Ask the Adoption Coach: Social Media is Complicating Our Open Adoption

Families on phones
I am looking for some advice/input from other adoptive parents and birth parents on an unusual situation I have found myself in. My daughter’s birth parents live in the same town that we do. She is seventeen months old, and was a month old when we adopted her through the local foster system. We have an open adoption, with regular emails back and forth, and we are very open to having visits in the future, but M and J are not comfortable with the idea yet as they kept the pregnancy a secret. Despite living in the same city of about 100K people, we have never run into each other, surprisingly, and seem to have no connections outside of our daughter.
Recently I noticed that M became friends with my aunt on Facebook. I do not know how they met, or the nature of relationship, but she has commented on my aunt’s wall a couple of times. I am not especially close with this aunt—she is the wife of my dad’s older brother, but we do see one another a few times a year at family functions, and she regularly looks at and comments on photos of my daughter. My daughter looks exactly, EXACTLY, like her birth mother, and I feel like it’s only a matter of time before my aunt notices the resemblance. My aunt is very blunt, and not afraid to ask people personal questions.
So, do I email my daughter’s birthmother and tell her that I noticed she is friends with my aunt, so she isn’t blind-sided? Do I quietly tell my aunt that she has befriended my daughter’s birthmom and ask her to keep that info to herself? Do I do nothing and just wait and see if anything happens? I want to respect M’s privacy and right to anonymity, but I don’t know how to do that best in this situation.
Adoption Coach:
Dear Reader:
Wow! What a situation you have found yourself in.
Social media has dramatically changed the way we communicate, we express ourselves, and the way we make “friends.” Despite how big the world may seem, social media tends to unite strangers in interesting ways, bringing privacy, perception, and connection into question. Adoption can complicate social media relationships and subsequently, in-person relationships.
First, your job, as your child’s mother, is to keep her best interest at heart: protecting her, guiding her, loving her. You mentioned that your daughter’s biological mother kept her pregnancy a secret, so the relationship that you have with M (and J) is sacred. You are protecting their privacy and their wishes. If you violate this, what would that mean for your daughter and her future relationship with her biological parents? Trust is easily broken but not easily earned or earned-back.
Second, I think you need to consider who, after your daughter, should you (or do you) feel most obligation toward. Which relationship do you value more? The one with your aunt or the one with your daughter’s biological mother? Why? What personal motivations or fears do you have about sharing the news with either person?
Third, I would think through the personalities of these individuals. You mentioned that your aunt is blunt and can be intrusive. Would sharing the news with her first (or ever) lead to you or your daughter’s biological mother receiving a slew of comments or questions? This would, of course, blindside, as you mention, your daughter’s biological mother. What if you share the news first with your daughter’s biological mother? Knowing her personality, what are the possible outcomes? Another thing to consider is that if your aunt becomes aware of M’s biological child (your daughter) and tells other family members, friends, co-workers, etc.? Or what if she slips and puts something on Facebook about the connection?
I’m sure you’ve heard of the phrase “blaming the victim.” You didn’t ask for M to keep her pregnancy a secret. You didn’t anticipate M and your aunt becoming friends on Facebook. You can’t help that your daughter looks just like her birth mother. But what you can help is what you do in this situation.
I believe that eventually, this situation will come to light. The question is, should you initiate it or not? My fear is that if you choose to “break the news,” it will end up reflecting poorly on you and your daughter will suffer for it. You aren’t obligated to “fix” this situation, nor can you, because you didn’t create it in the first place. Right now, you are an innocent bystander.
If you choose to act, no matter how good your intentions or how pure-hearted and open-minded you are, you risk losing a relationship with your aunt or with your child’s biological mother, or both. Despite you not being the one who created the adoption circumstance, if you share what you know with either person, you could be the one she blames for any subsequent issues.
On the other hand, I also believe in trusting your instincts. Sometimes the hard thing to do is still the necessary thing to do. If you choose to express your awareness to either (or both) party, do so simply and keep your daughter as the focus of your concern.
There are many complex moments (and even seasons) that arise from adoption, because adoption, at it’s core, begins with brokenness. I admire your willingness to pursue discernment and the best interest of those you love. May you have peace with whatever decision you make.