I Don't Like Adoption Maternity Photos. Here's Why. Please Share Your Thoughts As Well

I don't care for "adoption maternity photos." Here's why.
Click here and take a look at these photos. A very talented photographer created a "Metaphorical Adoption Maternity Portrait Series" with a couple who was in the process of adopting. Before I dive in, a few thoughts: The photographer is talented and the couple in the photos is nauseatingly cute/attractive, right? So, I saw these photos the other day when I was directed to a post with horrifying, cringe-worthy, oh-my-heck-I-need-to-wash-my-eyes-out-with-bleach awkward maternity photos, complied by Pregnant Chicken. (Warning: these might not be safe for work. They might not be safe if you're eating. They might not be safe for your eyes in general. But they are FUNNY! You've been warned!) The awkward maternity photos were hilarious because while I have seen plenty of tasteful maternity photos, I've seen some that left me thinking, "What were they thinking?!" Inspired by the entertaining pregnancy photos, Katie, author of Jejune, took the above photos, as well as several more (click on the link above the photos to see the full series), and shared them on her blog. Her friends were in the adoption process -- one that most adoptive parents know is long and difficult -- and was inspired to do a semi-humorous photos shoot to nicely poke fun at the insanity that is many pregnancy photos. She shares:
As you can imagine, a sense of humor is integral. And, at some point, Alana got the idea of taking a few metaphorical maternity photos, starring a large beach ball in lieu of a pregnant belly. This, after a couple of Google searches, led to the wide, bizarre, pretentious, tacky, often-naked, and always moodily black-and-white world of maternity portrait photography. And creative inspiration.
I get it. Trust me, I do. I have a wicked sense of humor, one that some people don't get. I'm very sarcastic, snarky and can see the ridiculous (and enjoy mocking it) in many things, with the exception of race, disability and -- sometimes -- adoption. When my editor came across the same photos and suggested them as a good topic for a blog post, I sort of wanted to hide under the blanket that was on my lap (as I sat on my couch working...in my pajamas...at 3:00 p.m.). I mistakenly assumed I had to think they were awesome and great and the best things ever! to post about them. And because I won't post dishonestly, I wanted to say, "NO!" As it turns out, it's okay to find something -- that most people probably think is cool or funny -- off-putting, have an opinion about it and share it here (also, I have a cool editor). Well, here's what I think about these photos. I don't like them. 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. Like this: 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. We arrive at the parenting part in a very different manner. I recognize that. Personally, that is not a big deal to me. I do understand I might by atypical because my husband and I don't have any fertility issues (at least that I know of!) and we made a very deliberate choice to adopt. We were very, very careful to avoid pregnancy until we reached a point where we were comfortable removing the option altogether (use your imagination, but my husband took one for the team, good guy that he is!). I hate when people make assumptions and judgments about why others adopt. This isn't the place to share my family's reasons for adopting, which are multifaceted and complex (and not all sunshine and rainbows), although I do talk about that on my blog. Regardless of my lack of a need to experience "pregnancy" through adoption -- even if I wanted to -- 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. No matter how my kids feel about their birth/first moms one day (even if they don't ever get to meet them), those women gave them life. I completely understand the sentiments of the photographer (whose friends -- the ones she photographed -- were in the adoption process). For example, she says,
I’ve witnessed some of the more excruciatingly difficult and exquisitely painful moments that accompany the adoption process, while coming to terms with just how little most of us really understand about it. And it seems like one big part of being adoptive parents, no matter to whom, is having to play the role of benevolent public educator to an ignorant public who will take the existence of your children as some kind of personal challenge or display of moral one-upmanship. And then there’s the obnoxious questions that will always follow them: why can’t you have children of your own? Don’t you know that they’re going to wonder why they look different from you? How much did they cost? Why didn’t their mother want them? What if there’s something wrong with them? What are you going to do with That Hair? You are going to induce lactation, aren’t you?
Oh, yes, I hear you! It makes me happy to hear those who are close to adoptive families talk about the insane things others say to us, to our children. I cannot tell you how often I am asked if these kids -- my son from Vietnam and my daughter from Ethiopia, who are 18 months apart -- are twins.

(Photo credit: Edward Willard, originally posted on my personal blog)

Often, people ask if they are twins AFTER they ask their ages and learn that they are two and three years old. REALLY? So, yes, we put up with a lot. So do/will our children. Far more than us. But in my mind, one has nothing to do with the other. And like I said, do NOT accuse me of lacking a sense of humor. If you knew me, you'd know that's anything but true. I was born and raised into a family with senses of humor that might even go too far. My husband is the same. Our children are turning out the same - at two and three, my kids are funny! But not all things in life are funny to me. There's my opinion! I would really, really like to hear from others -- biological moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, adults who were adopted as children...share you thoughts. And like I said, a differing opinion is what makes the world go around. ***Updated: the subjects of the photographs contacted us and asked that we remove the photos, which we have done. If they are no longer accessible on the original website, the couple used a beach ball (in lieu of a pregnant belly) to simulate pregnancy and posed for several "maternity style" photos. 

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