Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The saddest story of all: Opting for adoption today

Not an adoptive mother
"Julia [the mother] left the hospital the next day without stopping in the nursery—the baby was in an incubator because he was five weeks early—but a few days later, she took a friend’s advice to visit her son to say goodbye in real life. 'My gut reaction was not to do it, but I drove to the hospital when I knew no one else was going to be there. And I just bawled uncontrollably as he slept. It was the worst thing I’ve done in my entire life.'"
That's from a story in February Elle about Julia,* 30, who decides to give up her child for adoption because: her husband was having an affair. Because she decides to divorce him. Because she did not want to raise a child alone, even though she had the support of her mother, who offered to take her in and help with the baby. And who is Julia?

"Julia was not physically or mentally ill, nor was she poor or very young, unable to make a living, or alone in the world. At the time she gave birth, she was, in fact, a 30-year-old lawyer who’d been thrilled when she conceived the first time she and her husband tried. Yet eight months later, she was intoning to herself, The baby doesn’t belong to me; I’m not what’s best for him."
Lorraine
This was a very hard story for me to read, not only knowing how giving up my daughter more than four decades ago permanently affected me, but knowing what I do know now, after reading the comments of so many who have come to the blog, about what it means to be adopted. It ain't pretty, no matter how good one's adoptive parents were, or how understanding (understanding helps) about what it means to be disconnected from one's original parents and heritage, or anything at all. Some individuals seem better at it than others; some say they don't care much about finding out why or who (I personally know some of them and I wonder what they think of me); some search and then retreat forever, or nearly so; some blog about being mostly at peace with having been relinquished and raised by others. But no matter what, there's always...being adopted. There's always not being not adopted and instead raised in the family you were born into. 

READING MYSELF INTO THE SADDEST STORY
Why didn't this well educated Julia opt for an abortion? Religion is not mentioned, yet the writer, Nina Burleigh, goes on: "Terminating the pregnancy was 'not an option,' Julia says, because she’d already bonded with her unborn child." Bonded so much she is going forward with adoption in this day and age? When most women of all races and income levels keep their babies? When there would be no shame involved? When half of all babies today are born to unmarried women? When only slightly more than 1.5 percent of all babies born to single women are given up for adoption? I read on, with increasing dread, wanting to scream at Julia, whoever she was: What the fuck is wrong with you? You don't even have to face the scorn of society today, you are 30 years old, you wanted to have a child when you conceived, okay, your husband is a jerk, but get over it! Keep the baby! You have multiple degrees, he's an officer in the military and you will get child support! They will take it out of his pay! Where did you get this idea that is would be better for you to give up your child? I guess I was screaming at myself. At my 22-year-old self in 1966. I didn't have a husband to divorce; the father of my baby was already married and who talked about leaving his marriage "when this is over." And I had no idea what lay ahead.

Julia goes on to have a list that is all too familiar with us mothers who relinquished in the bad old days of closed adoptions, and how we convinced ourselves was the best for our children. Julia's list of qualities she wants for "the" baby [she can't bring herself to call it hers] include a loving marriage, infertility, a mom who stays home, education (at least a bachelor's degree, preferably graduate degrees too), and being "Financially stable, so that my son would have the option, theoretically, of private school, music lessons, summer camp, sports, etc."

Do I need more commentary? Does money and the finer things in life equate a natural mother's love?

Burleigh is aware that giving up a child is something of a catastrophe, and though she remains quite neutral in tone, she thankfully does not let us think that Julia is doing the right thing. Her mother’s mention of abortion leads her to consider adoption.  "It just seemed like the only thing to do,” says Julia's friend, Beth. What? The only thing to do? Yes, it will be an open adoption, but....

Julia is adamant that the father will not become a part of the child's life, adding she will do everything in her power to prevent that. "He was not going to take my child to a playground.” She adds that she doesn't want her son to have to deal with a custody battle, as if a baby would know at the time what was going on? The piece does not indicate that the father is party to the "open" adoption, so she also prevents "the baby" from ever knowing his father.

The adoptive parents are at the hospital when the baby is born, and though the birth father (and ex-husband) shows up, he signs away his rights to claim the child. Julia does not see him before he is shipped off to Iraq. Soon after the baby is relinquished, Julia is job hunting and finds it impossible to explain away the gap in her employment, as telling the truth seemed as impossible to her as it did to me in a far, far different time. Or maybe not so different?

I can't imagine too many employers nodding favorably as they hear: I had a child with my scum-bag of a husband, divorced him and gave away the baby...." After one terribly awkward interview in which I could not adequately or convincingly lie about the six-month gap in my employment, I was fortunate in that my previous employer, a kind and understanding city editor in Rochester, New York, gave me next employer a fabulous recommendation the very day I drove to Albany for the interview. The missing months of work were never mentioned; I have no idea how difficult it would have been to get a job with out the help of my previous boss. (What do the "proud" birth mothers do? Say, Hey, I did a great thing when I wasn't working, I had a baby and gave him up for adoption?) Then during the physical for the company health insurance, I lied when asked if I had ever had children, wondering if he could tell otherwise. God, it was an awful, awful time...Back to Julia:

THE CHILDREN ARE ALWAYS EVERYWHERE
Soon she noticed children and families everywhere. “It was hard to see strollers, but it was also hard to see playgrounds, mothers and babies, little boys with their parents, pregnant women, married couples.” A year later, Julia says she’s no longer plagued by sadness—"nor has she regretted the decision, which makes her pretty typical, at least according to the limited data available about modern adoptions." The piece uses the statistics we dissected in our Response to The Adoption Option:  Four years later, 78 percent of those who’d given up their babies said they were “very certain” they’d make the same decision again, as did 91 percent of those who didn’t—a slightly higher level of regret that “to some extent is to be expected, as it is unlikely a mother would say she regrets keeping her child,” noted a report from the Donaldson Institute. (There is much more about those stats at the above.) But even Burleigh is not convinced all is well with Julia:

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_8lL4l1DBAo0/TOhtNLclQkI/AAAAAAAAAOI/UcNH29HbZKc/s1600/bj_lifton_small.jpg
B.J. Lifton
"Still, spending time with Julia, everything doesn’t seem quite all right. She never wants to return to being a lawyer, she says, nor does she ever consider getting married or having another child, [emphasis added] despite how much she wanted the first one." Excuse me, this is a woman who says she is doing fine? Julia's friend Beth, with whom Julia continues to live, treats her like a wounded bird: cooking for her, patting her on the hand, smoothing her hair. I was thinking, that's nice, but, er, a tad weird. Is something going on between Beth and Julia?

Julia's lack of affect and the rest reminds Burleigh of an observation made by the late Betty Jean Lifton, an adoptee author and psychologist. "'The social worker said it would hurt for a while, and then [the birth mothers] would forget, as if they had experienced nothing more serious than a nine-month stomachache,' Lifton wrote in Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience. 'But they found they could not go back to the life they had left behind because they had become different people in the process of becoming mothers.'  [Emphasis added.]

What I found particularly upsetting is that the same psychology regarding giving up a child is at work today as it was in our times. Give up the baby if he is inconvenient; tell yourself that he will have a better life with the possibility of private school and a pony; ask for infertility as a condition so you can imagine what a good thing you are doing for a childless couple. After reading Jane's previous post about advertising for a child on Facebook, I imagine that pregnant women will be using social media to find parents. The eponymous heroine of Juno, after all, found her baby's adopters in a penny-saver. It would be fascinating to see how many infertile couples become pregnant after adoption and "have one of their own," to use the vernacular, and that "only child" business is no more. At a blog (Third Mom) I read recently, an adoptive mother wrote of the horror of hearing from another adoptive parent how they were keeping the father's first name...just in case they "had one of their own." Creepy? Yes.

The head of the adoption agency head that Julia chose, Richard Pearlman, says that it is not all that unusual for women of Julia's age to relinquish their children: “Even though the perception is that it’s teenagers who place children for adoption, they usually don’t...." He says the average age of many of the mothers he works with is 22--and some as old as 40. "That’s because [for them] the decision is a thoughtful decision. If it was just based on emotion, nobody would ever place a child.”

Amen. It is emotion--fed by the love hormone, oxytocin--that binds mothers to their children. It is the way of the world. Only in this cock-eyed modern world do we let our head separate ourselves from our heart. And then we spend the rest of our lives, no matter how well we "adjust," with a hole in our hearts. --lorraine
-------------------------
*Name changed  
For the Elle story: ‘I’m Not What’s Best for My Baby’ 

See also: How the daughter I gave up forever changed my life

Response to The Adoption Option

64 comments :

  1. I saw this article too. It was very sad and although she says she is coping a year on, I wonder how she will feel once the years have dragged on and the reality of what she did sinks in.

    So much of this story is wrong. The culture in America seems to be so pro-adoption women are almost brainwashed into thinking this way from the start. All the programs we get here in Australia seem to feature adoption in some form or other and they are always promoting adoption as this 'loving, caring' option. It makes me feel ill. It is so ingrained over there, mothers like Julia, in a time of crisis which would have passed in time, are thinking of separating themselves from their own children almost automatically it would seem, when with a little support, she would have been able to raise her child as she was supposed to.

    This is very concerning and I wonder what the repercussions will be further down the track for society when those babies grow up and find there was no real reason for them to be adopted except a passing crisis. This is heartbreaking.

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  2. I have NOT read the article, but it is clear she did this to keep the child from her husband, to punish him...and it also appears to me that, like so many of us, once she considered adoption and "they" got a hold of her, she was force fed the kool aid and then began robotically beleiving this isn't her child....

    Reading this is akin to reading about a widow signing her house (or life savings) over to a charlatan the day she buries her husband...except this isn't a house, it's a human being, it's HER child!

    It's sad, and it's painful that women can continue to be manipulated and exploited like this. And it will not stop as long as babies are sought and profitable for middlemen who are proficient in the art of brainwashing, as an Australian social worker recently described in detail and apologized for.

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  3. I read this story in Elle. What came across to me was that Julia reacted to her husband's betrayal by setting up an adoption.

    The baby had been planned,the pregnancy was welcomed, the couple was married, but.... Julia seemed to be a person who needed for life to be perfect....and life failed her....She couldn't cope.

    When in the course of the pregnancy Julia discovered her husband had been having an affair, she seemed to want to cut her husband off from their child more than anything.

    I am not diminishing the betrayal by her husband, but she seemed to want revenge...and seemed to never give a thought to the child's need to know his father or have contact with natural family....even with her...his mother.

    This is not the norm for married mothers/fathers who divorce...although there are those people who will relinquish, harm, or even kill their children to get back at an ex-spouse.

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  4. I don't understand this at all. I am a mother. I just don't have words.

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  5. I used to believe that I would get better with time.... I know now, I got worse. Coping turns on you.

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  6. Oh it is all very Medea isn't it?

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  7. It strikes me that the impact on the child is not considered at all. It is just assumed that adoption will be positive for adoptee -- to the point that there is no mention of the effects of adoption on adoptees whatsoever. Clearly, that not the case. Even under the best circumstances, being adopted takes an emotional toll and requires energy to either supress emotions or face them.

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  8. WP and others, that is largely what made me so crazy about the story: "Julia" never considered, not for one moment, the impact of what it would like to grow up with genetic strangers. The story ends with a communication from the adoptive parents, and it sounds welcoming...Please know you will always be in our hearts and we are only a phone call away—if you want to talk, want an update, want to see pictures…we’re here. Thank you for changing our lives and thank you for completing our family.

    Love, Mom, Dad, Brother, and Baby


    but....

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  9. I don't just think, I know that I could have coped with the temporary crisis. The lifelong struggle with giving up my daughter is something that I will never learn to cope with.
    Even though I have her back in my life it will never be as it should have been.

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  10. After reading the Elle article all I can say is thank god for the internet. The article did a slightly better job in portraying adoption as not quite the happy-ending it is said to be. But they still managed to call on the usual suspects to reinforce the idea that overall it's still a good system.

    I'm leaning towards being happy that print journalism is withering on the vine, something I never thought I'd be happy about. I came to this way of thinking after reading so many articles in the MSM that simply reinforce the standard narrative on whatever topic is being covered. Reading adoption blogs really brings this problem to light - well thought out articles and blog comments provide so much information that is contrary to the standard narrative, yet the MSM continues to trot out the same "experts" and "research" that reinforces that narrative. They simply cannot look past their own noses to see a different angle.

    I've noticed strong opposition to the standard narrative on many topics in the online comment sections of the major newspapers. Those who have other perspectives are finally able to challenge the status quo. For adoption-related articles their is still much resistance but we are getting our message out!

    So hooray for blogs, comments, and the endless possibilities for the average Joe to be able to challenge those who seek to control the conversation.

    BTW, there was a commenter on Cassi's blog (Adoption Truth) who said she was considering adoption but after reading the blogs she decided to keep her baby. A victory to be sure!

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  11. This story sickens me, absolutely sickens me. Has our society so thoroughly brainwashed people that the biological connection between a mother and child means nothing? I cannot even believe that this woman really wanted a child (even though the child was planned) that she would give him away because of infidelity and divorce. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Literally! People cheat and people get divorced everyday but they don't give their kid to strangers.

    I wonder if this n-mother was suffering from clinical depression or some other psychological disturbance. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be her when things simmer down in her life (which they will) and she realizes what she has done.

    If I had found that my mother was a 30 year old attorney who had family support to raise me and still gave me up, I would have no interest in having a relationship with her. I know that sounds harsh but I see no reason whatsoever to be given up for adoption under those circumstances. And as several other people have noted, there seems to be no consideration on the part of the first mother as to how the child will feel about being adopted.

    Articles like this also disturb me because I worry that they are making relinquishment seem more mainstream and acceptable (i.e. ever a married professional woman can "choose" adoption). Ugh!

    Robin

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  12. Robin, because of what you and others have said about growing up in a fortunate background, I was thinking of your when I wrote the post yesterday afternoon. It really was upsetting.

    And now someone is arguing about this being about CHOICE over at alt.adoption on Facebook. He seems to be very pissed off that I wrote the blog criticizing "Julia" for her CHOICE.

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  13. Her story made me think of my own. I was 29 when I found myself accidentally pregnant with someone I'd only been dating for three months. He made it clear he didn't want to be a father. I felt like I wasn't in a position to raise a child alone. I made an appt for an abortion and couldn't go through with it. Not sure why exactly, I had had one when I was 19 and I am firmly pro-choice. But I couldn't do it this time. I confessed my situation to one of my best friends, who happens to be adopted. She told me of a woman she worked with who was infertile and was trying to adopt a child. Perfect, I thought. Here was a lovely married couple who lived in a nice house and had good jobs and could give the child all of the things I could not - security, stability, money, etc. I considered myself way too messed up to give a baby a good life, plus I would have to do it alone, which I was unsure how I would afford. And I could turn something bad (unplanned pregnancy, again) into something good - giving the baby a "better life" and making a lovely couple's dream come true.

    I thought it would be hard, but that I could do it. The baby would be better off without screwed up me. My mother tried to talk me out of it but I was adamant. This kid deserved two parents and a house in the suburbs. I could make my mistake into a gift. Well, then she was born. She was no longer my "mistake" or my "decision." She was a real person, her own person, who looked almost exactly like baby pictures of me. How could I give her away? It was like a lightswitch turned on in my heart and my brain. Before she was born I truly had no idea that I would change my mind. None.

    Now she is 14 and the best thing I've ever done in this lifetime. I wish Julia could've talked to someone like me.

    I cringe when I read things like "he wasn't going to take my child to the park." Yes, her husband betrayed her and that is horrible, but when you have a kid you put the kid first, and the kid doesn't deserve having its father barred from being in its life, unless he is some sort of safety risk or something. It's not the kid's fault.

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  14. Excellent,especially the part about how we in our"cock-eyed modern society" have separated our heart from our head. I know when I complained about surrendering my son because of the unbelievable feeling(yes,love) I felt and wanted to keep him, the social wrecker almost mocked me, saying those were just "feelings"- as if they were subordinate to thoughts and"doing the right thing" It's a sorry mess we're in when we don't even respect the basis of life anymore-the mother-child bond. Either people don't get it, don't want to get it, or can't understand because they haven't lived it. I promise not to go off too much, But I was listening to a radio psychologist who I happen to like and even called once crying when my mother died(and she put me on the air). So yesterday a woman called sounding all confused because she had just found out she was adopted and was considering searching. This psychologist told her that she did,indeed,have a history(with her adopted family) and her firstparents were just egg and sperm donors.WTF? The woman didn't sound convinced,though, said thank you and hung up.

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  15. Julius seems to have been reeling from the sudden collapse of what she thought was the perfect life. Infideility and divorce is devastating at the time but people do move on and find new relationships and love. But adoption is not something we can move on from...Julia will always have a child out there somewhere in the world and as we have said many times, subsequent children do not replace the one that is lost.

    At this point Julia does not even want to consider having another child - that speaks volumes about her level of pain and depression. I hope she can move past the idea of never having another baby but many of us reading here went down that same path.

    This is just a tragic story on every level.

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  16. Lori wrote, "I used to believe that I would get better with time.... I know now, I got worse. Coping turns on you."

    I can second that. Borrowing from Lori's excellent blog post, reunion helped to stop the hole on my soul from growing larger, but it is still there. I'm just glad I have reached an improved level of self-awareness that helps me better understand my life choices and how so much is shaped by the adoption wound. This awareness came with great pain but now it reminds me to offer more compassion for myself.

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  17. How is saying "what the fuck is wrong with her" about a woman who has freely chosen to surrender, evidently was not forced to this choice, and implying she should have aborted ok? Whatever happened to the concept of informed choice, even when another person's choice is not the one you wish you had made?

    We did not like being called sluts and other unpleasant terms for having surrendered. I don't see how the amount of hatred poured out here towards this woman for exercising her right to choose is any different.

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  18. What a stupid woman. She's 30 years old and has support from her family. What an idiot. There's no excuse for doing something so crazy as giving away a child because your husband had an affair. Totally ridiculous.

    She had life experience, work experience, money and the offer of assistance from her mother.

    Idiot woman.

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  19. Why do so many posters here imply abortion would be better than adoption?

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  20. Anon1,
    "What the fuck is wrong with her?" is most appropriate for a professional married mother of 30 who surrenders her child to strangers. Clearly she either had a skewed moral compass or was unaware that all experts in adoption state that children should remain in their biological families when possible.

    Her belief that going to private schools outweighs the influence of family in being elected president is bizarre. She apparently was unaware that Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln,etc, etc went to public schools. All were raised in families of modest means--and Clinton was raised by a single mom.

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  21. Anon2
    I haven't seen much discussion on FMF about abortion. I don't think it is correct to say "so many posters here imply that abortion would be better than adoption."

    I do know that birth mothers I've met through support groups and conferences who had an abortion after losing a child to adoption state that they recovered from the abortion quickly but that the pain of losing a child to adoption remains.

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  22. Anonymous said...

    Why do so many posters here imply abortion would be better than adoption?
    March 8, 2012 4:57 PM

    Because for many if not most first mothers, abortion would have been better than living through the hell of carrying a child to term and giving him up for adoption. It is a hell like no other.

    This may be an unpleasant truth for some adoptees to hear, but having an abortion was not seen as the wrong choice for some adoptee memorists. They have written about making the choice to have an abortion.

    Lorraine didn't call her a slut or the things that we birth mothers have been called, quite often to our faces.

    She asked, what the fuck is wrong with the picture, this woman, who had the resources to raise a child, given what we know about the perils of being giving up and feeling abandoned by your real parents. BTW, the story ends with the woman now saying she never wants to have another child. Never. Ever. Again.

    Abortion would have been a better choice.

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  23. from steve over at facebook. His page says he is a doctor.

    My distaste for your commentary comes not from your opinion (I've heard it all before) but from your Nosy Parker, superior, arrogant attitude. Julia's life is Julia's call. She's allowed her choices and then the need to live with them.

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  24. oh, that's what (above) he says about Lorraine's post.

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  25. Steve wrote on Facebook:
    "My distaste for your commentary comes not from your opinion (I've heard it all before) but from your Nosy Parker, superior, arrogant attitude. Julia's life is Julia's call. She's allowed her choices and then the need to live with them."

    Of course, Julia is allowed to live with her choices. In fact she must live with them even after she realizes her terrible mistake.

    Women like Julie are scary because they may influence vulnerable women to give up their children, unaware of the consequences. It is our responsibility as citizens to speak up when we see someone going down the wrong path.

    It's tragic that Julia believed she was not good enough for her son.

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  26. How can you claim to be pro-choice when you have decided that one choice, to surrender, is always wrong unless there are extremely dire circumstances? How does this differ from right-to-lifers telling other women that their choice to abort is wrong? Shouldn't it be up to the woman herself, either way?

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  27. It is a sad story for both Julia and her son, but as a mother who surrendered as a teen in the middle of the last century, I don't think this woman deserves to be pilloried for doing the same thing we did, even considering the difference in times and circumstances. NEI. I'm sure we don't know the half of it.

    Viktoria, "WTF is wrong with her?" is not just a question, it's a personal attack, one that has been made against many of us, regardless of our situations at the time. Asking what is wrong with the picture is not the same.

    Jane said, "It is our responsibility as citizens to speak up when we see someone going down the wrong path."
    Perhaps, but not in this harsh and judgmental way that IMO reeks of sanctimony and self-justification. Besides Julia's actions can't be reversed at this point. She may well change her mind and regret her decision, but as of now she does not feel she has taken"the wrong path". Throwing rotten eggs at her as an example to others is not what women need. It's just more shaming in a different guise.

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  28. "I do know that birth mothers...who had an abortion after losing a child to adoption state...recovered from the abortion quickly but that the pain of losing a child to adoption remains."

    This makes sense, however, what about the life that was aborted? Is how the birthmother feels the ONLY thing that matters? How is aborting away a life because its existence (and adoption away) would be painful for the birthmother any different that adoptive parents who will do anything to get a baby, regardless of how it impacts the birthmother?

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  29. That sentence I agree is awfully harsh, and written in the heat of the moment of feeling so frustrated by reading that story. I'm sure that if I knew "Julia" I would not have been so condemning. At this point, I am going to take the advice of my editors (readers) and take out that sentence. That's the wonderful thing about the electronic world...you can edit.

    I think I was directing that comment at myself, in a way. What the fuck was wrong with me that I didn't find a way to keep my daughter? I can answer all the reasons, but there's always the lingering doubt....

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  30. I have asked myself "What the fuck where you thinking" everday since I realized what I had done.
    Yes, she made her choice. And like us she will have to live with it.
    But her child will have to live with it as well.

    "Blood is Blood...you can't wash blood away"

    Mary Gauthier

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  31. Anon said:
    How can you claim to be pro-choice when you have decided that one choice, to surrender, is always wrong unless there are extremely dire circumstances? How does this differ from right-to-lifers telling other women that their choice to abort is wrong? Shouldn't it be up to the woman herself, either way?
    --------
    I get what you are saying. But what I never read in Julia's story is where she acknowledged that what she was doing would be harmful to her child. If she said, "I read all the literature and know that my child will forever feel abandoned at a gut level. That my son will feel that there is something inherently wrong with him because his mother gave him to strangers to raise. That most likely he will have trouble with relationships, always waiting for the other shoe to drop. That I most likely will be a wreck, grief stricken beyond repair. And knowing all of this I don't want to parent that bastard's child." Okay, then I can see that's her choice. But it isn't choice when a woman is only told about the benefits a child will derive. And we both know that the two parent family can turn into a single parent family in a blink of an eye.

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  32. Possibly O/T, but this story was incredibly triggering to me (I take full responsibility for reading it, though!). The bparents in whose house I grew up during the BSE never stopped threatening me, from a very early age, to "dump" (their words) me into foster care. As I reached adolescence, they held the specter of "juvenile hall" over my head.

    The phrase "in whose house I grew up" is deliberately chosen, as these gorgeous digs--the very type dangled before the eyes of mothers considering relinquishment--were described as "our house. You [I] just live here." On deeply resented parental sufferance.

    Deprived of adequate clothing, shoes, food, and many of the other modest "extras" (as they were angrily described) that other children in our neighborhood, and even my siblings, took for granted, I served as a combination household slavey and punching bag until I was seventeen. After that, the emotional and verbal abuse continued while the physical battering stopped, in part because by then I PLEADED to live with a relative or go into foster care. I even fantasized about being adopted. How could it have been worse, I wondered, than the environment in which I lived?

    A number of adoptees at FMF have mused in comments that they wonder whether bchildren growing up in their bioparents homes are expected to be "grateful" for the circumstances, and for every little thing they received, however essential and, yes, inadequate. I can attest that even though I grew up, like a shoot of grass between cracks in the pavement: I was.

    One reason I was NOT shucked was that unlike my biosibs, I was a scholarship-grubbing, straight-A student and all-around goody two-outgrown-shoes. We lived in a small town in which my bparents were well known. How COULD my bparents give me away without being the rightful target of shocked, critical gossip?

    Believe me, my oxytocin-deprived bmom would have shucked me without a backward glance--as they did of the family dogs, when they tired of them--if there were any way she could have. And I used to fantasize about just that.

    My bparents cut off all contact with me shortly after I married a wonderful man--a true Cinderella story, if Cinderella were to this day under psychiatric care. Later, I had to explain to my own children, who in time had asked me if I had parents, and if so, where were they?

    My all-purpose line for explaining grotty things was a calm, "It hardly ever happens, and I can't imagine that it would ever happen to you, BUT..." Followed, in the case of the missing grandparents, by the accepted explanation, "Once in a great while, parents are not INTERESTED in their children..."

    Then I would reassure my own children that Daddy and I loved them very much, and that we would never throw them away, and always be there for them.

    Julia's story does not ring as false to me as it might to mothers forced by circumstances to relinquish their children, coerced by agencies and beseeching aparents, or perhaps to adopted children who never felt completely comfortable with or accepted by their aparents.

    Clearly, this thirty-year-old professional woman, has a screw loose. Traumatized by her husband's infidelity, Julia flipped over all the cards; the unborn child with whom she once had "bonded" now had to be jettisoned.

    I wish someone could have told her that adoption is a permanent door-slam upon a temporary situation. It's heartbreaking to imagine how Julia most likely will feel in the years to come, not to mention her child--especially if he or she learns the full story.

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  33. The problem with focusing so much on "choice" is that it negates the serious responsibility associated with carrying and giving birth to a human being. "Choice" is more appropriately used in consumer settings in which an individual is deciding on where to shop, bank, or get a haircut. To reduce human relationships to a consumerist mindset devalues our worth as sentient beings.

    When a woman gives birth she is a mother whether she raises that child or not. A mother's connection to her child should be acknowledged and revered rather than reduced to a "choice."

    There is significant research detailing the bonding which occurs during pregnancy and immediately post-delivery. Real harm can be done when this bond is artificially broken not only by adoption but also by time spent in critical care, etc. That is why it is now standard procedure to encourage as much close contact immediately after birth as possible.

    There is also the problem of the child's choice which is completely ignored in adoption. Do babies really want to be separated from their mothers after birth and placed with strangers? Does this seem like a natural state that a baby would choose if she could?

    (BTW, I am also uncomfortable with the way "choice" is bandied about in abortion debates. It makes women appear to be flippant when deciding on abortion when in fact most women come to that decision after careful consideration.)

    For those who came here from Facebook and are new to the natural mother's experience with adoption, please understand that we are looking at this situation through the lens of our own history. Many of us have been deeply wounded by the loss of our children to adoption and too many of us have discovered that our children were wounded also. We are also mostly middle-aged or better - we have had many years to reflect on the impact adoption has on our ourselves and our children.

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  34. Some thoughts:

    1. Someone in the comments mentioned Medea. Let's not forget that in Medea's time, the way Jason treated her was resulting in her left homeless and penniless, and had she not killed her children, Jason would have taken them and left her destitute in any case. While murder is wrong, I fail to see why it is better for kids to go with dad and never know their mom, than it is for kids to go with mom and never know their dad. And those kids couldn't have gone with their mom. Jason would have had her killed for taking them alive. After all, they were heirs to his throne.

    The lesson is worth relearning today since people have clearly forgotten: if you make a woman desperate, she will do desperate things.

    2. I found myself in the same place J is finding herself, having been cheated on during a pregnancy for a very wanted child at the age of thirty. I almost relinquished. I'm glad I didn't, but not glad that I still have to have anything to do with the father. He's nice enough as far as they go and he provides for his child but I'd give anything if she could have been a better man's daughter. I feel the same way about my son, as it was his father's family who took him from me and adopted him and basically destroyed my life.

    It's perfectly legitimate to not want anything to do with a father. In our quest for equality we seem to forget the part about how people should not be judged by their gender if the gender has nothing to do with the situation at hand. But this is about reproduction, therefore gender does play a major role and the two sexes cannot be treated as one and the same. Women contribute more DNA to children than men do. True story. We pass on mitochondrial DNA to all our children, as well as the basic cell structures and machinery. Men contribute 50 percent of *nucleic* DNA which is considerably less than half the cell. If I wanted to play devil's advocate, and I guess that's what I'm doing, all children belong (in the sense of relationship) to their mothers FIRST, and to the fathers only if they are going to bother investing energy and resources into BOTH mom and baby. For Pete's sake, we're passing on men's genes for them. It's not like they can get pregnant themselves. A little gratitude wouldn't kill them. It's better for the children too.

    I still think J's son should know who his father is--but have a relationship? How is that even possible when the father has shown his willingness to betray? He'll do it to his son too. And he could have stopped the adoption. He chose not to do so.

    3. Relinquishing for adoption is not a reproductive choice. Reproduction has already taken place. Therefore, it does not go against pro-choice ideology to oppose relinquishment for adoption. Before feminism, when a marriage broke up, the father nearly always gained custody of the kids. The worst of the Baby Scoop Era occurred in between second-wave and third-wave feminism. It's not feminist to demand that women relinquish because to make such a demand is to reduce us to the status of baby-making machine.

    Being a surrogate is a reproductive choice to a certain extent--less so if you are only a gestational surrogate--but you need to think about what you are doing and what your behavior says about women in general. As far as I'm concerned, no one who chooses to be a surrogate has thought about it enough. But then I suppose money talks louder than the demand that women be treated as full human beings. It wouldn't be the first time.

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  35. Lorraine,
    You were probably thinking of me when you wrote this post because based on all my commentary you knew this story would get one of my biggest WTFs ever. IMO, Julia's "choice" stinks

    Anon 9:10 wrote:"Abortion would have been a better choice"

    I think having the baby and KEEPING the baby would have been the best choice. Many people for moral or religious reasons do not consider abortion an option. This first mother was invited to live with her mother (the child's grandmother) and would have had enormous live-in support. The fact that Julia never wants to have another child is very telling.It is of course most likely because of the enormous pain of giving her son away. If she had kept him it is much less likely that she would be so adamant about not having another one.

    I grew up after Roe v. Wade in a liberal environment. When some of my friends had the inevitable unplanned pregnancies they had abortions. Some of them regret them terribly and that's why I say that in this particular case having the baby and KEEPING him seemed like the best option all around. Also, I do think the difference in social mores today makes a big difference from the ladies of the BSE.

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  36. What everyone has failed to mention is that this woman who is very capable of raising her child has abandoned HER child because of infidelity. whose to say that these "wonderful" strangers that she got rid of her baby to, got rid of the symbol of her pain to might not suffer the same problem...having affairs. Adoptive parents are no more holy then thou in that department then any one else.

    I think she made herself a mayter to her husbands affair and the child has to pay...I find it sickening also. POOR birthmother look at what she has lost because her husband fooled around on her..well she will show him won't she, look at the sacrifice she made...sorry, I have NO sympathy towards this woman and my heart breaks for the child.

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  37. Mrs Tarquin Bisquitbarrel: God bless you. I know your pain.

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  38. Maybe, you stated so well what I felt about "choice..." in regards to a baby today.

    Either have the child and raise it or don't have the child. "Choice" to have the child be adopted--which is what the Facebook argument was about--it was her CHOICE, LEAVE HER ALONE, etc.--seemed so wildly inappropriate. The misguided folks who write noxious documents such as The Adoption Option have their minds clouded by the demand for babies out of which the adoption industry--a money-making business--grows. I'm surprised adoption agencies do not advertise on television: Have a troublesome baby? Let us take it off your hands. Basically that is the message of the Internet ads.

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  39. "Either have the child and raise it or don't have the child."

    No exceptions? Ever?

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  40. Of course there are always exceptions.

    Like a woman who is a drug-crazed individual has a baby. A real nut case. Etc.

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  41. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-02-27/social-worker-tells-of-forced-adoptions/3855210/?site=newcastle

    Opps, robin, it's this one.

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  42. The only exceptions being extreme mental illness or addiction, any woman of any age not in those categories who freely chooses to not raise her child for any other reason is wrong and bad? That is what is still coming across here, despite apologies to the contrary.

    Not every surrender is coerced. Not every adoptee is damaged.Not every mother who gives birth can or wants to raise the child, without anyone pushing them in that direction.

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  43. Not every adoptee is damaged.

    Correct. But there are adoptees who would argue this point with you. The degree of difficulty of course will vary from individual to individual. Some will suffer more; some less. Some will accommodate the adoption quite well. Others will not.

    But every adoptee has the potential to be damaged by relinquishment of their natural parents and being raised with genetic strangers not like them. And every adoptee has to find some way to deal with the idea of abandonment.

    Why is it necessary to take that chance today--when we know that the risk of psychological damage is high? Unless one's natural parents are totally unfit to be parents, why would anyone willingly take that risk with her child?

    Only someone who has been convinced that adoption is a unilateral "good thing." Only someone made to feel unworthy to be a parent and that she has an obligation to others to turn over her child to them.

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  45. Anonperson, March 10, 1:42March 12, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Stephanie, if you read "What we think about adoption" (top of the front page under the title) you will see that First Mother Forum states that it does not disapprove of all adoptions. In fact it acknowledges that in some cases adoption can be a good thing. However, that is at odds with an "either/or" statement like "Either don't have the baby or raise the child", which leaves no room for any alternative. There will always be a few rare cases that will require an alternative solution, as FMF has already acknowledged, and some of those will not even have anything to do with drug addiction or mental illness. Sometimes such things as religious beliefs and personal circumstances can present insurmountable obstacles to parenting.
    Anyway, I strongly disagree with labeling mentally ill people as "nut jobs". It is highly stigmatizing. I assume Lorraine was being facetious when she wrote that, presumably because she misunderstood my motives for asking. I was hoping she would clarify her meaning so that is was more in line with FMF stated policy.

    I believe that in the vast majority of cases women deserve to be encouraged to raise their children, and given the information and support they need to be able to do that. But there will always be rare exceptions and to refuse to acknowledge that is not helpful.

    As a mother who has just returned from a visit with her reunited child, I believe I have some right to an opinion.

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  46. Yes, I was being flip and using shorthand for mentally disturbed, psychotic, drug or alcoholic addled or otherwise neurotic individuals.

    And of course there are always exceptions to the rule, which most people automatically understand, and only the most defensive about their decisions would not. It appears that my language offended you.

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  47. "It appears that my language offended you."
    As do false assumptions and baseless accusations.

    Discriminatory and prejudicial language is like tar. It clings to everyone who uses it, as well as those against whom it is directed. "Nut case" is a derisive label. Even if it is true that a person has a mental illness, calling them a "nutcase" for something they can't help and others may share is out of bounds, and IMO has no place in a serious public discussion.
    I think most people who have had the experience of having a loved one cope with mental illness would agree with me.

    Mental illness comes in many forms. It is not always an obstacle to raising a family successfully. Too many women have lost their children because of discrimination and prejudice against mental illness. In fact it was assumed for many years that women who became pregnant outside of marriage were both morally and mentally deficient.
    Some dinosaurs still believe that.

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  49. Stephanie, you said your point is that "not one person here or elsewhere has any right to judge anyone else, unless you have walked in their shoes."

    Then it would be appreciated if you would do as you would be done by, and don't judge people for things that don't apply to them.
    Like here, you said to me, "The "mentally ill drug addict" unfit mother excuse you all love to speak of is getting a tad bit tired. I think infertiles who think they are more entitled to someone else's child, then claim "god" willed the suffering of one woman they can gain are mentally ill. They have no more business adopting than those "mentally ill drug addicts" (you so relish in dehumanizing) have to their own flesh and blood."

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  50. Julia is a tragic character and her own worst enemy. Wait until her son turns 18, or 21 and decides to look her up, wondering what extenuating circumstances were at play in her decision to give him away. Then, he will learn who she really is--a woman who couldn't be bothered to tough it out, a narcissist who puts more energy onto her yoga mat, than she did into raising her own son.

    I think we should stop blaming the system, her fragile psyche, her cheating husband. We each make choices in our lives, good and bad. Julia will have to live with the consequences of her choice for the rest of her life. She cannot re-write history, though I doubt she'd like to anyway.

    When Julia meets her son in reunion it will be because she has a self-centered curiosity fed by her ego. This young man will be traumatized all over again, realizing that she could've and should've kept him. He will feel marginalized and insignificant. Julia will probably dismiss his questions and concerns and sabotage the relationship in some way.

    My prediction is that in future years she will remain in denial and unaware, and will not take responsibility for her actions. Somehow, she will blame her son for bringing up this subject which to her has been a closed chapter. I foresee that she will then cut off conflict with him, thereby leveling the final blow of self-hatred upon her undeserving son.

    I do take solace in the fact that someday this boy will learn the truth and know he was indeed better off with his A parents who at least desired to do the job. I hope one day he is able to read this article and realize that Julia gave no consideration as to how her choices would effect him. My thoughts and prayers are with him, poor innocent child.

    The B mothers who post on this blog are self-aware, remorseful,loving, and longing for contact with their B offspring. Sorry, but Julia is kind of a toxic monster in my book. I have accepted that just as there are all kinds of people in this world, there are all kinds of B mothers too.

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  51. Can we please remember that Julia was not only suffering from the betrayal of her spouse, but also from post partum hormones? I am not saying what she did was right, but she may have believed it to be right at the time. I really think no adoption should go forward until the birth mother has had a chance to physically recoup from birth. I have no doubt that Julia will regret her decision in the future.And further more I don't believe any mother should be able to relinquish their child until the bleeding stops. We seem to just forget the exhausion, post partum hormones and in some cases post partum depression.

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  52. Anonperson:

    and I also said "unless you have walked in their shoes."

    I have, as a woman who knows people personally who did the very thing to me I spoke of.

    It is okay for (many, not all) adopters to degrade and dehumanize natural mothers, yet deep down they just as bad or worse than the woman they so desperately demonize? How dare I throw it right back at them!

    I think that falls in line with the "judge not, let ye be judged" bit.

    It would be appreciated if you would not be so condescending.

    Thanks.

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  53. Diane,

    I guess you have a crystal ball to predict Julia's future and are a mind reader as well. Sad to expend so much hatred and imagination on a person you do not know who never did anything to you.

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  54. Anon,

    You are so wrong. Julia did do something to all of us. Her actions made us once again relive our own decisions. Our own heartbreak over losing our children over a temporary crisis.

    I can only read this as a women bent on paying back her husband for the hurt he inflicted on her. The only problem is he never seemed engaged in the situation to begin with. She in the end has not hurt him at all.
    Her anger has been misguided and has fallen on her child not her husband.

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  55. "Julia did do something to all of us. Her actions made us once again relive our own decisions"

    Not me, so please do not speak for "all of us". What another person does with her own life has nothing to do with me. It has not made me "relive" anything.

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  56. @Diane march 13,4:47PM Are You Angry???????

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  57. Please, be reasonable, most of the mothers here are well over 6 years past the adoption, the trying to justify the adoption stage can last for a couple of years. Mothers in that stage often seem like heartless monsters, a conversation or interview with one them should be considered with that in mind.

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  58. Diane,

    You described my mom pretty well. I was shocked.

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  59. barbara said...
    Mrs Tarquin Bisquitbarrel: God bless you. I know your pain.

    Thanks so much, barbara, and bless you back.

    FMF must be a very safe space in order for me to vent like that. I came here originally for two reasons: to better understand an adoption gone horribly wrong in my extended family, and the realization of how many adoptions affect my circle of acquaintances/friends, etc.

    Market-driven reliquishment of children is something I'm much more aware of now, and it still doesn't make a drop of sense to me.

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  60. Stephanie said,
    "It is okay for (many, not all) adopters to degrade and dehumanize natural mothers, yet deep down they just as bad or worse than the woman they so desperately demonize? How dare I throw it right back at them!"

    How dare you throw it at someone who makes a case for women who have been stigmatized as being mentally ill or morally deficient simply because they had sex and got pregnant outside of marriage. And as far as walking in someone else's shoes is concerned, none of us has walked in anybody else's shoes. All experiences are unique to the individual.

    Stephanie said. "I think that falls in line with the "judge not, let ye be judged" bit"

    I suggest you take your own advice. Just as I suggest the people who are jumping all over Julia cut her some slack.
    Decision making and autonomy are not all-or-nothing things, but are more like phenomena on a sliding scale - there is no clear threshold.
    So what if Julia had more autonomy than many of the mothers who post on this forum. The bashing is out of control, and IMO says a lot more about the bashers than it does about Julia.

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  61. Hi-- Mrs. Tarquinbisquitbarrel and everyone:

    We do try to keep it safe but it doesn't always work because we try to allow as much discussion as possible without it getting too incendiary. But feelings are tender on our issue and not everyone has sensitivity to others.

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  62. Anonperson:

    Yes, how dare I speak for myself, or comment about how adopters and baby brokers demonize natural parents when they are NO better in so many cases. I will do just that, thank you very much. I believe I mistakenly thought you were an adopter when I initially commented, so that was my fault. As another mother of adoption loss, I am surprised you did not see that and do apologize if I came off as harsh.

    "How dare you throw it at someone who makes a case for women who have been stigmatized as being mentally ill or morally deficient simply because they had sex and got pregnant outside of marriage."

    I was making that case too, so if you would so kindly back off of me, I would sincerely appreciate it.

    You seem to relish in dictating and giving orders to people, however, you have the wrong person here.
    I know how I was treated and dehumanized by the people who conned me out of my son. I know how they judged and dehumanized me and I know I am not alone on being treated like that. I have always made that case, and I always will.

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  63. TO all: Anonperson used to comment here as another identity.

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  64. Well-written piece, except for the inevitability of the anti-adoption crowd to take jabs at women with fertility issues.

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