection and clear expectations for both girls. 

Until Bee is ready to confess and seek forgiveness, Wisdom tells us that our boundary must remain so that our home can remain a place of refuge and belonging, especially for the four we’ve been given to train and lead and raise.

Was there ever a time you set a boundary for the good of others? What was the response? How did you handle the situation?

Would be so good to hear from you! Your story might encourage another reader.


***I realize that bullying is a difficult topic that can elicit strong, complex emotions. Many families have endured far worse than we have, with tragic, devastating results. I have learned that even with all the anti-bullying campaigns and zero-tolerance zones, kids who bully get away with more than any well-meaning slogan aims to prevent. I highly recommend that parents continue to engage teachers and administrators, document every incident, contact the school superintendent and/or lawyer and/or law enforcement for advice, support, and resolutions, consider alternative schooling, and stay emotionally connected as much as possible with your kids, while keeping your home a safe place where they know they belong.

***Featured photo credit goes to Wokandapix at pixabay.

Two Words To Remember This School Year

I find myself talking to The Big Kids quite a bit these days. At 10 and 8 years old, they’re in my favorite stage so far–willing to ask me anything about anything. Topics range from Why Hair Grows There to How Systemic Racism Began & Continues.

Strange body odors? Check.

American politics? Check.

Atomic wedgies? Check.

Adoption and different abilities? Check. Check.

Jesus and healing and death? Check. Check. Check.

I’ve looked into their innocent brown eyes and assured them that no question is off-limits, even when I have to contort my face to keep from laughing at times.

I’m a big fan of this stage of parenting my pre-tween and tween. Their endless wonder leads to so many interesting conversations and I’m grateful to be present in the dialogue, to help them find the answers, or to simply say, “I don’t know” when they ask me things like, “Will Sam have Down syndrome in heaven?”

Sometimes I worry that my answers are too detailed, that I’m offering too many words, overloading their growing minds in my earnest attempts to educate or inform or encourage.

But they seem undeterred, eager for more.

My hope is that they absorb all the good words that I endeavor to use: the red letters of Jesus, the truths of Scripture, the reality of history, the meaningful song lyrics, the beautiful stories, and profound poems written by countless men and women all over the world. I want their tender hearts and minds to be so full of the truth that lies can’t find any space to burrow inside. I want to protect their impressionable ears from the hateful and divisive words that seem to greet each of us more frequently in our polarized society.

While I believe that the words my kids are absorbing here at home are good and meaningful and true, I don’t want these humans entrusted to me to be tight-fisted consumers. I want them to take what they’re learning here and share it with their neighbors and classmates and teachers and yes, even (perhaps, especially those most difficult to love.)

I want them to tell the truth and treat others with respect.

I want them to stand with the bullied and include the ones who wonder if they matter.

I want them to encourage others and make at least one true friend.

I want them to work hard and listen well and make the most of their educational opportunities.  

With all of the possibilities, I found it a bit challenging to choose just one phrase for them to consider and apply this year. But I finally did and it’s this:


Photo cred: reneebigelow at Pixabay

That’s it. Nothing new or deeply profound.

When you meet a new classmate: Be kind.

When you see a kid quietly upset: Be kind.

When a student appears left out on the playground: Be kind.

When a student forgets her lunch: Be kind.

When a teacher seems in a bad mood: Be kind.

When a kid on the bus is being teased: Be kind.

When a kid seems different from the cultural norm: Be kind.

When you disagree with a classmate: Be kind.

When another student is rude: Be kind.

There are countless scenarios both in and out of the classroom where my kiddos can apply these two simple words with potentially powerful implications. Choosing to be kind will require different responses, depending on the need of the moment and the people present. Of course, I want them to learn and excel in school but I also want them to be aware of how they can include and encourage others, even when the easier choice would be to ignore, retreat, or retaliate.

And sometimes, these two kiddos are the ones who most need a good dose of their own kindness.

The Big Kids have a strong tendency to be self-critical. When they don’t meet their own expectations in some way, they tend to think negatively about themselves and once they move in that direction, they struggle to find their way back to the truth. I’m learning to give them ample time to process life, while offering heaps of encouragement and grace and love notes under their pillows to help chase away the dark thoughts. So, in their efforts to be kind to others, I also want them to remember to be kind to themselves–to extend grace to themselves, to rest in the love of God.

There’s a song by Andrew Peterson that speaks to this–one that I’ve played for them on the really rough days when music and lyrics offer more than I can. You can click here to listen.

Be kind, Kids. To others. To yourselves. That’s it.  


How about you? What is one idea/phrase/truth you want your kid(s) to hold on to for this school year?



The One About Birth Moms

There’s a stigma that often follows the title “birth mom”–the woman who surrenders her rights for another to raise the child(ren) born to her.

Stereotypes might include:













Of course, anyone might identify with any of these labels through different seasons in life–one doesn’t necessarily have to be a birth mom–but these labels–with negative connotations– seem to be assumed of birth moms.

“Was she a teenager?”
“Why’d didn’t she want him?”
“Why’d she give her up?”

I’ve heard these inquiries and more but I think they are the wrong questions to ask. They are not only inappropriate with a hint of judgment but they are also far too simplistic for the complex world of adoption.

The truth is that birth moms vary like the rest of humanity.

They are racially diverse.

They are lower and middle and upper class.

They live in subdivisions and subsidized housing.

They pay rent in small towns, rural areas, cities, and suburbia.

They wrestle with addictions and they do not.

They did not finish high school and they have multiple degrees.

They battle mental illness and they are of sound mind.

They are sixteen and twenty-five and forty.

They are single and divorced and married.

They are already mothers and they are not.

They have hope in redemptive Love and they wonder if any of that is real.


Photo cred: ritinhacorain at pixabay.com

Some are angry and detached.
Some are devastated and desperate.
Some are overwhelmed and terrified.

Some make their decision quickly and resolutely and some take more time to consider.

Some quickly leave their babies in a drop box outside a church.
Some slowly create a plan and choose their adoptive family.

Some prefer contact with their child’s adoptive family.
Some prefer lifelong distance.

Some cannot hold the one they’ve just birthed.
Some swaddle and kiss and struggle to release.

Some wrestle with guilt and regret.
Some live with total peace.

Photo cred: M Ameen/Vitamin at pixabay.com

In the story of adoption, I have discovered that the *Christian* culture tends to view birth moms as the villains, their children as the victims, and the adoptive families as the heroes. (Though I assure you, most adoptive families do not feel this way–despite how we are portrayed.) Church culture often praises the heroes for rescuing the victims from the villains.

Please hear me when I say: This is a false narrative. Damaging, even. We would do well to address it and challenge it, especially in *Christian* spaces where we claim to believe in redemption, forgiveness, and restoration.

Birth moms are often victims themselves, driven to make an incredibly difficult decision that they never imagined they would face. Regardless of the choices they made–or were forced into– on the road to pregnancy, they face obstacles and pain usually hidden from the public eye.

Until it isn’t.

Aside from the physical changes that come with growing a human, they also face public shame. They cringe at the well-intentioned but awkward, ‘Congratulations! When are you due?’–and the comments that follow after their tiny victim is placed with the hero. They endure the labor, the hormonal ‘let down’ after birth, and the long road ahead with empty arms and a shattered heart.


Photo cred: michydev at pixabay.com

While every birth mom has her unique experiences, here’s what I know of our kids’ birth moms:

They prayed.
They ached.
They wrestled.
They chose.
They wept.
They suffered.
They grieved.

And still do.

They are brave warriors, fellow Image-bearers of our Creator, and I am so grateful for their lives and for their trust in us to do what they felt they could not.

May we, who claim faith in a redemptive God, drop the labels, change the narrative, and see birth moms as women in a difficult place who need our unconditional love, continual support, and loads of hope.


***Disclaimer: I realize that the relationships between birth families and adoptive families are complex and varied, depending on many factors: domestic/international adoptions, orphanages, foster care, adoption agency relationships, legal ramifications, race, history, family dynamics, etc. While there are universal issues related to adoption (such as loss, grief, identity, attachment), we must also recognize and respect the varied stories as we seek to support each person involved. I could not possibly cover every scenario in a single post but wanted to honestly share my observations and experiences with the birth moms and agencies from whom I continue to learn.

If you feel comfortable sharing a bit of your adoption story–whether you are a birth mom, adoptee, or adoptive parent–please post in the comments below. Or if you prefer to share privately, feel free to email me.  I promise to read and respond.