One day last summer, I got an e-mail from a friend of mine. Check out this adoption blog I came across, she had written, along with the blog’s URL. I clicked on the link, excited to see what my friend had discovered.
Much to my shock, the blogger was a prospective adoptive mother who had been recently matched with an expectant mother. As I read entry after entry, I became increasingly horrified.
Not only had the author included photos of the expectant mother’s ultrasounds (yep, the baby, IN UTERO), but she also shared the town and state in which the expectant mother lived. She went on to share the name she had chosen for the son she was waiting for, shared pictures of a baby shower in which she had a cake with the baby’s name on it, and showed photos of the nursery she had painted blue. Other entries included personal details regarding the expectant mother and the last name and location of the blog author.
On one hand, I get it. She was excited about the baby. She had dealt with infertility, had waited years to become a mother, and now, finally, she had hope that her dream would come true. I’m an adoptive mother myself. I have two daughters, and both of our adoptions are domestic and open. I waited fourteen months for my first daughter. That’s a long, long “pregnancy.” To be chosen, well, no words can describe that moment.
However, on the other hand (the heavier hand), my first thought was, why is this woman laying claim to a baby that isn’t hers and may not be? The assumption this woman made was that the expectant mother would follow her adoption plan? That the baby would be named as the adoptive motherhad chosen. And why was it ok to let the public read information about a woman who was in a crisis pregnancy–letting everyone know her location, her age, and, worst of all, showing a photo of her baby which was still in her body?
This begs the question, does everything in open adoption need to be shared?
At various adoption speaking engagements, and when I consult with prospective adoptive parents via e-mail, I often share these virtual tips with them:
- Do not post photos of someone else, ever, without their permission. Be it Facebook, Twitter, a blog, a message board, or another virtual community. This is especially true of another person’s child–even a child in utero.
- Do not share birth parent, expectant parent, adoptive parent, or adoptee personal information. This information includes their location, age, situation, physical description, job title, school, etc. It is so easy to track down a person with just the tiniest bit of information about him or her. Adoption is a small, small world.
- Once information is shared, it cannot be deleted. This is true electronically and mentally. Even if you delete a blog, a Facebook account, or an e-mail, it is still out there in the virtual world, somewhere, and could be found. Once you share information about an adoption situation, someone will always remember that information and can share it, with or without your permission.
- Create pseudonyms when sharing adoption information online. What information you do share, create fictional names for the persons involved.
- When participating in an open adoption, have a conversation about privacy with the other parties involved. Decide what you feel is ok to share via social media and what isn’t. Discuss the fact that the young adoptee, despite their age, has a right to privacy of his or her photos and information.
- Check your state laws. As technology advances and the popularity of open adoption increases, the law is gradually catching up. You want to make sure you aren’t sharing any information virtually that could lead to a legal issue and that you are respecting the terms of your open adoption.
- Use your discretion. Be careful who you friend on Facebook, who follow on Twitter, what you share on online message boards, and whom you e-mail. Is your blog private or public? Treat your online interactions as you would your face-to-face interactions.
Above all, follow the golden rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Before you type or click or paste, stop and think. Will this benefit those who matter most (my child’s birth or adoptive parents? My child?) or harm them?
Rachel Garlinghouse is the mother of two beautiful brown babies through domestic, transracial, open adoption. She’s a part-time college writing teacher, part-time freelance writer and blogger, and all of the time mother. You can read more about her family’s adventures at www.whitesugarbrownsugar.com.