|Sept.1, 2013 cover of New Republic|
"Some women, like Corrigan D’Arcy, blog their stories. They run message boards with names like “First Mother Forum” and “Pound Pup Legacy,” full of tales of bitterly regretted adoptions. They hold retreats for birth mothers* and adoptees. They’ve formed several grassroots activist organizations, including Parents for Ethical Adoption Reform, Origins-USA, and Concerned United Birthparents. Some call themselves adoption reformers. Others prefer terms such as 'adoption truth advocate.' A few will come straight out and say they’re anti-adoption."
The piece, by Emily Matchar, is good and straight-forward reportage about the growing sense of dissolution about adoption in America, and makes reference to the Baby Scoop Era before Roe v. Wade, as well as the pressure that we, mothers of that time, were under to relinquish our children.
It points out that we are part of a broad and loose coalition of activists out to "change the way adoption works in America," making political bedfellows of Mormon and fundamentalist women who woke up one day and realized how their religion had pressured them to relinquish their babies, adoptive parents who have had traumatic experiences with corrupt adoption agencies (and I would add, some sensitive adoptive parents), as well as progressives who believe that adoption at bottom is a classist institution "that takes the children of the young and poor and gives them to the wealthier and better-educated."
WHITE WOMAN'S DISEASE OF THE 50s AND 60s
That is where Jane and I, bloggers of First Mother Forum, would count ourselves, as well as among those single women who kowtowed to the enormous cultural pressure to give up our children when they were born in 1966. The piece notes that 50 years ago, before Roe, approximately 9 percent of babies born to unmarried women were placed for adoption. Though it does not mention it, the statistic for white middle-and upper-class women were much higher. Some estimates put it at 80 percent,* and some as high as 95 percent.** It is no wonder that surrendering a child during that era has been dubbed a “white woman’s disease."
Of course, we thought we were "smart" and "doing the right thing"
Of course, we thought we were "smart" and "doing the right thing"
|April 8, 1966, cover of Time|
Talk about pressure to hold it in. My daughter's father urged me--sternly--me to not cry as we left the hospital with our premie left behind in an incubator. I remember the long trip down in the elevator, the candy-striper pushing the wheel chair, the awful lump in my chest that felt the size of a basketball. I spent the next 24 hours alone, occasionally looking out the window at skyblue sunshine. The weather was glorious that day, not in tune with my emotions. It was Easter Sunday and God was nowhere in sight. The cover of Time magazine asked if He were dead. Yes was my unequivocal answer--what God?
DON'T WORRY, YOU CAN ALWAYS ADOPT....
But I digress. I just knew you would find that last sentence as fascinating. Since waiting-past-prime-fertility among the white and educated and moneyed (at least middle class) is the style du jour, and since the rate of failure is so high, the pressure for those who are untimely pregnant to give up their babies to loving couples is as great as it was back in the day. Why keep your baby when so many "worthy" couples--straight and gay--will take them off your hands? When you can have an "open" adoption? When you can make someone so happy with you "gift?" When you can look through scrapbooks of pictures and pick out someone who lives five states away (thus making it hard to visit) but who offers a stable, "two-parent" family who loves hiking and has a boat at their lakeside cottage? (That two-parent thing again.)
It's not just the myriad number of agencies who are in business to relieve you of your baby. Yes, there are the liberal thinkers who understand the classist bent of adoption today; but then there are the other so-called "progressives" (often well-educated women who want to keep adoption as an option for themselves) who put together white papers called The Adoption Option making adoption, once again, seem like the perfect solution it was a half century ago! Too young, too poor to have a child? Give her to a well-heeled couple! With its high-toned language and research, The Adoption Option tries to smell like Chanel Number 5 instead of the same old BS that it actually is.
Part of the message is that adoption is a better option that abortion. Better for whom? As Matchar notes in the New Republic: "Adoption...is known to cause “a sense of loss that is all-encompassing," says the U.S. Administration for Children and Families.) Adoption counselors are frequently adoptive parents themselves, which puts them in a less-than-neutral position."
A BILLBOARD AD FOR A BABY
If you happen not to fall in the clutches of agencies like Nightlight Christian Adoptions, or Bethany, or any agency run with LDS in its initials, you might succumb to the ads on paper place mats at your local burger joint, the sides of trucks or, I am not kidding--bill boards. While some agencies, such as Spence-Chapin in New York City are discontinuing domestic infant adoptions due to a lack of "product," ingenious and wealthy couples are turning to social media and other forms of advertising in their fervid quest for a healthy infant. Yesterday a reader, Mrs. Tarquin Bisquitbarrel sent this:
"...Just before Exit 8A northbound on the New Jersey Turnpike, I saw a billboard reading "Loving Couple Seeking to Adopt." I scribbled down their web address, www.adopt2013.com, and looked it up on my iPhone. "Orna and Jay" also provide a toll-free number."Their website is extremely vague about where they live, and the follow-up in the media notes that "Orna and Jay" are not their real names. The Maryland couple opted to put up the billboard ($2,000 a month!) in New Jersey because that state lets mothers relinquish just 72 hours after birth, whereas the state of Maryland allows the mothers up to a month to decide."Orna and Jay" already have adopted an eighteen-month-old boy from somewhere. He didn't look very happy to me, either with his APs or riding on their much-vaunted pontoon boat. 'Orna' allegedly is a physician, so one would imagine that she'd be familiar with the option of looking into adopting from foster care, but nope. They want another baby."'We feel as a couple our goal is to market ourselves to as many people [as possible] to let them know there’s an option for their 16-, 18-, 20-, or 25-year-old young woman who isn't ready to be a mom,” Jay explained to CBS. “What we hope to find is that one unique situation where someone picks up the phone or goes to our website and says ‘hey I can give a great gift to this couple.’
Now tell me again how the pressure to give away your baby has changed since the bad ole' days? I'd say: not much.--lorraine"The gut-slammers include, at least for me, '... 20- or 25-year-old young woman,' as well as the, 'hey, I can give a great gift to this couple.' Gift! Sheeeee-it!"
FOOTNOTES AND SOURCES:
*Mink, Gwendolyn and Solinger, eds., Welfare: A Documentary of History of U.S. Policy and Politics, 2003. p. 177.
**Ellison, M., Authoritative Knowledge and Single Women's Unintentional Pregnancies, Abortions, Adoption, and Single Motherhood: Social Stigma and Structural Violence, 2003, Medical Anthropology Quarterly 17(3). p. 326.
NOTE: Until adoptivemother and adoptiveparent is one word, birth mother will be two words at FMF. Original story had us as one word.
Response to The Adoption Option
Advice from an adoptive mother to one hoping to adopt
Spence-Chapin out of the infant adoption business
How shame keeps birth mothers from embracing reunion
Adoption and the Mormon Church
Shotgun Adoptions via Crises Pregnancy Centers
Adoption: Uncharted Waters by David Kirschner is an unvarnished look at the sometimes devastating effect of being relinquished for adoption. Examines adoption issues of abandonment, loss, rejection, attachment, bonding, birth-parent fantasies & split-identity; as reflected in the Adopted Child Syndrome (ACS) and evidenced in extreme cases of adoptees who commit acts of homicide. Clinical and forensic issues in adoption are explored in high-profile cases. After reading this, adoption may not smell so sweet. Order by clicking on book jacket above.