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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Do we sugarcoat adoptions on the internet?

Over on the Q&A Johanna asked,
Is adoption usually sugar-coated on blogs?
It's a simple and straight forward question.  And it hardly has a simple and straight forward answer.

Short answer... 
Yes, I believe it usually is.    

Long answer... 

What you read on blogs isn't necessarily the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Blogs fall somewhere between reality and entertainment.  Maybe it's a lot like writing in your diary.  There's nothing that says that you have to be totally honest with yourself when you write in your diary.  Feelings are true enough but the interpretation of reality varies greatly from person to person.  So diaries (and blogs) are often more a therapeutic outlet than an objective newspaper report of the facts.  That being said, most moms I know can use their blog as a way to process their own world and make sense of their place in it.  So do we want everyone reading our diary?  Does everyone want to share their mistakes and short comings?  Or the mistakes of their children?  Do we want to put it ALL out there for the world to see... and judge?  Ummmmmm, no.  That's just a little too raw, and I don't know about you, Joanna, but I don't want to walk around naked all the time, especially in front of strangers!  Thus blogs cross the line to entertainment if only by the omission of some (or all?) of the hard stuff.  

Now let's also talk about this hard-to-wrap-your-head-around fact... adoption is born from loss and grief.  Adoption starts from a place of huge life-altering loss.  A child loses his first family at a minimum, not to mention possibly his culture, language, and sometimes every single thing he holds dear.   For adoptive parents their adoption journey can start with infertility and that's no easy path either.  So there's a lot of hard stuff, things to over come and  hope in the adoption process.  And because there are so many hurdles to over come, there can be a lot of celebrating that can go on in the adoption process.  And celebrating absolutely can come off as sugar-coating!  I do think that most moms out there writing about adoption do tend to share the happy happy joy joy and there is no reason that they shouldn't'!  But they can also omit the struggles.  They share the moment their child comes to their arms, and leave out the humongous grief the child goes through.  They share the victory their child's fabulous appetite, and omit food hoarding issues and a half eaten can of condensed chicken soup found behind the bed.  They share a child that smiles with a personality that everyone loves and don't share a child that seems to have few boundaries and lacks a natural sense of fear. It's easier and certainly a lot more fun to share the good times. 

Included in blog audiences are often extended families.  Do we want to share all the difficulties with our extended families? The fears?  All the worries?  Some blog writers do feel comfortable doing this.  And some don't.  Does that make the sunshine and lollipops stories that you read a lie?  Not necessarily.  But isn't necessarily a reflection of the whole truth either. 

And much of this hard stuff isn't our story to tell.  Adoption is our children's story and theirs to tell.  I do tell pieces of Tess, Jude and Mimi's story in my blog, but not all or it.  And as my children get older, I give them the reins on what I share and what I don't, and let them share it or not. Come up to me in person with Tess and Jude in tow and ask me if they are twins.  You'll see that I now pass that question on to them, allowing them to answer it how ever they want, or not at all if they choose.  So the specifics of the adoption story is their story and often parents don't feel they have the "right" to share the personal aspects of it, and with that comes many of the hard things that may then be omitted from blogs.  

For us, we've chosen to share more of the challenges of adoptions than most.  You may have heard me say this before, but because Papa is an adult adoptee, he gets control over what's okay to share and what's not.  And event though they are getting old enough to make some of these choices, he gets to be Tess, Jude's and Mimi's voice until they are old enough to decide for themselves what is okay to share and what isn't.   The world wide web just isn't the appropriate place to share much of the details of our children's live.  If you meet me in person, you may hear a different side of the story with more details and yet, you still won't hear it all.  There are parts of the story that are still entirely theirs to discuss or not. 

There are really tough things that can happen in adoptions.  Life-altering, shake you to the core of your beliefs stuff.  And I don't think adoption necessarily has to be hard.  In fact I know a lot of adoptions that haven't been hard where the family and children transitioned easily with little or no issues, even long term.  But adoption is more complex than having a child the old fashioned way, and it can be much much harder.  Adoption is chock full of stuff folks don't necessarily want to talk about, like fear, disappointment and uncertainty, especially with unknowing internet strangers who may and often do judge them.  Long story short, Johanna, oh yea, I absolutely do think a lot of blogs sugarcoat adoption.  Although I don't think it's necessarily intentional and deceptive sugar-coating.  It's often more of a celebration of the good parts of the journey and protection of the omitted parts.  

The Q&A is here.  Feel free to ask me anything!  


  1. Coincidentally enough, I have been dealing with this question, as well as the one about how adoptees can come to feel about it. I'd say that adoption DOES get sugar-coated on blogs, understandably as most of them are written by people overjoyed to be proud and loving parents. Conversely, few people want to read about the bad side; nobody wants to be made to feel that they've done a Bad Thing in adopting a child.

    1. I do think there is an audience of folks that read the tough stuff, either those are about to adopt who are trying to educate themselves, or adoptive parents that have gone though tough stuff and find validation and that they aren't alone. But mostly... ya, it's so much more fun to read the happy stuff!

  2. Thankful for your beautifully expressed response to this question and to the gift of the story you share with your words and photos. Gifts, all. Bless you.

  3. What a beautiful post. Most people do not want to hear the hard parts. They want to think adoption (or parenthood or life) is like a fairytale ---> if not their own, then someone else's. Yet, when we are honest, we allow people to see how difficult this is and not to make the decision lightly. When we are honest, we can help those who come behind to navigate more easily. One of my best friends today is someone I connected with after writing an article on Ellie's struggle and God's provision. There's a delicate balance between transparency of our struggles, respecting our children's right to privacy and healthy,optimistic focus.

  4. Do you know of any resources for perspective adoptive families that are not sugar coated?

    1. Talking to people in person (especially if with their child out of ear shot) and asking about the hard stuff. State why since you aren't doing it just because your curious but because you want to prepare yourself. Your social workers. New moms that have adopted recently that are willing to mentor and talk about the big stuff. There are blogs out there that talk about the hard stuff but you have to look for them. Support group for attachment issues and medical issues if you are considering a child with special needs. That's what I can think of off the top of my head.

    2. If you want a really non-sugar coated view, try Gazillion Voices. This is a website run by / for adult international adoptees. It's definitely no holds barred. Candidly, I can take it only in small, infrequent doses.

      There are other blogs by adult adoptees such ad Red Thread Broken that show another (dare I say bleaker?) side of the picture than many blogs by adoptive parents.

      Finally, look on YouTube for "Adopted: The Movie" and its companion, "We Can Do Better".

  5. For those who wish to know our struggles for the purposes of navigating them through their adoption trenches, I am more than willing to share.
    Imagine if my daughter's friend's mother found my blog, filled with her struggles as an adopted older child? I'm sure rumors would spread through mama gossip, and soon enough everyone would believe our daughter has behavior disorders and should not play with their children.
    We had our sons sleep in the basement guest room for a year while we hosted two exchange student girls. The school's rule was that teens of the same gender may not sleep on the same floor. Their downstairs "lounge" was even nicer than their bedrooms and they loved it. Gossip spread and everybody believes that we make our sons sleep in the basement because our (7,000 square foot) home is too small, and we are in no position to host exchange students since we cannot adequately parent our own children. The school board got concerned after several parents reported us, and they came to our home to investigate.
    If that comes out of such a small thing, can you imagine what could come out of making our adoptees' struggles public? Or even our teen's grades and behavior, or even my husband's weight loss.

  6. Personally, I treasure reading what seems like honest blogs. Of course we don't (and probably shouldn't) get to know everything about people we will never meet (sadly, as I'd love to know some of you!), but I think we all know by now that adoption — and life — is not only straightforward and happy. Although our first adoption was ludicrously easy and happy (Hâuie was 7 weeks old and had never been in an institution, and was and is healthy and balanced), we are trying for a UK domestic adoption after a disastrously failed Vietnam one a few years ago. We won't be able to take on a very damaged child, but it's incredibly helpful to feel I know quite a bit about the range of difficulties that a child can come with, and the different experiences of people who have been there and live with it. Your blog, Nancy, is always a pleasure to read, because it feels so real in all its complexity and joy. Thank you!

  7. Ryan and Katie have a similar story to Tess and Jude's. Born 1.5 weeks apart, and crib mates in the orphanage in Vietnam. They are now 15, and the twin question gets asked frequently. They are not ashamed or embarrassed not being twins, but it usually starts a long conversation, and plain old "yes" is the easy answer. Their birthdays lie over Christmas break, so nobody at school knows they do not share a birthday.

    Ps. Any update on the new VN adoption program?

    1. Jennifer-the VN program has re-opened with a VERY small special needs program. Only 2 agencies (Holt and Dillon) and even then it is SMALL program with very few kiddos, older kiddos, sibling groups and moderate+ special needs. I don't think Holt isn't even taking applications for the program but recruiting families on their own. I can only assume that it will be a long while to see how it goes with this program.


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