To Tell Or Not To Tell

A lot of readers have commented that perhaps we should not tell people that Ava is adopted. I wanted to respond to this sentiment in an posting because it’s easier than responding to everyone individually in an email.

It’s not as if we advertise that Ava is adopted, we’ve chosen to be open about it and I’ll cover that in more detail below, but we haven’t kept it a secret and our story was also featured in our local Living & Loving magazine a few months back. But it’s not as if we go around being introduced to people as Walter, Sharon & our adopted daughter, Ava. That piece of information is shared at times when it is appropriate to do so.

There are two main reasons that we have chosen to be so open about Ava’s adoption. The first one is simple: I’m proud to be her mommy. I’m proud to say I survived 7 years of hell! I’m proud to say that we were chosen for a path less traveled. I’m proud to say that we were blessed by something as extraordinary and miraculous as adoption.

The second reason is that we feel that by treating her adoption as if it is a secret, we are, inadvertently, sending her a message that it is something to be ashamed of, which, in my mind, it is not. It is not in anyway shameful for us, for her BBM or for her. We cannot continue to tell her she’s special because she’s adopted. She’s special because not only does she have a mommy and a daddy who loved her so much they walked to through hell to find her, but she also has a tummy mummy that loves her so very very much that she gave Ava this gift. Adoption IS love. There is nothing selfish about it. But we cannot drive home that message of how special she is, if it’s necessary to keep it a secret. That would contradict the message we are trying to instill in her, of her specialness, her uniqueness. I feel that would cause her to question herself and her value when she is old enough to understand and interpret the non verbal messages that she is receiving.

We want to raise a confident, self assured child and adult. I believe the only way to do that is through openness and honesty. I feel the quickest way to destroy her self confidence and damage our relationship with her, would be to send her mixed messages.

Of course, she will come across people who are less than understanding of her situation, who are ignorant or just plain mean. But I’ve faced people like that in my life too and I’m not adopted. Isn’t that part of growing and learning? Part of our life experiences? Walter and I thought this through in depth before embarking on the adoption path. And the conclusion we came to is that everyone in life will be made fun of, have mean stuff said about. Didn’t we all growing up? I was teased because of my big teeth! I had huge teeth as a pre-teen before my face grew into my teeth. I was teased for my acne when I was an teenager. Walter was teased about his big nose, he was teased about the home they lived in. Everyone is teased or bullied for something.  But we cannot allow our lives or our decisions to be based on what may or may not happen, we cannot base these decisions on negativity.

That obviously doesn’t give anyone permission to look her in the face and wonder out loud how her mother could just give her away. Those people will be set straight. But I won’t, I can’t hide something that is an integral part of who she is.



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  • Reply MommyInWaiting

    Shaz, I am so with you, I am also a believer in being open and honest and not providing children with mixed messages. Also the more open we are the less ignorance there is out there and the less likely our children will be hurt by people’s thoughtless comments.

    August 26, 2011 at 9:17 am
  • Reply Tan

    Huge Hugs I think that’s the right way to deal with it.

    Adoption is not shameful in anyway. and I think Ava will grow up knowing how special and loved she is.

    August 26, 2011 at 9:22 am
  • Reply Katherine

    It’s very hard to comment when one isn’t in the situation. Personally, I feel it is good to be open with Ava but personally I would try and limit who I told just to avoid all the unnecessary, stupid and potentially hurtful comments. I would never deny it when asked but if someone says Ava doesn’t look like you, then just say no she doesn’t. Lots of children don’t look like 1 or the other or both parents. As women I think we always like to talk too much and give too much info when actually people are satisfied with less (or if you don’t give any further explanation then there’s not much they can do about it). If it is appropriate, I tell people that Z and A are IVF babies but they are special because they are Z and A not because we had to struggle to have them. I think kids have more than enough to cope with these days and IMO the more “normal” they are, sadly the easier it is for them.

    August 26, 2011 at 10:39 am
  • Reply To Love Bella

    EVERY word you have has said here is exactly how we feel. I have actually started telling Isabella that she grew in another mommy’s tummy. She may never understand it now, but in time, it will be part of casual conversation.
    When we considered using DE’s, Shazzle, I was dead set against telling our child (should we conceive). My thoughts, at the time, were that I was carrying the child, so there would never be the question of “but why aren’t there photo’s of your big tummy?”. I had no intention of telling anyone outside of Travers and I either. But the we went to a therapist after I suffered my 4th m/c. She pointed out that it would be best to tell the child, because they are more perceptive than we give them credit for and would always pick up on a ‘taboo’ topic in the house and immediately associate it with themselves.
    This thought can also be applied to adoption. And the last thing that I would want for my child is that feeling of insecurity; of knowing that there is something regarding her, that is just not discussed.

    August 26, 2011 at 11:07 am
  • Reply To Love Bella

    Oh, and while we do not openely introduce her as our adopted child, when people comment on how quickly I lost my baby weight or on how big Isabella is and how small I am – I mention that she is adopted. I am FIERCELY proud of that fact!
    Travers doesn’t think that it is necessary – and granted, there’ve been times when I’ve not admitted it; but why not? As you said – adoption is a beautiful thing.
    (Can’t tell you how pleased I am to have met you and to share the same experience with you because you just .. understand.)

    August 26, 2011 at 11:10 am
  • Reply Sian

    I agree fully. There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. People just need to be educated.

    August 26, 2011 at 11:24 am
  • Reply Kimmie

    I think that you are handling the situation beautifully.
    My first husband was adopted and found out at age 15 in a not so nice way. I also have adopted siblings that have known since they were very small. From talking to them both at various times over the years finding out at Ava’s age and in the manner in which are doing it gets the big thumbs up in my opinion.

    August 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm
  • Reply St. Elsewhere

    You and Walter have thought it out so well.

    Your reason for being open is perfectly rational, and perfectly suited to your circumstances. And I don’t think your parenting will ever make Ava wonder about the way she came into your lives.

    Good Luck!

    August 26, 2011 at 2:21 pm
  • Reply Gwen

    Apart from all the other excellent reasons you’ve given, I’d always be afraid of what Kimmie mentions – that someone ELSE would let it slip in front of the child and that they would find out in a hurtful way, and how that might damage their trust in their parents.

    August 26, 2011 at 2:34 pm
  • Reply Lena

    I always love reading your bloggings as they are so very thought provoking. Today was no different, my initial thoughts where why on earth would you try and hide something so very special and full of love? After reading the previous posting I understood that no everyone is or will be understanding and non-judgmental about adoption, Having friends/family who had adopted it is easy to over look the judgements of others and see the love from all directions. BBM’s go through hell and back making the choice to place children in another families home – that is pure unselfish love right there! Parents are full of love (and very obvious pride) for THEIR new addition and so they should be! (IMHO anyway)

    Well done and keep up the hard work of parenting your wee angel, sending prayers she will be a big sister very soon.

    August 26, 2011 at 9:20 pm
  • Reply Sarah

    What Ava’s Birth Mother did is truly selfless and she deserves to be recognized for that. Ava is so lucky to three people that love her so much to give her the very best!!

    Happy ICLW

    August 26, 2011 at 9:55 pm
  • Reply Mash

    Yes, wow. That thought would never have crossed my mind, but I’m such a heart-on-sleever anyway!

    August 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm
  • Reply Laura

    I think you are doing the right thing.

    Being open and honest really is the only thing you can do!

    August 27, 2011 at 4:16 pm
  • Reply Antigone1022

    I don’t have any personal experience of adoption, but I do of secrets. I have a ‘secret’ nephew. My brother has a son and he has chosen not to tell his two younger sons they have an older brother. I chose differently and brought my daughters up always knowing they had another cousin. We have met him and he is a lovely boy who we all love. One day, inevitably, my brothers other two sons will find out they have a half brother and I feel chills at what that will do to their perceptions of trust in a parent to tell the truth. My daughters say they are pleased to know, to always have known. I don’t think good comes from long term untruths. Telling the truth about families is part of a trust we should all share. What we say to strangers, aquaintences etc depends on the situation and you sound to have found a really good balance

    August 27, 2011 at 4:50 pm
  • Reply Michele Scott

    Amen! That’s exactly what I have said about telling our son. ~Michele, author of “Praying Through Your Adoption” and visiting from ICLW

    August 28, 2011 at 1:37 am
  • Reply Annissa

    I would be the same way if we were to ever decide to adopt, it’s a beautiful thing when someone loves their child enough to give them loving parents when they feel they are not the right one (or ones) to raise them. It’s a wonderful gift. I hope to adopt some day, but I’m thinking about doing it through fostering. We’ll see… right now, I have my hands full.

    I think your reasons are valid and heartfelt 🙂

    Happy ICLW from # 86 <3

    August 29, 2011 at 3:09 am
  • Reply karen

    You are handling this beautifully. What more can I say? Ava is a very lucky little girl. Her parents were hand picked for her. I think she has a very, very special purpose.

    August 30, 2011 at 10:10 am
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