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.


  1. I agree with you about stereotyping and expectations, but I think that expectations depend very strongly on who is doing the reading. APs probably want one thing from first parent blogs, adoptees something else, and there are subsets among those readers, to be sure.

    As for expecting adult adoptee blogs to be "righteous and angry," well, you are in a minority expecting that, I think. Especially among first parents and APs. I don't think very many happy adoptees blog, although I have read some. More power to them. But if the expectation is for adult adoptee blogs to be places of freedom to express sadness and anger and frustration, why is it that so many people comment on them that the adoptees need to shut up and be grateful? If those feelings were expected, they wouldn't be remarked. Do you see what I am saying?

    I believe that the happy adoptee blogs cause consternation among adult adoptees sometimes because that is the dominant discourse that *is* expected. The one that APs want to hear. "Oh, my child loves me, has no issues, wanted to be with me, knows this is/was the right place to be, all this time."

    I think it's sad that you feel first parents don't have latitude to blog about recipes or whatever is of interest. We all have lives that extend beyond adoption, and if people don't accept or understand that, they are silly and naive. The world is complicated, and the more we can all accept it is far from anything we can put into neat little boxes, the better.

    Thank you for acknowledging the difficulties of adult adoptees! I really appreciate it.

  2. Anonymous - Thank you very much for a thought provoking reply. I see your point quite clearly, and in fact I now feel very silly to have overlooked it. In truth I haven't seen much of the "shut up and like it" responses to adult adoptees experience. Hence my ignorance of its frequency and consequences. Thank you for helping me shed a bit more ignorance and gain a broader perspective.

  3. I have no idea what you have/haven't read, but one recent example that demonstrates the kind of animosity that I mentioned in my previous comment would be that on iAdoptee's blog in relation to her post of an open letter from an adoptee. The comment section was filled with the kind of slams and shut downs that are typical in relation to any kind of mention of loss where it comes to adult adoptees.

    There are plenty more examples, I assure you, but it's up to you to read and be convinced (or not). It just becomes exhausting to have to justify one's feelings when they're not 100% positive. Not that one has to justify anything, of course, but in discourse it would be polite to accept others' feelings without shouting "YOU'RE WRONG!"

    Perhaps that's just it. Because of the emotional aspect, there is no possibility of rationality. Some people can manage it, but too many people cannot. Especially when it comes to APs and some first parents and the adoptees who are children/objects. Children *do* have their own subjectivity, as you so rightly said. If only we were given the latitude to express it, whatever it is.


  4. Great post I Am! I have been noticing the same thing myself.

    I see some AP blogs as marketing tools. They have adopted once, and may want to adopt again. If a prospective first parent were to read in the blog that PAPs have bad days, yelled at their children occasionally, and didn't cook nutritious meals, a PBP will not give them consideration. PAPs are under pressure to demonstrate that their home is loving, stable and happy, and that they are fine parents with a strong marriage. This is a generalization, and certainly not the only motive for such happy blogs. But if you read mommy blogs by moms who have bio kids and not adoptees, the home life portrayed is much more realistic. talks about kids eating paper towels, for example. You would never find that on an adoptive parent blog.

    Adoptee blogs...there seems to be an accepted rhetoric that I have dubbed Adoption Lore. When I write a post or leave a comment that contradicts Adoption Lore, it will undoubtedly be attacked. I think those individuals that comprise the unhappy birth parent community and the wounded adoptee community like to keep their traditions in tact.

    So, for example, when I have written that I am glad my birth mother chose adoption instead of abortion, and I reminded by fellow adoptees that I'm not allowed to feel that way. The general consensus is that the adoption and abortion are unrelated, and no further discussion is tolerated.

    I have written that I never felt abandoned, and the response has been that every adoptee feels abandoned.

    When I write about having a positive regard for my adoptive family, I am accused of intentionally trying to hurt my birth mother.

    If I write that I am grateful for my adoptive parents, then I lose credibility all together.

    I think there is a peer acceptance aspect to birth parent blogging. There are a few thought leaders that have a negative view of adoption, and they ridicule those that offer positive perspectives.

  5. It's interesting that this is the first post I'd read today after a conversation I had with a friend. I told her how I felt that I couldn't write how difficult it is to build a relationship in open adoption with the birth parents because I would be slammed on my blog. Perhaps I wouldn't, but I felt like I would because I'm expected to be happy because, after all, I "got what I wanted," right? This post actually gives me a bit more courage to start posting about heavier topics. I've been considering it, but have shied away.

  6. "I believe that the happy adoptee blogs cause consternation among adult adoptees sometimes because that is the dominant discourse that *is* expected."

    "Sometimes" and "is expected" are the operative words here. I am so tired of this specific aspect of the "dominant discourse" trope. It's lazy, and and has become a cliche.
    Can't we move on already? Or isn't it time yet?
    Please let's try to be a little more specific.

  7. Megan, I am sorry that other adoptees weren't supportive of your gratitude for your adoptive parents. I am also very grateful for mine, without feeling grateful for the circumstances of my adoption or feeling that it was God's plan for me to be with my aparents. We have a mutually respectful relationship, and I am fortunate to have the same with my first mother. At this point, she asks kindly after them and vice versa. We are not one big happy family, but I don't want it that way. Cordiality is enough.

    I have seen different experiences of adoptees described online, and the adoptees who identify more strongly with, or express pure gratitude to, adoptive families tend to get singled out. Their experiences may be authentic, but since they dovetail neatly with what society expects adoptees to say, it can perhaps sound frustrating to those whose messages are less mainstream outside this little corner of cyberspace. It doesn't mean that your experience is less important or powerful, by any means. Just that sometimes frustration overrides kindness. I am sure as a Christian you can find compassion for their frustration, while asking for better communication.

  8. P.S. I'd love to get your recipe for black rice encrusted Salmon

  9. Megan, I believe your voice is much more aligned with the general adult population of people who are adopted than what is seen in the adoptee blogging community. The view that the adopted life is one that is "brutal, tragic, and filled with great sadness" doesn't reflect the reality of adoption. Consequently, your appearance on the scene is threatening to those who seek to preserve what you have aptly termed Adoption Lore.

  10. There are as many experiences as there are adoptees. To say that there is a majority who deserves to silence a minority is troubling, either way.

  11. There are an estimated 6 to 10 million adoptees living in America today. While no 2 share an identical adoptive DNA experience, there are some common threads and truisms. Since adoption isn't going to disappear, it is important to at least get some of the facts straight (e.g.; there is no primal wound, adoptive life doesn't have to be tragic, firstparents aren't child abandoners etc.) for the estimated 120 million children who are adopted in America each year. Doing so is not silencing a minority.

  12. DNA is one thing and makes individuals unique, except for identical twins, etc., in terms of genetic make up. Lived experience of adoption is something else entirely. I don't believe that there have been exhaustive studies in the United States that would enable anyone to quantify adoptees as being the majority in terms of happy and adjusted or not. The primal wound is unproven scientifically but that does not mean it does not exist. You do not have to believe in it or be affected by it, but I believe those who tell me they are. To demand one way of thinking is authoritarian lacks compassion, IMO. Each adoptee has to find his/her own path to peace and happiness, however that looks like for them, however hard, however twisted the road, however hard that road is. And telling them to be happy about it during that journey, or discouraging that journey, is not up to anyone but that adoptee. Telling them that their pain is all made up and of their own making? Not so helpful. We don't know. All we can do is bear witness and set boundaries if they overstep them. But I believe that all adoptees have a right to their experiences, whatever they tell us they are. And not everyone is adopted by the Cleavers, or is loved or wanted. We often have the hard work of having to learn to love ourselves above all. Being our own family. So I think it's much more complicated than just 2 million happy adoptees. We would get farther if we stop with this us vs. them stuff.

  13. "think there is a peer acceptance aspect to birth parent blogging. There are a few thought leaders that have a negative view of adoption, and they ridicule those that offer positive perspectives."

    I have seen this happen, but you do realize you're painting anyone with a largely negative experience of adoption with the same brush? Not all of us with largely negative experience with adoption run around the internets putting down happy adoptees. To label anyone a "happy adoptee" vs a "negative adoptee" is really hurtful either way you role it.

    You are saying that "adoption lore" is a myth. Do you see why perhaps your words are genuinely disrespectful to people who feel their pain is real? Do you see how you doing this is just as hurtful and cruel as adoptees claiming your happiness is a myth?

    I think many adoptees are happy, and don't really care at all if their biological parents were emotionally destroyed during the adoption experience. "Miserable birthparents" are threatening to adoptees who don't want to acknowledge their birth might hve caused another human being deep suffering.

    I find this very understandable as an adoptee myself. I also find that "generally happy" adoptees tend to cling to "generally happy" birthparents who like thier adoption experience like glue because they understandably don't want to think their existance played a role in someone elses suffering. Therefore adoptees love to mock, ridicule and degrade the reality of first parents who suffer greatly and have very real PTSD and trauma after going through the adoption experience.

  14. I think you nailed it! I'm an adoptive parent in a wide open (live in the same neighbourhood, calls, texts, visits, etc) adoption, so I can only respond from that perspective.

    I feel that I'm walking a very fine line in any public discussions about adoption and our adoption. While I'd like to portray our experience honestly, I absolutely feel pressure not to say anything negative or complain about any aspect of adoption or parenting. I do this because I have seen adoptive parents crucified by other triad members on forums, for saying anything negative. Because nothing I have to complain about can compare to losing a child....and in that light, it's both insensitive and an invitation to an online beating to be negative.

    I think there's also pressure to be "the perfect parent"....after all, I had to jump through hoops, prove to social workers and the government and our daughter's birthparents that I would be an amazing, incredible, faultless mom. It's hard to let your guard down after years of that.

    Finally, there's the general ignorant public. If I were to say anything negative about my daughter's birthparents (even something minor and passing) or adoption, people who don't understand adoption would use this to justify their ignorant beliefs (whether they be stereotyping of birthparents, fear of openness, or faulty beliefs about adopted children). I feel very protective of my daughter's birthparents; sometimes they say or do things that upset me (and I have no doubt I've said and done things that upset them), but at the end of the day, they're my daughter's family and by extension, my family, so I won't have people in my life hearing or believing negative things about them.

  15. This is my first time reading your blog. I read your interview at Adoption Blogger Interview Project and clicked on over. I love your honest writing and this post is brilliant. Thank you for putting so plainly what is plainly seen but sometimes overlooked.

    As an adoptive parents I have noticed the tendency to gloss over the very real difficulties involved with parenting your adopted child. Both the trauma felt by the childre and the fear and frustration felt by the adults. I have tried to err on the side of honesty on my blog, in order to do justice to the truth of my daughter's journey. However, I could probably do much better. Maybe "Wordless Wednesday" could be replace with "Truthful Tuesday". Well, maybe not replaced, because we adoptive parents are addicted to those adorable Wednesday photos,but maybe they should co-exist.

    Thanks again for your frankness. I will be re-posting this.

  16. Im so happy to have found your blog. I' m an adult adoptee who was in the traditional closed adoption. I met my birthmother and birthfather and love them dearly. If you have interest check out my blog.

  17. I appreciate this post and found it to be insightful.

    I too noticed that adoptive parent blogs often have lots of other adoptive parents following them and commenting on their blogs about regular, every day, life stuff. So I thought, maybe if I incorporated other "life stuff" into my blog, more people would enjoy it and follow along. Nope. My blog statistics reveal three things: talking about "life stuff" yields average results. Talking about adoption? Much better traffic. Mentioning adoptive parents specifically in the title or significantly in the content of the post? Those posts have far more visits on them than any others on my blog (I am implying nothing negative about adoptive parents with that). I wonder if people really want to hear what being an adult adoptee in every day life and parenting is about or if maybe other triad members do not identify with us in that role, even though we are all parents and all adults just the same.

    I am in AF Magazine/Circle "blogs we love" and was in their "Top 20" of the "Top 100" adoption blogs on the web. Whereas other blogs were "funny and heartwarming," it was noted that mine was "packed with research" and "free from angst." I read that loud and clear as an adoptee that funny and heartwarming is simply not enough when you're an adoptee blogger. If I didn't comment on research via my access to academic/professional database or use it to back up some of my opinions and if I didn't carefully word things to avoid the stereotypical "angry adoptee" label, I wouldn't have been the token adoptee on that list. Perhaps there would have been no adoptee at all.

    The adoptee-blogger dynamic is a complicated one and a catch-22. There is a dual expectation that an adoptee be filled with both anger and pain AND "get over it" be "grateful" and love all things adoption. If you go one way, someone is going to yell at you. There are people who think I am neither angry enough nor happy enough lol. If you go another way, someone else will yell at you. And some adoptees will argue with other adoptees and a lot of the time it's a misunderstanding of what one adoptee actually said vs what another adoptee interpreted it as saying (e.g. something may come off as using one's own experience as being "the right absolute answer" or how other adoptees ought to feel, which, may irritate another adoptee who has been told a million times the right answer--and the "right answer" has never been "right" to them). Adoptee blogging is complicated. I think it would be so much less-so if there was a general acceptance of all "triad" members, no matter what they had to say. A culture of acceptance rather than erasure or censorship. One can hope, right?

    Thanks for this :-)

  18. I would think I am considered as a "first parent ONLY adoption blog with a negative view of adoption".It's actually been a conscious thought as of late to learn how to NOT dismiss the other views. I do struggle still with "adoption is wonderful" counterparts. I just wrote a post myself about how to deal with supporting ALL, even if their view is different. I thank you for giving me more to think about.

    But, I am also terribly rebellious and I posted a recipe today!


What do you think? I'm curious.