When someone talks about open adoption, many people seem to make assumptions about co-parenting and poor boundaries or my overall life choices. If I mention that I placed my son for adoption and show a picture of us together, people seem to get confused by this concept. If you scroll through an article about open adoption and read the comments, you’ll most likely find a slough of trolls and actual offended people who can’t seem to fathom the idea of a birth mother still being updated about her child. How do you begin to face the backlash and uneducated comments with grace and tact? It is quite complicated.
One of my biggest tasks in my line of work is to normalize pretty much anything that someone might have doubts about. It is amazing how often this seems to cross over into my personal life. While open adoption is not necessarily mainstream, it is becoming more common. When a topic becomes less obscure, everyone seems to develop a strong opinion on it, sometimes without actually researching. Why? Because it just doesn’t seem like their version of normal.
While I firmly believe that normal is just a setting on the dryer, not everyone will be quite as open-minded. How can we promote change when there are so many messages being thrown in different directions? Is it possible to promote change when you’re hearing or reading words that actually hurt?
Rule number one is obviously to avoid the comments that you’ll run into online. This relates more to news websites such as CNN or Huffington Post than a family blog, but you never know when you’ll come across a hurtful comment. I’ve noticed that when I read one hurtful comment, I tend to jump down the rabbit hole and continue reading. Engaging with the writers of these comments is never worth your time, no matter how much you would like to change their opinion. When I read a comment about women “just giving their children away because they are drug addicts and can’t keep their legs closed,” I really want to reach through the computer and physically hand them my resume.
Unfortunately, I will still be viewed as a co-parent by some and a drug addicted woman by others no matter how many examples I give them to prove them wrong. My experiences are mine and mine alone. Trolls and people hiding behind a keyboard aren’t worth our time.
What about the people you meet in real life? I’ve heard plenty of misguided comments about how I am “confusing my son” or “don’t deserve to be in his life since I gave him away.” Unlike the magical minimize button on our browser of our choice that can take us away from the snarky online comments, these comments can come from friends, families, co-workers, or even acquaintances. Even the most well-meaning comments can hurt and stay in our memories for quite some time. While I try to minimize who finds out about my adoption plan and relationship with my son, it isn’t always possible. I love my son and am not ashamed of him, so I usually just mention that I like to keep my life private when someone questions our relationship. If I’m comfortable, I’ll quote statistics about my son being better-adjusted because of our open adoption since he won’t have to wonder about the reasons behind adoption and can continue our relationship. I get to share the fact that my child really can’t have too many people loving him and that I will always have a special relationship with my son. Just as individuals gain new extended family members through marriage, they also gain new family members through adoption. Other times, I will steer the conversation in another direction or tactfully excuse myself from the conversation.
Open adoption can be a wonderful decision for some people. Anyone involved in the adoption world does have to be prepared for the backlash and comments they might receive, though. We can be strong advocates and champions for open adoption, but we should also always be considerate of other’s experiences or lack of experience and prepare to normalize our story for others. The easiest way to normalize something is to be kind when explaining why something is the way it is. While online trolls and extremists hiding behind their keyboard are not worth your time, that barista who you see every day might actually be able to understand why you believe what you do.