Monday, October 19, 2015

Telling All

Hi, Sugars:

Today I want to talk about "telling all" or "spilling it" when it comes to your child's adoption story.

Now, you might be thinking, it's our family's story, not just my child's story.

Well, yes and no.  I mean I get that every story has a "once upon a time" and hopefully a "happily ever after," but the "once upon a time" usually starts with you, the parents.  But the middle of the story, well, that's your child's:  their background, their birth parents, the circumstances surrounding the adoption placement, your child's adoption-related struggles, etc.

I have no problem telling people:
  • Why we chose to adopt:  Type 1 diabetes, diagnosed when I was 24.  Autoimmune and chronic disease.  Can be passed on to biological children.  Can make pregnancy difficult and potentially dangerous.  
  • How long we waited for each child: There's really nothing personal about this, and I like to tell those considering adoption that you just never know when your child will arrive.  My first baby arrived after 14 months of waiting, my second on the first day (yes, you read that correctly) of waiting, my third after about four months of waiting.  
  • Some reasons why moms choose to place their babies:  I never reveal why our children's birth parents placed.  I share that sometimes moms place due to lack of support from the biological father or her own family, lack of financial stability, already parenting multiple kids and feels she cannot parent another child, has addiction issues, feels she's too young or too old or too inexperienced, has goals she's trying to meet that will be deterred if she parents, etc.
  • Some struggles adoptees may face:  Grief, attachment issues, identity issues, guilt, shame, and more.  But I never share my children's personal struggles.
  • We have open adoptions:  This becomes obvious once people get to know us, because there are pictures of our kids' biological families on our walls and we visit them a few times a year. However, open adoption doesn't mean giving strangers or even those close-ish to us access to details about our kids' biological families, the reasons they chose to place their children, etc.  
  • Adoption is complicated:  This is a BIG topic, so I'll spare you a lot of details.  You likely already know that adoption is complicated.  However, I don't share the confidential things we work through as a family. 
  • Children have beginnings and those are part of their story:  However, we don't share our children's birth names or health history.  
When we were first considering adopting, my cousins who had adopted their son internationally, sat us down to answer our questions.  They gave us one excellent piece of advice:  Once you share something, you cannot unshare it.  This conversation happened nine years ago before social media was one of our most prevalent and sometimes risky ways of communicating.  Truly now, nothing can be unshared if it's been shared on social media.

So as you are searching for adoption resources (many of them I will be offering to you in November during National Adoption Month), I want you to know that I'm pretty critical and skeptical of those who put it all "out there," meaning, the parents who adopted the child share their child's personal story freely.  The justification's include:  it's freeing to just tell "the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth," that it's cathartic for the parents who have had a long and tumultuous journey to parenthood, that we live in an era of sharing (it is what it is), that it brings the story's writer/teller popularity in the adoption community (earning them more "likes" and followers).  

Where my mind goes is here:  The people who are most important to me are my husband and my children.  I have been chosen as my children's parents, and I believe that being a parent means that above all, I work my hardest to ensure my children's safety and well-being.  If I'm focused on handing out their story like a grandma hands out cookies, then I am not focused on my children.  Instead, I would be using my children for personal gain (from the list of justifications listed).  

It just feels dirty to me.  Selfish.  

I get that all of us in the adoption community want to bring more awareness to adoption (including the 120,000+ kids here in the United States who are waiting for a forever family), that we want adoption to be more socially acceptable (not take second place to having biological children), that in some cases (like mine) the adoption is apparent so there's no need to "hide."  But I argue, there is middle ground.  There is HIGHER ground.

Whether you are a fellow writer like me, or you are a parent who has just adopted, is considering adoption, or adopted your children years ago, I want you to consider something my pastor often says: "You don't reap what you sow today.  You reap tomorrow what you sowed yesterday."  

So before you push "share" on that picture of the baby in utero you are matched with, before you vent about your child's birth mom on social media, before you spill your child's adoption story to the new neighbor, please remember that you should put your child's best interest first.  Because in ten or twenty or thirty years, many of your "friends" will no longer be there, many of your "followers" will have long forgotten you, but your child will still be your child.  

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