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Adoption Blog: Improv Mom

Where to Draw the Line

You hold the keys to your child's adoption story. With whom do you share it? How much do you share? As adoptive parents, is it even our right to share?

Ironically, as the writer of an adoption blog, I've been revealing goings-on about my open adoption relationship on a regular basis, with thousands of people, since 2011. Recently I've been scrutinizing my posts, concerned that I've been sharing too much; and that the information I have shared could harm my daughter, either now or somewhere down the road.

To share, or not to share, each side has its pros and cons—the biggest pro for me is being able to show others what an open adoption can look like, what a birth family relationship can look like.

Sharing particulars about a birth family visit or specific challenge with Kim, how I felt, how my husband and I handled something, feels downright necessary. Especially when there are so many people who can't wrap their heads around adoption, fewer still around open adoption—even within the adoption community. I can't tell you how many posts I've seen that read, "My child is five and I haven't told him he was adopted" or "Birth mother wants more contact—Help!" Taking the mystery out of how adoptive and birth parents are making openness and contact work in their families is invaluable and powerful information to disclose and discuss.

"But even at the cost of my child's privacy?" you might be asking. Well, no, that would be the biggest con.

Believe you, me, I am constantly dissecting the details of each and every paragraph I write to prevent myself from crossing the line that amps up my heart rate. (Maybe this is why I find it exhausting to blog once a week.) To help keep my boundaries clear and my anxiety levels healthy, I use ficticious names, except for me and the cat, and consciously follow what I have come to call my guiding blogging principles. I ask myself…

  • Am I writing about my open adoption relationship the way I would talk about it in my real-life interactions at home, at school and out-and-about in the world at large?
  • Is the information relevant to share?
  • Is it written with care? Am I being respectful (and not throwing something in there just to add some "Reality Show Flavor" to the story)?
  • Am I telling my opinions, my interpretations of events—not trying to speak for my daughter or her birth mom? I might have ideas about what they are feeling, yet I try to keep my focus on my personal experience as an adoptive mom and human being.

Bottom line is, my story is tightly bound to my daughter's. And so is my heart. I take my words seriously. I take being her mom seriously. I believe there is room for me to write my adoption-related experiences, extract the deeply personal things about Beth and about her birth mom, from my writing and still offer up something worthwhile, something that's mine to tell. I also believe I am leaving room for Beth to one day tell her own story, her truth.

Of course, what's private to me might differ from your interpretation of privacy, so I ask you: What kinds of things do you share? What do you not share? Let's keep this conversation going.

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


I have been thinking about your blog post since I read it, because there is no easy answer.  We have three children through domestic adoption, and as time goes by I share less and less of their stories.  We are already the poster family for adoption in our little community, and I feel like that is enough for them.  Our younger two are birth half-siblings, and I wish that I had never told anyone, for all the times that I am asked, “now which of them are brother and sister?”  Here’s a hint, all of them! 

The flip side is that writing in a public forum makes adoption, and open adoption in particular, more normal and accessible to those outside of the adoption community.  And that is a good thing that you are doing for your kids and mine.

By jszmom on Monday, February 09, 2015 at 12:33 pm.

Thanks for your thoughts jszmom and your support. I don’t think this blog will ever be easy writing for me. Yet it feels important to write.

By Barbara Herel on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 12:14 pm.

Administrator! Can you please remove the post by memarice371. Thank you!

By Barbara Herel on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 12:24 pm.

Such a pertinent post.
I am struggling with the level of disclosure at the moment, as we recently moved to England and over here, domestic adoption mostly means that a saintly couple/person rescued children from an abusive situation. I am bothered that adoption isn’t simply another legitimate way to build a family.
I have two young children, both adopted at birth in domestic, open adoptions, in the U.S. (I bless America for open adoptions everyday). My children’s different physical appearances are generating a lot of questions, and I’m struggling with the balance of being a proud adoptive mother and protecting my children from other’s prejudices about adoption.
After being very “loud” about adoption in our pre-adoption journey, I’ve learned that it is my job to guard my children’s story for them first. All I share now is what I’ve told them, but I’m often blind-sided by the questions that come my way once I disclose how we came to be a family by adoption.
I’d love to hear from you and other families about how you decide when to say “ah yeah, we are an adoptive family,” and when to just keep smiling at comments such as “oh wow, your daughter doesnt look anything like him [pointing at son sitting right next to me, staring at this brand new stranger, waiting for mother’s response].”

By jcmom on Thursday, March 05, 2015 at 6:02 pm.

jcmom thanks for your response. Now that my daughter is 6 I feel it is very important to model what to say to people.

Regarding looks, I say things like “It runs in the family” or “she gets it from her birth mother.” I think you have to feel it out, who is saying it and how it is said. I remember someone yelling across a crowded room to me “Where’d she get the blonde hair from?” It certainly didn’t feel right for me to respond with “Her birth parents!”

I’ve found that most people are just interested and don’t mean to be rude. Maybe practice what you could have said in certain situations this way you’ll be better prepared for the next time around. So in response to saintly couple (I can’t stand that either) you can say something like… “There’s nothing saintly about me, just ask my husband or my kids!” Or “I think my children’s birth parents are pretty darn saintly.” About looks you can simply say “You’re right, she doesn’t look anything like me” and move on or “Just because we don’t look alike doesn’t mean we aren’t family.” I think once have some go-to responses you’re going to feel more comfortable. It will give some space to decide if you want share. 

I was just on vacation and adoption came up after I shared I was a writer. My daughter wasn’t around so I answered their questions and it turned out that one of the women I was speaking to had an adoption-related situation in her life. I also find it helpful to shift the conversation away from adoption specifics to more general adoption answers. I do always say that I love my daughter’s birth mom and family and we see them.

And just one more comment, even though your heart might be pounding when you answer someone, try to be matter-of-fact since I think that just calms everything down.

Anybody else have ideas?

By Barbara Herel on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 at 9:18 am.

Sometimes you can tell the question is genuine curiosity; let’s face it, most people have no idea how adoption works.  If you feel comfortable, then you can talk about specifics.  I usually do try to turn the conversation toward adoption, not my kids’ adoptions.  It’s taken me almost six years to realize you don’t have to answer every question asked.  Sometimes I still get caught off guard.

My younger two are birth half siblings, which many people know, so I am often asked “now which two are brother and sister?”  I always answer, “they all are”, then give them the correct language “my younger two are biologically half siblings, but they are all siblings now”.  Sometimes I wish i hadn’t shared that with so many people in the beginning, but I did, so now it is out there.  My younger two are also only 11 months apart, and the other day at the park I was caught off guard when a friend of a friend asked, “so she was 2 months old when you found out you were pregnant?”  I guess I could have just shrugged it off, but my three year old is always listening… So, I said “well, we are an adoptive family, so she was a little older than that about six months when we found out her birthmother was pregnant”.  I use that term because the adoptions were how we became a family, and while I understand that my children’s experience as adoptees will be very different from my experience as an adoptive mom, I prefer to think of us as an adoptive family, that are now mom, dad, sons and daughter, not adoptive parents and adoptees.

My kids and I share the same ethnic background, but my older two have darker complexions.  They all have curly hair, which I do not.  People often comment on how beautiful they are, or ask about their curly hair (mine is very straight), I usually say, thank you or I know, isn’t it gorgeous?  My husband shaves his head, so if someone says “where’d they get that curly hair?”  he answers, “from me!”


By jszmom on Wednesday, March 11, 2015 at 8:33 am.

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Barbara Herel

Barbara Herel

New York

I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
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