Up until I relinquished my son for adoption, I had a pretty rosy view of adoption as a whole. However, I am ashamed to say, I only really thought of it from a hopeful adoptive couple’s point of view. When I did think about the concept of adoption, it was usually when I would hear of a friend or family member hoping to adopt because they could not have children of their own. I would feel terrible for people who had adoptions “fail” and I never considered it from the mother’s viewpoint or the adoptee’s viewpoint. I do not think I was any different than the average Joe who has never had a personal experience with adoption. I believe that the average american with no connections to adoption has a fairly preconceived notion of what adoption means to the people who are living it every day, if they ever think about it at all.
The current Veronica Brown and Baby Desirai cases (among others) have given many of us the opportunity to comment and educate the average Joe about what adoption truly means to the birth mother and adoptee. I can not say I am grateful for the opportunity because of the awful circumstances surrounding these cases, but I can say that it gives me some hope for opening up a dialogue with society at large.
Throughout my travels around the interwebs, commenting on articles, reading others’ comments, I seem to encounter the same basic idea from the average Joe over and over again. It is the idea that birth mothers who seek to educate others about corruption in adoption need to “just get over it”. The underlying assumption is that we, as birthmothers, made our choice and need to move on with our lives.
Do Birth Mothers Ever Truly Move On?
In the spirit of having an open dialogue, I want to address the idea of moving on with our lives after relinquishing. Personally, I have “moved on” with my life the best way I can. I am married, raising 3 children with my husband who I adore. I am active in the school system, volunteering my time and resources as much as I can. I attend school myself. I am not lying in bed everyday, immobile from the sadness of losing my oldest son. I am not wallowing in self pity. From all outward appearances, I have moved on. The grief I feel from my adoption experience is not something that I am ever going to be able to forget. Moving forward with my life does not mean I forget what happened or forget the child I gave up. It is the same with a parent who loses a child to death. They move forward through the pain, but they are never going to forget their child. To expect more from anyone who loses someone close to them, whether that is through death, adoption, drug abuse, and so on, is to expect more than any human being can manage.
A huge part of being able to move forward through the grief is helping and educating others about adoption issues. My adoption experience was not part of the baby scoop era of adoption nor was it a part of the current open adoption trend. I would categorize my experience as being a fairly normal, run of the mill, everyday experience of birthmothers. The “normalcy” of my experience is exactly why I try to educate others on adoption issues. If my “normal” experience left me feeling like this, then everything I was told is wrong. I can not stand by and watch others encourage mothers to give away their children under false pretenses. The prevailing view of adoption by the average Joe needs to change.
Does a Birth Mother Really Make a Choice?
Part of the problem when birth mothers talk about adoption issues, is this notion of choice. We made our choice, we should live with it. We made our beds, we have to lie in them. We are at fault because we did not research the issues. We should have thought about all of that beforehand. When I write about coercion and mis-truths in adoption, and how the corruption involved in adoption negates any real choice, I think it is a hard concept for most people to grasp. It is just too abstract if you have never been subjected to anything like that. I am going to attempt to use an analogy, which I hope will make it easier to understand.
Mr. Smith is experiencing a medical issue. Let’s say it’s a tumor. Mr. Smith has been told by their primary care physician that the treatment for the tumor is either surgery to remove it or chemotherapy. Mr. Smith is referred to an oncologist whom they have never met, but the Mr. Smith assumes since an oncologist is a doctor specializing in cancer that the doctor will be an expert in their field. Mr. Smith been told that this specialist will discuss his treatment options. It is reasonable to assume prior to meeting with this specialist, that the doctor is going to use his experience, his expert knowledge, statistics, medical research studies, medical journals, etc. to recommend the best treatment for Mr. Smith. Mr. Smith has his appointment, the doctor recommends surgery to remove the tumor and explains in detail why it is the best course of treatment. The doctor also explains why chemotherapy is not the right option and gives Mr. Smith statistics to reinforce his recommendation against it. Mr. Smith chooses to have the surgery based on his expert doctor’s recommendation.
Mr. Smith has the surgery, and develops some fairly severe complications because of it. Mr. Smith finds out later that the doctor presented false statistics, misrepresented the outcome from chemotherapy treatment, withheld vital information about the possible complications from the surgery, and made a great deal of money by performing surgery on Mr. Smith.
Based on this, would the average person say that Mr. Smith ever made a real choice? I would say no, Mr. Smith was never given accurate information and therefore he could not have made an informed, true, real choice.
Now, let’s go back and replace “Mr. Smith” with “Miss Jones”. Let’s replace “oncologist” and “doctor” with “adoption professional”. Let’s replace “tumor” with “pregnant”.
Miss Jones is pregnant. Let’s say it’s unplanned. Miss Jones has been told by her gynecologist that her options are to raise the child herself or to give the baby up for adoption. Miss Jones is referred to an adoption professional whom she has never met, but Miss Jones assumes since an adoption professional is a person specializing in adoption issues that the adoption professional will be an expert in their field. Miss Jones has been told that this adoption professional will discuss her options. It is reasonable to assume prior to meeting with this specialist, that the adoption professional is going to use their experience, their expert knowledge, statistics, adoption research studies, medical journals, etc. to recommend the best option for Miss Jones and her child. Miss Jones has her appointment, the adoption professional recommends adoption and explains in detail why it is the best option. The adoption professional also explains why raising the child is not the right option and gives Miss Jones statistics to reinforce the recommendation against it. Miss Jones chooses adoption based on the adoption professional’s recommendation.
Miss Jones gives her baby up for adoption, and develops some fairly severe complications because of it. Miss Jones finds out later that the adoption professional presented false statistics, misrepresented the outcome raising her child, withheld vital information about the possible complications from the adoption, and made a great deal of money by facilitating the adoption.
Based on this, would the average person say that Miss Jones ever made a real choice? I would say no, Miss Jones was never given accurate information and therefore she could not have made an informed, true, real choice.
If a person with a life altering medical condition can reasonably assume that a medical professional is going to give them accurate information about their treatment options, shouldn’t a person consulting an adoption professional be able to reasonably assume the same thing about their options?
In real life, there are regulations and repercussions for a doctor who would engage in such practices, including professional ruin. I would expect the doctor in my little scenario to be sued for malpractice and I would expect Mr. Smith to win that lawsuit. There are little, if any, regulations and repercussions for an adoption professional who would do the same. In fact, the scenario I presented above is dead-on accurate for my experience, and an accurate portrayal of many adoptions.
Now, let’s throw in a healthy dose of positive adoption language heaped on Miss Jones and a dash of being in the position to have to consider the hopeful adoptive parents’ feelings and you have the current adoption system in the United States. Does that sound like an informed choice to you, reader?
I know this blog certainly doesn’t get a ton of average, uninterested in adoption, readers, however it is my hope that this oversimplified analogy can shed a little light on the meaning of choice in adoption.
I realized today, that I have left out a big chunk of the “why adoption” puzzle in my story. I originally left it out because I did not want to make it sound like I was trying to garner sympathy or pity. I do not want either of those things. But today, a memory came to me and I was thrust deep into the throws of the “what ifs”.
I have severe asthma. I have had it since life began. When I became a teenager, it only got worse and from about the age of 15 I could usually count on going to the ER at least twice a year and being admitted into the hospital at least once. For many women, pregnancy exacerbates asthma. My OB told me that 1/3 of asthmatics will get better during pregnancy, 1/3 will stay the same, and 1/3 will get worse. I am sure stress had a lot to do with it, but during my pregnancy with my oldest son, my asthma got worse, much worse. At about the 6 month mark, I had such a severe attack that I was put on a ventilator and my doctors seriously contemplated taking my baby out early.
The first time I ended up admitted to the hospital during the pregnancy was fairly early on, right around the 2nd trimester mark. I had not told anyone I was pregnant yet, except the father. My doctor urged me to tell my mother as soon as possible. I was absolutely terrified.
On the day of my discharge, my nurse came in to talk to me. She was probably only a few years older than me, very pretty, seemed very together. My mother is a nurse, so I know how busy they are. She sat on the edge of my bed, took one of my hands in hers and started talking. She told me how she had an abortion when she was younger and then a year later found herself pregnant again. She told me how terrified she was and how ashamed she had been to be pregnant again. She asked me if I knew what I wanted to do yet. I told her I thought I was too far along for abortion, so I was not sure. She looked into my eyes, which were full of shameful tears, and told me I could do it. I could raise this baby. She explained how she was a single mother and although she struggled, she was raising her child and was thankful everyday for him. I don’t even think I said anything, just cried and nodded in agreement.
This nurse, who didn’t know me from Adam, took the time out of her extremely busy shift to sit and connect with me. To support me and encourage me.
I look back on that moment, before adoption entered the picture and I feel like such a fool. What if I had just listened to her? What if I had asked how she did it? What if, what if, what if.
That day, I was discharged from the hospital, and on the way home I told my mother I was pregnant. This is the moment adoption entered my life and any thoughts of raising my own child faded. Hello what ifs and goodbye what could have beens.
I love facebook. I really do. I love reading different perspectives on issues I may never have thought of. I might not agree with those perspectives, but they are valid to me if they at least get me to think. I read a ton of different adoption perspectives on facebook. Lately, or maybe just lately for me, I have come across more and more facebook groups specifically advocating for open adoption BUT specifically banning and deterring dissenting opinions about open adoption. One might think the owners of these groups are all adoptive or prospective adoptive parents and agencies. To my surprise, some of the most vocal anti-pro-adoption reformers are newly minted birth mothers. This got me thinking (always a dangerous prospect), are all birth mothers alike and simply on different stages of journeys? Or, are we all very different?
What kind of birth mother are you?
I do not consider myself to be especially bitter about adoption. I am unhappy with the way it is conducted today. I believe much change needs to come about.
It has always been my opinion that women who find themselves in less than ideal circumstances want to keep their babies. A woman who is presented with support and help from their community and perhaps a little compassion would not choose adoption. Lately, this small idea of mine has been challenged by happy birth mothers. My question is, are they really happy or have they let themselves been talked into believing they are happy?
Do Happy Birth Mothers Exist?
When I use the word happy, I am not talking about being at peace with a decision. I am talking about women who proclaim their joy and happiness with adoption and take every opportunity to talk about their happiness. I am talking about women who are dancing around to REM’s, Shiny Happy People while thinking about adoption.
I am talking about women who talk about their children’s adoptive parents like Gods, thanking them for raising their children and allowing them to maintain contact with them. I am talking about women who talk about the absolute joy in getting to go on with their lives without the burden of motherhood. If these women are as joyful and ecstatic about adoption as they claim to be, I have to say, they sound like sociopaths.
Now, who am I to discount or expect every woman to have the same experience as me and why do I care? I care because these happy daisies preach about their fantabulous adoptions on every “support” site out there. I care because other women who are considering adoption read their bullshit pudding and take it at face value. It is fine to present that side of the adoption coin, but I do put my pissy pants on when these sites/groups/pages ban and delete what they consider to be “anti” comments. What is so wrong with putting it all out there, the good and the bad?
These “happies” seem to get deeply offended by “unhappies”. I do not think they can stomach any comment that would not lead to the conclusion that they are saviors. Their fragile psyches can not be exposed to any other way of thinking about adoption. Certainly the mere mention that however they (the happies) may feel about adoption may not translate to how their adult adoptees may feel about it sends them into a tizzy of epic proportions. Lots of how dare you’s and who are you to talk about my situation’s.
The point of my little tirade is this. If all of you “happies” out there are truly so overjoyed to have given up your flesh and blood to strangers, why are you trolling support groups? Why are you creating support pages for open adoptions? Generally speaking, happies don’t usually need support groups. There are only 2 conclusions. Either you are sociopaths (or maybe the right word is psychopaths) who only function on this planet to serve yourselves and cause pain and discontentment to those around you OR you are not truly happy and the only way to shield yourself from the realization of the unhappiness in your soul is to talk other women into the same painful experience as you.
I said Goddamn I loves me some misinformation and deliberate withholding of the truth. It makes my innards tingle.
This is a chart on americanadoptions.com listing the differences and similarities between adoption and abortion.
|You can pursue earlier goals||You can pursue earlier goals|
|You can live independently||You can live independently|
|You will not have to parent prematurely||You will not have to parent prematurely|
|You will avoid being forced into a hasty marriage or relationship||You will avoid being forced into a hasty marriage or relationship|
|If you are a teenager, you can resume your youthful lifestyle||If you are a teenager you can resume your youthful lifestyle|
|Note: There are no similarities between parenting and abortion. One important similarity between adoption and parenting is that you can give life to your child and watch your child grow up.|
|Your pregnancy ends with giving life||Your pregnancy ends with death|
|You can feel good and positive about your choice||You may feel guilt and shame about your choice|
|You will remember giving birth||You will remember taking a life|
|You will have plenty of time to plan you and your baby’s future||Abortion is final; you can’t go back on your decision|
|You can hold, name, and love your baby||You will never know or treasure your baby|
|You can have continued contact with your baby||You will miss the opportunity to see your child develop|
Truth and Transparency Needs to be a Priority in Adoption Practice
So yeah the first half of the chart seems pretty accurate and straightforward. There are many positive similar outcomes between the two for women.
Scrolling down to the differences and bingo! Out comes the manipulation and outright lies. Let’s break it down.
First up, pregnancy ending with giving life versus death. A major point I need to get across is that no one is out aborting babies just prior to their birth. So really we’re talking about giving life vs removing a ball of cells. That is my personal view on abortion and I don’t expect everyone to agree.
Next we have feeling good and positive about your choice versus feeling guilt and shame about your choice. This one made me chuckle a bit. I’ve known quite a few women who have chosen abortion and none of them feel guilt or shame or even regret over their decision. It was a medical procedure they underwent, no complications, tiny ball of cells gone, carry on with your life. None of these women took the decision lightly, but all are fine with it. I have met many women, including myself, who have chosen adoption and all of them carry guilt, shame, regret, sadness, and lifelong negative consequences of their decision. What the chart should say is that although some women can feel good and positive about their decision, most deal with the reverberations of their decision for decades.
Continuing on, we have remembering giving birth versus remembering taking a life. Oh sweet jeebus, shut the christ up. This is similar to above. Yup I remember giving birth and it haunts me every single day. Knowing what I know now, I would have chosen differently.
The next one cracks me up. I actually don’t think these two things even belong together but you know how those crazy christians are. So a woman can have plenty of time to plan for their baby’s future or they can have an abortion which is FINAL. Here’s the thing, BOTH decisions once made, are final. If they were comparing parenting to abortion I’d agree with them, but adoption is not parenting dumbasses.
Of course you can hold, name and love your baby. Yes, I held my baby and didn’t let the adoptive parents in the room. I also named my baby, which the parents promptly removed and then renamed him. And yup, to this day I love him, but it isn’t a happy love. It’s loving someone who you can never hold, talk to, express it to. It’s a sad love. Yes I knew and treasured him for those 2 days but that is it. I don’t know him anymore although I still treasure him.
And the most deceptive statement at all comes at the bottom of their chart. You can have continued contact with your baby. Well I don’t. Countless women who thought they would, do not. I have blogged about open adoption deception before so I won’t get all the way into it again, but I’m sure you get the idea.
Carrying a Pregnancy to Term for Adoption Purposes has Risks
Of course this simplistic chart gives no actual negatives to adoption but plenty of negatives about abortion. This is so misleading. The sole purpose is to con women into giving up their babies. Is it really so much to ask for a little truth and transparency in the adoption industry? Can’t we agree to fully inform women of all the negative aspects of adoption? Oh I guess we can’t since that would probably result in more abortions or *gasp* single women parenting their children.
I weep for the the young women today who are talked into adoption by lists such as these. Give these women access to other viewpoints for fucks sake.
I would venture to guess that most women choose abortion because they do not want to be pregnant. Pregnancy itself carries far more risks to a woman than abortion alone. In 2007, the rate of mortality for legal abortions was 0.6 per 100,000 procedures*. By contrast, the rates of mortality from pregnancy in the US in 2010 was 12.7 deaths per 100,000 live births**. That number does not even take into account women who died during pregnancy before childbirth. Why don’t they talk about that on their pro life websites?
*World Health Organization. Unsafe Abortion: Global and Regional Estimates of the Incidence of Unsafe Abortion and Associated Mortality in 2003. 5th edition. Geneva: WHO, 2007; http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/publications/unsafe_abortion/9789241596121/en/
**source: Centers for Disease Control
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.