Before I start, first head on over to the First Mother Forum and read the rage levied at everyone over there from 16 and Pregnant reality TV star, Tyler Baltierra (of Catelynn and Tyler fame). If you don’t know who he is, he and his girlfriend are the current poster children for Bethany Christian Services and the adoption industry in general. They have starred on every season of Teen Mom and were in the original series, 16 and Pregnant. They are first parents.
I have commented over at FMF but I still have so much grrrrrr left in me that I need to vent it out. And so…vent commencing…
An Open Letter to Tyler Baltierra
I have tremendous empathy for you, Tyler and Catelynn, really I do. I was once a newborn first mother trying desperately to justify giving away my son. Had I read FMF back then, I probably would have been angry at first too. FMF does not discuss the virtues of adoption. It is not all rainbows and unicorn farts (which smell like cherry lemonade by the way) over there. Loraine and Jane are in the trenches, talking about the hard topics, trying to make a difference. If just one scared pregnant mother reads through FMF and decided to raise their child, it is well worth their efforts. Tyler, calling these women bitter and ignorant is incorrect. Angry about the adoption industry, for sure. Ignorant of it, absolutely not. The word ignorant does not apply here. In fact, Tyler, I am unsure if you really know what the word, ignorant, means. It seems that you believe it to mean: does not agree with Tyler. Many people disagree with me, but they are not all ignorant, although I would like to believe they are. It might be helpful to have the actual definition in front of you. Just click on ignorant and voila!
I think it’s great that you now know the last names of the people raising your daughter and their address. I haven’t kept up much with your reality show, but last I saw neither of these things were true. I’m glad your daughter’s parents decided to give you this information. However, this minor detail (sarcasm intended) probably should have been discussed with Dawn (oh I’ll get to her in a minute) before you handed over your child. In all actuality, in most cases, open adoptions tend to start to shut but it seems yours is going in the other direction which is wonderful.
In the next paragraph you say you are fully aware that the a-parents can close the adoption at any time and that is apparently fine with you. You say you chose them and they have complete control. Wowzers. I’m not sure that most people would be okay with others exerting that much control over their lives. I’m not quite sure I believe that you would be okay with Carly’s parents deciding to close all communication with you and moving to another country. You go on to say that you have FAITH and then proceed to define FAITH as, “believing in something when everyone surrounding you tells you not to”. It seems to me that everyone around YOU in particular was/is counting on you and Catelynn having faith that things will turn out wonderful. I’m not sure that I would rely on having faith when it came to having on going communication with my child. I think by faith, you mean that you truly have no alternative at this point but to believe the a-parents. I mean, you can’t do anything about it now if they chose to close the adoption. I sincerely hope that doesn’t happen, for Carly’s sake. You should know that her a-parents have plenty of reasons to close it at this point, primarily the fact that you and Catelynn could be seen as doing harm to Carly’s mental health by appearing on a reality show centered around her adoption. Just keep that in mind.
You say that you researched “everything about adoption” prior to making your decision. So let me get this straight, you knew beforehand that the best thing for an infant is to stay with its mother. You knew about the life long repercussions for Carly even if she had a wondrous, rainbow filled life? You knew that there was no guarantee that the adoption would stay open? You knew how much money BCS would be making off of your daughter if you placed her? If all of that is true, I commend you because I certainly did not have any of that information nor was it offered to me by my “counselor”.
Now onto the reality tv portion of this diatribe. You say that no one knows everything about your life just because you were on tv. I agree. However, isn’t the purpose of you being on reality tv to show us, the viewer, how adoption is affecting your lives? If not, I’m just not getting it. You really can’t have it both ways. You can’t act all shaken and angry when someone comments on your VERY PUBLIC personal life. It is your choice to be in the public eye. You make money from being in the public eye. You should be aware that there will be scrutiny. Welcome to the 21st century.
Some of the comments on FMF refer to Dawn, your counselor extraordinaire. If you haven’t already, you both really need to go to a therapist or counselor that is separate from your adoption agency. Dawn had a vested interest in getting your daughter. She is employed by the agency, she earns a paycheck from the agency. Ask yourself if she would still be employed by that agency if she failed to convince women to give up their children. She also has a vested interest in you and Catelynn being vocal supporters of the adoption industry. She has no vested interest in your ACTUAL well being. She is the agency. She needs you to stay positive and vocal about adoption. You are their spokesperson and they MAKE MONEY FROM YOU being positive about adoption. Adoption agencies make money from adoption. A lot of money. Billions of dollars in fact. Please understand this and be informed. Whether or not you did the right thing for Carly in the long run, they still make money from you. Don’t let them use you both like this. Don’t let them profit from your misery. The Adoption Industry is making money from convincing women they are making a selfless decision and choosing a loving option. In what other context is giving a child away selfless or loving?
Lastly, I need to address why I, personally, take issue with you and Catelynn. People take issue with your circumstance because you are using it to coerce other birth parents into giving away their child. And since I am a birth mother, no I did not make an adoption plan, I gave my son away. No amount of positive adoption language is going to change that. If I may ask, how many birth mothers who have given their children up for adoption 10 plus years ago are ever present in your support groups or panel discussions? Close to zero, I’d wager. Do you ever wonder why that is so? These are very important questions to ask yourselves.
Please, at the very least, do some research into adult adoptee issues. Listen to the people who have gone before you, listen to their truths. Consider the facts and decide if you and Catelynn really want to be a part of contributing to the misery of other children and their birth parents by touting the virtues of adoption. Don’t react, take a deep breath, and seek out the truth of adoption. It will be painful to read what others have to say, but it will be worth it.
Catelynn and Tyler are Adoption Industry Pawns
No, my open letter is probably not the kindest. I do empathize with them to a point. However I do harbor my fair share of anger at them for being pawns in the war against scared expectant mothers. In my view, a woman who is truly sure that adoption is the right choice for her isn’t going to give a crap what the Tyler and Catelynns of the world say. It’s the women who are scared and unsure that I worry about. It’s the women who are so much like I was that break my heart. They need someone to guide them in the other direction, not toward adoption. They don’t need newly made first parents singing from the hilltops about adoption, they need fully versed first parents like Loraine and Jane to tell them what they may not want to hear, but what they NEED to hear.
Information is power. When armed with information a birth mother has the power she needs to make an informed decision. When information is withheld from birth mothers about the long-term effects of relinquishment on both herself and her child, can it really be said that she made a choice? Is it a choice when she is not presented with every avenue she can utilize to raise her child?
Adoption Truths: Whose Responsibility is it?
When adoption “counselors” present only skewed information it gives the illusion to the birth mother that she is making an informed decision. A birth mother trusts that the “counselor” is looking out for her best interests and the best interests of her child. She is already scared and unsure of her ability to parent. When she seeks out counseling in other scenarios, i.e. depression, anxiety, she can safely assume that the counselor is going to help her and do so with her well-being in mind. She would assume that an adoption counselor would have the same code of ethics. The problem is that most adoption “counselors” have a vested interest in a mother giving up her child. The counselor in this scenario is employed by the adoption agency and this is unethical.
The counter argument to this would be that it is the mother’s responsibility to seek out and understand all the nuances of adoption. She needs to educate herself on all the possible outcomes for herself and her child. That it is not the agency’s responsibility to talk a mother out of adoption.
Let’s take this out of the adoption context for a moment. Imagine a 17-year-old boy who is told by his doctor that he has a heart condition. His doctor has told him there are 2 options, he can either have surgery or he can attempt to control his condition with medication. Whose responsibility is it to explain to this boy all of the side effects, all of the possible outcomes, what the dangers of each choice entails? Should it be the boy’s responsibility to research and educate himself on all the possibilities? What if his doctor has only told him all of the positive outcomes of surgery without informing him of the negative outcomes or not explored in-depth the medication option? Take it one step further, what if his doctor actually gives him misinformation about his condition? None of these things would be ethical. The boy would not be able to make an informed decision. Is that true choice?
Am I the Face of True Choice?
For years I had thought I made a true choice. I thought that I had chosen to give my child a better life. I was scared and naive. I was told that yes, I would be sad for a long time, but someday I would have children of my own. I was told that giving my son to his adoptive parents was the best option because they were stable and would give my son the best life. I was not informed of the possible long term effects of adoption for my son. I was not told about the myriad programs out there to help me succeed in raising my son. I was offered so called counseling that only focused on the adoption option. I was not informed of the long term effects to myself. I was not offered therapy or support groups. I was continually told how wonderful adoption is, how it is a gift, how it is selfless. I was not told that his parents could stop sending me photos and updates at any time (which they did). I was dropped like a hot potato after relinquishing my son. There was no follow up. I wanted to believe I had made a true choice because the other side of it was unthinkable. It turns out I gave my son up without being fully knowledgeable about all my options. He was my son, my blood, my love, my family and I gave him away.
Real Choices Need Real Information
For adoption to be a true, ethical choice the adoption industry needs to employ truth and transparency. It should be their responsibility to present all possible outcomes to prospective birth mothers. It should be their responsibility to present every possible option available to mothers so that they can parent their children. A mother should be counseled by a professional who has zero vested interest in the outcome. A mother should have at her disposal her own attorney that also has no vested interest an there needs to be no conflict of interest. It is only when the truth is presented to a mother that she can truly make a real choice about adoption.
When I gave my son up for adoption I was led to believe that he would have no feelings of abandonment. I was led to believe that he would be “as if” born to his new parents. It was my understanding that it would be best to sign the relinquishment papers as soon as possible (here in Connecticut you can not sign until 48 hours after the birth). I wanted him to bond immediately with his parents so that he would not feel abandoned by me. I thought that “trying to parent” him would be detrimental to his mental health. I did not want him to go to cradle care because I wanted him to feel safe with his new parents. I was led to believe that if I did not sign at the 48 hour mark, there was no guarantee that he could be adopted by anyone and he might be forced to live in foster care. I assumed that he would have no emotional attachment to me, his mother. It turns out, I may have been very wrong.
The Separation of Adoptee and Mother Can Be Traumatic
Karl Stenske has written a thought provoking article at Adoptive Voices Magazine, entitled, “Adoptee View: What Can a Tiny Baby Know?” Here is a little about the author:
Karl Stenske shares a rich and compelling story as an adoptee. Being one of the many who had a great adopted family, he never thought being adopted had a big effect on his life. But at 37, Karl began to unravel the true impact adoption did have on his life and the lives of those who loved, and tried to love him. A sought after speaker and educator, Karl offers insights into the wounds created when any child is separated from his birth mother. In The Hidden Life of an Adopted Child: Understanding the Impact of Adoption, Karl explores the traumatic experience suffered by that separation and its influence on self-esteem, value, worth, and identity.
His article describes how adoption is not only a trauma to the birth mother, but also to the adoptee. We have no way of knowing this because a baby has no language. He can’t tell us what he is feeling except by crying or lack of crying. It stands to reason that if a baby knows their biological mother through smell or their voice that if they are taken away from their mother they would mourn. It must be traumatic, being taken away from everything you have ever known.
Stenske also goes on to explain that many adoptees carry this trauma with them throughout their lives. Sometimes without ever realizing that their fear of abandonment, depression, relationship issues, low self-esteem, etc. could stem from the original trauma of being given up for adoption. It is troubling to learn that the incidence of attempted suicide is higher in the adoptee population than in the general population (7.6% vs. 3.1%) as reported by a 2001 study*.
Adoptee Trauma Must Be Part of the Conversation
It concerns me greatly to hear Stenske’s point of view. Concerns me because as a naive 21 year old who was told my child would have a better life I was not told about the potential for a negative impact on my son. The entire premise of giving my son up for adoption was based on the notion that he would have the best life possible, much better than what he would have with me. If that wasn’t the truth, than I would never have considered it.
Information on the life long negative impact of adoption trauma to adoptees must be presented to expecting mothers considering adoption. A person considering adoption must be made aware of all the facts of adoption, not just the sunshiney picture of it most agencies and adoption counselors like to present.
*Slap G., Goodman E., Huang B. (2001). Adoption as a risk factor for attempted suicide in adolescence. Pediatrics Aug,108(2)E30.
Language is important. It shapes how we view the world. Pro-lifers, for example, use the word MURDER a lot when talking about abortion while pro-choicers use TERMINATION or ABORTION. Both groups are talking about the same thing, but the words they use help shape their argument. Their words help persuade others to see things their way.
Over at Birth Mother, First Forum, Loraine Dusky has a great article about the adoption language issue. She writes so eloquently, it is a must read.
Positive Adoption Language: Who Does it Benefit?
“Postitive Adoption Language” helps persuade expecting mothers into giving up their children and I flat out refuse to participate in the industry’s silly reindeer games anymore. The worst phrase is the (insert happy fairytale music here) “adoption plan.” Holy crap, did you just see that rainbow?
Oh silly expecting mother, you are not giving your child away, you are making a plan. Uh say wha? Let’s call a spade a spade. You are giving your baby to virtual strangers to raise and care for. You may be involved in the choosing of who the strangers are going to be. You may choose what agency you will use. Yes, there are many ways to plan to give your child away but it still is giving them away.
The phrase “adoption plan” also conveys that the mother is in control. She is making a choice, a loving one in fact (there’s that pesky rainbow again), and has planned accordingly. She is not leaving the baby in a dumpster. What really kills me about “making an adoption plan” is that this involves the nauseating process of matching with prospective adopters. Meeting the would-be adopters and involving them in her adoption plan is a huge conflict of interest for her and constitutes coercion. I would say that the adopters and agency are making the adoption plan for her unborn baby, not the mother. It’s all smoke and mirrors. Choosing to use the phrase adoption plan makes it seem like the mother is an informed decision maker. Like she is making a plan and has considered and rejected all the ways she could keep her baby. Sure, that is true in some cases, but not all. It’s malarkey, a mother is choosing to give away her baby, plain and simple. It is what it is. Making a plan does not make it different.
Just once I would like to see a parenting plan offered a mother considering adoption. A REAL ONE. Oh but wait! There is a term for a mother choosing a parenting plan, it’s called a failed adoption or a failed match. Holy shitting christ on a cracker, what the fuck is that? I’ll tell you what that is. It’s “positive adoption language.” Actually, saying a mother is keeping her baby is more accurate. She didn’t flunk out of adoption school. There’s no “F” on her life report card. It’s more accurate to say the agency failed to procure a child for the would-be adopters. Or the adopters failed to coerce the mother into giving away her baby.
Birth Mother Means Mother Period
The term “birth mother” is viewed as being diminishing of our role to many of us. I actually agree with that sentiment. When I talk to people in real life, I don’t refer to myself as such, I simply say mother or my son, not my birth son. When I use it here on my blog, I am doing so because it’s less confusing for anyone reading it. I do prefer the term first mother, because I was the first mother in my son’s life. But not everyone knows what that means so I use birth mother here a lot to describe myself. I probably should stop doing that because it makes it seem like I was an incubator. But I think of myself as my son’s mother, period, that’s it. He has another mother as well, I’m not diminishing that by any means. We are both his mother in very different ways. The most truthful thing to me would be to call adoptive mothers the parent and birth mothers the mother, but I’m not sure that anyone would get on board with that.
All of the nonsensical pro adoption speak is meant to invoke a less emotional response for people when they think about adoption. The exception being when it’s the people hoping to benefit from adoption, then words like failure are thrown around. The language is meant to play down the impact of adoption for the mother. It’s meant to convey to the world around us that adoption is a wonderful thing for adopters and not all that terrible for mothers who surrender. I call bullshit. Yup, BOOLSHHEEETTT. Just like the miracle of adoption. phffft.