Friday, December 30, 2011

Open Adoption Roundtable Discussion #33: What did you learn about Open Adoption in 2011?

A straightforward prompt for the end of the year:

What did you learn about open adoption in 2011?
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.


I don't have it all worked out. I don't know where this adoption process is going. And I'm not afraid. That's just how relationships go. We never know where they're headed, and in truth, I think I'm glad of that.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

First Family Blogs: The Ultimate Downer - OR - Why We Don't Post Recipes

There are several long planks of ash cutting through the middle of my living room. Soon they'll be re-purposed from their current duty (making oblong rectangular depressions in the carpet) to become a lovely new set of book shelves. That probably won't happen today, as I've been rung out at work and need a day to truly rest. Sunday can't serve that purpose as I'm back to work in the evening, so Saturday it is. Later on tonight I may treat myself to making some black rice encrusted salmon and sweet potatoes for dinner. I expect the results to be delicious.


You may find yourself wondering what the hell I'm talking about. Why did I make this sudden departure from my normal style of writing? What on Earth do my book shelves have to do with adoption? The answer is only one thing; they allow me to illustrate a point.
It is common among adoption related bloggers to fall into one of two camps:

1) Adoptive Parents

2)Everyone Else

I don't have anything against adoptive parent bloggers. In fact I love the chance I had to learn more about adoption by reading the stories of these families as I first encountered the idea of open adoption. There is, however, a noticeable divide in the style of authorship between the aforementioned groups. (Please prepare yourself for some broad generalizations. These are made will full awareness that they are such, and have significant exceptions. For the sake of simplicity of thought and syntax I'll leave all the caveats here) A unique culture has developed around adoption related blogging. As with any culture it has its own customs and social mores. Among these are what subjects are acceptable for writers of different backgrounds to address.

So far it seems to me that adoptive parents are given license to discuss all aspects of their lives except those that may make casual readers squeamish. Discussing infertility, the difficulty in connecting with first families, grief of lost possibility (to be discussed at greater length later), and especially anything related to anger, resent,  or failure is strictly off limits for regular discussion. I don't doubt for an instant there are other aspects of experience that are missing from that list. Unfortunately my bias is limiting my understanding to the aforementioned topics.

First parents appear to be cast in an opposite role, with two subsections and an uncomfortable grey area. First parents are expected to write only about adoption. Their lives beyond the placement of their children is taboo. We don't want to know. It's uncomfortable to think about how dis/similar the first parent is to the casual reader. The birth parent is given the opportunity to speak of pain, grief, anguish, loss, and resent. All the negative aspects of human experience are covered here. Aristotle would be proud. But then there are the subsections. Happy first parents versus unhappy first parents. The chasm between these two groups is nigh unbridgeable. Fortunately that doesn't keep everyone from trying. Unfortunately the aspects of the adoption experience highlighted by these two groups directly affects their esteem. Put briefly, the happy birth parent discusses adoption as a difficult but wonderful thing. The unhappy birth parent describes adoption as a difficult, often horrible, victimizing, arrogant and/or naive course. Again, these are very broad generalizations, but if you can bear with it I promise I'll get to the point soon. The happy birth parent is expected to say nothing negative about the adoptive family. The unhappy first parent is expected to have nothing positive to say about the adoption process. They're all angels, or it's all evil. That's very limiting for such an impact-full and emotionally complex experience. There are a few who speak to the middle experience, but often they are ostracized for failure to adhere to one role of the other.

Then we look at Adoptee writers, who likely have the most limited role of all in the online adoption discussion. I honestly feel terrible about how little voice adoptees have been given in the way we talk and think about adoption. Rather than being given, I think it may be fairer to say adoptees have had their voice ignored and censored. Therefore it makes some sense that the anticipated response from adoptees is one of rage, intense loss, and abandonment. There are adoptee writers speaking about the positive aspects of their placement, but they are difficult to find. (In truth, this is the experience about which I know the least. I admit that is in large part because I have found few adoptees online I can relate to in a manner I find mutually honoring. I say this not to villify, but to allow my bias to be known. It isnt' right, and I'm trying. Please try to be patient with me)

Why is any of this worth mentioning? Look at the subscribed readership of adoptive family, first parent, and adoptee blogs. The numbers overwhelming indicate who the public wants to support and is willing to think about. Adoptive parents are clearly taking the majority, often by a full degree of magnitude. But then again, can we blame the public? After all, would Wordless Wednesday be so appealing if we didn't have pictures like this to enjoy?

What would we see if first parents started participating in Wordless Wednesday, while remaining true to their prescribed role? 

It's a far less appealing idea. Few, if any, of us would willingly seek an opportunity to pry into such moments. But what about adoptees discussing the pain they experience?

Or maybe

So clearly we're looking for something that makes us feel good when we read adoptive parent blogs, not truth. We're looking to feel sensitive and enlightened when we read first parent blogs. And we're probably looking to feel morally indignant and righteous when we read adoptee blogs.

But if the reader is willing to be honest with her/himself and allow the full experience of the writer to be only and exactly what it is, then we can start a real conversation. That's what this is about; coloring outside the lines. Adoptees can be happy. Adoptive parents can be pissed off and exasperated. First parents can be well put together and brilliant cooks. Shocking, but true. Stay tuned for a sweet potato muffin recipe.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

I'm the Evil that Babies Want

Some people claim that any first parent who willingly places his/her child for adoption has either been manipulated/brainwashed, or is a morally degenerate monster. I tend to be described as the latter. I find it funny that the same people who describe me as monstrous, cold, unfeeling, evil, unbelievably self-centered, and so forth are the same people who tell me "all [my] baby wants is [me]".

Apparently babies have a strong desire for their parents to be evil. Or is this a sequence game? If I were to raise my child rather than place him for adoption, I'm no longer evil, cold, monstrous, or unfeeling. After all the only criteria I meet for those descriptors is being a first father. Right?

So I have to ask when exactly a first parent takes on the attribute of being inherently flawed as a human being? Was it before adoption? If so the suggestion is the child ought (what a terrible word) to be raised by a terrible person. If the fatal flaw in character is acquired, then when? When meeting a social worker? Maybe it happens when the pen makes contact with the paper relinquishing parental rights. That must be it. So I was undesirable as a parent when I was an unwed working class father, but now I'm an ideal parent because I'm a sociopath.


The above post can also be read as: Aaaargh!