Sunday, August 9, 2009

I did not give up my child because I loved her


From the Boston Globe:
WESTWOOD - When 7-year-old Megan Hurley grows up, she will know she inherited her mother’s hazel eyes and determination. She also will know she was adopted at birth and that the choice to give her away had been tough for her mother, who was 19 and a college sophomore at the time. And she will know the decision was made out of love. (Italics mine.)
We need to change the language, folks. Megan Hurley's mother did not give her away out of love, she gave her away because she could not keep her. Yes this is the kind of obfuscatory language has permeated the ethos to make giving up a child...so clean, no nice, so praiseworthy. But it's not like that at all. "Giving up a child out of love" is pure fabricated malarkey to appease the minds of the a) adoption industry; and b) adoptive parents. "Your mother loved you sooooo much that she gave you away...." Right. Unless you are lobotomized, you are not going to grow up believing that.

Reminds me of that ad on TV where the man asks a little girl what she wants and she says a pony, and she gets a small plastic pony; the next girl gets...a real pony. You can see right away the look of disbelief and sense of being scammed on the first girl's face.

We women who have relinquished children did not send them down the river in a reed basket like Moses because they would be killed otherwise, and this was the only way to save their lives. Anyway, was that an act of "love" of pure desperation? I'd say desperation. Adoption is no different today.

We gave our children up because we could not find a way to keep them, period, end of story. Maybe some women today feel that with an open adoption, they won't tear out their hearts when they give up their children, but I admit, I have trouble walking in those shoes. The story I quoted above was a reporter's view of a "breezy picnic and barbecue" sponsored for nine years by the Bright Futures Adoption Center. The director of Bright Futures, Karen Cheney, said that her agency fosters connection and open relationships that “allows adoptive children to know that they were not abandoned." She added, "They have access to information about themselves that allows them to feel whole.’’

At least this agency does foster openness; unlike the horror stories of "open adoptions" we have written about here that were quickly closed.

But back to what started this post: The language that stated the birth/first mother gave up her child out of love. I gave my daughter up because I was desperate. I gave my daughter up because I could not imagine finding a way to keep her. I loved my daughter and I gave her up anyway.

These words came up in conversation recently when I was talking to my sister-in-law about adoption. Judy is a sensible, sympathetic mother of two girls who happens to be a Chinese American. Both of her parents were born in China; she was born and grew up in the same town in Michigan I did. And somehow in the conversation, she uttered the words..."gave up your daughter because you loved her."

Stop right there, I said, and explained how that did not make any sense. She got it immediately, because it brought up a story in her own life. She then went on to tell me about how when she was three years old, her mother had rheumatic fever, and her father, a doctor, sent her away to live with relatives for six months in another city. She was told that he came to visit once and she cried so much when he left that her aunt and uncle said it would be better if he did not come back until he came back to get her to take her home. She remembers being on the potty and that her mother always cleaned her after she pooped, and there she sat, in this strange house, with these strange people, not knowing what to do. Who was she supposed to call? Her mother was not there. She doesn't remember how that episode ended, she just remembers being alone and confused and feeling utterly abandoned.

Then my sister-in-law added, I never felt close to my mother after that. I did go home after six months and I've been told that I did not care to see my mother, I was very cold to her, and she was very upset and hurt. And you know what, she added, I never did become close to her again. I left home as soon as I could and moved to Hawaii. When she died, I did not shed a tear.

Because Judy understood immediately that being sent away when her mother was sick was not done because her mother loved her, but because she could not care for her, Judy got it immediately that I did not give my daughter up because I loved her. I gave her up because I could not find a way to keep her.

There are a whole lot of things about modern adoption that make me nuts, but this is right at the top of the list.

And so every time, everyplace you see that written, ladies, protest. And every adopted person reading this, understand that you were not given up because your mother loved you. You were given up because there was no way to keep you.
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PS: I told my sister-in-law about the Anna Mae He case, in which a Chinese couple in the U.S. gave their daughter to another couple while they got their feet on the ground. Through what appears to be a combination of chicanery and cultural and language differences, they did not understand the temporary arrangement had become a permanent one when they (the natural parents) signed over temporary custody to a wealthy family in Memphis. After several years of wrangling in the U.S. courts, Anna Mae was eventually returned to her natural parents, Casey and Jack He, but she was eight years old by then. To date, the ending of the story is that the Hes, back in China, have separated; Anna Mae and her siblings attend boarding school and their mother visits three times a week in addition to having them return home on the weekends. That was in 2008. Wikipedia appears to have a good wrap up of the story.

My sister-in-law said that in China it was common to have grandparents and others take care of their children while they worked during the day, but since they all lived together as an extended family in the same household, there was no great separation of mother and child. What the new generation hasn't caught onto, she said, is that sending your children away to have someone else temporarily take care of them is not the same...as when everybody lived under the same roof.

21 comments :

  1. Perhaps that is why the statement sounds hollow? It always has to me, but I couldn't put my finger on it. Your clarification is a good one.

    On that subject, readers might be interested in this article:

    "Chinese-American Children Sent to Live With Kin Abroad Face a Tough Return"
    http://www.nytimes. com/2009/ 07/24/nyregion/ 24chinese. html?pagewanted= 1&ref=asia

    It was reported on one list I'm on that there's a lot of screaming going on at the Beijing airport as kids are separated from parents--or from grandparents, after a long stay.

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  2. I did not give my child up - she was stolen, coerced and hounded for three years and finally, when I could fight no more and I knew that the state was going to put her right back into the home that darn near killed her, I caved.

    I thought I was saving her from a fate that no child should have - it happened anyway.

    I knew I should have took her and run.

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  3. Yeah, that's really foolish to try to rationalize it was BECAUSE I loved her. In that case most mothers would give their kids away. Or it implies that mothers that relinquish have a very twisted type of love. That leads back to we gave our children up because we're nuts or incompetent or...

    desperate.

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  4. "Giving up a child out of love" is pure fabricated malarkey to appease the minds of the a) adoption industry; and b) adoptive parents. "Your mother loved you sooooo much that she gave you away...." Right. Unless you are lobotomized, you are not going to grow up believing that.

    I grew up accepting it as best I could, but I do remember clearly saying:

    "My mother obviously didn't love me enough to keep me."

    And my a-mom would say "It was the only decision she could have made at the time. You should honour and respect that."

    Fast-forward 12-13 years later, when I had just contacted them... and I thought to myself, "No wonder I confused. Who else - besides 'birthmothers' - gives up their children out of love? She did not give me up out of love. She gave me up because she had no support."

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  5. I'm so glad I wrote about this...because it has bugged me for ages, and copy writers and newspaper reporters and everyone seems to want to say that...but when my sister-in-law, whom I really like and respect, said it about me giving up my daughter Jane, I hit Tilt, and knew we had to change the thinking about this. If you ever hear anyone say that--Correct them, on the spot. And let's let writers know that the wording is offensive. As Being Me said, if the statement were true...most mothers would give up their children. Because there is nearly always someone richer, better situated, etc.

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  6. I don't know why adoptive parents would want to promote that idea -- it certainly has APs losing the love war. And do we really want our kids to live in terror -- every time an AP says "I love you," the kid has to worry about whether she'll be given away, since love = give away.

    It's completely idiotic on all fronts -- why in the world has it caught on so completely?

    Yes, I tell my kids that I believe their birth mothers loved them, but that is completly unconnected to telling them why they were relinquished, and I always explain that they really had no choice.

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  7. I think this statement is tied to the idea that adoption is an alternative to abortion. As in, "your mother loved you so much she didn't want to have an abortion so she had you and gave you to us out of love."

    Still sick and twisted.

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  8. Great post Lorraine. It brought me back to 1969. At that time, I was a young, frightened, pregnant teenager who didn’t know what to do. I was told that if I loved my child, then I would do the right thing which was adoption. Millions of other young girls were probably told the same thing. Back in those days, not much literature was available about adoption. During the years following surrender, I read everything I could get my hands on. I also joined ALMA, Origins, and CUB. The first book I read was by B.J. Lifton. The second was Faces of Adoption by E. Lynn Giddens (1983). I kept this book all these years and took it off the shelf today. At the time of publication, Giddens was the Founder/President of the Adoption Information Exchange in North Carolina. She was for open records and considered herself to have expertise in all facets of adoption. One chapter in her book was an attempt to dispel myths about birthparents. On page 33 she states, “The first myth is that we who relinquish children for adoption do so because we do not want them. Unfortunately, most of us surrender our children in desperation and because of our great love for them (italics are mine).” So, here is an example of a self-proclaimed expert whose attempt to dispel a myth unwittingly propagated another; however, it was 1983. Fast forward to 2009, and, with the enormous amount of information available today in multiple media formats, it’s really shocking to discover that this “love” myth remains in existence. There needs to be an “adoption reform” movement that grabs the attention of the public at large.

    Gail

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  9. Where did it start? The Catholics helped with their campaign to promote adoption over abortion. A lot of their rhetoric is phrased in terms of love and sacrifice.

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  10. Can only speak from my own experience being raised in my adoptive parent's Very Christian home, but for me it definitely had it's counterpart in the New Testament - "for God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son to die on the cross for our sins, so that whosoever believeth in Him shall not die, but enjoy life everlasting." Wow, I'm stunned I can still recite that 25 years after leaving the church. Though I suppose I shouldn't be stunned, it was years and years of reciting it on a weekly basis. But, anyway, my point being that given that upbringing, it's NOT an enormous stretch to equate "sacrifice" with "love"...

    L in Chicago

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  11. ...I gave up my daughter because my "love" for her was used against me, to coerce me into believing that if I did "love" her I would do what was "best" for her...

    which apparently as I was led to believe... couldn't be me.

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  12. My feelings when I finally signed the surrender were very much like Kristy's. I felt I was saving my son from worthless me. So I guess that would be a combination of loving my child and hating myself. Not a good prescription for a happy life.

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  13. Oh, Lorraine, I hate that expression ... "gave up ..." a baby ... it is soooooooo destructive to an adoptee's sense of worth, I believe. And, I, too hate that awful commercial with the little girl and the pony! wow ... so triggering.
    People think of one smiling mother handing an infant to another smiling mother .... what crap! I detest hearing that expression linked with surrendering a child for adoption or however the moms prefer to describe it. There is a great need for the moms to insist on better/more honest language. Celeste

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  14. Gads, Lo ... I feel like I just have to add this:

    We, the adopted, were NEVER a "gift"!!!!

    Whew ... ok, I'l go make a Perfect Rob Roy and settle my nerves ...:)

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  15. I am not sure what language you are objecting to, Celeste, but if it is "gave up a baby", that is exactly what I did, emphasis on the "gave up" or "surrendered". It says what it was for many of us. It says nothing about the worth of the adoptee, or how much most of us love our children, it just describes the experience which for many of us, being offered no other resources, was to "give up." Why should we insist on other language when the words fit?

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  16. [that is exactly what I did, emphasis on the "gave up" or "surrendered]

    That has nothing to do with gifting. It can simply mean "surrendering a child."

    Because the last time I checked, a gift is/was something a person gave voluntarily.

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  17. My views address the word "gave" ... a gift ... as though it was an easy event for our mothers, as though being "given" to someone else was no big deal to the child hearing that word, and that civilians who hear that expression do not understand the impact/difficulty associated with the use of the word.

    I think to say "She gave up a baby .... " doesn't express the true impact of that action. If you are ok with the expression, then that's fine ... I'm just sharing one opinion as an adoptee who always understood "gave" to mean a willing gift ... and, who only learned how horrible the action was for so many women ... after I met them, interviewed them, wrote The Mothers Project. My post was not a criticism of mothers who use the expression, it was a plea to find a word that does not imply "gifting" ... the word "surrendered" sure imparts a different message than "gave" ... just my awareness, just sharing it here.

    Believe me, hearing "She gave you up ..." for whatever reason ... never implied difficulty, never conveyed the horror and powerlessness that was part of the event.

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  18. Thanks Celeste.

    For me, "gave up" and "surrendered" mean exactly the same thing, as does "relinquished." As Mei Ling said, it has nothing to do with gifting. Now, "make an adoption plan" is something I did NOT do, so I would never use that phrase referring to my experience.

    As I wrote in a poem many years ago,

    "I give up, I surrender.
    I have thrown out my weapons,
    have cut off my arms...."

    See, "gave up" does convey the helplessness and horror for some of us. I did not give my son as a gift to anyone, rather I turned him over to the agency to do whatever they wanted with him, hoping they would find better people than me for him. That's what the surrender I signed says. No personal gift to anyone, just "giving up" and going away.

    Especially among us older mothers, the concept of giving someone a gift was not stressed so much as giving the child a better chance at life than we could offer in the adoption "counseling" most of us got. Same scam, different day and emphasis.

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  19. I have been following this blog for a while & I feel I need to ask a question. (You know what they say about assumptions) Lorraine, is there ever a time when adoption is acceptable? I know that may sound bold & straight forward, but that is just who I am. That question is not meant to be confrontational but honest. I only ask this since I do believe there are instances where adoption DOES & CAN work.(For ALL "parents") See the following links I have added. Would like your insight & feedback..

    http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/06/02/f-gutnick-adoption.html

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?src=fftb#/group.php?gid=23831810813

    Looking forward to hearing your input..

    ~!E

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  20. Etropic, thanks for the two links that show a fully open adoption between friends, and some decent adoptive moms.

    Speaking only for myself, not for the ladies who run this forum who can speak for themselves, I do think there are situations where adoption is justified and the better choice or lesser evil, and can work for all if all involved are willing to work at it.

    I believe open adoptions that stay open (and many do) are better than closed secret adoptions. I do feel helping moms keep their babies when that is their choice should be the first priority, but I would not call myself a "family preservationist" as some do because I feel each situation is unique and individual, and sometimes being raised by others is the better choice. I do not like absolute ideologies that prescribe what "everyone" should do, whether that is surrender or raise the child.

    There have been and still are many adoptions that should not happen. I do not think the "Baby Scoop Era" division of mothers who surrendered before and after 1973 is especially helpful as it makes an artificial distinction that does not reflect the reality of individual experience.

    There is a lot wrong with the adoption system, but there are some individual adoptive parents of good will, and some adoptions that ARE working for those involved. I think those of us with bad experiences, and I am one, need to listen to and believe those for whom it is working, rather than outright discounting them as "in denial".

    Adoption, as open as possible, is the better choice for mothers who truly do not want to raise their child (yes, they exist) and for those truly unfit, not temporarily but long-term, for a variety of serious reasons. These would be a much smaller number than have surrendered in the past, but I do think there is still a place for adoption and so am not "anti-adoption" although I understand why some mothers are.

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  21. Hello Everyone OK 1st of all I'm 29 i was adopt at 2half years old sense the age of 10 i tried to found my parents i have there name, age, pictures, of them where they live when i was born i tried and so hard want walking around new york city at 14 to found them nothing to today still nothing i called programs help line lawyers private service nothing some thing about new york don't let u found them my adopt mother tried adopt family to get my birth records all we get is my adopted birth records i know i have brothers and sisters out there i have picture of them but i guess i wont found them i have kid i love them to see there grand parents uncles aunts but there never will? new york needs to fix that law. i don't know y I'm writing these out this is my 1st time writing about it. for people out there that dont understand its hard not knowing where u came from.sorry if i got off subject.

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