Open Adoption Roundtable #34

The Open Adoption Roundtable is a series of occasional writing prompts about open adoption. It’s designed to showcase of the diversity of thought and experience in the open adoption community. You don’t need to be listed at Open Adoption Bloggers to participate or even be in a traditional open adoption. If you’re thinking about openness in adoption, you have a place at the table. The prompts are meant to be starting points–please feel free to adapt or expand on them.

Write a response at your blog–linking back here so your readers can browse other participating blogs–and share your post in the comments here. Using a previously published post is fine; I’d appreciate it if you’d add a link back to the roundtable. If you don’t blog, you can always leave your thoughts directly in the comments.

It is likely that we’ve all had that experience at some time: someone asking us to speak to the choices or feelings of others in our adoption constellation. Perhaps it is someone asking a first parent how their child feels about being in an open adoption. Or someone asking an adoptee why their adoptive parents chose to adopt. You get the idea.

How do you handle such questions when they are asked of you? How would you want the other parties in your open adoption to handle those questions when they are about you?

On what must have been our first visit to the Emerald City post-relinquishment, we ran into a friend of Ruth and Nora’s while driving from one place to another. “Oh, hi Susie!” she said. “I recognize you from the pictures!” I actually cringed, not just a mental cringe but a real life, actual muscles, socially awkward cringe. What I really want is neither fair nor possible; I want never to come up in conversations between Ruth and Nora and their social circle. I don’t want people to know my name, or why I relinquished, or who could give up such a perfect child, or whatever other answers to questions I never want asked.

Setting aside my unrealistic wish, I would choose for Ruth and Nora to be as close-mouthed as is practicable: Why did she place? She thought it was the best decision at the time. What is she like? Quiet. I’d honestly rather that these strangers-to-me assume that I’m a drug-addled prostitute than have any real information about me. Ruth and Nora have never asked my preferences, and I’m sure that Ruth is pretty free with details, because that’s her nature. I try not to think about it.

I can’t think of a time when I’ve been asked to speak for Ruth or Nora; while it’s certainly true that lesbians can bear children, no one seems surprised that a queer couple might adopt if they want to parent. I also don’t tend to talk about them, and at this point—having moved once or twice—am surrounded by people who wouldn’t know to ask. My birthparenthood is mostly invisible.

4 thoughts on “Open Adoption Roundtable #34

  1. “I’d honestly rather that these strangers-to-me assume that I’m a drug-addled prostitute than have any real information about me.”

    Do you wish you’d opted for a closed adoption then?

    Especially when the child has an ongoing relationship with you, it seems to me to be a very positive thing that he hear his mothers speaking about you and his adoption comfortably and kindly. If they treated your name as something to shameful to utter, how would be that be good for Cricket?

  2. I can imagine how it felt extremely uncomfortable to have a stranger come up to you and recognize you from photos. Especially if the photos were taken right before or after you had Cricket, they’d capture you in a vulnerable state. Plus, there’s no way R&N could accurately describe you to others since they barely know you and they requested that you not share the hard parts / painful feelings. Invisible birthparenthood sounds hard, as does more visible birthparenthood. I wish you had some more support there…

  3. I’ve been thinking about this a lot but haven’t written my response yet. I started writing about Mara’s mother (and I say in person pretty much what I’d write on the blog, vague stuff with one specific thing that she might not want the world to know but that we did eventually discuss in our one in-person conversation) because I was so tired of people assuming she was the kind of stereotyped figure you mention. I’ve always tried to caveat this by saying that this is what it seems like to me and it’s a narrative I’ve crafted (and as others say, I’ve said it because without knowing what kind of contact Mara would ever have with her mom I didn’t want her to feel ashamed) and yet maybe that’s not enough and it’s not my place to say anything. I have wondered in the past whether the first moms who read my blog are uncomfortable about it, and your post and Racilous’s have made me think about that again.

    My (self-serving) feeling is that it’s sort of harder to avoid these sorts of discussions when you’re dealing with foster care, where there must have been a reason the kids were removed and I’ve been fairly closed-mouthed about that when discussing our particular kids. I mean, their family got into a crisis situation and they needed help. Mara wasn’t getting what she needed and the state had to intervene. I don’t know….

    • I think it’s probably always hard to avoid these discussions; I don’t at all fault Ruth or Nora for showing pictures or talking about me, because of course, it’s going to come up and it would be awkward to just announce that they aren’t talking about it. More awkward in foster care, I’m sure.

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