I don’t know whether you call it trolling but the nasty vitriol sure feels like it.
On Tuesday I sent in a piece to Mamamia (a big deal for me, as I’ve been scared of putting myself out there).
It’s coming up to the 10th anniversary of adopting Miss Yin and I shared the letter to a birthmother that I wrote (I’ve shared it on my blog for a while, and I know some of you have read it – if not I’d love you to click away and come back or check the Mamamia link). I actually wrote something else to go with it – about what adoption has taught me about love – but they chose to publish the letter on its own.
On Wednesday Mamamia published it, and with a bulging inbox, I even missed the email letting me know – an FB friend informed me with her message of congratulations.
WOW, published so quickly on Mamamia. I suppose I was a tad excited. Plus there was a relief that I’d put something so personal about adoption out there in the big wide (dare I say it, tabloidish) world. Mamamia were very straight – publishing the letter untouched and with an entirely nice and appropriate headline.
People commented about having tears reading it, and not just my FB friends who know me. Strangers too, and adoptees who loved it. That made me really happy. Although not so much that people were now crying!
This is one comment from an adoptee:
A beautiful letter. This letter shows me that your daughter is one very very lucky little girl. To have a mother (adoptive) who is not afraid to acknowledge (with love) her birth mother is such a gift. I know this, because I am as fortunate – as an adult I am grateful for this every day. I can talk to my mum about ANYTHING and it’s very reassuring, even when my feelings can be confronting. I know adoptees who aren’t as lucky and feel hurt and resentment because they cannot openly embrace ALL of what makes them who they are with the people who they love the most. Whenever I hear the whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ thing, I know that’s not true. Love is and your family seems to have bucket loads of it. I wish you all the best!
The article got lots of likes and shares on FB, my site got some traffic and my FB page got some likes. It’s nice you know. But mostly it felt like relief somehow, because as much as I share my love for our kids and all their cute moments etc, I have been reluctant to really share my feelings on adoption, beyond the ‘safety’ of my blog. Adoption is such a sensitive and complex issue – I know that. I respect everyone involved. I feel incredible gratitude, love, guilt and a murky mix of emotions I can’t really explain. I love my children’s birth parents, who we will likely never know.
And then the negative comments started on Mamamia and I took a deep breath, heart beating quicker, and tried to calmly respond with courtesy, dignity, even compassion.
Not moved but deeply uncomfortable is what this letter made me feel. There seem to be many assumptions on the part of the writer of this letter about the feelings of the birth mother. People adopt out for many reasons, and frankly if this child was wanted it seems needlessly cruel to emphasize all the things the birth mother had lost in describing the child and the relationship that the adoptive mother now experiences as a result of this loss. A simple I love this child deeply and will do my utmost to care for her would be more sensitive I would have thought. I have a friend who wad adopted from overseas and she remembers her mothers distress at having to give her up (she was 5). On the other hand I have known adopted child (Australian child) whose birth mothers did not want then, and did not welcome contact. In that context this letter appears to be a naive fantasy, written for the benefit of the adoptive mother….anyway, this letter just sits very uncomfortably with me.
I’m sorry this letter made you deeply uncomfortable. I did not mean to cause offence. You are right that my daughter’s birth mother is unlikely to ever read this letter – sadly we have no way of knowing who she is – call it a naive fantasy or a sad fact of life. I accept I made some assumptions, I guess I tried to put myself in her shoes, which is difficult as I’m not Chinese and haven’t faced her circumstances, I can only empathise as best I can. I certainly didn’t intend to heighten her sense of loss. Ultimately I want to share this letter with my daughter and hope that it helps her, as together we navigate the losses she will no doubt feel as she gains a maturing understanding of her adoption and circumstances.
There was one commenter who was particularly nasty – her first comment:
She should absolutely feel guilty. How come we in Australia extend so much compassion to the Australian mothers who were forced to relinquish their children up until the 1970s – and then turn around and remove children from poor women in China? If you care about those children, fund them with their parents, at home. I loathe the concept of overseas adoption because of the power imbalance, economic imbalance, and sheer social unfairness of it. How could this adoptive mother truly enjoy her child, knowing that she has been part of a system that has inflicted lifelong pain on the child’s real mother.
My response, which I thought was quite measured.
Thank you for your opinion Luxxe. I knew in publishing this that there would be people who would not be able to see things as I do. Yes I feel guilt, but I don’t need others to point this out to me. I understand the system isn’t perfect, but I also know that things in China aren’t perfect and that this is way beyond any part we play in the system (we do help fund foster care for children who would otherwise be in orphanages in China). I am sorry as a compassionate Australian for past adoption practices in this country, and I extend compassion to you that you hold such bitterness towards all adoption. My children have two real mothers – their birth mother and myself and it is with a heavy heart, but also a great deal of love, that I am hugely grateful for that. You must remember when you comment that you are talking to a real person.
But she (I’m just guessing here, could be a man) had to come back:
Kathy, did you consider these issues before you adopted overseas? (ANOTHER COMMENTER RAISED ISSUES OF CORRUPT ADOPTION PRACTICES, AND I ACKNOWLEDGED AND RESPONDED TO THAT) You can’t exactly claim to have been an “innocent abroad”. These aspects have been raised for more than 15 years, and you must have known them full well. You must have know beforehand that you would be inflicting pain. Did you investigate when you actually adopted, the circumstances of the child and the mother? China has very rigorous and precise bureaucratic procedures, doesn’t it? Holding “compassion” for past practices is a bit redundant when you are actively, and knowingly, participating in a current repressive – classist and in some ways globally racist – system. Your children don’t have two mothers. They have a wealthy, powerful adopting mother – and two poor, heartbroken, relinquising mothers. The only valid adoption is open adoption – and you could have chosen that option in other parts of the world. You actually chose to adopt in a country where you could ensure your exclusive motherhood.
Then I called it, because as one FB friend has said ‘haters gonna hate’.
Unfortunately I don’t think I can continue in this conversation with you Luxxe. I stand by my actions – I’m not perfect, but none of us are.
I must say there were quite a few people who bagged out the comments from detractors, who asked for fairness and backed me up. I could say a lot about how these comments are just plain wrong – I’ll share a bit about the actual adoption process in another post.
So I don’t know whether I’ve been trolled, or how I really feel – I do have an inkling for how Deborah Lee Furness must have felt copping so much criticism for her pro-adoption stance, that and the fact that she’s married to Hugh Jackman. If I’m going to be trolled I wouldn’t mind having Hugh Jackman by my side (see I’m trying to look on the bright side).
Maybe I shouldn’t have responded at all. I guess the lesson is we all choose how we feel, how we act, how we react. How we love, rather than hate.
I’m breathing deeply, comfortable, grateful for support (and sorry for this long post). Linking up with the lovely Grace for FYBF.