Don’t Go Crossing My Boundaries

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I belong to an Open Adoption Blogger webring. Some of you might find this curious since, of late, I rarely seem to blog about adoption. Sure, I’m very forthright about how our daughter joined our family and have no shame about adoption or infertility. It’s just that initially when I wrote about open adoption, and specifically our open adoption, there arose some issues with Boundary Crossers…issues that I’ve not fully resolved.

Boundary Crossers exist in any area of the internet. They can range from gnat-level annoying to full on bring-da-noise trolls. Now trolls are ubiquitous on the web, but the Boundary Crossers and Boundary Crossing trolls are a particular breed that I am speaking of. These people do not respect boundaries between people. Truth be told, many of these people seem to believe that the universe ends at the tips of their noses. They do not understand that their worldview, ideology, perspective is just one of many worldviews, ideologies, perspectives and that all of these may be valid in part or in whole. The idea of pluralism of thought is anathema to Boundary Crossers.

Boundary Crossers are among the first people to tell you that your feelings are wrong when you share your thoughts about a particular incident online.

  • You shouldn’t feel that way about it.
  • When that happened to me, I didn’t feel like that.
  • I think you’re overreacting.

I ascribe to the commonly held position that feelings are neither right nor wrong…they just are. And as such, judging someone’s feelings is a nonsensical proposition. Is the person receiving the judgment supposed to hear the judgment and say, oh, this person on the internet who has no meaning in my life is so right in this judgment of my feelings that I’ll stop feeling this way right now! If the point is to help the writer see an alternative perspective, one can achieve that without invalidating the person’s feelings. Yet despite how someone else may interpret the situation or experience, the writer’s feelings are real and valid for the writer…period.

A good example of this Boundary Crossing came in the Open Salon comments for the post, You Know You’re Black in Corporate America When… As is common when someone posts about race or gender or anything specific to the author and not fully generalizable, there is always a need/attempt to make the experience apply to those outside the racial or gender group described. Always. It’s a bit of the Don’t Be So Sensitive Syndrome.  I expected this and even preemptively addressed it in the post itself. However, there was a commenter that took this annoying gnat type of Boundary Crossing to bring-da-noise troll behavior when he decided to critique my feelings about my experiences. This asshat in a repeated back and forth exchange insisted in a browbeating, my-way-or-the-highway type of posturing that his assessment of what I should feel as a black woman in corporate America was more correct than my own assessment of my feelings. In other words, his feelings trump my feelings. And if that isn’t Boundary Crossing, I don’t know what is.

The other feature of Boundary Crossers that I’ve seen is the belief, no, the expectation that everyone will have a similar experience to his/hers. Again, no space in the brain for pluralism.

I once had an offline discussion with a woman who was having big issues with her friend’s decision to selectively reduce her pregnancy from triplets to twins. She continued to share her opposition to this reduction with her friend, even when the friend had asked her to stop doing so. In speaking offline, I was trying to get her to respect her friend’s boundary (since she had come to the board looking for help in doing just that). In the dialogue she confessed that her anti-abortion vehemence comes from the fact that 20 years before, she had felt pressured into an abortion by her partner. Had Planned Parenthood and abortion not been available to her, she explained, she would not have been able to have the abortion that she still regrets 20 years later. Now in my head I’m thinking, Holy crap, Batman! What a way to deconstruct taking responsibility for the choice she made.  Instead, I said, “This would be a very paternalistic solution to prevent women from making choices. And there are many women who have abortions who do not have turmoil and regret like you do. What about them?”

To which she replied, “It’s hard for me to fathom that there are women who have abortions who don’t have this awful pain and regret.”

Alas, the universe does end at the tip of her nose. She would limit the right to choose because she cannot see that there are women who could get through the experience intact. So this Boundary Crosser is operating from her universe of one framework. I did push back and say that another option that would be equally effective in preventing what she faced would be to make premarital sex illegal. That way, she would never have had sex outside of marriage, gotten pregnant, and been pressured into having an abortion. But how reasonable and Draconian is that solution? She had no answer for me.

[And please, my readers, I’ve no wish to get into a debate on abortion. I’m merely illustrating a narrow worldview with this example.]

So this brings me back to the point of this post: blogging about open adoption. As part of the Open Adoption Roundtable, we OA bloggers have been asked to address OA topics periodically in our blogs. And I have dawdled in addressing the first and pretty benign query: What one thing about open adoption would you tell your past self, if you could?

This delay has some to do with my fatigue/impatience with Boundary Crossers in general. For the most part, I keep the blog light mostly because of lack of bandwidth. Who has the time and energy (when one has a full time job where they seem to expect you to work for your paycheck, a two year old, an AdoringHusband, and a really cool camera) to deal with trolls, flame wars, and kerfuffles on the Interweb? From time to time, I will post on something deep and I can handle the flak easily when the issue pertains only to me. But posting about adoption hits me in another place entirely.

Before I started blogging about my infertility journey, I had no idea that there were people who were anti-ART (advanced reproductive technology). Yet these people and their blogs are more off the beaten path. Most of my support sites and friends were enough to compensate. Then when we moved to adoption, I was surprised to learn how many people were anti-adoption. Even among those who weren’t out-and-out against adoption, there were angry firstmothers who said that they were coerced by duplicitous adoption agencies, adoptees who said they felt broken, unwanted and less than. And all the talk of trauma, deep trauma. When I dared pose a question about whether open adoption could just “work,” I was accused of being some fantasy-riddled adoptive mom who had drunk too much of the Kool-Ade.

It hurt, those words. But the pain was not about me. The pain was about this little innocent that had been entrusted to me and my husband by her firstmother. The pain that still brings tears to my eyes is that, according to their words, the simple fact that her firstparents made an adoption plan and we were chosen as adoptive parents…that fact alone: the adoption will be enough to break this beautiful little girl…this girl I love so much that it is hard to breathe when I look at her. This little girl owns my heart and soul. I do not want her adoption to break her. I want her psyche and her lovely self to remain intact.

Yet when you blog about open adoption, inevitably the Boundary Crossers will arrive to say the words that no parent wants to hear about the future their child faces. Their words, more often than not, are based on their experience alone and their connection with others who have had the same experience. There is no room in their minds that outcomes may be different. Zara will be broken and her firstmother Josie (a pseudonym), who I adore and mentor, will also be broken. There is no way around it, they admonish.

While I can deftly handle the Boundary Crossers in other areas of my blogging life, when it comes to dire predictions about my child’s and her firstmother’s future relating to an event that cannot be undone (nor does Josie want it to be undone), I am not so skilled. For the past year, I’ve just not blogged much about adoption and focus instead on our adoption triad. I don’t go into the world of the adoption blogsphere as much. Yet today the question becomes, how can I participate in this valid and valuable Open Adoption Roundtable without appropriate defenses for handling the Boundary Crossers?

Published by: teendoc on June 16th, 2009 | Filed under adoption, blogging, criticism, infertility, open adoption, parenting



23 Responses to “Don’t Go Crossing My Boundaries”

  1. Heidi Says:

    Thanks for sharing this- I loved reading it.

  2. Lisa Says:

    Great post, Liana.

  3. Liana Says:

    Thanks a lot, both of you. I'm glad I was able to finally get it out coherently.

  4. Kellie Says:

    What a great post. You put into words what is so hard to put into words. That each person has their own feelings, but to try to project those feelings onto someone else is just not possble.

  5. Liana Says:

    My a-ha moment came when I did the Myers-Briggs. Turns out I was the exact opposite of my dear mother and tormentor. All my life she railed that I didn't do things the "right way" (meaning her way). Finally I learned that different doesn't mean wrong. It just means different.It was the beginning of my learning to respect differences in view, in feelings, and in ethos. I may not understand someone else's feelings, but I don't have to. I can respect them nonetheless.

  6. spyderkl Says:

    I’m struggling with that myself. Most of my adoption posts over the past year or so have been locked for that very reason – I just don’t want to go down that road with people who don’t know/don’t care about us. Hell, even the ones who do know and say they care have become suspect in my book except for a very, very few.

    I tend to write as generally as I can when it’s about adoption. If it’s about our adoption, I tend to leave it alone or lock it up. But then again, that’s just me, and I cop to being incredibly sensitive about our adoption experience.

  7. teendoc Says:

    I hear you. I normally live my life as an open book. It works for me. But the pain and fear that comes up for my kidlet when this subject comes up takes me over the edge. I give the words a validity that I know I shouldn’t because as a mom, I couldn’t bear for something that cannot be undone to be the undoing of her psyche.

    Thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone.

  8. Julie Says:

    I have heard the same dire predictions for Dylan – that I’ve stolen him from his people, his country and his first mother. That he will hate me and his father for the rest of his life, etc etc etc. Then I found some adoptees. Happy in their adoption (both open, semi open and closed). That weren’t broken. I’ve looked around and seen people who were born into their families who are miserable, ugly, angry people who blame their families for their lot in life. Guess we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

    All you can do is love her as you do. You are an amazing mother.
    .-= Julie´s last blog ..More on Masto =-.

  9. kellie Says:

    Liana,

    I’ve found that people who are very unhappy speak much louder than those who are happy. I wonder if this is not also true in the adoption world. I don’t know that, but that is one theory.

    I certainly do understand not wanting your adorable daughter to be hurt in any way if you can at all help it.
    .-= kellie´s last blog ..Life in General is Good =-.

  10. Sweet Patience Says:

    Thanks for posting this. You are right, some people think it is their way or the highway with issues.
    We do not have a placement yet, but it is interesting listening to some of the situations that will arise. I have found through my short period in the blog world that there are a lot issues going on and people bring a lot of the mess to the blogs. I tred lightly on my blog as well. I have not visited the open adoption group, but I can only imagine some of the topics. I will have to stop by.
    By the way, we finished the hs last week. We are finishing up profile to send in to our agency. All of our paperwork is complete!
    .-= Sweet Patience´s last blog ..HS completed today =-.

  11. Thorn Says:

    I’ve gotten some off-the-mark critical commentary from people who clearly didn’t read the post they were commenting on, let alone the whole blog. But I’m very grateful for people like Heather for getting people who talk about open adoption together to talk however they can. I’m such a fan of boundaries on so many fronts, though, and I very much appreciate this post.
    .-= Thorn´s last blog ..this one goes to 11 =-.

  12. Teresa Says:

    Loved it!!! I agree with you!!!! Beautifully written as all your post are. you would make a great therapist!!!

  13. Shannon Says:

    I hear you. Not only are the disgruntled folks louder than the okay folks, but really, both sides will tell you you’re wrong no matter what you say.

    I am having a lot of trouble deciding what to blog about at all these days, now that the kids are getting older. It’s really their business and their story. Also, the first mothers in our life are marginalized, extremely underprivileged women and I don’t right taking their story into my privileged hands and telling the world their business.

    And yet, we do need to talk more about open adoption and give more pictures of how open adoption works because we’re all out here in uncharted waters trying to do a new thing. No idea how to fix this.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..This Just In! =-.

  14. Becky Says:

    I understand and have had the same thing. I am a foster parent who might be adopting a foster boy who we love so much. I just want to help kids.

    I have stopped talking with people on the internent because of this. We all have enough stress in our life (foster and adoption is not a stress free thing). I have questions, I need support, I want to know others who are out there that have been though what we are going though. We all need support. I believe most people who foster or/and adopt love children and are good people.

    Do I live in a fair tale land, or is it just I choose to see the good in people and am trying to make this world a better place for the children. We have the right to our feeling, our worries, fears, hopes, dreams and even to our beliefs. If some one can help me see past my fears thanks. But don’t just tell me there not real, or I’m wrong for feeling the way I do.

    One word RESPECT !

  15. Kristin Says:

    Whats maddening is how much easier the internet has made it for these boundary crossers to function. In the past, social convention and disapproval would often be enough to keep those ass clown boundary crossers in line but they now have the anonymity of the internet and that has removed the last of the constraints.

    Great post, btw.

  16. Heather Says:

    Well said.

    This is such a tough issue. There is a lot–a whole lot–I don’t write about when it comes to our family’s adoptions. Partly for privacy and partly because of concerns like yours. But it’s a difficult thing to navigate, and I never feel entirely comfortable with where I land.

  17. Clare Says:

    Here from Mel’s site. Thank you so much for this really great post… it comes at a really good time for me to read.

    Best wishes to you and your family.

  18. DoctorMama Says:

    You’re so … sane.

    I agree with Kellie that people find it a lot easier to yell when angry, and a lot easier to find something to get angry about when they are unable to conceive of others having a different experience. Whenever I try to think of something from someone else’s point of view, it inevitably results in my feeling a whole lot less angry … and a whole lot less likely to throw up an ill-advised post or comment.

    I think that part of the problem with this particular issue is that while our hearts don’t bleed for the wacko doctor assassins, and it’s easy to shut them out, we don’t WANT to just ignore someone who’s in pain. We feel we need to treat them gently. And that’s how they can get in your head and do so much damage — e.g., make you feel worried about Z’s future. The odd thing is that the people who were REALLY coerced into giving up their babies — all those teenagers before the 70’s who were locked up and even beaten, for heaven’s sake — are for the most part really happy about the whole open adoption movement. (And even most of them were/are just fine, amazingly.)

    I worry about whether my kid will hate me for all kinds of things; I’m sure glad that I’m not bombarded with hateful comments about my choices. I have a hope that pretty soon the whole anti-adoption fad will fade away.

    (I sure hope that person at work’s friend cuts her out of her life. That must SUCK, having her keep saying shit like that. It also makes me feel guilty about not feeling able to say, “I had an abortion and it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made!” in public. I need to work on that one.)

    Oh and: when people talk about the “trauma” of an infant “mourning” its firstmother, I get crosseyed. Have they never seen babies in the NICU? Babies are blessed: they are blobs who remember none of this.

  19. Nicky Hurt Says:

    I stopped in from jessica sprague’s site to say hi and have been here about 30 mintues reading your posts! You are quite funny [and much smarter than me] and I’m enjoying your posts. 🙂 Your photos are gorgeous!

  20. deesha Says:

    Liana,

    I would say…participate in that roundtable as if the Boundaries Crossers don’t exist. By doing so, you are supporting and advocating for not only OA families, but all adoptive parents and adoptees, and those who are considering OA or other adoption. What words of hard-earned mama-wisdom, advice, and comfort do you have for them/us? There’s your focus.

    The words “A man cannot serve to masters come to mind”–I don’t think you can advocate/share as fully as your heart desires AND concern yourself with the anti-adoption Boundary Crossers. They are a lost cause, imo.

    One other thought as an adoptive mom myself…right now my 5-year-old daughter is going through such angst and drama related to her adoption (and sibling issues and divorce issues…) that frankly, I’m too tired to even think about what someone who is anti-adoption has to say about anything. It’s all I can do to raise this kid without drinking for breakfast! 😉

    Seriously…some adoptive kids (and first mothers) DO have “issues”, but 1) those issues aren’t always insurmountable, and 2) who doesn’t have some issues/growing pains, adopted or not?

    I wish you all the best with the Roundtable. Your words are always so thoughtful, challenging, and necessary. Just think about the folks who are learning at your feet, as it were, during this OA Roundtable, and forget the rest. Easier said than done…I know. 🙂

    I’m cheering for you!
    ~Deesha

  21. deesha Says:

    …that would be “TWO masters” 😉

  22. pinabdi Says:

    Liana,

    I too am an adoptive mother and I get so overwhelmed with what everyone else says to me. Everyone has an opinion from “You’re not really going to tell your daughter that she’s adopted” to not wanting to hear anything about her birthfamily to “Wait til she yells at you and says that you’re not her “real mother” Now that one is from a friend who is an adoptive parent. I wish people would keep these opinions to themselves. We had two prior disappointments and many people did not understand at all. After the second disappointment (it was almost a disruption but the hospital would not release the baby due to a medical issue) my husband and I decided to not tell anyone when the final situation came into being. We were blessed to receive our daughter on 6/27/08 and took her home two days later and only then did we tell anyone. The opinions and everyone else’s junk was too much and having the secret between my husband and I was the best decision. No one judged us and no one gave us their opinions. It was heavenly.

    No one has a crystal ball to tell us what our children will go through. The journey of our life is one that we all go through individually. With our strength and encouragement our children can walk this world with their head held high and be powerful women who know who they are and can be strong enough to tell people to mind their own business and let other people’s opinions wash off of them.

    Take care-Josephine

  23. Open Adoption Roundtable #3: My Wishlist | Welcome To The Dollhouse Says:

    […] pinabdi says, “Liana, I too am an adoptive mother and I get so overwhelmed with what everyone else…” […]

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