|photo by Marty Liederhandler of AP|
In 1976, she "strongly" advised a woman who got pregnant by "mistake," and who wants to go to law school, to consider adoption. "Several studies indicate that illegitimate children who are adopted fare better than those who remain with the natural parent," Brothers wrote. "The adopted are generally more confident and better adapted socially. "
That tells you what the social censure was in the Seventies for both having a child "out of wedlock" (the phrase common then) and being a "bastard." Things were changing by then--people were living together without a marriage certificate--but it was still only the brave few who were raising children as single mothers.
|Lorraine in the Nineties|
Two years later, in 1978, Dr. Brothers counseled a woman who gave up a child when she was 17 not to tell her husband. The woman wrote about not being able to get pregnant with her husband of six years; she had relinquished a child a decade earlier but never confided in him. The writer wondered if her anxiety over this deep, dark secret might be the problem. "You alone know how your husband might react to such a confession, but in most cases it's best for the past to remain past." Dr. Brothers responded. She added that she "doubts that guilt is holding" the woman from becoming pregnant. "Very often couples who have tried for years to have a child turn to adoption only find out that shortly thereafter the wife becomes pregnant." [Emphasis added.]
Then Dr. Brothers advised the woman "relax" and she would probably conceive.
HOW MUCH BETTER TO BE ADOPTED THAN NOT
In 1986, we learn that "adopted children" actually have an advantage, after an adoptive mother wrote to Dr. Brothers expressing concerns because she read had read that they suffer from low self-esteem,"felt isolated and had a poor image." This wasn't true for her children, the woman wrote, but she loved them very much and wanted to give them everything life offered.
Not to worry, replied Dr. Brothers. She came roaring back to calm the adoptive mother's fears, referring to a study that made being adopted sound like the enviable way to grow up. She pointed to Dr. Richard Detweiller who did a study comparing a "group of adopted and non-adopted people between the ages of 13 and 21." He found that "adopted children said their parents were more nurturing, expressed a higher level of comforting, and provided more 'helpful interference' in coping with problems than did parents of non-adopted children." I don't know about you, but did 'helpful interference' sound like therapy, boarding schools and strict rules?
Dr. Brothers went on to say that adopted children had a "more positive world view, saw others in a more positive way, and had a higher level of self-confidence than the non-adopted," and that certainly "didn't confirm" the results of the study the woman read about, but did reflect today's more "positive views about adoption."
Well, who wouldn't want to be adopted after reading that? Shouldn't social scientists be urging that we move our children from one house to another, so that every one can have that extra special nurturing that adoption provides? Well, actually no.
SEEKING UNITY DESPITE A BREAK IN CONTINUITY
Noticing the dates in the Seventies and Eighties, I thought of the pieces I was writing for magazines in that era, just having completed a bibliography of them for a history project. Perhaps Dr. Brothers' troubled adoptive mother came across one of them, as I wrote for the general public, not journal articles read by academics and Dr. Brothers. But she and I were clearly reading different articles in the course of our research, for I was unquestionably pointing out the less than salubrious effects of being adopted.
In Parent's magazine in 1975, a year before the worried adoptive mother sought advice from Dr. Brothers, I wrote:
"What the adoptee is seeking, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 'is to achieve a unity and persistence of personality in spite of the break in the continuity of his life.' A statement approved by the Academy's Council of Child Health notes that establishing one's identity is difficult enough for someone brought up by his natural parents; it is that much harder for the person whose ancestry remains a mystery." * There's more, but you get the drift. (The piece is not available on the Internet.)The year after the above appeared, I came out of the closet in a magazine piece for Town & Country in a special section on children. I wrote of my unrelenting grief after surrendering my daughter and not knowing where she was, and how desperately I wanted to find her, and what the research was now indicating about the impact of being adopted. My shocking personal revelation landed me on the Today show, and Jane Pauley did a non-critical, straight-forward interview, unlike many that would follow.
Back to Dr. Brothers: I could not help but react to the phrase, such a confession. It was a confession to admit that you gave up a child, for no one, in their wildest dreams, would have seen it as a reason to be "proud," as some agencies and churches would have young, unsuspecting women believe today. We have come a certain way since the time of Dr. Brothers' brand of advice, but in many respects, not so very far at all.
PRESSURES TO MAKE AN 'ADOPTION PLAN'
Today single mothers can keep their children without society's scorn. But the pressure to have women give up their babies comes from other sources, particularly the big and lucrative business it is today. Agencies need babies to stay in business. They've got the customers, they need stock, and young women and poor women are urged to supply it with the clever marketing of "open" adoptions. If adoptions are "open," why worry? You can always stay in touch--if you are caught in an untimely pregnancy, whether because you are in college or you can't afford to raise another child, the pitch goes. You can always "make an adoption plan" for yourself and your baby. It sounds as appealing as selecting from a Chinese menu--Column A or Column B? Keep Your Child (think of the difficulties) or Give Her Up (that's a good girl, that's the "smart" choice)?
I know I am being flip, but the marketing ploys that agencies advertise on their websites and the way "adoption opportunities" are marketed today make me nuts. Babies should never be listed on the internet as "adoption opportunities," a wording we have seen in the past, and is not unlike how real estate "opportunities" are listed.
First mothers and their sons and daughters may have reunited numerous times on television in the past, undoubtedly causing many cringe-worthy moments for Dr. Brothers' fans and many an adoptive parent, but we have Dr. Drew and Dr. Phil to carry on the tradition today of espousing adoption whenever possible.
Bethany adoption services turned Catelynn and Tyler of the TV show Sixteen and Pregnant into shills for adoption, and they go to colleges to talk about the satisfaction (to them) of the adoption option--and for you too in the audience, should any of you get pregnant. We even have a liberal think-tank that came out with a white paper called The Adoption Option, enumerating the many advantages to women of giving up their children.
Nina Easton in The Washington Post last Sunday wrote:
"The third choice, adoption, carries such a social stigma that domestic placement of infants has plummeted — even as the number of parents desperate for a baby grows. Birth mothers choose life, and a family, for their child. But this choice is rarely celebrated." [Emphasis added.]The piece goes on to quote the director the National Council for Adoption (a lobby group for adoption agencies) and the founder of A (sic) Act of Love," a Utah-based agency, both decrying that adoption option is not more popular with pregnant women today. (Why do I hate Utah, let me count the adoptioneers.) Oh! Ms. Easton is an adoptive mother, something she rarely divulges and certainly not in this piece shilling once again the glories of adoption! The crying need to fill the arms of "parents desperate for a baby." And the blogs? Countless pro-adoption blogs are written by happy adoptive mothers of young children.
Dr. Brothers was 85.
An essay I read in Newsweek a few years ago spoke of how rare it is that people identified with either side of a contentious issue change their minds: “No wonder the historian Thomas Kuhn concluded almost 50 years ago that a scientific paradigm topples only when the last of its powerful adherents dies.” It seems that it will be the same with adoption. We will always have a need for some children to be adopted, but that does not mean we should encourage it when a parent, or family member, is able to prevent a child from growing up with genetic strangers and no one who looks or thinks like them. If adoption was so damn great, everybody would want to be adopted.
Dr. Brothers may have died but many have replaced her. We are still fighting an uphill battle, and we need the patience of Sisyphus.--lorraine
If anybody wonders why A (sic) Act of Love would use a name that is so grammatically incorrect...it's because A A will come up sooner in an alphabetical listing..than An Act...and thus it is listed first in the list of member of NCFA...and from NCFA's2012 annual report:
In June, LDS Family Services (LDSFS) provided NCFA with two fellows, Vicki and Wayne Allgaier, who are in the NCFA office 3-4 days per week. Vicki brings with her 13 years of experience working in the Maryland agency of LDSFS. In care you wondered how closely tied NCFA and LDS are. Very.
Unwed mom should make up her mind
Quit Trying So Hard and You'll Have a Child
Adoption children have a loving plus
ADOPTED CHILDREN RATED AS PSYCHOLOGICALLY STABLE PEOPLE
Sharon Begley, On Science: On Second Thought…, Newsweek, Jan. 12, 2009, p. 17.
A Mother’s Day plea to stop equating adoption with abandonment
(Pro) Adoption Special: Dr. Drew encourages teen moms to give up their babies
Response to The Adoption Option
The Lost Post regarding the issues of Tyler and Catelynn, reconstructed
Catelynn and Tyler--still grieving over the loss of their daughter
Dear Abby: Birth mothers think of their children lost to adoption
When your adopted child wants to visit her birth mother
Single Parenting That Works: Six Keys to Raising Happy, Healthy Children in a Single-Parent Home
"Before reading this book I felt like I needed to find someone to fill the role of "dad" for my kids. I am so glad I read this book before making that mistake! Now I feel encouraged that I can be a good mom, with thriving kids. I felt this book was jam-packed with practical advice and also had great wisdom. I am now confident that I can do the job! This is a must read for anyone who finds him/herself as a single parent." --left by irish girl at Amazon
And one of the best books on the experience of the less than joyful aspects of being adopted is Betty Jean Lifton's Lost and Found: The Adoption Experience "Important and powerful . . . [the author] is concerned not just with adoptees but with the experience of adoptive parents and birth parents."
The late B.J. Lifton was a friend of FMF and an adoptee who told the truth about the experience of being adopted.