To those who focused on the word: guilt in yesterday's post, Desperately Seeking Birth Mother (including the woman who placed the ad), let me further explain. Unless they were in unhappy circumstances, adoptees seem to need to stress repeatedly to the birth mother how wonderful! their adoptive parents were. And that stems from a certain amount of guilt for wanting to search for birth parents at all. We birth/first mothers basically assume and hope that unless they are ax murderers or otherwise monsters, they have been pretty good parents.
For Caribbeanspa22@gmail.com, the reasons to include those words may not have been the case because of health reasons, but many adoptees feel that simply by searching they are "hurting" their parents. We have heard of countless cases where adoptees do not tell their adoptive parents they are searching, not even if they have a reunion, even many years after the fact. That situation alone begs the question: how close could they possibly be if they leave this factoid and reality out of their relationship with their adoptive parents, but then...closed adoptions are based on the lie that your past and heritage does not matter. And we also know many adopted people who only decide to search once their adoptive parents are dead.
This must be changing with more openness, and greater numbers of understanding parents (many who post comments here), but the culture has infused the sense that adoptees "owe" their parents love, and to seek out the other, i.e, the birth mother, often leads to feelings of guilt because of their loyalty to the parents who raised them, and whom they love,and towards whom they feel immense loyalty. That's all I meant, and I am certainly not critical of the woman who placed the ad. It was a cool thing to do, and let's all hope her mother sees the ad and makes contact. (If so, please let us know, firstname.lastname@example.org)
In that vein, and because I think it deserves more important billing, I'm lifting this morning a letter fellow blogger Jane included in the comments in the last post:
My daughter told me much the same thing: “You made the right decision “No,” I responded. “I made the wrong decision; it may have turned out well. But the decision was wrong."
As a reunited mother, I believe there are two myths that need to be put to rest along with “you’ll forget and get on with your life” -- that it's comforting to a mother to be told that she made the right decision and that mothers give away their children because they love them.
These were brought home to me when I read Birthright (1994) by Jean Strauss, an adoptee. Strauss describes her first conversation with her birthmother:
“One reason I had searched for [her birthmother] was that I wanted to tell her that she’d done the right thing. I always felt she deserved to know that. I proudly said it now on the phone, sure that this one sentence would make her feel good about her decision thirty-three years earlier to relinquish me for adoption. ‘You know, you did the right thing when you gave me up.”
Her answer burst my hallucination. ‘I’ll never believe that. I should have never let you go. I wish I had taken you and run.’”
Decision-making requires adequate information and viable options. We were depressed, frightened, and alone. The information we received from our families and the “professionals” was incomplete, inaccurate, and in some cases, outright lies. Our families wanted to avoid shame; our babies’ fathers wanted to avoid responsibility, and the adoption agencies needed the baby to stay in business.
The correctness of a decision has to be judged by what we knew at the time, not by how it turned out. (If I spend my life savings on lottery tickets and win, it doesn’t mean that the decision to invest in this way was correct.)
We did not know what would happen to our babies once we gave them up. By telling us we made the right decision, our children are saying in effect: “any person would have been a better parent than you would have been; any situation would have been better than living with you” These are not comforting words.
The counterpart to telling a mother she made the right decision might be for the mother to tell her child “I’m glad I gave you away.” No child would want to hear that.
Strauss’ mother also says to her in their first conversation: “I want you to know that I have always loved you.” Strauss responds “‘I never doubted that … My mom taught me that giving a child up for adoption is an act of love.”
We did not give up our children because we loved love them. We gave them up in spite of the fact that we loved them. We gave them up because of self-loathing, fear, anger, depression, hopelessness. We gave them up because we had no resources. We gave them up because we had been told to act with our brains and not follow our hearts, that this was “the mature” decision, the “responsible” decision. We gave them up because we felt sorry for the unknown but perfect couple who would adopt our child. We gave them up because we were told that if we loved them we would give them up.
Yes, that was what the message was and to read the happy birth mother blogs (from which we have been "banned," that is still the message birth mothers are fed. I gave my daughter up because I could not keep her; because I surrendered to a situation that I could not see how to manage otherwise. I did not give her up because I "loved" her and telling her that after I found her surely would have sounded absurd.--lorraine