Tweets: Clarified

I agree with Jane. Her post on First Mother Forum was raw and honest and talked about how being around adoptive parents made her uncomfortable. The post generated lots of comments, many very inflammatory, some offensive, some not so much.  I commented early and all I said was “I agree Jane” or something like that.

I later shared the link to that post on my twitter feed where I follow a few adoptive moms and they follow me.  One of them (you know who you are) piped up to me privately that it made her sad, sad to think that she would make me  uncomfortable if we were ever in the room together.  I clarified to her that her situation is different. She is not THAT type of adoptive parent. You know, the type that only wanted a perfect infant, preferably a girl? The type that wants a closed adoption, wants to change names, deny the family of origin , amend birth certificates, and raise a child in that “as if born to” world and if the child is not what they imagined, they want to send it back for a refund or exchange for a better model?

Twitter friend is not one of those moms and I felt badly that my tweet and related comments made her feel bad.  I do see a big difference between her situation and those like hers. I see a massive difference between adoptive parents of older children, children from foster care, children with special needs. I do not view those types of adoptive parents the way I do prospective adopters who go oversees to make sure that pesky birth mother will never show up unexpectedly.

You see the difference don’t you?

Adoptive moms on my twitter feed or on my Facebook have always shown me respect and understanding. They have never shown themselves to be selfish people who put their own baby lust above the needs of a child.  They see the damange adoption does to mothers and children and in many cases, have admitted their own ignorance and how they contributed to the status quo (even when it results in them getting beat up by their own “kind” for bashing adoption)  I respect that. I respect them.

The point of this post is that I wanted to apologize, again, to my friend and to clarify my position. 

There is a difference. Not all babies are identical, nor are the mothers that surrender them adoption.  Same is true for adoptive parents.

Contrary to what some suggested on Jane’s post, I do not see this as a racist or prejudicial. I am not judging someone for who they ARE. I am judging them for what they do and what they believe. I prefer to associate with adoptive parents that believe adoption should be about finding homes for children who truly need them versus babies for homes that cannot produce their own. I also prefer to associate with parents who don’t beat their children, don’t swear like truck drivers (though I do occasionally), don’t do drugs, drink too much, steal, or force their religion down my throat. Those types make me uncomfortable too.

Equally important to note is that being around a certain type of adoptive parents is highly triggering to me.  Their belief system contributed to my surrender and loss of my child to adoption. Said a different a way, if I had been sexually assaulted (and I have been), I would be uncomfortable sitting next to someone who is a known rapist even he wasnt my rapist. Such discomfort is not rooted in his race, creed, gender, etc but his beliefs and his actions. An adoptive parent sitting next to me, one who believes in closed adoption, pesky barfmothers and the like, is against everything I believe in and more personally, what they believe hurt me deeply and forever changed the course of my life.  They are also likely to continue promoting such beliefs and in the process strip more mothers of their children. As such, yeah, they make me uncomfortable.

Apologies to friend and anyone else I may have offended with that tweet and resulting linking. Clearly I should have explained myself better. It is not that adoptive parents make me uncomfortable as a collective, rather the views of some of them as individuals.

There is a difference.


20 Thoughts.

  1. Since you brought up the sexual assault metaphor and I think it’s often a useful one, I’ll add that we can’t forget that your experience with adoption was a trauma. I used to see a person in a crowd and my body would stiffen because he’d look like the guy who hurt me, though as soon as I’d realize it wasn’t him I’d relax again and my heart rate would slow down. That’s a normal response to trauma and as an almost-adoptive mother, I think you have every reason to have that kind of moment of triggered terror when you meet a new adoptive parent.

    I also see you as a friend and so I know you can get past that response, but absolutely I was extra careful in my first comments on your blog and so on to try to put you at ease, to explain that I wasn’t trying to upset you even though I might be part of this suspect class. I assume that your other adoptive parent twitter friend felt the same way in getting to know you or at some point when discussing your experience and her own.

    I do think that the kind of adoption (and now straight-up fostering) that we’re doing is different from domestic infant adoption but I also think other foster-adoptive parents should be reading blogs like yours to help them understand what they’re a part of.

    • I’m the adoptive parent she was talking about – I was very careful too. I spoke with her in email for a few weeks before I was even up for talking here. Adoptionland in general can be full of land mines – I mostly comment over at Jenna’s blog since we’ve know each other online for many years and have meet in person. She’s been my go-to person for thought discussion for years.

      We adopted a six year old from foster care over seven years ago. We opened up her adoption with the healthy people in her first family including her biological dad who she’d only meet once before (I noticed you are starting that process now in your blog). While our daughter came to us with a voluntarily TPR, blogs like this are invaluable to help understand what first moms are going through and what issues come up over time. It’s not the same situation obviously but I take in everything. Plus Suz is a lovely writer and it’s a pleasure to read her stuff.

  2. Suz, I honestly don’t think you have anything to apologize for or qualify. I think that what you’re (and Jane’s) describing is a normal response to the abnormal situation of being part of an oppressed group. It’s not personal. It’s an artifact of the privilege and power dynamic that continues to exist in the world of adoption. And we all need to pout it out there on the table in an honest way in order to be able to form the coalitions that will allow us to change that dynamic. It’s not very different from how racism impacts transracial relationships. Even though we tend to want to believe we can be colorblind, the reality is that while we may genuinely like or love each other as individuals, the shadow of the societal power differential cannot be fully extricated.

    • PB – your comments frequently move me to tears and make me want to run over and hug you. thank you for the validation.

  3. Great post, Suz. I especially like your reference to OTHER types of parents/people you are uncomfortable around. Our feelings of discomfort aren’t always related to adoption. Also like Thorn’s comment that our reactions are based in a traumatic experience. Not unlike soldiers who return home and are haunted by the trauma of war.

  4. Good post…there are all kinds of adoptive parents, and some I feel comfortable with and some I know would like to ..well, kill me. I’ve been told as much. Now that is a strange feeling. A guy actually said that to me at a party once when I found myself in the kitchen alone with him. Oddly enough, he;s the guy who wrote the book: Missing. What he did not know at the time was that my girl friend, the one he was trying to date…was also a first/birth mother.
    So it goes.

    • Listen as an adoptive parent, there are some adoptive parents who nauseate me too – and scads of prospective ones who do. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve had prospective parents come to me to ask about adoption and when I don’t tell them the sunny side of things, they quickly find someone else who’ll talk to them. Now if they want to talk to me about the realities of adopting from foster care, I’m happy to talk.

  5. Lorraine and Jane – Thank you so much for your comments. I am honored. Jane – I am not sure I wrote it better than you did. In fact, I feel I was far less politically correct! Hugs to you both. I enjoy your blog and am honored you stopped by and approved of my view on your post.

  6. The part I don’t get is—why do you have to apologize for that? Why do you have to take care of your adoptive parent friends feelings?

    Why did she approach you except to refocus the attention on her? I swear to you if someone said to me, I am a natural mother and I have a hard time around adoptees as a group of people I would so understand that. I know lots of adoptees who don’t like being around adoptive or first parents. They don’t want their stories censored, they don’t want to hear the “but what about meeeeeeee?”

    It may make your friend sad that there can be uncomfortability on the other side of adoption , from the groups that don’t control the discourse and are not the power players in the equation. Surprise, there is a tremendous amount of unhappiness in adoption. From my perspective first/adoptive parents saying they get uncomfortable around adoptees, and I am sure they do, we are pissed-off as a group, with plenty of reason but none-the-less I can see how that can make people uncomfortable. Especially people who for whatever reason may feel a sting of responsibility for our hurt and our anger.

    There are lots of bumpy parts in life, there is no getting around it. It frustrates me that in adoption I feel the ones who don’t do the adopting must forever bend to the ego of those who adopt.

    • I believe her point – and mine – was that I was generalizing against every single adoptive parent, casting them all in a negative light, when that is not the case. Some are adoptive due to the death of the parent, remarriage, some are adoptive parents to foster children, etc.

      its like when I say “that sounds very adoptee” and Linda corrects me curtly and says “gee, thanks, suz” in an offended tone. I wasn’t referring to Linda but I make the mistake of referring to the collective. I get Linda, the adoptee, point of being offended at my generalization, just like I do the adoptive mother. I am failing to see the individual when I refer to the collective. I

      I realize many in adoption circles adapt the herd mentality and group think and believe all adoptees are the same and feel the same, as they do about natural parents of adoptive. I personally strongly resist that as I believe that thinking, or at least part of it, is what put us here in the first place. All babies are all alike, therefore you can swap a bio one for a non bio, all mommies are alike and there are no attachment to natural mother, etc. Since they are all alike, refer to the collective. They are the adoption Borg..

      Disagree. Strongly.

      So, in summary, I was not only offending my friend by making her part of that collective and failing to see her as an individual but I was contradicting my own belief system and values. Since I value her friendship and my own POV, I clarified my position.

      I did not do it for her. I did it for me.

    • I’m who she is talking about. Her comments made me sad and I told her – no refocusing or subtext. I like her as a person, we have a lot of in common and I enjoy her on facebook. I didn’t debate her or negate her feelings. I didn’t challenge the validity of her comments. I merely expressed that it made me sad because someday I hope to meet her in person and the comment struck me that perhaps that just because I was an adoptive parent, that that meeting might cause her discomfort.

      Just because I said something is sad doesn’t mean I ask her to change that. Life has a lot of sad moments – they are what they are. Why would merely recognizing that be the same as asking her to apologize?

      I’m aware there is a great deal of grief and loss in adoption. I’m not a sugar coater about that. No adoption starts with a joyous event. However, I feel like we educated ourselves, adopted ethically and acted honorably through out these past eight years.

  7. When I came by last, I saw the jewelry post and didn’t even scroll down. That one just stuck with me. Discussion for another time about that sort of man.

    You didn’t need to apologize to me or even write this. I’m happy (and honored) if you are willing to extend this courtesy to some of us – it’s a kind gesture.

    I value your friendship and I’m happy to have gotten to know you on facebook and twitter – and our messages between them.

    FWIW, being around certain types of adoptive parents bothers me too, altho not on the same level of course. I’ve had people look down their nose at our choices or act like I’m a martyr for what we did. I’m not – I’m a person who wanted a child and couldn’t have one. There will always be an element of selfishness in my want and an element of grief and loss in how this started – I deny neither. But I did the best I could to adopt ethically. I think you know – as much as someone can know online – that I adore this kid and that we’ve worked hard at our open adoption. I’m not perfect by any means tho.

    What it boils down to is that I’m sort of a curmudgeon and do things my own odd way. I don’t always like a lot of people and a lot of people don’t get me. But genuinely I enjoy you as a person and I value you as a voice in this journey I’m on. Same time I told you in those first email – I don’t agree with everything but I’m compelled to keep reading and reach out to you b/c so much of what you have to say is thought provoking. I’m sure hoping our paths cross at some point and the idea of that it could make you uncomfortable just never occurred to me – perhaps it should have and I’m just being naive.

    I’m totally rambling now – up too late messing with code. But please know my dear, this was unnecessary.

    And yes, I’ll give you the taco cupcake recipe 😉

  8. michelle :When I came by last, I saw the jewelry post and didn’t even scroll down. That one just stuck with me. Discussion for another time about that sort of man.

    That sort of man? Oooh, you have me curious.

    • I was just once in love for a number of years with a guy who gave me some pieces of lovely jewelry that were symbolic of things he said but eventually he let me down rather cruelly, repeatedly and messed with my head. While not on the scale of your loss at all, it was just a very long drawn out cycle where I was young and let myself believe things I should have known better. When people dangle futures in front of you, it’s a hard thing to walk away – even if they already did. I finally had to go to therapy to heal myself enough to find better men to date because I could not untangle myself from him.

      We hadn’t spoken in about six years except for some cryptic messages he’d send me every so often through my website that I couldn’t reply to – very typical sort of stuff for him. Then he unexpectedly died a couple of years ago and I hate that we left things unsaid. And then I hate that I even feel like we left things unsaid because I know it would have had to be me to make that call to even have that discussion because he wouldn’t have.

      I’m happy now and the life I would have had with him would have been a colossal mess but these pieces of jewelry sit here still. I’m thinking of donating them to a women’s shelter that has a jobs program where they help women with interview skills and clothes. Let someone else use them for good.

      • Thanks for sharing this Michelle. It actually speaks to alot of my feelings and later entanglements with my daughters father. I clearly hung on for too long, far too long, with false hope and idiocy that I packaged as love. I remember sharing my twenty something year feelings (and related events) to my therapist and his response, after a long thoughtful pause was “nothing good grows in the dark”. Rather profound for me at the time and very pivotal to my recovery from that relatinship.

        • Wise words…

          In my 40s now what I find so perplexing is how I was willing to hold on and have faith in the future he was promising but that he had already abandoned (i wish i had underline for that last part!). I tried to work through that and looked at my mostly lousy relationship with my dad but it finally came down to it didn’t matter what put in my that position or that I was even once in that position but that I just never ever care that little about myself to put myself back there.

          But I’m really lucky that I didn’t suffer more damage and I’m cognizant that many people in relationships like these suffer so much more damage than my messed up psyche. I didn’t lose a child, lose my family, end up in jail, shred my credit, etc – all things people I know have.

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  10. In response to comment #12:

    I don’t see a reply button under your comment or I would make it there. I am just seeing your comment today.

    While I respect Suz’s decision because it is hers to make and based on her friendship with you. I stand by my original comment.

    I am not saying this just to be abrasive, although I feel that you will take it that way. I am saying this because I am passionate about the rights for the losers of the triad to heal and be heard.

    There have been lots of times in my own life where I have been the winner in the equation, just like adoptive parents are in adoption. I had my child when I was young, some of my friends had abortions at the same age. Some of them expressed sorrow about being around babies. I had a baby I was raising. I just said I am sorry. I didn’t say, “Well that makes me sad because I have a baby and are you sad to be around him?” It just hit me how profound their loss was.

    I have a partner who loves me unconditionally, I have friends who despite being awesome people are unhappily single. They have expressed jealousy over my relationship and seeing other couples who are deeply in love. I have never refocused their few complaints as are natural mother’s complaints about adoptive parents few and far between, I mean after all it is hammered into them that they are indebted, by saying, Oh I hope your jealousy doesn’t inhibit you from being my friend.

    I have been on the other end as well. Try shopping for husband-like stuff on the Saturday after your husband leaves you and watch a woman built like a stack of dough-nuts crowing about the patio furniture her husband is buying her. Husband by her side, while you try to navigate the lawn-mower section. I don’t know about lawn-mowers, actually now I do, but at the time it was terrible. Yes, I was sad, jealous, angry. Of course it went beyond the scope of one Saturday and many of my friends had different experiences.

    Never once when one of my friends expressed discomfort or joy at a situation that was different than mine did I refocus it on me. Of course being an adoptee and growing up with the constant refocusing on my aparents I am hyper-sensitive to this issue.

    I do see it as invalidating. As a white girl I have been discriminated against, vocally in my community by individuals and labeled a “bitch, because all white girls are bitches” and quite frankly things that are toe-curlingly in excess of that. I have heard minorities express their frustration at racism and haven’t had the need to pipe up, me too! Because at the end of the day I am aware enough to realize that my taste of racism doesn’t compare to their full-course.

    Back to my first comment about women, my peers who lost their own babies whether most commonly through abortion or the singular one that I knew losing her baby through adoption and their expressions of sadness around being around my baby. No, I did not refocus it on me. No, I did not say, “well I like you and I have a baby and that makes me sad” I sat back in sadness with them and was sorry that their loss was so impacting.

    While I know Suz takes a different point of view, I think my point is very important because it is the natural mothers and the adoptees who are so marginalized and denied. It is not the adoptive parents. Suz is your friend, she obviously cares about you. I care about natural parents and adoptees as classes and I am offended by your comment. We, as classes, have spent a lot of time trying to please your class.

    I do not believe it takes a very sophisticated thinker to understand that the natural family–adoptees and their natural parents struggle the most for respect and enfranchisement in the greater social world. After all we are family members who for whatever reason were so disenfranchised we were separated on the behalf of “better people” i.e. adoptive parents.

    In your comment Michelle, you also note that your adoptions were ethical. Was that part of the conversation I was having with Suz? If it was, I didn’t see it. I see that as a refocusing of attention on how sainted you are.

    When my neighbors teenage son ran away and I said, oh I know just how you feel, I can’t find my cat I wasn’t invalidating her pain either just responding with my own (joke— never happened)

    So yeah, Suz disagrees but I still find the comment at best insensitive at worst self-serving and invalidating. While I can honor Suz’s feelings as one of a class of people who lost a lot, I cannot stomach your response. I just can’t. I am sick to death of being marginalized, I don’t find any fault with adoptees or natural parents who have grief, this sucks for us.

    Your comment Michelle reinforces my thoughts that adopitve parents can never be adoptees allies. At least in the aggregate, there are exceptions. I don’t see you as one of them.

    • Just as an FYI for your Joy my theme only allows a certain # of nested replies. Hence no reply button.

      Starting a new one was the correct approach.

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