open adoption roundtable: privacy

For Open Adoption Roundtable #7, Heather at Production Not Reproduction asks open adoption bloggers: “Where is the line between your own experience and other people’s personal lives? What information is yours to share and what rightfully belongs to someone else? … Where do you draw the lines—on your blog and in your personal life—and why? What, if anything, don’t you tell?”

This topic was suggested by Rebeccah at Chasing A Child, who wrote an excellent post on the subject after a New York Times parenting blog posed this question in “Protecting Your Child’s Privacy” (presumably directed at mommy bloggers):

“At what point do parents lose their right to their children’s tales? When do things stop being something that happened to ‘me’ and start being something that happened to ‘them,’ and therefore not ‘mine’ to tell?”

This is a really important question for those who write about our adoption experience, because our experience is intertwined with others in the triad. The story of how Baby J came to be with us cannot be told without telling her story, or talking about members of her family of origin and the circumstances that gave rise to her placement.

I feel the need to be authentic in telling my own story, but this must be balanced with the need to protect my family, including Baby J and her family of origin.

I view my role not just as caretaker of our precious daughter, but of her unique story as well. It is my job to safeguard her story until she is ready to carry it herself. Ultimately, I believe our child’s story is hers to tell. Yet try as I may to write only about my own personal journey, our stories are now inextricably linked and intertwined.

I have always struggled with how much to say and what not to say here. Sometimes it feels like part of my story is not even mine to tell. I often find myself asking “whose story is this” about a particular fact. Is it mine? Baby J’s? Someone else’s? I’ve tried hard to protect the privacy of everyone involved.

I blog under a pseudonym. This is to protect myself and my family, and to keep my personal and professional lives separate. (I don’t really want my colleagues googling my name and reading about my uterus, for example. If we’re close enough, they already know.) While a pseudonym in no way guarantees my privacy — and my blog could be found with a few key search terms if someone knew enough of my story — that is a risk I am willing to assume.

I don’t use real names. We’ve even talked about writing a book about our adoption experience and we’ve already chosen our pseudonyms. I use initials here, which I don’t really like doing. To be honest, I’d much rather share the beautiful name of my daughter, but I won’t. I just don’t want that record of her online since it is beyond her control. I don’t see any need to use real names to refer to Baby J’s family of origin.

I have posted a few photos of Baby J, because she is so incredibly adorable. I’ve considered removing them. I’ve considered protecting those posts. I’ve doubted whether I will continue to post photos or not as she gets bigger, and wondered whether I will use another more private space for that. I don’t really want our daughter finding pictures of herself on the internet. But I wanted to share a small piece of her here, so you could have a sense of the joy she brings to all who meet her.

I struggled with whether and how much to tell of the birth story. (It took me four months to get it written, after all.) We all think it is such a beautiful story that should be shared, yet it is so personal to our daughter and especially to K. It may be the best example of how all of our stories became inextricably linked. As many of you know, I recently told a version of the birth story here and decided to password protect those posts. We tell this story to friends and family, so it is not something we keep private, but because it is so intimate I didn’t want it plastered across the internet and popping up on search engines.

In telling our story, I have not shared much information about Baby J’s family of origin, especially the circumstances surrounding her placement. I’ve said only generally that K, her birth mom, was simply not ready to parent. I’ve taken great care not to compromise K’s identity or share personal information. I don’t write much about our ongoing relationships with anyone else. They don’t know about this blog and I wouldn’t want to betray their trust by sharing information here. I’ve written about some of the celebrations as well as some of our challenges within our extended family. But I’ve never shared details about anyone else.

I have to assume that whatever I say may be read by my child some day. There are things I would prefer to tell her myself rather than have her learn some other way. There are things she needs to know first.

Most importantly, there are parts of Baby J’s story that are only for her to know — not our friends and neighbors, not family, or you, dear internet. Some day it will be for her to decide whether she wants to share that information with anyone. I won’t do that for her.

~ by luna on October 7, 2009.

5 Responses to “open adoption roundtable: privacy”

  1. It all is something to think about which sometimes it seems people don’t. I think you’ve done a fabulous job of telling your story while protecting others who may not want to share it all.

  2. Recently I read the story of Anita Tedaldi on the NYT Motherlode Blog who had to give away the baby she adopted due to very difficult circumstances. She was very honest and when she initially blogged about this I thought wow, it must have been tough to do this. But now she is going on TV, promoting her book and all that and it bothers me a bit. I hope the child never ever finds out.
    So to cut a long story short Luna, you have been very careful to keep all parties involved private. I really respect you that much more for it.

  3. Fascinating read. Thank you so much for the food for thought.

  4. I think you have done a pretty good job of keeping portions of the story private – esp. those regarding the birth parents history, their lives, and so on. That is nobody’s business, and should only be disclosed to Baby J when it’s age-appropriate, and since you have open adoption, perhaps by K herself to Baby J.

    We many times are asked “do you know anything about her REAL parents” (yes, cue me wanting to strangle the inquisitor). After I correct them that WE are her real parents, they usually still persist. Half the time I am shocked that they don’t know that China doesn’t work that way (i.e. babies are not turned over at some office after the birth parent(s) fill out reams of paperwork and judge signs off), and the other half the time I want to scream “Why the phuck do YOU need to know, or care?!” The only person who needs to know that info, including where Lil Pumpkin was found, and whether or not there was a not or other identifying info, is Lil Pumpkin, as we are has blessed Forever Mummy and Daddy. Not even her grandparents are privvy to this precious info. We may not be able to give her the info that you can give to Baby J, but we can fiercely guard and protect what we do have, and will share, when Lil Pumpkin is ready and so inquires.

    Additionally, we have photos of Lil Pumpkin with the amazing foster family with whom she lived for one full year. We have never shared those photos with anyone else either – we believe them to be as sacred as info regarding her birth family. Should Lil Pumpkin ever choose to share this info with others, we will support her in doing so . . . but as you have eloquently stated, the story belongs to Lil Pumpkin (and Baby J), and the have the ultimate ownership and distribution rights.

  5. […] to share or not, how to convey that which is not solely my own. I have always tried to retain some privacy for the others involved. Much as I want to write as it helps me process my own thoughts and […]

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