Our Adoptions are Not Made-For-TV Movies

What sensationalistic movies are doing to adoption culture.

Melissa Giarrosso July 21, 2014
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“They know your address?!” someone said to me when I mentioned our children had open adoptions. “But aren’t you worried they’re going to show up on your doorstep in the middle of the night, break into your house, and try to steal their baby back from you?”

Ah, here it is–something known in our world as “LMC,” or Lifetime Movie Complex. One too many lonely nights in the dark, cuddled up with Ben and Jerry, eyes glued to a screen as you’re told a tale of an adoptive couple in search of saving a child from their evil beginnings and their fight to obtain this child from gun-toting, crazy-eyed, vengeful birth parents. See, saying, “…and try to steal their baby back from you” implies that I stole a baby in the first place. And what do you know, there’s a made-for-TV movie about that, too: desperate infertile couples who can’t get pregnant and snatch someone else’s baby and disappear into the night.

On the afternoon of July 2, 2013, my phone rang. It was our agency saying they had an expectant mom who would like to talk with me. Our conversation started quickly as I opened up and gave her the basics of who we are and what we are looking for in terms of openness, and we stumbled along together as we tried to see if we were a good fit for each other’s needs.

“I’m having a hard time believing all of this,” she blurted out. “I watch a lot of Lifetime movies. What if you get my baby and run off and I never hear from you again? What if you guys are actually crazy and you’re just hiding it until you have my baby?” She was half laughing, half probing, hoping I’d laugh and ease her fears. That’s exactly what I did, explaining that nobody would ever, ever want to make a movie about our life. If they did, it would go something like this: two simple, laid-back people met and fell in love, struggled with infertility, adopted one amazing little boy and have worked to help him build a relationship with his birth mom, and are seeking to do the same again. Open adoption isn’t always easy, but we’ve made it our reality. Our life consists of working from 8-5 most days, and all of our spare time goes to hanging out with our kids. We are faithful people who want a harmonious life. Simply said, we are far too boring for a TV channel to have any interest in our lives; no one would watch that movie.

It’s easy to look at those movies and brush them aside as nonsense entertainment created to hook drama-seekers into their outlandish plot twists. The harder thing to look at is what these sensationalistic movies are doing to adoption culture. Unless you have a thirst for truth, knowledge, and justice, you aren’t likely to dig hard enough to see what adoptions are really like. You might never consider open adoption because the only exposure you’ve ever had to birth parents is that they are desperate and dangerous. You wouldn’t know that both of my kids’ birth moms are in committed relationships, parenting children, and have contagious smiles and the most hilarious laughs (both of which my children inherited). You’d have no clue that their minds are blown when they hear someone say things like, “Don’t you want to take your baby back?” because they did the most heart-wrenching thing possible for their children by consciously choosing where they wanted their children to be. They chose this path for their children during the hours when they were the only parents their child had. They chose security, safety, protection, opportunity, or any combination of these things.

Of course, our situation is not all-encompassing in terms of what exists in the adoption world, and I’m aware of that. There are birth parents who didn’t make the choice on behalf of their children. There are children who were taken from their homes and placed into safer situations. There are situations that might follow along closely with some made-for-TV story lines, but they are few and far between by wide margins, and the stories of positive adoptions aren’t there to counteract these stories’ negative effects on adoption culture.

It’s sad to think of what media sensationalism has done to the adoption community and the negative effects our children suffer as a consequence. It’s not just the parents who are hearing outlandish questions: It’s the children and the expectant parents who are afraid to make adoption plans because of misconceptions.

So what can we do about it? We can write articles like these. You can write blog posts. You can share information on your Facebook, Twitter, etc. You can spread the message far and wide: our adoption stories are not made-for-TV movies. Our journeys have ups and downs, trials and tribulations, things that stretch our abilities and force us to grow, moments that break our hearts, and moments so cohesive and harmonious that we can’t help but believe we’re part of a greater divine plan.

Our honest stories are seen as boring by television’s standards, but why? Why aren’t there an equal number of movies that tell heartwarming stories of struggle and the raw reality of families joining through adoption? Why can we not be true to the situation in an engaging and entertaining way so that the greater masses can see the reality of adoption and our children can grow in a world of more understanding people?

This is a call to action. I’m asking you to share, however you can, that we are not made-for-TV movies. We are reality, and while people might not be on the edge of their seats the way they might be watching stories about stealing children or seeking vengeance, audiences might shed a few tears over the beauty and sacrifice that actually is adoption. Our stories aren’t based on ratings. They’re based on the most important audience of all: our kids.

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Melissa Giarrosso

Melissa Giarrosso is a Staff Storyteller at Adoption.com and a mom to two quirky kids through open adoption, all thanks to infertility and the belief that adoption is never second best. She and her family reside in a suburb of Memphis, TN where they remain faithful members of numerous open adoption communities, gently advocating the opportunities that open adoption affords all members of the adoption triad.


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