Adoption practitioners typically use close-ended questions--the kind answered "yes" or "no" on their websites and in their literature to create doubt and nudge mothers-to-be into thinking they are not ready to be mothers. American Adoptions, for example, encourages pregnant women to ask themselves: "Am I ready to be a parent? This the most important question of all....If you have aspirations to attend college, pursue a career, or simply just want to maintain your current lifestyle, you may find that you aren't ready to raise a child, when another family out there is ready to adopt and give a child the greatest life imaginable."
"The greatest life imaginable"? Wow! Isn't that what all mothers, married, single, rich, poor want for their children? Don't trust Mother Nature. Just contact your friendly adoption coordinator at American Adoptions and the "greatest life imaginable" for your child is guaranteed. As for you, well, honey, we can't help that.
PLAYING THE GUILT TRIP
"Unplanned Pregnancy," a blog by Mardie Cardwell, C.O.A.P. (Certified Open Adoption Practitioner) who does business as the Lifetime Adoption Center urges women facing an unplanned pregnancy to ask themselves: "Are you ready to make a sacrifice for your baby? Children...require a lot of time energy, effort, and sacrifice for their proper care....For starters they need diapers, baby wipes, hygiene products...clothes, carriers and strollers, cribs, and other furnishings, food, milk, and health care. This is all for the first couple of months of life and you can just imagine how much more they will need as they grow." Then the closer: "Are you ready to give someone unconditional love?" Are you prepared to face the long-term challenges of being a mother?" "Do you want a baby? ...If you are not ready to make a long term commitment to your child...then there are some options that you should consider, including adoption. Through adoption, your child could have a healthy and stable life in a caring and loving home."
A whole industry has evolved in making raising children complicated and expensive, benefiting purveyors of advice--though you think you came out fine, don't listen to your mother; read the latest book on child-reading instead--better yet, read two or three. Sellers of gadgets profit handsomely; Blogger Kate Fridkis describe the scene at Babies "R" US: "Fleets of bouncy seats with dangling, jangling things attached; high cloth walls around play sets that will educate your child from birth to college while you're in the other room living your life; and hulking herds of gleaming, multi-compartmented strollers."
The message from Madison Avenue and the adoption industry is simple: Motherhood is an all-encompassing activity; one that requires complete devotion and lots of money. Ironically, by focusing on how demanding motherhood is, the industry creates a veritable Catch-22. The very women who could raise their babies give them up, while those who don't know enough to know they don't know enough keep them. The Donaldson Adoption Institute points out in its study on birth parents that "Many teens choosing adoption are mature in their thinking...have personal goals that are important to them, and/or do not perceive that they would be good mothers at this point in their lives."One of our readers, Atienne, who works with women "who have lost children to an abuser or to the state" noted the converse: "mothers and fathers at most risk don't question themselves or look at adoption." Of course it's the children of the mothers highlighted in the Donaldson study that are most in demand by prospective parents. A child whose mother has education and career goals is so much more attractive (and can bring a higher price) than the child of a drug addict. The child whose mother can nurture him goes into adoption while the child who needs a better family stays in a family fraught with problems.
THE ONE SURE WAY TO KNOW HE'S WELL CARED FOR
I know what's involved in raising children; After I surrendered my first daughter, I married and raised three fine daughters. Like all mothers, I had to learn on the job. Sure baby classes are helpful, but no one can teach you what it's like to wake up to a crying baby, hungry, wet, and lonely. Or to lie awake waiting for the little clicks that tell you if you don't pick her up now, the wailing will start. Or what to do when your child throws a tantrum in the grocery store when you're trying to finish shopping and get home to cook dinner and you're starving. Or how to respond when a teacher/coach/baby-sitter tells you your child misbehaved and talked back while being corrected. Or worse--your child tries drugs or has a loser boyfriend who is selling drugs. Adoption practitioners can scare vulnerable pregnant women with these difficult scenarios, but the truth is mothers learn and grow with the job, and our kids are mostly all right. And a second truth is all these things also happen in adoptive families.
Years ago, a single friend of mine was considering placing her unborn baby for adoption. "At least I'll know he'll be well-cared for," she said. "I looked at her with my first mother eye and said, "If you give him up, you won't even know if he's getting enough to eat. The only way you can be sure he's well cared for is to do it yourself." She kept her son and he was the joy of her life.
Of course there are very young mothers-to-be whose family refuses to help them or those with addiction problems or in horrible living situations, homeless, or living with an abuser. For them, for their children, adoption may be best. But finding a family via the Internet or Facebook is not the answer. Go to a local agency and interview the prospective adoptive parents face to face. If the agency doesn't give you profiles of people in your area that you like, go to another agency. People who want to parent your child do not have to live three states, or even 300 miles, away. Get that open adoption agreement in writing. Know their names, addresses, occupations and places of business. Know them. For more information on getting the best adoptive parents you can get, see FMF's page "Giving Up Your Baby?"
I've met many, many wonderful first mothers who would have done a fine job in raising their children but sadly they were convinced--as I was when my first daughter was born--that no matter how much they loved, how much they sacrificed, someone else would do a better job. Women like Lorraine, who never had another child--or another pregnancy--can both appreciate what her daughter's adoptive parents did for the girl, but Lorraine can't help thinking that her daughter would have had a better self-image and intellectual life if she, Lorraine, had raised her daughter. Because of the girl's epilepsy, her adoptive parents wondered if Lorraine was in a mental institution; subtly or not so subtly, surely that permeated their attitude toward the girl, and what they expected of her. The difference between an adoptive parent knowing little to nothing of the child's background and hearing that their child should be in "learning disabled" classes, and a biological parent with knowledge of not only herself but the girl's father dealing with such a choice is a great as the difference between driving at 20 miles per hour or speeding along on the interstate. The adoptive parents expected a "slow" child and she fulfilled those expectations. Lorraine's daughter was capable of getting As in her college courses, but it would take another three decades, and knowing her true identity and background--and Lorraine--to get there.
So when the messages start coming in to vulnerable pregnant women about how better one's child will be if raised by someone else, we'd like to point out, it ain't necessarily so as many of our readers who are adopted tell us. --jane
This is the second in a series on techniques the adoption industry uses to convince vulnerable mothers to give up their children. The first "How money rules infant adoption" was posted December 1, 2013.
American Adoptions: Considering Adoption
Not Ready To Be Called 'Mom'
Mardie Cardwell's blog, Unplanned Pregnancy
Susan Smith, "Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents" Donaldson Adoption Institute 2006
How money rules infant adoption
'Parent' as a verb is beyond irritating
How the internet is changing adoption
Giving Up Your Baby?
Raising America: Experts, Parents, and a Century of Advice About Children
"Since the beginning of the twentieth century, millions of anxious parents have turned to child-rearing manuals for reassurance. Instead, however, they have often found yet more cause for worry. In this rich social history, Ann Hulbert analyzes one hundred years of shifting trends in advice and discovers an ongoing battle between two main approaches: a “child-centered” focus on warmly encouraging development versus a sterner “parent-centered” emphasis on instilling discipline. She examines how pediatrics, psychology, and neuroscience have fueled the debates but failed to offer definitive answers. And she delves into the highly relevant and often turbulent personal lives of the popular advice-givers, from L. Emmett Holt and Arnold Gesell to Bruno Bettelheim and Benjamin Spock to the prominent (and ever conflicting) experts of today."--Amazon
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