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.
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.