spitting image

March 12, 2013 § 30 Comments

I mentioned a few posts ago, when C and L sent me an update at 6 months, that I had sent them a Happy Thanksgiving card and asked if they wanted the pictures from the hospital. In the letter, C wrote that they would love to get the hospital pictures. (At least, I am mostly positive that she is the one writing me and sending me photos. As a general rule, women do those things and men don’t.) I wish I hadn’t offered now. Of course I would like them to have photos of the first 2 days of your life. It’s a nice idea, in theory.

And then I open up the file folder and look at those photos. There are over 300 photos from the hospital. There’s no reason I should send them all 300+ hospital photos, or even all the ones that are in focus. They don’t send me every photo they take. Some are close-ups of you that would fit nicely into anyone’s photo album, no betrayal of the evidence that you used to be someone else’s. But then there are more pictures that are not so polite. Pictures spanning labor, delivery, the first hours of life in my arms, nursing, the two nights we spent in the maternity ward, me holding you, David holding you, my friends and family, our happiness and sadness. I can’t imagine they would want to see any of that. The first two days of your life are the only ones they didn’t get to have.  Looking at these pictures that I’ve seen hundreds of times, I selfishly don’t want them to see a single one. I didn’t even get two entire days with you, and that was all that was mine.


More importantly, I don’t want to show them something they won’t care about, and I know they wouldn’t care about most of these pictures that mean so much to me. They don’t need to see the placenta or the blood everywhere, or the pictures of me and David, or my parents holding their grandchild who has ceased to exist as far as they’re concerned. When I offered to send them pictures, I really didn’t think it through. I didn’t consider that it may seem insensitive.

Adoptive parents who are reading, I would love to hear your experiences. Have you seen your child’s hospital pictures? Am I making too big of a deal?

I know the obvious solution: send them a few of the photos, the up-close ones of your sweet face, and save the rest for when you’re older. If you’re interested that is. I certainly wouldn’t force bloody placentas on anyone. Generally, I think the safest rule of thumb for me in this relationship is to approach them with the same level of openness that I’ve been approached with, i.e. write to them only when they’ve sent an update, with nothing deeper than small talk and a response to what they wrote to me. I can’t go wrong.


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§ 30 Responses to spitting image

  • Robyn C says:

    Well, I’m reminded of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you’d like more openness, and more pictures, then you can be more open and give them more pictures. Perhaps you don’t want to seem overzealous, but there is a chance to try to invite them into a deeper relationship here.

    We were at the hospital for my son’s birth, so we took all the pictures. My daughter’s birthmother was alone – she hid her pregnancy from almost everyone she knew. We have only some cell phone pics of the first day of DD’s life. I know she’s going to look at her brother’s baby book, then look at hers, and be like, “What happened?”

    I’d love to have every picture, even the bloody ones. But I don’t think that’s feasible, and I understand you want to keep some things for yourself. If you give them the pics of the baby with your parents and friends, they can put that in a scrapbook and show him “look, these people welcomed you into the world.” Or maybe you can create a scrapbook for your son and send it. It’s just a thought. I’m so glad that I have pics of both of my children being held and loved by their birthmoms. I think that’s important for them to see too. I don’t know if you’ll have visits or talks with your son as he grows up, but even so, pictures with you will be important to him. My son loves seeing pictures of him with his birthmom.

    • you are probably right about everything you’ve said. i shouldn’t be so scared that i’m going to offend them. i assume the worst about everything.

      thank you so much for sharing that with me. i’ve really wanted to make a scrapbook for harvey, so he can know about his birth and it’s not a big mystery.

  • Amy says:

    The “Golden Rule” is a good way to live in real life, but in dealing with adoptive parents that you’re not emotionally “close” to, it *could* be a different story. They may or may not want more openness. If I were you, and I say this as a first-mom for 28 years…fully open adoption from the time my kiddo was 9, choose a few to send, and then save the more personal ones for a scrapbook that you make for your son. That time together was just yours and his…keep it that way for now. For example, I didn’t share my u/s pictures with my daughter’s adoptive parents until several years had passed. I knew at that point they would welcome the chance to see “A” when she was “just mine.” Before I knew them well, I wasn’t sure if that would stir up uncomfortable emotions for them or not. Plus, like you, I wanted to keep something of her to myself! That reminds me that I should probably make “A” some copies of those ultrasound photos for her to have!

    Just follow your own instincts. You have years to share things with the aparents. Do what feels right to you!


    • thank you so much for the advice and especially for understanding why i think it might make them feel uncomfortable. a lot of the adoptive parents here who have always had so much openness are really laidback, but that’s not how our relationship is. everything goes through the agency, which tells me how close they really want to be. they’ve contacted me twice, a set of pictures at 3 months, and a letter and more pictures at 6 months. i’ve written them once, after the first set of pictures. so, this hospital picture thing is a truly daunting task.

  • JessLif says:

    The amount of thought you put into every single decision is incredible. Your son is so very lucky to have you as a part of his life. And you ARE a part of his life.

    As an adoptive mother, I cannot ever fully understand what you have been going through and what you will go through. All I can tell you is that my wife and I struggle with the same thoughts as we try to decide what to send to our daughter’s birth parents. We always struggle to decide if we are texting too much or if we are pushing too much. In the end, what helps us, is to think about that everything we do is not for the birth parents as much as it is for our daughter. We all, us and our daughter’s birth parents, want what is best for our daughter and so we try to frame every decision we make in terms of what is best for her. So if we worry we are texting too much or sending pictures that they might not want, we rethink the question from her perspective. Is it best for her if we keep reaching out? Yes, absolutely. Is it best for her if we send them pictures of all the people in her life? Yes, absolutely. And then we trust. We trust that if it is too much for her birth parents, then they will let us know. That’s the scary part. Because of course, perhaps, they won’t tell us and instead be upset about it quietly, but the only choice we have at this point is to trust that if something isn’t going right, someone will speak up.

    So, while I don’t like to give advice, I will tell you that trusting your heart can’t ever be the wrong decision. If someone else has a problem with it, then fine, it is on them to say something and to speak up (respectfully). But the only decisions that we can all really feel good about are the ones that feel right in our hearts.

    I do help some of that helped in some way. I didn’t mean to go on and on, but I truly do feel your struggle.

    • thank you for replying so thoughtfully! <3 long-windedness is a favorite quality in myself and in other people, no worries. i'm probably thinking too much, but we've had very little contact thus far, so i feel like i have to make sure i'm not doing anything that would make them uncomfortable or ruin things between us. i also agree that thinking of what's best for him will help me out a lot in this relationship. it truly is about him and us loving him, not necessarily my feelings or their feelings. i know they must struggle with the same thing when sending me pictures or when they wrote me that letter.

  • We don’t have anything from our daughter’s first days in hospital. Her first mom has the wrist bracelet, footprints, blanket, and pictures, and I’m good with that. Would I like to have them? It would be interesting and sentimental, yes, but I would rather she keep them. As you said, those were the only days they had completely together. Someday our daughter will learn that her first mom kept those things, and I want her to have that. I want our daughter to know that she was not abandoned or forgotten by her first mom. Ever.

    • i would like them to have it, especially so harvey can see pictures of his birth someday. even if he doesn’t care, that’s up to him and i want him to have access to it anyway. i just worry it would make them feel uncomfortable i don’t know how they feel about a lot of things, so far.

      but yes, i have the wrist bracelet, footprints, hat, and locks of hair, and those are absolutely mine. :)

      • Sally says:

        I used to struggle (fret, worry, stress, second-guess, obsess, etc.) about how much to share with our children’s first families. I worried that it would be painful to read about first eating solid food, cutting a tooth, starting kindergarten, or playing in a recital. I wanted to share those things, but I paralyzed myself with worry. After a few long conversations with my son’s first mom I finally “got it.” I needed to stop “parenting” these women.

        If Harvey’s parents don’t want to see the pics or read the emails, they can delete them. They can ask you to stop sharing. I admire your generous spirit and wanting not to hurt them; I agree that if you do what you think is best for Harvey and you, you will always be able to look yourself in the mirror. His parents can take care of themselves.

        I love your honesty.


  • monk-monk says:

    I say don’t send placenta photos, but sending a lot of photos, especially with a note about how you love photography and pictures and that in this day and age it’s so nice to be able to have LOTS of pictures. Maybe they’ll get the hint and send you more and more? MAYBE you could even send a few hardcopies and then say something like: I’m going to create a private shutterfly/flikr/facebook page so you can see these photos AND ADD some of your own, that way we don’t have to waste money getting prints done. Would this be the perfect opportunity to open that door for more picture sharing even if its virtually?

    • i love this idea! for a while now i’ve wanted to have our own private flickr so we can share pictures more readily. setting up an account for the hospital pictures might spur them to use the account too. maybe.

  • Ariel, I posted about your blog (with a link) on my blog, and I wanted to let you know. Couldn’t find an email contact for you so I’m writing here. If it’s not OK with you I’ll take the post down.

  • Rain says:

    Can I just say that I always love getting a notification that you’ve posted! I am always so curious to hear your thoughts.

    I know that we have the only pictures of Cadet from the hospital. Ms J wasn’t in a position to take them. I’ve shared them with her. I made sure that I sent her several photos with just Cadet in them, so she can remember him as he was, without our presence.

    As an adoptive mom, I would cherish any photos…no matter how blurry or emotional. They represent your time with your child. And I would hope that his adoptive parents would want to share that with him.

    It may be possible that C and L are nervous about being more open with you, just as you’re nervous too. I know that when we had the option to approach Ms J about writing her more directly and openly, McRuger and I were terrified that she wouldn’t want us in her lives. We were scared of invading her privacy or that our more frequent letters would make her upset. In fact, McRuger didn’t want to press for more contact. He was certain that she would reach out to us if she wanted that. I wasn’t so sure, and made the first move. And I’m glad I did, because Ms J told us that she didn’t know how to ask for more contact and was scared of losing us in her legal troubles.

    When I write Ms J letters now, it can take days to write one letter. I am so worried that something I say or don’t say will cause her to not like us or not want to be in Cadet’s life (I know, that’s crazy)

    Of course, I don’t know C and L, but I think setting up some sort of shared photo site (or blog) might be a great way of getting started with more openness.

    Those are just my thoughts! No matter what, you need to do what you feel comfortable with.


    PS, I would love for you to do a guest post on my blog at some point. I think your point of view is so honest and unique. If you’re interested, e-mail me at rainsthoughts at gmail dot com.

    • thank you for your comment! i love the shared photo site idea and this may be the only opportunity i have to initiate it.

      i have no idea what i would write in a guest post. i e-mailed you about that.

  • Carlos says:

    Your right to have the feelings you have. You gave up your son and it would hurt me to see pictures of yiu and the baby.

  • Kris says:

    I am an adoptive mother. My daughter is from Russia so we have no pictures before about age 7 months. The main reason it bothers me is because my daughter is sad she does not have newborn pictures of herself and almost certainly never will.

    You are not obligated in any way to send any pictures you don’t want to. They are your pictures and depict your time with your son. They don’t belong to anyone else. Think of which pictures you think your son would enjoy looking at as he grows up. Those are the ones I would send.

  • freebairn says:

    I love what Robin C said and never considered any of that! Great perspectives there! I remember feeling a strong compulsion to offer to share pictures of my son’s first few days with the adoptive parents in those early years, but, then, the craziness of my life and state of mind just never did lend itself to much in terms of having it together enough to offer- much less of being able to follow through. Reading Robin’s view, it kind of makes me wish I had offered…a little…

    I completely understand the feelings you are grappling with about having offered…As the years went on, and I grappled with my feelings over my son’s adoption, I increasingly took to staunchly digging in my heels and taking to the selfish road of keeping the evidence that part of my life and my son’s time in it to myself…those pictures (besides containing a lot of nudity in those days as clothes were my nemesis after giving birth) were all that I had left of my son that was solely MINE. And I didn’t know what they would do with it, and that was a little more than I could deal with. Would they hide the pictures away and never let him see or even know they existed? It’s just a very, very hard thing…

    But now that I think about it, sending pictures of you, with your son, can be a healthy thing – and hopefully they will share the pictures with your child so that he can have that evidence of his mother’s love for him. I do really love the thought of that…and it could mean a great deal and provide some measure of comfort for your son as he grows up.

  • Adoptive mom says:

    I found pictures of the first hours of my daughters life on the Internet. I was shocked and cried buckets of tears. The photos were open to public viewing and that’s how I found them. I’m very glad to have the photos though. They were never going to give them to us by offering or us asking. I think the photos are important. Our daughter will want to see she was loved and visited and held and cared for before she was placed. We think of our daughters needs and future needs. We are trying to have a more open adoption. I can understand you wanting to keep those pictures for yourself. But please save relevant ones for your child. Chose ones that would benefit the child to see rather than worry about the adoptive parents feelings.

    • Cherry says:

      Adoptive Mom said: ‘I found pictures of the first hours of my daughters life on the Internet. I was shocked and cried buckets of tears.

      I simply don’t understand this reaction.

      Why the shock?
      Why the tears?

  • artsweet says:

    Our daughter’s birthfamily chose to share some incredibly intimate photos with us, and I will be forever grateful for that. Mostly because I will be able to share them with her as she gets older. That said, we have a more open relationship than it sounds like you have with your a-parents,,, I like the idea of sharing some of them with them for your son and also creating your own scrapbook for him.

  • terri says:

    As an adoptive parent of a newborn baby, twenty plus years ago, I know that the pictures of my son with his birth mom at birth and in later visits with her are part of his identity. We have a photo album of him (birth to 5 years old) with his original mom and several members of his extended family; he has always known he is adopted. Our son is in his twenties now and I think the pictures were important, he continues to have contact with his birth mom. One of my favorite photos is of a beaming mom holding her newborn son…she looks so proud. I think your son is lucky that he did spend time with you after his birth. If you feel comfortable, send some newborn pictures with you and your friends and family. From my perspective (and I think my son’s) I liked seeing the family resemblance and he always knew where his beautiful brown eyes, determination and smile came from.

  • Melynda says:

    “Children thirst to hear where they came from…
    they need to know that they were desired,
    that their birth was a wonder, and they were always
    the object of love and care.”

    ~ Marcelle Clements

    Ponder on Marcelle Clements’ statement for a while and then follow your heart – it will tell you what is good and right. Trust yourself as his mother, because you *are* his mother. He will want to know that his birth was a wondrous event. These precious photos are evidence of your deep love for him as you labored him into this world; they are evidence that he wasn’t just adopted, he was born.

    Sending love your way, Ariel. Be strong. Trust your heart because your heart is good.


    • melynda, i just wanted to let you know i’ve read your comment over and over. i love this quote so much, and i feel fortunate to know someone like you who is so thoughtful, compassionate, and genuine.

  • richelle78 says:

    Wow! I am an adoptive mom…Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings so candidly! We were actually part of the Dr. appointments and were there at his birth. We were so lucky to have that. But I can only imagine how difficult it was for his birth mom. She asked us to be there and asked us to stay, but I bet she would have cherished having a few days with him. That being said, I cherish meeting her family and having pictures of them with him. They are and always will be his family also.

  • teradanielle says:

    Beautiful, just absolutely beautiful…

  • Cherry says:

    My photos with my son, taken before adoptive parents were anywhere in our lives, when we were as we should have been, unbroken from each other, are so precious to me and I see them as ours – mine and my son’s alone. I gave them to him when we reunited and he treasures them too.

    • Perhaps I should not have given those pictures so freely, but there are many more photos I did not share that I plan on giving my son in the far-away future. If my son is interested in having them. I so desperately wanted my son to have pictures of us together, as evidence that I loved him and spent time holding him. I wanted him to at least have some knowledge of what David and I look like.

      I don’t know if that was the right thing to do, or if I should’ve left those pictures alone until he meets me. I do worry that my son’s parents won’t show him those pictures of us, so maybe those images will be brand-new to him if we form a relationship.

      • Cherry says:

        I hope you don’t think I was being at all critical of you, I really wasn’t.

        What I was trying to say was that, in my view, the time around birth is absolutely precious and absolutely specific to the mother and child involved. It is so personal, so intimate, so life-changing for both, so full of love (and such a specific love) that, in my view, it’s not up for public ownership no matter what anyone else might want.

        To me, the idea and practice of adoption has become like some horrible amorphous rapacious blob that consumes everything in its path. It feels important to me to hold up a hand and say ‘No, you can not have that. That is ours’. Even if it’s just about some photos. In those newly born photos, adoption with all it brings had not yet happened and nothing about being a mother and baby had been interrupted or intruded upon.

        When my son was adopted (in the era of closed adoptions), two photographs went with him of me cuddling him as he snuggled in. Years later, as we simultaneously searched for each other, our matching set of photos helped us to find each other again.

        I’m glad you kept some photos back. I think it’s important that some things remain just yours and his. I do understand too about wanting him to see pictures of you loving him – I get that too.

      • “To me, the idea and practice of adoption has become like some horrible amorphous rapacious blob that consumes everything in its path.”

        YES THIS. I’m very glad I never allowed myself to be pressured into having the adoptive parents present at the birth. It’s disgusting how commonplace that is. I’ve even heard of moms who never hold the baby, the a-mother instantly snatches them and the a-father cuts the cord. How is that okay?!?!?

        I’m fine with being criticized even if that wasn’t your intention. The thing about having chosen adoption is that there will always be things to apologize for and things I don’t do correctly. I’m never going to be innocent and in the clear.

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