When Adoption is Like Living Life in a Fish Bowl

I could let it bother me. Instead, I just keep swimming.

Addie Mietus September 06, 2015
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Have you ever felt like you are living life in a fish bowl? With your latest night out with friends posted on Facebook, your kid’s recital pictures displayed on Instagram, and your husband’s holiday prank shared on Twitter, everyone gets to see your life through the reflective glass of their computer screens.

I am now comfortable in the waters I swim in and feel no shame in keeping the curtains open while I go about my daily activities, although I do remember moments and times in my life when having onlookers was not my  preference.

One day my husband and I were anxiously sitting in our caseworker’s office to hear potentially life-changing news. A pregnant mother had selected us to raise her expected son, and she put together the sweetest “announcement” package for us. It included a special message, a song, and a video of her latest ultrasound. She had gone to great lengths to create truly a special moment for us. It was wonderful!

Until I started to cry. The tears would not stop. It was not the crying, but the feelings behind it, that truly surprised me. I never imagined I would be told I was going to be a mother by looking at someone else’s ultrasound video. Please don’t misinterpret my experience. I chose adoption. I knew what I was doing (at least on a conscious level). I was sitting in an adoption agency, after all. But in that moment, I realized I was doing motherhood differently. The little girl inside of me who had dreamed of being pregnant and experiencing the joys of watching her children’s growth inside her, of feeling them kick and move, of bonding to them along the way, and of being the first to welcome them into the world, was grieving her loss of being a mother the traditional way. I was so shocked by my feelings I didn’t know what to say.

Here’s for the fishbowl part: The expectant mother’s caseworker was taking pictures of me and my husband the entire time. I can’t begin to imagine what those photos look like. Did they reflect the joy and excitement we felt about being selected to parent? Did they show our appreciation and gratitude? I was so caught off-guard by my own reaction I could have died from sheer embarrassment.

Seven years later, I found myself swimming in a new fish bowl. Our new child’s birth mother wanted us to come visit her and her new baby at the hospital. This was new territory for us; however, we were delighted and eager to meet Lily (even if we didn’t get to take her home yet). Meeting your child for the first time is a precious, sacred moment. Doing it while everyone is watching you, to see how you and the baby react, is the fishbowl experience of adoption.

Now a mother of four adopted children, I experience the fishbowl feeling at the grocery store, sitting in church, or at the playground. Everyone can see my family is different. Everyone has an opinion. And everyone is watching!

I could let it bother me. Instead, I just keep swimming, knowing my family is like a Rainbow Fish, sharing its shimmering light with the rest of the ocean!

Have you ever had a fishbowl adoption experience? If so, share in the comments below.

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Addie Mietus

Addie Mietus loves her life as a wife, adoptive mom of four, yogi, and energy worker. Her degree in sociology, experience teaching adoption education classes, and personal adoption experiences have kept her active in her adoption community for over 12 years. She is a creator and writer for Ahava Adoption Circles, a place for adoptive moms to gather and discuss post-placement adoption experiences.


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