Why does a mother need time after a baby is born before she irrevocably signs him away? What is wrong with prospective adoptive parents being at the hospital when the baby is born, wrong with them cutting the physical cord that connects mother and child? Just about everything. The pressure on a mother to "make a nice couple happy" and relinquish her child can be overwhelming. Recently one of us heard a legislator say: "Why does she [a mother, a birth mother] need time after the baby is born before she signs the papers? She's had seven months to think about it."
Off with his head!
Only someone who has never given birth would say something that stupid. Only someone who doesn't know what it is like to have a baby in your body, of your body, come out of you and be a living breathing person who is connected to you in a way that no one else will ever be. Fellow blogger and attorney Jane Edwards is working to change legislation to help mothers in Oregon not lose their children by extending the time before they can sign relinquishment papers, and help them afterward if they were coerced into doing so. (See previous blog: Yes we can reform state adoption laws!)
On this topic, what follows is a section of the memoir I am currently rewriting.
By Lorraine Dusky
copyright (c) 2010
Many of you must remember this movie from a couple years ago, Juno, that a lot of us first mothers can’t get out of our heads. It made pregnancy with a child you’re going to give up such a slap-happy kind of affair, Eggo rhymes to pre-go, not even remotely depressing except for a couple of moments. It was black humor all way. The name was Juno was taken from that of the goddess of sexuality, fertility, marriage in Roman mythology. Nice touch, I admit. But the movie?
I watched alone, on my TV with growing dread as the scenes unfolded. The eponymous lead, Juno, finds the adoptive parents in a penny saver, flirts over groovy music with the adoptive dad-to-be, is not upset with the boy who impregnated her—in fact her teen crush remains intact—and except for one quick scene at the hospital, the whole matter is played to seem like not such a big deal. Screen writer Diablo Cody was quoted as saying that she imagines it would have been like that if she had gotten pregnant in high school. Too bad she didn’t. Different movie.
She would know then about the hormones that have you preparing your nest for your newborn. Days before giving birth I woke up full of energy and scrubbed my apartment to the point where it would have passed any white-glove test. I washed windows, put down fresh shelf paper, vacuumed cobwebs from behind furniture. Patrick [my daughter's father] was amused. He said that kind of thing often happened just before the baby was born, he didn’t know why, but it did.
I never thought much of his comment until I caught this headline in The New York Times: “Nesting with a Vengeance (and a Deadline).” * The story was about how women just before giving birth are dripping with oxytocin, the “nesting hormone,” which leads them to renovate, paint, clean, get their home ship shape. For the baby. Oxytocin is thought to be responsible for maternal attachment, the piece stated, “Without it, mammals do not bond with their young, or prepare nests for them.”
Or prepare nests for them. While I was the cleaning dynamo, I did not take into account that I was not bringing my baby home; all I knew was that something in me was saying: Clean! Fix up! My maternal drive was on automatic, I could not turn off the mothering neurotransmitters the way you flip a switch. My body did not know that this one, this baby that was days away, was not for keeping.
* Kate Murphy, “Nesting with a Vengeance (and a Deadline),”The New York Times, Home and Garden, March 27, 2008.