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My Child's Backstory Is None of Your BusinessGabriela Pinto / Flickr
My Child's Backstory Is None of Your Business

My Child's Backstory Is None of Your Business


Mar 20 2013
A call for discretion, respect, and neighborly love in adoption.

Everyone loves a good adoption story. They are happy-ending stories, filled with drama and struggle and redemption, not to mention chubby-cheeked children. Perhaps you have seen one of them in your newsfeed recently—amazing stories endlessly shared and beautiful to read.

My children have stories like these, too, but I'm not going to tell them.

In the New York Times last month, Peter Mercurio wrote "We Found Our Son in the Subway" about how he and his partner (two men, but that's another issue) found a baby abandoned in a subway station and later adopted him. Mercurio writes that his son Kevin, "who had been left on the ground in a corner behind the turnstiles, was light-brown skinned and quiet, probably about a day old, wrapped in an oversize black sweatshirt."

Behind that single sentence is a world of pain and sin and confusion. For readers, this sentence merely inspires the headline that makes a good bedtime story. Jezebel blogger Laura Beck said we should read Mercurio's piece: "so we can all hold each other and cry about how sometimes the world is wonderful." But for the boy Kevin, being found in the subway means that there was a man and a woman, his biological parents, who each believed that the thing they should do was to abandon him.

I'm not sure any child is ready to process that himself, let alone have the world re-tweeting it.

Also recently, journalist and photographer Callie Mitchell documented her pregnancy, delivery, and decision to place her son Leo for adoption. Her story, written as journal entries, appeared in a special edition of The Daily Iowan, and reveals heart-breaking turmoil and indecision. Mitchell's Aug. 2 entry, when she was five months pregnant, reads: "I told him [Leo's birthfather] I wanted to keep our baby. We fought. I then promised him I'd put our baby up for adoption. I just want this constant fighting to end."

Baby Leo is now three months old. He is unaware of the struggle for his life and well-being that happened before his birth, but someday he will read those words. And he will have to confront the fact that thousands of other people have already read them.

In this digital age, information lasts forever, and adoptive parents are increasingly, permanently, and publicly telling stories that are not theirs to tell.

Why? Partly, I suppose we tell them because people ask. Even mere acquaintances frequently ask me questions about my children's place of birth, their health prior to adoption, and the financial status of their birthparents. Constantly deflecting nosiness takes more energy than many parents have.

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