Thursday, July 12, 2012

The longterm impact of giving up a child

Lorraine
Does relinquishing a child have long-term negative effects on a birth mother's life? In the previous blog we began exploring that question. Here is a run down of several studies that indicate the way to a healthy, happy life is not having a child and giving it up for adoption. Yet everywhere today we see adoption as only a good thing. Celebrities adopt and the media thrives on the stories: See Sandra Bullock on the cover of People

Anti-abortion groups and all sorts of churches--evangelical, Latter-Day Saints, Unitarian, Catholics, you name it--promote adoption not only to prevent abortion, but as a way to control population. Instead of further burdening the world with more children, adopt a needy baby! 

Even a liberal think-tank, the Center for American Progress,[1] got into the act with a white paper a year ago that shows how single women who surrender their babies have a better life than those who do not. What is not talked about in these pro-adoption times are the mental and physical effects on the mother  of surrendering a baby to others for adoption. One expects short-term grief in the aftermath of signing away one’s rights a child one has borne, but what of the long-term lasting impact, four, five—twenty—years later?

MORE LIKELY TO BE DIAGNOSED WITH DEPRESSION
We are not doing so well. While there are millions of us out there, we are hard to study and pin down—we do go on and have lives and get swallowed up by a code of silence that many families and friends adopt. But the toxic impact of the decision to relinquish shows up in all the research. A British study of 93 birth mothers found that while only an insignificant proportion of them had been diagnosed with a mental health problem before adoption (3 percent), in the time between the parting and contact, 24 percent had a psychiatric diagnosis mainly for depression, with half of them having had inpatient treatment. [2] Not surprisingly, mothers who felt compelled to search for their children were those who fared the worst.

An Australian study of over two hundred first mothers found that more than a quarter of them (28 percent) reported below-average adjustment at the time they were questioned, many up to twenty years later, and half reported an increasing sense of loss since placing their children. A comparison group of women who had not given up children were found to be in sounder mental health than the women who had. Authors of the study identified three risk factors that exacerbated the difficulty of “adjustment,” for want of a better word: lack of opportunities to talk about their feelings related to surrender; no social support; and ongoing sense of loss. Yes, support groups and friends who allow first mothers to talk about their sorrow may help, but they do not alleviate the overall sadness that permeates their lives. 

EFFECT ON MARRIAGE, FERTILITY AND PARENTING
A survey of more than 300 birth parents, most of them members of Concerned United Birthparents, found that surrendering a child was perceived by them as having a profound negative effect on their later lives, particularly in the area of marriage, fertility and parenting.[3] One could argue that they were self-selected to be skewed towards pathology, as they were largely members of an organization devoted to the issues surrounding surrender and its impact on the surrendering parent, but nonetheless, the results are the same as other studies.

In one of the earliest books to investigate the effect of adoption on birth mothers, The Adoption Triangle, the authors (a psychiatrist and two social workers) found that in numerous letters from first mothers collected years after surrender, “there was still the intensity of feeling and the need to describe the pain, still carried within…. Even if the birth parents had become comfortable with the decision [to relinquish] because there were no viable alternatives, they nevertheless felt loss, pain, mourning and a continuing sense of caring for that long vanished child.”[4] 

Another study, the Birthmother Research Project,[5] found that on average that women who surrender children are more likely to have hysterectomies than women who do not. Researcher J. Kelly, M.A. writes: "The survey results supported other research findings…that birthmothers experience difficulties with unresolved grief, traumatic stress symptoms, self-punishment, low self-esteem, arrested emotional development, living at extremes, difficulty forgiving oneself/others, being out of touch with feelings, difficulty giving/receiving love, relationship problems, self-hatred and dysfunctional sexual problems. Unresolved grief, self-punishment, and low self-esteem ranked highest among the difficulties identified as extreme, often or severe."

WHO IS BETTER OFF?
One often quoted study[6] that is used to promote adoption suggests that women who give up their babies are better off than similarly situated women who kept their babies. However, read farther into the study and you learn that a full third of the women who had relinquished were not at peace with their decision—but a third of the original original participants--nearly 600--could not be located to complete the survey four years after relinquishment. Many were young women (21 and under) who had been residents in a home for pregnant teens, or recruited for the study because they were considering adoption for their unborn babies.

Ten percent of the women who surrendered their babies reported a great deal of regret, while 90 percent of the women who kept their babies reported no regret. Yet this study has been used to show that giving up a child can have a good impact on the birth mothers because they are more likely to finish their education and less likely to be receiving public assistance. (We note they were less likely to be receiving public assistance because they did not have a child to provide for.) Furthermore, the mothers in this study were surveyed four years after relinquishment, and for many surrendering mothers the full extent of their grief is not realized until years later. They write of the emotional devastation that the surrender of their children has wrought throughout their lives in memoirs and various social networks, and comments left at blogs such as this one.

This study was done in the Nineties when open adoptions began to be more available, and two-thirds of the participants did help choose the adoptive parents, and more than half of the respondents had received follow up pictures and letters. But four years later, only 12 percent said they had phoned or visited since the child had been placed with a new family...."so fully disclosed adoptions were not typical," according to a white paper of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.[7] Yet those who did choose the parents, and were not coerced into surrender, reported less grief and worry, and more relief and peace, then mothers who did not have this opportunity. The cohort that had the least regret and sadness were those who had continuing contact with the adoptive family. How great or small this number actually is remains a large mystery.

OPEN ADOPTIONS OFTEN CLOSE
Many so-called “open” adoptions are a sham; they consist of letters that pass through the agency to the adoptive parents without revealing the true identities of the parents, who may—and do—close them in apparently alarming numbers. One social worker at a Bethany Christian Services agency once revealed to a colleague that approximately 80 percent of the “open” adoptions that they facilitate close within a couple of years; while we do not know how "open" the adoptions were supposed to be in the above study, the above 12 percent figure of continuing contact indicates, at the very least, that only a small percentage truly remain open and involve the birth mother over the years. According the Donaldson Institute, mothers who believe their adoptions will be open, but find them later closed, suffer the greatest.

While writing about this, I am reminded what a well-known psychologist, someone frequently quoted in the media, once said to a close friend of mine: “You don’t want to end up like Lorraine, do you?” The comment stung—what kind of vibe did I give off? I wondered, I’d only met the man briefly, I was an editor at Town & Country magazine, I was in a relationship—but I think that whatever I emanated was not important: he knew my background and innately understood that giving up a child would always be a minus. It would always be an issue I would have to deal with. 

The surrender of my child would be a lifelong cross.--lorraine



[1]
The Adoption Option: Adoption Won’t Reduce Abortion but It Will Expand Women’s Choices (October, 2010. See also our response in one of the pages listed on the home page of the blog. 
[2] John Triseliotis, Julia Feast and Fiona Kyle, The Adoption Triangle Revisited: A study of adoption, search and reunion experiences, 2005; The British Association for Adoption & Fostering.
[3] Eva Y. Deykin, Dr. P .H., Lee Campbell, M.Ed., Patricia Patti, B.S.N., The Post Adoption Experience of Surrendering Parents, American Orthopsychiatric Association, 1984, pps. 271-280.
[5] J. Kelly, M.A., Birthmother Research Project
[6] Pearila Brickner Namerow, Debra Kalmus, and Linda Cushman,“The Consequences of Placing versus Parenting Among Unmarried Women,  Families and Adoption (The Haworth Press) pps. 175-197.

[7] Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process, Evan. B. Donaldson Adoption Institute, 2006, revised 2007, pps. 46-50.

From FMF: Response to The Adoption Option

Birthmark was the first memoir from a birth mother by blogger Lorraine. Extremely controversial at the time of its release in 1979, it remains a seminal and moving document in the history of the adoption reform movement. The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade, 2006, is a collection of stories of many birth mothers, written by adoptee Ann Fessler. If you are interested, please order by clicking on the above icons or links.

36 comments :

  1. I believe that one thing that all mothers have in common is that sense of loss. While all of us,think we will be okay and that all will be well somehow,it never works out that way - even the open-adoption era mothers. The idea that this is of no concern to anyone is what shakes me to my core.

    Our loss and the subsequent problems it creates don't end with us. Our surrendered children often seem to have some of the same issues, even if it is for the opposite reason. Our raised children and spouses also suffer with issues that surround the adoption of a child.

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  2. a little bit OT but not really:-)
    Your surrender paper can help the cause of open records:

    Some of you know that researcher Elizabeth Samuels has been collecting copies of surrender papers to prove that none of us were legally promised confidentiality. You can scan yours in and send it to her a
    esamuels@ubalt.edu

    I had been meaning to send mine for a long time, but could not find it. I finally came across it when looking for something else. I was surprised by the visceral distaste I still feel towards that paper. I don't like to touch it, read it, or see it. I can't wait to get it scanned in and put it away somewhere again. I think I lost it for so long because I really hate it, and what it represents, my utter defeat and capitulation that led to the loss of my son whom I should have brought home and raised.

    But I did not, and that cold legal paper is the reality of our lives. Like sending my picture to Ann Fessler for her gallery of birthmothers at the end of her film, at least this will serve as a record of all I was not promised, and all I lost through cowardice and fear.

    "And pray that I may forget
    These matters that with myself I too much discuss
    Too much explain
    Because I do not hope to turn again
    Let these words answer
    For what is done, not to be done again
    May the judgement not be too heavy upon us"

    --T.S. Eliot, from "Ash Wednesday"

    maryanne

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  3. I have thought about her every day for almost 30 years. Now as a (birth) grandparent I feel a new loss. It never goes away. I keep busy to avoid pain and manage that well most of the time. It gets easier to cope with but the amount of loss never decreases or goes away you just become better at avoiding it.

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  4. I do not remember even getting a coy of my surrender paper--I honestly don't think I did, but if I did, I certainly do not have it now. Yeah, it would be toxic to have and hold and deal with...ugh.

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  5. I did not know there was a copy of mine until I looked through a bunch of papers my father had when I started searching for my son years ago. It was in a box with birth certificates, Mass cards for dead relatives, and other important papers my Dad had saved.

    My father had taken me to sign the papers, the only time I ever saw that tough Irishman cry, but he did not stop me from signing. It was at that point too late for all of us.

    Evidently they gave him a copy of what I signed. I was shocked when I found it, along with a letter from the social worker thanking my parents for the gift they had sent for my son, an outfit to wear to his new home, and the news that the adoptive parents were keeping his first name. Thank God for small favors, I was glad to know that.

    My parents never said a word to me about this; so much silence and unspoken grief on all sides.

    I used the wording of the surrender papers in one of my first adoption poems, and once copied it and tore it up to use in a collage along with family pictures. Sometimes art helps contain and control grief and regret.

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  6. I worked with an agency to make an adoption plan. When I was struggling with post placement depression and they refused to help me, I asked for the paperwork I signed so I could read the agreement we had. They said I had no official agreement with the agency and they refused to provide me a copy of the relinquishment papers. It took eighteen years, but I have a copy now and will be scanning and emailing it today.
    ~beth

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  7. I found myself going through periods of unraveling and faltering followed by re-grouping and soldiering on. I "made it" in that most people would say I am a "success." But it was not without setbacks and self-destructive behavior and I hide the down-side very well.

    It took many years for me to see the connection to adoption but I finally hit that sweet-spot of realization (right around the 14 year point, which is said to be the time mothers tend to realize the negative impact and seek help). Although I didn't seek formal help - the adoption blogosphere and numerous books provided more help than I could have gained from a shrink. (I did contemplate a shrink, just didn't think they could truly understand so I never bothered to see one.)

    Reunion really released the floodgates and allowed me to process so much grief and pain in a way I was never able to before. Terrible anxiety attacks allowed me to release those pent-up emotions at last. They were miserable for a while, but I truly believe they helped my body physically expel those deeply held emotions. I suspect the episodes of anxiety will continue to come and go throughout my life but I can see them as having a yin and yang effect.

    Finding these studies on the internet also helped me understand what I suspected all along - that adoption loss creates HUGE problems that are life-long. Just knowing that has helped me move forward. I now attempt to consciously evaluate my behavior and emotions in a way that keeps me moving towards a better way of being me.

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  8. I was never given a copy of anything; nor did I ever actually read what I did sign. I do know that I was alone at the time. My parents were unable to help me as my mother was critically ill and my boyfriend's parents were so furious that they wouldn't even discuss anything. So, my sole support was the social worker and we all know what happens then!
    Gail

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  9. For years I was traumatized and I didn't know it. Today I can look back and see how my controlling nature was in response to being so out of control. Adoption wasn't something I chose but something I was guilted into. My subconscious must have always known that "they" were all full of shit and that my child needed me. If I had taken a survey I would have looked great on paper. But here I was a woman who always dreamed of being a wife and mother and never married until I was 40. The marriage came about because I was in a 12 step program for friends and family members of alcoholics. Alanon helped me grow up, yet until I met my daughter when she was 29, I never realized that the true trauma was not my mothers liking of alcohol, it was losing my daughter.
    In many ways I am one put together person. I have two young kids that are awesome. I won the fertility lottery and had them at 43 and 45 (yep I got pregnant the old fashioned way!). I am making a go with my marriage although that's another discussion altogether. I run a business and have for 20 years. And most of all most of the time I am happy. Just blessed with a happy disposition.
    But... losing my daughter overshadows all of it. In my mind I do little else than think about how unfair it is to take children from vulnerable women and give them to the rich. three years into reunion that she initiated,I have come to terms with the fact that my daughter wants little to do with me. She is kind and polite and a very lovely person. When we get together it is really nice. But for the most part she only responds when I reach out.
    She told that she just isn't interested in getting to know me on any deeper level. And so in respecting her I have backed way off. We are still connected but I stopped making phone calls that go unanswered and texts and emails that are only intermittently responded to. I still send snail mail and gifts at birthdays and holidays, and set up visits when I can afford the air fair. If we keep at it who knows what the future may hold.
    I take about two hours a day on social networks and reading blogs just to keep myself a float. Yes adoption has created a crazy mess of my mind. At least I can function, have fun with my family, and for the most part the screaming in my head has stopped. But I wouldn't wish adoption loss on my worst enemy. Really who would sign up for losing a child?? It is barbaric and cruel and devastates the best of us.
    Cynthia

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  10. I knew that surrendering my child to adoption would have long term consequences, but did it anyway because I was given no other alternative.

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  11. For me surrendering my son has been the event in my life beyond which I've never been able to move -and not for lack of trying I never got a copy of the papers,either-wonder if this is real-and,yes this is the gift that keeps on giving in ways too numerous and with ramifications too intricate to detail here.Since my parents died, there's been like a rolling depression or something in my family Maybe it's my turn this year.Sometimes I just say eff everything - just be here So I drove over to the beach I forgot how good the salt air smells but I couldn't stay too long-it made me too sad remembering past good times there But I've been trying to figure something out for a few months now and it just popped into my head while I was breathing that air so I did manange to accomplish something today Tomorrow there's supposed to be a solar flare or something Maybe that will energize me and light things up

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  12. Good post.

    I think part of the reason for the intense psychological pain is the fact our grief and loss are not validated by society and there is a lack of proper support and help for us out there.

    Team that up with the fact adoption loss is an ambiguous loss and one that can never be resolved, it is a fairly 'lethal' combination.

    The impact on the mother is not studied properly because if they were to research it properly and find the truth of the lifelong impact, it would mean less relinquishment and more support for mothers to keep their babies and there are many who would like to prevent that from happening; especially when it would mean a loss of profits!

    So our trauma goes intentionally unrecognised thus worsening the effects of the trauma of losing a child.

    And then there is the fact, even without adoption, the loss of a child is one of the greatest recognised traumas out there so I think many of us have shown great resilience in living with this loss. We all need to be commended on how far we have come rather than dwell on the negatives we still feel. Because it is negative and it always will be. Adoption loss can never be turned into a positive so therefore we need to celebrate the personal positives we achieve in our lives or the overwhelming reality of the negative could swallow us whole.

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  13. Re my own involvement with shrinks: the one I saw right after I relinquished my daughter was a psychiatrist in residence at the Albany Medical Center, and he moved into the apartment above me the same day I moved in. We met, became friendly, and one night I spilled the beans. He never told me that it was other issues or gave me any psychological mumbo jumbo and then talked me through some very bad times in those first few months.

    Many years later--yes, about when she was twelve and thirteen, I did hit bottom again, and this time sought out a psychiatrist. I told her about giving up my daughter, but she seemed to brush it aside and wanted to talk about my father...I quit after about four visits and knew I made the right decision. I knew she would never understand. And later, I was able to see that my worst moods were really dictated by a bad case of PMS, which I did bring under control with progesterone. I still had the ache in my heart, and after I met my husband, I had the courage to go ahead and complete the search.

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  14. Poem inspired by finding my surrender papers, 1975

    Papers
    For My Grandmother Annie
    By Mary Anne Manning Cohen


    I found my past today
    stored in drawers
    births, deaths, marriages
    beginning, end, and life between

    "Mary Golba entered into eternal life
    on January 5, 1975"
    Peter, seventh child of John Manning
    and Annie Devlin (the best of the lot,
    she said) was born, like all the others
    at home.

    Wills and deeds and policies, official papers
    with seals, and Mass cards with different names,
    gilded angels and saints and the same prayer
    on the other side... "Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
    and may perpetual light shine..." May perpetual
    unending unbending enveloping light
    illuminate your long road, reveal my shame, make merciful
    the guardians
    of papers

    "Whereas I, Mary Anne Manning, am unable to properly
    support, educate, care for said child..."
    whereas I am unable to say No
    "I hearby sign, consent, surrender ..." (Don’t shoot-I have
    thrown out my weapons, have cut off my hands...)

    Whereas
    I hearby sign, consent, surrender, "desire that this document
    be accepted by all persons as expressing my
    irrevocable intention..." irreversible sentence--eternal rest grant
    unto them that seal their own doom, a child crying, seven years
    I am burning.....

    May perpetual light shine on them
    who did not change your name
    your name I gave
    your own--I did not know

    Anne Devlin Manning
    beloved mother of John , Harry, Hugh, Francis, Mary, Anne, Peter
    Wife of John
    Died January 8 1943 secure
    in the hope of heaven, believing
    the child she named Michael, who died,
    as the children of the poor have always died,
    expendable.
    Was waiting.

    Mary Anne born January 7
    after the War
    named for her grandmothers
    named her son Michael
    and gave him away
    Does Annie know ?

    Papers
    I signed without reading, or read
    without memory, without hope--No reprieve...
    I wore a dark dress my hair pinned back
    death in my eyes--Court of the damned--across from me
    an old woman, Puerto Rican, worn, beautiful--I see every line
    in her face, every move, I have died, I surrender...

    Seven years--I had forgotten
    The Papers.

    Peter, son of Anne and John, husband of Eleanor
    father of Mary Anne and Peter
    brother of long-dead unspoken Michael
    grandfather of Michael soon to be lost
    between the ghosts of shame and sorrow

    Who never raised his voice who never
    showed his soul
    stands in silence, stands in tears
    as I sign, consent, surrender
    the only time I saw him cry...

    Eternal rest, eternal silence, Why
    did no one speak their mind ?

    Michael--child of silence, child of grief
    and love--Annie’s certain heaven
    does not wait for me
    They said they kept your name, and the faith
    I left, the faith of Annie, who prayed
    for her lost son, her Michael...

    Eternity is a long road, and I don’t know
    how many times, with how many faces
    you’ve tried to reach your home

    Just reach enough for one more try,
    seven years, four times seven
    until you reach my door
    Your past, your pain, your deliverance
    lie with mine

    locked in Papers
    stored in drawers

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  15. I was not given a copy of my surrender papers, and for over 20 years I had no paper proving that I had ever had a baby or given a baby up for adoption. It is crazy that neither the adoption agency or the courts gave us a copy of our papers!!!

    After reunion, I finally requested a copy of my file from the adoption agency and received a copy of those papers. Reading those papers was one of the worst experiences of my life. I happened to look in a mirror right after reading them, and I looked haggard and very old. I had the same look on my face that my Mother had when she had just learned that her brother was killed in an accident.

    It was horrible to read the TPR papers (which did not contain any promise of confidentiality, by the way). It was also horrible to read the adoption file. The counselor/social worker, who worked for a FAMILY SERVICES AGENCY (not "just" an adoption agency, although no one told her that!), had written in my file, "I counseled her after her own thoughts." Well good job!!!! You counseled a scared, confused, ashamed teenaged girl who was in people pleasing mode, after her own thoughts!!! Woohoo!!!! Let's not tell the young expactant mother about parenting options. No, lets just tell her how she can stop being ashamed, scared and confused by ERASING the baby from her life and the life of her family. Baby in your life = scared, confused, ashamed. Baby out of your life = life is good and you no longer have to hang your head in shame. In fact, you will be doing the mature thing and you will be a BLESSED ANGEL to some needy, empty armed, infertile people as well!!!! Wow, who needs to share information on parenting when we can sell her on being someone's BLESSED ANGEL?

    I wish I could face this woman today. We would have a conversation she would NEVER forget. I wish one of the requirements of being an adoption social worker is that you have to face the Mother 20 years later. She won't be a scared, naive little girl in a crisis anymore. I'll bet there are a lot of social workers who wouldn't be willing to do that. Maybe it would give them pause, and stop them from playing Santa Claus with someone else' child.

    If I ever find where I hid those papers, I am going to burn them. Lorraine, count yourself lucky that you never saw them.

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  16. Anon, If you do find them soon, please send them to Elizabeth Samuels, address in sidebar, as well as an explanation how she will use them.

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  17. Just hearing you ladies talk about your relinquishment papers is making me a bit sick to my stomach. What vile, disgusting papers they are.

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  18. Never got any LEGAL papers in 66 through Los Angeles County Adoptions. I believe they didn't want us to have any info to try to trace my baby.
    They were hoping that I would forget but I never did and after nearly 20 years of reunion we are together. The pain is still there but reuniting helped both of us!

    Adoption is heartbreak to mothers and babies. I have 8 granddaughters who will NEVER have to separate from their babies. I will also fight for my four grandsons to have their rights to claim their child. They all know how I feel and can now comprehend adoption is painful.

    Gale

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  19. Sad poem, Maryanne, but how it would have been for all of us, I think. Thank you for posting it here at FMF.

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  20. @Maryanne, this is a beautiful and deeply moving poem. I read it several times and it brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for taking the time to share this.
    @Robin, the word vile comes to my mind when I look back at what happened. While alone during delivery (all natural – no drugs of any kind) the nurses were joking around and I overheard one say, “she looks like she should be babysitting and not sitting here having a baby.” Following delivery, my child was immediately taken away and I was told that I could not see her. That was incredibly cruel in my mind. I threw a fit and eventually got my way. As I held my daughter, I told her that I would be back and return I did. Like Lorraine, it took me 15 years and that was pre-internet, pre-cell phone etc. So, when I talk about my adoption experience, I always use the word “surrender” because that’s what I did.

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  21. Thanks for the kind words about my poem. It is an old one but holds up well.

    @Mother, the surrender paper would not be useful in tracing your child; all the information on it you already know if you dealt with an agency. I do not know why these were not routinely given to the mother who signed them, but they were not. It seems like most surrendering mothers were given no papers; those of who had them or our parents had them are the exception.

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  22. Maryanne,

    I KNOW the surrender papers would nit help in a search.
    They are LEGAL papers which should have been given to me. Legal papers are given for any other legal court proceeding. Of course, I never got my day in cort before a judge. Just sleazy social worker along with another male social worker in back room signing.

    When I searched and found I went to Alma then met an adopttee who knew someone who had acess to California data base. Cost $150 in 92 adoptee called it blood money.

    I do believe the reason we weren't given papers is the thought of the day was we weren't worthy to parent, nor were we thought of in a humane way. Also, we would forget.

    I never forgot never and my dream was before I died I would find my son. I did we have a relationship that is loving and close. He and I lived together many years. That in itself gave us time that most don't get when reuniting. He also had a daughter who came to visit every other weekend. We did it all a lifetime of memories.

    Gale

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  23. Hi,
    Lovely poem, Maryanne!

    I found my surrender papers when I started looking for my daughter. The lady had ripped off the Case #, I do remember her doing that!! So you couldn't trace it. Jeezzz!

    But I found my daughter thru adoption dot com from a lady in San Diego! Only cost me $75 to find out my daughter's name!!!

    And yes, no where on my papers does it say - I can not search...

    I, too, told my daugher when I signed those papers - that I would find her some day!

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  24. Unlike many surrendering mothers, I never thought I would find my son someday at the time when I surrendered. When I was pregnant I listened over and over again to the Doors first album with that long weird song "The End". That is how I felt, "this is the end, I'll never look into your eyes again."

    I had no concept of the future at all, the future was shattered by the loss of my lover and my child, and if I expected anything, it was to be dead soon. It never occurred to me that any adoptee would want to find his mother.

    As it happened I did find my son when he was very young because I took the first opportunity offered to me to do that, fearing I would not get the chance again. But it was nothing I expected or planned, at the time I surrendered I felt utterly defeated and worthless. I promised nothing to anyone, and nobody promised anything to me.

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  25. Lorraine, surrendering your child may be your "lifelong cross" to bear but adoptive children do not necessarily bear the same cross.

    I've personally known MANY adoptive individuals who've been extremely open about how lucky they feel to have the parents/family they do. They realize that in the homes of their birth parents, they may have fared poorly for a plethora of reasons (emotional, physical and financial limitations).

    Thus far, the ONLY individual I've known who really suffered poorly by it is my own mother who was given to an orphanage because she suffered Polio and was considered damaged goods by her birth parents.

    She suffered such emotional pain from that her entire life. Ironically, she never wanted to rekindle the relationship with her parents years later over their callous act.

    I'm sorry you feel such a cross to bear and as a mother myself, I couldn't even imagine the agony of giving up my child - even if it was for their own good.

    However, I won't kid myself either. Were I to give my child up for adoption (she's 1.5 years old), she would ultimately do beautifully (given they're good people) at this young age and twenty years from now, she'd have a beautiful, full life and it is I who would remain devastated by it.

    I suppose it hurts us more to believe that we are forever damaged and empty by the loss but our children adapt just fine.

    Regardless, that is generally the truth.

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  26. @Anon July 17 3:50

    The post is about MOTHERS, not adoptees.

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  27. Thanks, Maybe. I found her comment incredibly callous but so it is. Blogs where one can post anonymously bring out the meanest feelings of people, and they feel free to let you know how they feel about you.

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  28. Maybe and Lorriane,

    Don't think it was adoptee that wrote that. I see it as someone who really does't have a clue.

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  29. She says her mother was adopted....wonder why she is reading fmf...

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  30. [Lorraine, surrendering your child may be your "lifelong cross" to bear but adoptive children do not necessarily bear the same cross.]

    Thanks for speaking for adoptive children.

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  31. Anon 3:50 wrote:"I suppose it hurts us more to believe that we are forever damaged and empty by the loss but our children adapt just fine.

    Regardless, that is generally the truth."

    Anon sounds like a troll who came here just to stir up trouble. Either that or she is so grossly misinformed it is frightening. Obviously, she has not read the multitude of adult adoptee blogs or the Primal Wound. She is unaware of the statistics on the high percentage of adoptees who who are in mental health treatment and in special schools for kids with behavioral/emotional problems, etc. She also seems to be oblivious to the large number of searching and reuniting adoptees who feel that something is profoundly missing in their lives by not knowing their biological families.

    "Ironically, she never wanted to rekindle the relationship with her parents years later over their callous act."

    Why on earth would she want to reunite with the parents who gave her away for such a selfish reason?

    Anon 3:50 you are not adopted and have no business speaking on behalf of adopted persons as you have.

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  32. Did I ever say I was speaking for "adoptive children?" I don't think so.

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  33. I am so sorry. I am an adoptive mother, and I fully understand that I am intruding, but since I am doing so to better meet the needs of my daughter's "first" mother (LOVE that term), hopefully you won't be offended by my eavesdropping. I hope.
    The things you share are what nightmares are made of. I am so, so sorry. Is it at all possible though that through reforms and just plain good sense that the experience for a birthmother, though always a lifelong loss, always a life-altering event, can be less horrific? I just want to cite a couple of examples. In our agency we used adoptive parents have to sign a contract about sharing pictures throughout the child's life. In one situation an adoptive family had broken their contract (dispicable) and the birth mother actually sued them and WON ((awesome). If agencies practice this, isn't that better than a closed adoption? Which I don't think should ever take place. They should not be legal. Nor semi-closed. My thoughts were that if we were being entrusted with so much, how could we NOT trust our daughter's birth family with our full names and addresses.

    Also, and a want to be especially careful here so as not to offend, but I also want to make sure I understand. Is it the feelings of this community that NO woman, even an adult who of her own free will who seeks out an agency and chooses adoptive parents, should ever choose adoption?
    In the case of our birth mother, she already had two small children and no way to support them. In the years that followed the adoption life got much worse for her and she told me repeatedly that she was so glad that she knew the daughter she entrusted to us was happy and safe. It was the decision she was most proud of she said and in those times of trial it gave her peace. Her child's happiness gave her peace. Of course, if you deny someone access to that child--I can only imagine that is a hell like no other. May such people be dealt with severely.
    But my question is this: Those who have suffered so terribly, were your adoptions closed? There are no words for my feelings for my daughter's birth mother. The English language doesn't have a word for my relationship to her, but her happiness is second in importance to me only to the happiness of my daughter. She knows where we are and is welcome at anytime. She has my numbers and can text me or call. We are friends on facebook because I didn't want her to be limited to only the pictures I print off and send.
    Short of doing away with all adoption, would educating more people on the plight of the birth mothers and things that can make the ordeal easier on her be the answer? Would that help?
    I just have to say, we are not rich people. The means by which we had the money to adopt could only be described as a miracle--one that has not repeated itself. I join you in condemning anyone who makes money from this situation. We had simply not given birth and were ready for a baby. Our motive for adopting was to honor someone who had chosen to give her baby life even though it wasn't "easiest" for her.
    I just want to commend you for speaking out so courageously about your grief. I recently suffered a miscarriage (waaay after the adoption) and it segregated me. Though I would never compare my loss to yours, I definitely understand feeling compelled to speak out about a grief that others want you to sweep under the rug. You inspire me.

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  34. I cannot speak for all adoptees, but I find it insulting to hear Anon state that "our children adapt just fine." This is a blanket statement, so it is inevitably wrong. We don't all adapt well to our new families.

    This is also insulting: "I've personally known MANY adoptive individuals who've been extremely open about how lucky they feel to have the parents/family they do. They realize that in the homes of their birth parents, they may have fared poorly for a plethora of reasons (emotional, physical and financial limitations)." Sounds like a bunch of adoption rhetoric to me. Someone has been drinking the Kool-Aid. "May have" means that the facts are still out. Maybe these adoptees should seek out their parents to ascertain the full truth before buying into some of the myths.

    I do not feel lucky or grateful to have been adopted. Why are these terms always attached to adoptees? APs and adoptees form a symbiotic relationship. We give them a family, and they give us a home. They aren't grateful to me. I'm not grateful to them.

    Adoptive parents as people are no better, no worse than everyone else. People have to stop assuming that a-parents are saints and that b-parents are sinners.

    Many adoptees do not talk about their pain because those who are closest to them (their a-families) might be hurt by the discussion.

    Adoption is at times necessary, but it is not without long-term consequences for many b-parents and adoptees.

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  35. Oh there it was! I was watching "Children of Men," a few years ago, and there were those "old [year 2000 or so] photos" that really looked like OUR, late-1960s, photos, hip and radical, and in the film the music "Ruby Tuesday"! I *knew* there was the song that was playing on the very day after I left him, my baby, in the hospital, a song in the moment before "Something's Happening Here" and "Strawberry Fields Forever," and (much later) "Somebody to Love." Well, and there it was. I don't forget the songs--or "Faking It," a few months later ("I'd just be faking it/not really making it"--yeah, wonder why that one made me cry). But the papers---no. I signed the papers; I remember the social worker driving me from the friend (and fellow antiwar demonstrator) I was staying with; I remember the two social workers in the agency when I signed the papers, and I remember holding my baby in the little room on the courtyard of the agency before I signed; I remember that one social worker had tears in her eyes, and one had asked something like "Are your sure? Be sure--" and that I thought they were being overemotional and that this was something I *must* do, for the baby's sake. And that I believed this even though I had come, through the Movement, to believe we all could love and were whole, and there was, after all, no reason--except that a baby must have two parents and a home etc.--that I couldn't raise my child. And I know I sat there and must have signed the papers. But I've never seen those papers and do not remember--I just do not remember signing or whether I got a copy--though everything, the songs, the things my friend said that evening, and where a bunch of us, friends who'd been together through a major dangerous demonstration and remain friends to this day, went out for dinner in the evening, and that I pulled a knife from someone's kitchen drawer and jabbed it at my stomach but not so strongly as to do myself physical harm.
    But the papers? No, I don't remember them, or whether I received a copy or not.
    I went on to do many things for peace and justice, and I did not lose the joy and hope of knowing that I and others can love and that a peaceful loving world may yet be possible. But three or four years after my son's birth, I was alone in France and fell into a black despair, and it took months to come out.
    I had a second child--again, alone; he bore and still bears the twin burdens of growing up in poverty and of my fear and sorrow from having yielded his half-brother. Since my first son found me, we've had a mostly good relationship--21 years now--though not so close as I at first hoped. I don't feel guilt at having let him grow up adopted, and there was not shame, but I feel sorrow for the losses we've all borne from it.

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  36. I found this site while I was searching for answers and would like to say thank you to all the birth mothers for sharing their stories and feelings. I gave up my son for adoption 12 years ago. It was an open adoption. I selected the parents myself through a private attorneys office that specialized in adoption. I am just now realizing the effects that my decision has had on me. I found out that I was pregnant when I was 16. I was so scared that I hid the pregnancy from my family and friends until it was no longer possible to do so. When my parents finally found out, they demanded that I have an abortion. By that time I was almost 7 months pregnant. When they found out how far along I was they were furious. They made it very clear that if I decided to keep my baby I would be on my own. At that point I had not even finished high school and had no idea how I would be able to take care of the both of us. Adoption seemed to be my only option. I was never offered any counseling nor have I sought it out. Up until this point I had been able to carry on with my life. I pushed all my anger, sadness, confusion, loss and guilt deep down inside. I always thought I was lucky that way and that somehow I was making things easier on myself in the long run. Now it is apparent how wrong I was. All of those feelings have finally surfaced and have hit me like a mack truck. I'm not sure how to manage all of these feelings; to say that they are overwhelming is an understatement. I don't think that any of these feelings ever go away for birth mothers. I think you carry on with life the best way you can, but that pain never ends.

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