shared experience

Lori’s comment on my last post got me thinking.

Lori cautioned against adoptive parents projecting our own thoughts and emotions onto our children’s birth parents, rather than allowing them to be defined by themselves.

I had written about what I believed to be a somewhat difficult day for K. There was a lot of beauty and joy in K sharing our celebration, but I noticed a sadness too. Maybe this is inevitable. I spoke to K about it later on, and I listened to what she said. I also spoke with her mom, who is always willing to offer an opinion, yet does not speak for K either.

As I wrote that post, I tried to be careful not to write in more detail about what K said or didn’t say, or what she thought or felt. Of course I only know what I know, and could not presume to know more. More importantly, what K feels is for K, and is not for me to share here. More to Lori’s point, I tried not to presume what K was feeling. I tried merely to write about my personal experience and perception of the day, which included what K conveyed, what I perceived, and how I imagined her experience as a result. That doesn’t make it so, since only K knows the full range of her emotions and may choose to share only part of that spectrum.

K’s experience is her own, just as mine is my own. Yet our lives are intertwined and each affects the other. Our daughter too is beginning to define her own experience, which some day may be more intricately interwoven among us. Already I’m trying to protect her story from infringement, including by me.

As I sat down to write, I found myself faced again with the blogger’s dilemma: at what point does our story become someone else’s? And on a different but somewhat related note, at what point does the lens of our own experience distort the telling of the tale?

So although I was not projecting my feelings to K but rather interpreting what I heard and observed, Lori’s point is well taken. And it got me thinking.

Why is it so much easier to share certain parts of our experience than others?

I’ve written about the time we’ve spent with K before. I’ve even shared her words and some of our conversations. So why would I share those experiences but not others?

Surely it’s not that I want to see and share only the positive aspects of our adoption. Like any blogger, I only share a portion of what happens in real life here. Yet I think it’s important to share some of the grittier difficult parts to begin to more accurately reflect the reality of adoption, lest anyone think it’s all butterflies and roses (or unicorns and rainbows). Yes, we have a great relationship with K. But adoption is also rooted in loss. Then of course our adoption is not just mine to share.

I think one reason I have not shared more, aside from the obvious ones mentioned above, is that I become most protective of K when she expresses a certain vulnerability. The same thing happened during her pregnancy. When K was strong and confident, she was able to articulate her desires and needs. When K encountered challenges, however, we did what we could to ensure that she had access to appropriate support, counseling, services, health care, whatever. Those are the moments that I felt most protective of K. Those are the stories I would not share because they are not mine to share. That was K’s experience.

I don’t really know if that makes any sense, that distinction. But if it means I must share less here even if it isn’t the most complete picture of our life, then so be it. I’ll try to stick to my own experience and determine how much is fair game. It serves to remind me that each of us brings our own perspective to this shared experience that shapes and colors our views. The lines are not clear, but I’ll have to keep trying to draw my own.

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~ by luna on June 2, 2010.

11 Responses to “shared experience”

  1. I think it makes perfect sense.

  2. It was this exact issue that stopped me from posting more about Z’s adoption except from my own perspective. I realized pretty early in the game that as much as I might want to share our truth, the only person for whom I can really share truth is myself. J has got to share her own truth without my filters/interpretations or the line between truth and constructed reality become unclear. Sure I can make simple statements of what was said to me, but the interpretation of feelings or what was left unsaid takes me into a tricky realm.

    J and I have considered writing a book about our OA experience from our respective perspectives, but then I worry about whether I can or should indirectly involve Z in this project without her explicit consent. Sigh… It was so much easier when the tale was solely my own.

  3. Why is it so much easier to share certain parts of our experience than others?

    The good stuff is easy. You can almost predict that people won’t mind you sharing it, or how you share it.

    The not-good stuff is, well, hard. If there is sadness, shame, regret, anger, or other “bad” emotions, we are more likely to desire privacy, or at least control who knows about it.

    Which makes it particularly tricky to show all aspects of an adoption, open or otherwise.

    This is such a big issue. I’m surprised there aren’t more comments, unless it’s because it’s also such a tricky issue.

  4. Without a doubt…….adoptions are also rooted in loss, you are wise to acknowledge this. Your sensitivity and care for your baby’s birthmom will only strengthen your beautiful daughter. Godspeed!

  5. It just seems like yesterday when I saw that pic of J on your chest. I could almost smell her. It was so wonderful to see her, knowing you were her mom now. It gave me such hope.

    I totally understand about this “telling of the story”. Before K was born, I often protected posts because of I was well aware of the boundaries I might/did cross. It was often infuriating, disconcerting, exhausting – I knew that of course it was unfair, there was only my perspective to whatever happened between K’s birthmom and us. There was a lot I didn’t write about. Everyone’s experience is unique and I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not just to sound politically correct. This is all a work in progress.

  6. Why do we filter to certain aspects of our experience? My guess is, loathe as I am to admit it, we play toward the role we’re expected to be. The adoptive parents typically experience pressures to be the perfect couple, the lavish parents, and the ideal family. Talking about the hard experiences reveals that’s not always true. Sometimes adoptive families, just like biological ones, get messy, get ugly, and sometimes even fracture. It’s life. It happens. Similarly the first-family is often expected to be in pain at all times. Constant sorry, misgivings, and self-torture are vogue for them lest they should appear carefree and without conscience. These dynamics feed off one another. The happy adoptive family can comfort the heart-sick first-family and make things okay. If either side is still relying on that dynamic when the other “gets human” and imperfect things can get ugly. Both sides must move apace toward genuine relationship.
    That’s my $0.02

    • thanks @I am. I think your two cents is worth a lot more than that. it’s true, it’s not always perfect and pretty and is sometimes ugly. nothing is that simple. adoption, like life, is full of complexities that can’t be captured in overly simplistic terms.

      even in genuine open relationships, though, I think there can still be reluctance to show and share some of the more private emotions we all grapple with, for better or worse.

  7. […] wanting to write about so many things, but have lacked both the time and energy. Plus I think since this post I’ve been feeling a lot more limited in what I’m willing to write about our adoption. […]

  8. […] I wrote last year, I’m still struggling with writing about adoption — i.e., what to share or not, how to […]

  9. […] to see Jaye. Not surprisingly there was a rush of emotion when she did. Just like last year, I can’t possibly attribute anything to Kaye other than what I’ve been told. But clearly it was a difficult afternoon. Her mom […]

  10. […] more challenging aspects, the grittier more difficult stuff. I wrote a bit about the phenomenon of “shared experience” after Jaye’s first birthday party, when I caught a glimpse into how hard the day was for […]

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