Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paper Pregnancy, Country Ultrasounds, Faux Maternity Photos

Have you seen this one?
What about this one?
And this one?
At Pregnancy & Baby, adoptive mom Laura Willard talks about these kinds of images, and a new one for me, adoption "maternity" photos taken with a beach ball in lieu of belly:
I don’t talk about adoption too often here because this is a Pregnancy and Baby blog, but as I’ve shared several times, I’m the mom to two young kids who came to me through international adoption. My learning curve about adoption and the intricacies has been steep. I have a very different understanding and knowledge of what is involved in adoption, and it’s a whole lot more than “getting a baby.”

There are so many issues to discuss. But I’ll try to remain focused for this post! Society seems to do their best to liken pregnancy to adoption for the adoptive parents’ benefit. We have a need for “sameness” and to make everyone feel good. I have no idea why! Adoptive parents are validated every. single. day. Mainly, by the act of parenting. But also by so many people around us. I spend too much of my time at the grocery store correcting strangers who want to validate me.

So, people want sameness. Except I don’t think photos like this make birth/first moms feel good. They might make adoptive parents feel “normal” and part of the pregnancy experience…but we’re not.

To me, my kids each had a mom who grew them in their bodies and then had to let them go. I had to sit around and wait, fill out paperwork and pay more money than I’m even comfortable admitting (because I believe adoption, while often well-intended and often a wonderful thing, is a money driven business, for the most part — there are always exceptions). The two experiences — giving birth and adopting — are nothing alike.

I can feel many adoptive parents shaking their heads at me, scoffing at “one of their own” criticizing us all. That’s okay. The world is full of opinions and that’s what makes it go around. I don’t like to hear the terms “paper pregnancy” and I curl up in the fetal position — no pun intended — when I see “ultrasound photos” of an intended country of adoption, occasionally complete with a little red heart.

Adoptive parents shouldn’t need things like this – or terms like “paper pregnant” — to make them significant. We are SO significant — we get to raise the children we adopt.

* * *

I think this is disrespectful to the women who actually brought our children into the world. Circumstances for relinquishment or abandonment aside — judgment aside — we owe it to our children to remain respectful. The last thing I ever want my children to think is that I care more about me or my feelings — about wanting to experience something relating to pregnancy – than I do theirs.
I think she NAILS it! Be sure to go to the original post to see the beach ball "pregnancy" photos.


Christina said...

::shudder:: Those pictures...where the HELL did I put my eye bleach???

DannieA said...

I just don't get it....of course maybe my mindset isn't like that because i'm single and I don't think I have fertility issues so not the reason I chose to adopt...but either's not the same, it's very different and I think respect of both aspects goes a long way.

Linda said...

Thank you, Laura. As an adoptee, these types of images and sayings nauseate me. They make a mockery of what my first Mother went through, and make a mockery of the pain I went through to gain a new family. Its a pain I wouldn't wish on anyone. The disrespect is unbelievable.

Those who have read my blog know I have a sense of humor and I am about as far away from being p.c. as you can get,but not at the expense of a child. How would these types feel if they saw pregnant women wearing a shirt that said, "I can make people"?

It's not clever, it's not funny. It's actually shameful and I feel sorry for any adoptee who has a parent who would wear or say anything that is as ridiculous such as "Paper Pregnant".

Amanda said...

I am refreshed by reading this perspective.

Yes, I view those things as mocking the Original Mother and family and making her insignificant. I dislike the term "birth mother," yet, we are told it is the appropriate label because "that's what she did, she give birth." Yet then we dismiss her experience and the adoptee's connection to her by acting as if the adoption process is taking her place and the event she and I, and only she and I, share together.

If biology doesn't make a family, then why can't people acknowledge that adoption is different and that the adoptive family is raising children with unique circumstances and needs? Are we focusing on the needs and losses of children when people are busy validating themselves with descriptions comparing the adoption process to birth?

Megan said...

The t-shirts and the "paper pregnancy" thing are offensive.

However, I think the beach ball thing is more mocking of the people who do the pregnancy photos than an attempt to emulate the pregnancy experience. I mean, they used a beach ball! I thought those photos were hilarious because I immediately pegged them as making fun of the pregnant photos, some of which are just downright weird no matter how you twist and turn it.

Kate said...

I have to confess, when I was in the middle of the process of adopting my son, and my more fertile friends and family were posting pictures of baby bumps, I was very tempted to stuff a pile of paperwork under my shirt and take a picture of it. But it was more like what Megan said about the couple with the beach ball - not so much making light of the losses my son and his biological faced and more lashing back at the fetishization of pregnant bellies (because many pregnant women do wear shirts like Linda described) and having lingering grief over my infertility. Not that makes it okay, just trying to explain where the impulse comes from, at least in some cases.

Laura Willard {A(n) (un)Common Family said...

Thank you so much for sharing a link to (and part of) my post at Pregnancy and Baby. I appreciate your sharing and I really like hearing the different perspectives.

Claudia said...

What Megan said. The beach ball maternity pics are definitely a joke (I read them on the original blog ages ago, and it was definitely a joke, not an attempt to pretend to be pregnant!) It's possible that the joke isn't 100% in good taste, but that's a different issue :)

Dawn said...

I both agree and disagree. And I would like to preface my comment first with 2 things- my husband is adopted and I am a woman who never was compelled to have a family the traditional way through biological means. I always knew I would adopt. With that said- I do not find the term paper pregnant (and nor does my husband) offensive. At all. Not everything is meant to trivialive every experience and sometimes I feel in the adoption world people become overly sensitive to too way much. I find the term simply as a way to be able to explain the paperchase process (and I think it is kind of metaphorically accurate) and to help relate to others who have not adopted. YES we are going through a different experience but there is NO PROBLEM with trying to relate to others.

As for the beach ball photos and sonogram tees and pics- I think they are tacky and in poor taste whether someone was expecting a child biologically or through the amazing experience of adoption. But that's just me.

Anonymous said...

I too see this with a different perspective and agree in part with Dawn; or simply that not every action taken by an PAP or their collection of family and friends is meant to mock or trivialize First Families or adopted children.

Let me back up a bit: I am an adult adoptee (overseas) who is NOT infertile, married and is currently adopting(waiting) from my country of origin.

When we announced our intention to adopt, we each received (as gifts) t-shirts similiar to the ones shared on this post. I don't for one moment believe they were meant in disrespect. Nor did we receive them as such.

While its true we have not used or intend to use the phrase "Paper Pregnant" I disagree with Laura that such terms are only used to connote "sameness" as she asserts.

I think there are probably as many reasons for wearing that type of tee or using those catch phrases as their are adoptive families/stories.

I think maybe she knows better than to lump an entire group into one category, tied neatly with a bow and call it a day. Isn't that what so many adult adoptees and Bio. Moms scorn? That very need to margionalize one person's voice or perspective.

For us......we may or may not wear the t-shirts, but I can tell you its not because we fear it may disrespect our child or his/her biological family; we will wear or not wear it because its a personal choice.

Frankly I would wish for our child to understand that the process we undertook was intentional and something we greatly anticpated with both pride and joy.

If a t-shirt or fake ultrasound does that for someone, then who am I to judge them?

Just sign me:

Not so concerned with Political Correctness in Philly

Anonymous said...

As if purchasing a child is "fashionable". Ya, right.

Linda said...

to anon in Philly:

"Frankly I would wish for our child to understand that the process we undertook was intentional and something we greatly anticpated with both pride and joy."

Adoptees get that. But your joy & intention really does not matter. The child's feelings matter. And there isn't a catch-phrase in the world that can take away the pain of losing our first family and issues due to being raised by strangers. Your joy and process to obtain a child just don't matter.

travelmom and more said...

When we were waiting for our first adoption I posted the ultrasound photo on my website, I thought it was cute and not a way to equate my experience with being pregnant. I wasn't thinking of sameness, nor was I trying to offend my child's birth mother. To be honest I never thought of the ultrasound in those terms at all, it was more a way to express the process of adoption to those who had no idea what we were doing. I also thought that when I look at baby books they all have ultrasounds and I wanted my daughter’s book to have one too. None of these actions were intended to offend or alienate the birth parents. I didn’t adopt due to infertility problems, so feeling sameness wasn’t an issue for me, but I understand why it might be for many. I also wanted my adoption experience to be as normal as possible, just because I was adopting didn’t mean that I didn’t want both my child and myself to have as normal experience as possible. And I think the tacky t-shirts and beach ball photos are a way to connect with others and to normalize an experience that is anything but normal, it may also be a way to mourn not being pregnant and the loss of one’s womanhood. Being pregnant is the single biggest expression of being a woman so to try to reconcile the loss of that by someone who is struggling with infertility by making correlations doesn’t seem unreasonable.
Additionally, I think that learning about adoption and all the complexities of the triad is something that takes time and something that most adoptive parents don’t start to do until they are home with their children and are processing the enormity of raising healthy kids. At the start of our adoption process I didn't think much about the birth parents at all, my thinking was more about notarizing papers and getting finger print checks. I didn't start thinking about the realization of the lives I was going to be involved in on a deep level until much later.
Adoption is a process for everyone I think we need to be a little less judgmental and a little more supportive of people in all parts of the triad trying to reconcile our understanding of adoption. I have had feelings of love and anger of empathy and disgust toward my daughter’s birth parents and birth country and I imagine my roller coaster of emotions is not going to end any time soon. As my children process their stories I will continue to struggle with the best way to help them grieve their loss and understand the circumstances of their adoption. We just adopted our second child and right now I am thinking about diapers, sleep, attachment and sibling rivalry and in a few months I will be ready to think about the larger issues surrounding his abandonment, care, his birth parents and all the other issues this blog makes me question on a daily basis. I have had time to think about these things in relation to my daughter, she is five now and we are talking about her birthparents and her orphanage and the care she got. Did I make mistakes according to all the judging critics out there about why, how, from where we adopted when we started, yah! Am I going to continue to make mistakes, most likely? But I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about this process, I am not in the business to offend nor pander to others; that is not my goal. My goal is to learn and grow and try to help my kids navigate their world. If I committed a cardinal sin of posting a mock- ultrasound on my blog so be it.

Sandy said...

Why do PAPS need to wear any t-shirt referencing an upcoming adoption?

"Paper Pregnant" is repugnant to me as well as any of the other items noted.

As repugnant to me as the PAPS being part of the birth. It takes away that precious time between mother (and father) and child and makes it into a three-ring circus.

All of the above is simply designed to create the illusion of 'as if' when the reality and truth is 'differnet'.

Side note...
Anyone who has fertility issues would be deeply offended by a t-shirt worn by a pregnant women that said "I don't have fertility issues - I'm pregnant" so why would people not assume the same offense would be taken by mothers from a t-shirt that said "Paper Pregnant"?

Lindsay said...

Funny (actually ironic), but I saw these photos this morning on another blog (before I came here). I agree completely with the author...could not have said it better.

Sylvia said...

I agree with Dawn, but I think it is because our motivation to adopt is similar. I am choosing not to be pregnant, so there are no feelings for me of wanting to replicate or fill a void. To me there are many feelings that I am experiencing in my adoption journey that are identical to when I experienced pregnancy with my son. I see a real similarity to the trimesters, the whole process of the journey. I understand why this can be seen as marginalizing the first family and their experience, but for me I guess I feel that first mom and I may be sharing a lot of the same hopes and fears right now, and some that are very different too.
The photo of the ultrasound represents for me a visualization something to love and fawn over something to send all your good wishes to. I wish this could be a photo of first mom, but I will never have that. I just wanted some representation of this time when my baby is not yet born, that represents this time that she is with first mom, and the link we all share.

Anonymous said...

@ Linda ~

Ah duh! I get that as an adult adoptee myself. But you see I don't troll around looking for reasons and excuses to hijack another's perspective.

Do you honestly believe an infant or toddler cares if their parent wears such a tee??

Come on!

Or is the opposite true then also? Someone who shuns such tees, phrases, etc. embodies GREAT in touch adoptive parenting??? Just because they don't wear the shirts or use whatever phrase is considered off color currently! And geesh it changes all the time!

How about prepared, intentional, loving parenting? Tees or no tees.

My point was to not lump all motives and experiences together.

Anonymous said...

Anon number...well, lost track!! LOL

BUT I applaud TravelMom and More for her insightful thoughts!

I think she summed it up for many us who are just trying to do the best we can given so many fluctuating circumstances; and I thank her for that!!

Also Anon. in Philly ~ thank you for sharing your perspectives too and don't let Linda tell you otherwise. Your feelings count too even though you might not be seen as......'towing the common line' among adult adoptees.

How sad she would need to lash out at an another Adult Adoptee. Cuz guess what? She's wrong....

In YOUR case it really IS about YOU AND the child you hope to adopt!! AND just like you tried to say.....NOT everyone's experiences, motives, journeys, etc. are the same!

DannieA said...

honestly, while most people thought the beach ball photos were funny, I didn't like them.

I've had people close to me in tears when they were in their later stages of pregnancy because they thought they were ugly and that their spouse/partner would never have sex with them again....sometimes the fact that their significant others did a maternity photo shoot or took pictures of their belly with their own cameras were the ONLY way they felt like they still were beautiful. I don't think some people get that...sure maternity photos are now trendy, but for a couple of friends of mine, they were self-esteem boosters...I would NEVER make fun of that.

Dawn said...

@ Sandy- Why do PAP need to wear a shirt advertising their adoption?

Why do pregnant women need to wear a shirt with cutesy phrases like future Boston red Sox player on their tummy? While I may not agree with it, it is because they are EXCITED and PROUD.

YES there is a large component to adoption that involves loss but we don't know at face value what these PAP who are sporting these tees have done to prepare themselves and their children for these incredibly painful and difficult discussions. But right now they are looking forward at the exciting prospect of expanding their family.

Let's be honest here- we already get so much judgement from our families and people who are NOT in the adoption community. Do we really need to start passing it onto each other when we do not know the facts?

How about a little support for once?

What is important is not a small picture on a tee shirt (which I don't partake in but so what) or a phrase (which I will continue to use) but how we adress our children's needs. Physical, emotional. The good and the bad that they will experience. Not a darn tee shirt. That's my two cents for what it is worth.

Sandy said...


Some things should not be part of adoption.

Any of those shirts - qualify.

I don't see very many PAPS talking about the loss side most simply are talking about becoming parents and fulfilling their dreams.

The shirts are tacky. My opinion I would be ashamed to find out my mom wore one, but she wouldn't have because of who she is so it is a moot point.

Dawn said...

I do not see an issue with making adoption more relatable to the public. To me this is sort of hypocritical of us- we want understanding and less judgement on the challenges our children are facing, on our parenting decisions, and say that no one can understand, but when the community does something to make the process more relatable to obtain undertanding and relatability from the masses- it is horrible!

Where I spend my time I have seen and felt more of the "doom and gloom" of adoption. Attachment issues, loss, depression, RAD, are discussed daily, openly. So I think there could be more room for more positive stories.

So I would disagree. From my experience. And I do think positivity is HUGE. And knowing that you fulfilled your dreams is important. Don't belittle that. It is not the most important compnent by far! No where near. (the child is obviously) But when you see and hear about the strugles children and their families face every day, yes I think their is room for physical displays of excitement- even IF they are tacky to me. And you. Clearly they are not to them. And that is what matters.

Sandy said...


You are speaking to someone who's parents adopted simply because they were asked to provide a love and a home for a child who needed one - really needed one...a real story of what adoption is supposed to be about - finding a family for a child instead of finding a child for a family to fulfill their dreams.

I do not see any positive vibes over the celebration that one more child has to enter the world of adoption and be labelled forever an adoptee and that is what proudly and excitedly wearing a "Paper Pregnant" t-shirt says to me.

Kim said...

I mean, they used a beach ball! I thought those photos were hilarious because I immediately pegged them as making fun of the pregnant photos, some of which are just downright weird no matter how you twist and turn it.

I don't think pregnant photos are weird, it's wonderful to have a photo of yourself when you are pregnant. I cherish the photos I have of when I was pregnant despite the fact that I didn't come home from the hospital with my baby. There is nothing weird or sinister about photographing special times in your life that are rare and magical.

I am wondering if you yourself cannot get pregnant? Then I would understand having a negative perspective on pregnant photos.

I love the post too, I love this blog. Thank you for always thinking about how first mothers feel and for honouring us so respectfully.

Robin said...

Linda wrote:
"Adoptees get that. But your joy & intention really does not matter. The child's feelings matter. And there isn't a catch-phrase in the world that can take away the pain of losing our first family and issues due to being raised by strangers. Your joy and process to obtain a child just don't matter."

Thank you, Linda. I totally agree! You really hit the nail on the head.

Linda said...

To anon 1 & 2- You have completely missed the point. I wasn't lashing out at nameless in Philly. The fact is adoption is supposed to be about what a child needs- NOT about the ap.

And for the record, I don't tow ANY "line" but my own. I will judge people who wear this type of garbage, because clearly, they have not resolved their infertility issues. And to wear them because it's a trend? Well, there are some trends that should not happen- like adopting "just because that's the way you choose to build your family." I mean, really- who does that, when they know how corrupt adoption is? Tell that to the kids from Guatemala who were kidnapped and sold into adoption. Im sure that ultrasound pic of Guatemala pretty much makes them sick.

Duh- the way a person chooses to dress is usually not an indicator of how they would parent. But, if adoptees (overall) are offended by this type of disrespect, why would they even take a chance? My a Mom was not paper pregnant, just as I am not a paper woman. I have another set of real parents and adoption traumatized them as well. This has nothing to do with being pc. It has to do with caring about the people for whom adoption affected the most.

But so many times, adopters think it's all about them. It's not. These are the types who throw lavish "gotcha day" parties, too. It's twisted. Not may kids want to eat cake and celebrate the loss of their families, countries, culture, traditions, heritage, language, etc.

@Dawn- "Do we really need to start passing it onto each other when we do not know the facts?

How about a little support for once?"

Yes, yes we do. And we should. I know the facts for myself and for many other adoptees. But as many of here (and in the ap online community in general) have shown, you do not want the facts from any adoptee who doesn't "tow YOUR line". Support from online ap's? Ha! Not likely. Hopefully, your adoptive kids will have support when they find their voices. They will from other adoptees....unless of course they become adopters themselves.

Adoption will never be the same as having your own child. Childbirth and pregnancy are natural, adoption is a legal procedure. There SHOULD be judgment. Adoption (in this way) should NOT be "relatable to the public". It makes a mockery of the pain involved.

My ap's didn't have to wear a trendy shirt to prove they were parents. They just were....and they also have a great sense of fashion.

Dawn said...

I don't ever want to trivialize an adoptees feelings, especially my own child's. But I also command the same respect. How I "choose" to come into my family is not to be belittled, especially when I have stated that I do not have infertility issues. And I know many with infertility issues- and from what I understand it is incredibly gut wrenching and filled with loss so compassion should be awarded them as well. You don't know the reasons why I have come down this path. Nor my husband's. And when Sandy said it is about finding a family for a child I wholeheartedly agree. That is and always WILL be the main priority. I have never argued that. But it DOES go both ways. The family shares (as much as they can) the joy and pain and experience the adoptee will as well. At least this is what my husband tells me. I understand it is differnet for every individual.

What I disagree with is that an AP can wear a (tacky) shirt and be both happy and sad at the way a child will be coming into their home, knowing those circumstances. Life is full of conflicts and complexities and this is one of them.

I will NEVER ever trivialize my child's feelings or another adoptees. I know that you will go through an experience that we can never empathize with. What I want to do is learn so I can be the best parent to my daughter. But what I am trying to do here is show that this gesture, while in poor taste, is of the best intentions.

I think any article that allows for great discussion like this in the adoption community is a terrific one.

And the reaosn I thought it would be good for adoption to be more understood and relatable by the public was so my future child would have less disstressful encounters that would be heartwrenching. I hear daily about incredibly rude, hurtful things that are said to adoptees and most of it comes from ignorance and a lack of education on the matter. If I can help to remove that pain from my daughter's life then I think that would be good. Because I cannot give her back her birthfamily, remove the fact that she will be abandoned, that she will strugle with other issues related to that.

But I do think it is unfair to make the leap that because we are choosing the adoption path that potentially our future child has been kidnapped from their families. Again- you do not know my situation and we are all aware of the corruption.

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle- Plato

Dawn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mei Ling said...

I'd just like to chime in that I see a lot of talk about intentions.

I will just say that intentions are not magic. The intentions are important to the doer - but the receiver is being acted upon. So the results are dependent on how the receiver perceives things.

Most people have the compassion when being acted upon to *know* xyz was done in best of intentions.

But when it comes to adoption, knowing "best of intentions" actually means the child ended up being in a lesser economic and emotional situation than the one they should have been born to in the first place - no amount of intention can take that away.

Yes, there is compassion with intentions.

There also needs to be compassion *beyond* intentions.

Sandy said...


When domestic adoption agencies list on the front page for PAPs as a reason to sign with them...wait for it...

We spend over $1 Million per year agressively advertising for "birth mothers"...

Then you know that adoption is NOT about finding a family for a child it is about finding a child for a family.

Adoption as it is practiced today both domestically (note above) and internationally where when one country closes due to massive corruption and a new country opens and suddenly has a vast unending supply of "infants" the obvious answer is corruption. We have all seen it time after time after time.

Adoption as it is practiced today has to change and the ones with the power to make that change are the PAPs and APs.

PAPs who chose not to adopt infants from those noted above but rather choose a well regulated program internationally or through foster care or some of the ethical smaller agencies without the pressures - there fine...the rest...not so much.

Promoting adoption has to be carefully managed to take the entitlement out of it and educate about only adopting those who are truly in need who cannot return or stay with their family of birth. Wearing Paper Pregnant t-shirts does not do the latter - it does the former.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised by the perspective in many of these comments. I always perceived that the reason the China ultrasound picture and t-shirt are offensive is that it reduces China to a big baby-factory for the west. It's where you go get a baby. No hint of the extraordinarily complex issues involved. It only shows the AP's perspective: here's where I'm getting my baby.

LisaLew said...

OMG! JUST.... OMG!!! Do these people not realize their children will view these pictures and feel totally invalidated???!!!

Anonymous said...

Did anyone ever consider that these types of t-shirts might not always offend others, but actually make them think...."Good more people are adopting"? Or consider the fact that although adopting should be about the child being adopted, it's ok for the adoptive parent to be allowed to express some joy in the process? My husband and I are infertile with no possibility of having a pregnancy....I'm 27 and every time I turn around one of my friends is pregnant. I am full of joy that we are adopting for the second time (from foster care) but that doesn't mean that I don't sometimes grieve over the fact that I cannot experience a pregnancy. I highly doubt that a child who was adopted would be offended by these t-shirts, and I certainly hope that an adult who was adopted would offer up the understanding that the intention of the t-shirt wearing PAP was not to offend but rather to shout their joy to the world that they are excited about meeting the child they will be adopting. Some things need to simply be simple. Over analyzing can often damage the meaning of a message.....Pregnant women who wear t-shirts about pregnancy don't offend me because I know they are excited about their new child,and the t-shirt says so, simple as that...... So why can't mine?

Anonymous said...

funny...I found this post while trying to find one of the ultraound pics for Korea after seeing an Ethiopia one on a blog. I agree with the posters who say it is not to intend that they are the same as pregnancy, just something we thought was cute to celebrate/ share our process of bringing a child into our family.