' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Pregnancy before Roe: I thought I was alone...but I wasn't

DNA NEWS

You may transfer your raw DNA to FTDNA from either 23andme or ancestry.com FREE by going to https://tinyurl.com/z5art2s in the skinny search window at the very top of your browser screen.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Pregnancy before Roe: I thought I was alone...but I wasn't

Lorraine
How many of us got pregnant during the years when mores were changing in fact but not in public acceptance--the years after World War 2 and before abortion became legal? When I read about the various states--North Dakota, Texas, Missouri, to name a few--which are making abortion increasingly difficult and expensive, I am reminded of the time back when...I got pregnant. This is a excerpt from my memoir, hole in my heart:

While I felt completely alone in my catastrophe, I actually had a lot of company. We women who got pregnant when we weren't supposed to in the Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies were trapped in the transition era that has come to be known as the Baby Scoop Era, a period that began after World War II and continued on through the Seventies. [1] 

However many babies were given away during this time is impossible to pin down with any accuracy. The estimates vary from a low of one and a half million to four million, which may or may not take into account the babies born to women who relinquished in what was called the “black market.” Babies were delivered by doctors who passed them onto to people for whom birth certificates were written as if the woman had given birth, and so an accurate birth certificate was never even written, and thus the number of babies relinquished that way is lost for all time. In short, there simply are no reliable statistics as to how many babies were kept by single white women, how many relinquished. Only three states had laws requiring a hospital to notify a state agency of the mother’s plan for her illegitimate child, and that would not include those trafficked on the black market, which, according to one estimate, was nearly forty percent of all babies born outside of marriage in the Fifties and early Sixties.[2]

THE 'RHYTHM' METHOD
In 1966, my daughter was one of more than 86,000 children adopted by non-relatives; by 1970, that number would rise to 89,200.[3] By and large, black women kept their babies, for losing them was too close to what happened in the slave era, when families were split willy-nilly, without feeling, and there was not a ready market of couples willing to adopt non-white babies. Surrendering a child during that era has been dubbed the “white woman’s disease,” as the number of white unmarried mothers who gave up their children is thought to be around 70 percent—some estimates put it at 80 percent, [4] and some as high as 95 percent.[5] I was merely one of the crowd--a crowd that was quite Catholic in number. The advice we got about birth control ("rhythm" was the rule, even for marrieds) was nil, and the presumption was virginity until marriage, no exceptions. Even in the supposedly swinging sixties.

The rhythm method? One was supposed to abstain from sex on the days when you were fertile; today oddly enough, it's a reverse rhythm that is followed by those desiring to get pregnant, taking their temperature and charting their periods to figure out the most advantageous time to have sex. The rhythm method for non-pregnancy back then was notoriously faulty, and anyway, I tried to not have sex the day I got pregnant. He pleaded; I was naive and in love and had already fallen away from the Church. I acquiesced--and Bingo! I was pregnant. 
Wake Up Little Susie was one of their big hits

It was the rare parent who was sympathetic to a daughter who got “in trouble,” one of the euphemisms of the day. Girls not so lucky to have someone who was willin’ were sent to live with relatives in another town, shipped off to homes for unwed mothers, where they sometimes were encouraged not to use their real names—even with each other—or they hid at home and bore the ignominy of their parent’s scornful, hurt, why-did-you-do-this-to-me? gaze. Teens thought too young to marry were encouraged to give up their babies, and then figure out when it was a proper time to marry--after that first embarrassing child was gone. Neighbors whispered, fathers held their heads down, and you, the sinner, prayed for this purgatory to be over and knew your life was ruined. 

Unlike the girl in the next bed to me at the hospital, most teenagers who wanted to keep their babies 
were offered zero support and otherwise threatened if they did not give up their babies. Some teenagers had their babies taken from them in the hospitals; their parents did all the arranging and the young teenager realistically had no choice. If parents were not willing to let an unmarried teenager bring her baby home, she had no alternative but to sign the termination of parental rights and give up her baby, despite what she felt in her heart, regardless of how much her body was telling her to keep her baby close. 

A 'RIGHT' TO TWO PARENTS
The pressure to relinquish a child went like this: every child had a right to two parents, people who could supply a better layette, and the life that went with that, than you, poor wretch, could. If the child were to be raised by a single woman, people would gossip, the child would be ostracized lest he infect a neighborhood with the poor morals of his mother. Married motherhood was idealized, and fatherhood was a sign of virility and solid citizenship. Though the sexual mores were shifting the ground below, the image of two-parent family was still paramount, and that is what I held in my weary breast. At the same time, the demand for babies kept rising as adopting became increasingly acceptable. I understood that I was supposed to do the right thing, and the right thing was giving up my baby.[6] Society told me so. Patrick insisted. My parents would never know. 

No consideration was given at all to the proposition that a child might prefer to grow up with people who looked and acted like her. Nurture trumped nature, if nature meant single mother.

By 1970, the number of adoptions by non-relatives would start dropping. Contraception as well as legal abortions became increasingly available as prohibitions against premarital sex dropped away. Sex education in schools began to include contraception; fewer parents forced their daughters to relinquish their children as cultural attitudes towards single mothers became more accepting. The negative connotation of  “unwed mother” shifted to a more neutral “single mother.” 

Today nearly half of all babies in the U.S. are born to single mothers.[7] But all that would come later, far too late for me and my baby.



[1] Karen Wilson-Buterbaugh, director of the Baby Scoop Era Research Initiative. Buterbaugh originated the phrase Baby Scoop Era (BSE) that has become popular usage for the period of high adoption in the U.S. that began declining in 1973. For a further explanation see the Adoption History Project at the University of Oregon: http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/topics/adoptionstatistics.htm
[2] Rickie Solinger, Wake Up Little Susie (New York, 1992), pps. 32-33.
[3] Encyclopedia of Social Work, 1977, John B. Burner, Editor-in-chief, p. 8.
[4] Mink, Gwendolyn and Solinger, eds., Welfare: A Documentary of History of U.S. Policy and Politics, 2003. p. 177.
[5] Ellison, M., ibid. 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. 
[6] A tipping point in the baby/adoptive parents equation would be reached in the late Sixties, when agencies began to scramble to find adoptive parents for the number of babies being relinquished. Roe v. Wade in 1973 solved that problem, and today there are many more people seeking babies than there are infants available for adoption. It has become such a “problem” that many agencies are going out of the adoption business.
[7]  "Knot Yet: The Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America, National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and the RELATE Institute. Information was compiled from a number of studies and government surveys. http://twentysomethingmarriage.org/in-brief/

RECOMMENDED READING

Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade
By Rickie Solinger
"A stunning but troubling book that illuminates the deeply racialized terrain on which the politics of women's reproductive capacities and decisions have been played out. Contributing mightily to contemporary social policy debates, this rich history of single pregnancy from 1945 to 1965 warns us that reproductive rights must not only guard each woman's choice to contracept or to terminate a pregnancy, but also must win honor and social support for each woman's choice to become a mother."Gwendolyn Mink, author of Welfare's End
If only Solinger were nicer to mothers and adoptees...it seems a bit condescending to quote me only as a "young birth mother," when at the time she quotes me I was nearly 40 and had published two books and a stack of magazine pieces. I once asked her why--she blew me off. It feels as if we are simply fodder for her research--and I've seen her dismiss adoptees the same way. If you don't have academic creds up to hers, you are toast. Yet her book and the one that follows, Beggars and Choosers: How the Politics of Choice Shapes Adoption, Abortion, and Welfare in the United States, are founts of information. 

43 comments :

  1. Lorraine, every time I read one of your posts describing the horror of your experience as a young, vilified single mother, I desperately want to turn back the clock for you. I know you would have been a great "day-to-day" mother to Jane, and I am so very sorry.

    I have seen Rayna, a single mom with mental health issues, be able to raise Nina in her family, and I have got to believe times have changed. I hope that in this day and age, there are at most very few other mothers out there like you who are "voluntarily" placing their children in adoptive homes. Breaks my heart that intelligent, competent women like Jane and you felt compelled to give up your children due to social mores of the day, that your children didn't get to be raised by such awesome mothers in their own ancestral families.

    I also believe there are very, very, very few "voluntary" placements that are truly warranted - so I hope that prospective adoptive parents in this day and age make sure that if they are approached for a voluntary placement, they have vetted all possible alternatives for keeping the child with his/her biological parents or at least biological family before becoming a party to such a placement.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Even in 1984/5, the times were definitely changing, but not fast enough in my parent's social circle. The attitudes they grew up with were the ones still carried, and what they based their decision for me to give up my child on. I wasn't alone. A popular cheer-leader friend of mine got pregnant at the same time I did, and she also got "sent away" to give up her baby. The social workers at the adoption agency I went through were in their 60's, so they also carried the beliefs and attitudes from the BSE...since they had been active in the agency since the late 50's. To be honest, not much had changed. They were being forced to start offering "semi open" adoption at the time I was there. That was simply "choosing" a family from 3 hopeful p-adoptive parent letters, and getting a letter and picture of the baby when she was 2 months old. I believe that was the end of their requirements. MAYBE one more letter and picture at the child's one year birthday? However, this wasn't initially offered to us. It was only after I voiced my desire to try and keep my baby that they explained this "new concept" they thought would be more palatable for my bf and I.

    Oh, and the 2 parent family, stay-at-home mom ideal...that was stressed to us over and over. "THE" baby deserves a stable 2 parent family, with a mom who can stay at home...because no one wants their child in day care! So, how are they pushing adoption now that you see numerous single moms trying to adopt? And the fact that most moms DO work and children are going to day care? It's not the "evil" it once was, so what now?? I was selfish for wanting to keep my child, because I was a single mom who would inevitably have to work and rely on day care. How the tide has turned! It wasn't okay, but now it is. Plus the fact that my daughter's amom went back to work when my daughter was 3, and guess where she stayed? DAY CARE. Talk about a slap. And a rude awakening for me...

    ReplyDelete
  3. Lorraine: Let me begin by saying I am very eager to read your memoir. Just from this post, I can tell it is something everyone should read in order to understand the problems in the adoption industry.

    You were/are a capable, intelligent human being who could have provided for your baby, yet society said no. I believe the same happened to my first mother, because she was 35 and held a decent job. I have convinced myself she was not "allowed" to keep me.

    I have also convinced myself that my first father may not have even known about the pregnancy. He is mentioned nowhere on my non-id. DNA testing has produced no results from his side of my genetic make-up. It seems that no one is out there looking for me....he may not have even known.

    It is very difficult to understand the thinking in those days. But what bothers me much more is this: today we obviously no longer think that way. We have TV shows such as "16 and Pregnant." Single mothers keep their children if they so choose. Why, then, are we still stuck with our antiquated laws, dictating who we can contact, which documents we can see, etc. The world has changed so much since those pre-Roe days.

    Why aren't the laws changing as well?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Lorraine: Sorry, but here I am again. If you would just allow me to vent, once more.

    Your post describes the BSE, with which we are all too familiar. I have already written about how I can't understand the thinking of that time. I also can't understand this:

    I have a cousin on A-mom's side of the family who is 2 years older than me. He was born to the 16 year old sister of my A-mom. She barely knew the father....but she came home pregnant. She kept the baby. A-mom always said how her sister was not ready for a baby, but they could not even think to give him up. The whole family stepped up to the plate. Everybody coddled him and bailed this young mother out of all kinds of situations. "There was so much love there" A-mom says.

    OK. Why then, is my first mother treated with such disdain? Am I t believe there was no love in my situation? Wasn't it the same situation?

    Adoptees are left with all kinds of baggage. Just look at your poor daughter, and what happened to her.

    I never knew what to make of this story of my cousin. So much love. I still don't know what to make of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why was your natural mother treated with such disdain? Because she gave you up, that's why! And because it made your parents' narrative easier to believe: She wasn't a good person, she had sex outside of marriage, they were the "deserving" two parents who raised you. To make your first mother the bad guy by contrast makes them the good guys.

      So it goes.

      So glad we hear from a different kind of adoptive parent here, like Jay and Tiffany and Second Mom.

      Delete
    2. There is so much hypocrisy in adoption it makes me want to scream. If my A-mother can carry on about how wonderful it was for her 16 year old sister to keep her baby, what would she have done if my first mother changed her mind and decided to keep me? All I ever heard was how A-mom agonized over the fact that nothing was finalized and the girl might want me back. How does she justify both of these opinions, and why in world would she tell me a story of "so much love" that no one could bear the thought of giving up my cousin?

      At times I really wonder if it's just ignorance. Or selfishness. Or both.

      Thank God for the adoptive mothers here at FMF. Restores my faith in human nature. There are good people out there, who are doing the right thing.

      Delete
    3. Julia Emily, you said 'Am I t believe there was no love in my situation? Wasn't it the same situation?'

      No-one but your natural mother or those around or close to her at the time can answer this. I can only offer insights into mine and I do so as a way of showing how love often got overwhelmed by so many other considerations.

      In my own family, there were fissures that went back two generations before me that opened up at the time of my unplanned pregnancy. None of that was my son's fault and my inability to keep him most certainly was not a reflection of my feelings towards him. But those familial fissures resulted in our family falling apart as the new needs my pregnancy and impending young motherhood became clear. No-one pulled together as a family, instead what had been buckling broke.

      But that was not my son's fault and that was absolutely no reflection at all on how much he meant to me. It was that our family was not strong enough, and the individuals in it were not strong enough, and I was not strong enough.

      Delete
  5. Lorraine, you have pretty much described my story. Son lost to adoption in 1968. Good, respectable, middle-class parents who saidmy tragedy as a fate worse than death--and I don't exaggerate. We look back at the days of slavery and wonder, "How could they?" Yet most people don't give a thought to the millions of birth mothers silenced by shame. "Things are different now," they say, as if that solved everything. Things are somewhat different now, but there's no difference between a girl losing her baby in 1968 and one losing her baby in 2014. The loss is the same and will have the same long-lasting consequences. A few letters and photographs, a few lunches at McDonald's, or an annual report are no substitute for raising and loving a child. We cannot ask a tiny baby what he wants, but if he could answer, it would be one word: "Mama."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are so right, Pam. Not much of anything has changed. Open adoption was supposed to change the complexion of adoption, but we all know the stories of open adoptions becoming closed ASAP. Adoptive parents moving far away, calling the shots. It's a shame, because we certainly should know better by now. The long-lasting consequences matter only to those involved in adoption loss. No one else cares.

      Delete
    2. @Pam: We cannot ask a tiny baby what he wants, but if he could answer, it would be one word: "Mama."

      So true, Pam. As my "birth"daughter told me once while discussing her situation, she said "We just want our mamas." She felt that, deep down. And we walked away :(

      Delete
  6. I always want to go back to 1966 and change the outcomes... for Lorraine and Jane and so many other mothers, other years.

    Reminds me of Lee's chant, "Let them get to the lake, just let them get to the lake," Lee being the infinitely wise man/Chinese servant from East of Eden. My favorite John Steinbeck novel, I re-read it at least once a year.

    Lee's father was a Cantonese debtor who was forced, by family tradition, to sign onto a railroad crew in the High Sierras to repay what he owed. On the boat over, he discovered that his passionately loving new wife had disguised herself as a man to accompany him. Due to the seasickness on board, the nausea of her just-discovered pregnancy passed unnoticed.

    During the following months, Lee's mother--passing as her husband's nephew--and her husband made plans. They hoarded part of their daily rice, matches, every rag they could find. Lee's father hammered and honed nails into fish hooks; his mother used a splinter as a needle to fashion a layette. They made plans to escape to a nearby mountain lake.

    It was not to be. When his mother went into early labor, the cry of "Woman!" went up. She was gang-raped, but lived long enough for her husband to deliver their son. Their countrymen were deeply ashamed; "After that, the entire camp was my mother."

    So you can see why Lee, knowing the inevitable outcome, still wanted to change it. To get his dear parents to the lake. And he couldn't do it, any more than I can change 1966, or rewrite and erase any of the other multiple griefs of mothers and babies.

    In 1966, in my experience in an all-white, virtually all-married seaside town, parents were ineffably smug. Who was better than they were? Who lived in a lovelier, more desirable place? Why, nobody!

    And who needed to closely examine their words and deeds? Not them! That was for "the other," the lesser, the people living out of earshot of the Pacific.

    Most of them, it goes without saying, were wrong.

    May we have learned from the gross misdeeds of the BSE.

    ReplyDelete
  7. ... and a brief addition: NO camp full of loving, guilt-stricken "parents" could ever make up to Lee for the mother he lost from their brief savagery. Nothing could.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I wish I had words to say, Lorraine. I don't. At least none that don't sound so incredibly insufficient in light of such pain. I know if I had gotten pregnant as a teen (which was a highly probably circumstance I managed to somehow escape), my very religious parents would have made me give up the baby. I know this based on things they said about others who ended up pregnant as teens. It would have been a deep shame for them.

    I could never, would never, encourage my children to give up my grandchildren. The very thought crushes my heart, let alone actually being in the moment and going through with it. Both my husband and I are very firm on adoption being something we would discourage. For us, I think we feel two mistakes do not fix things. While it would not be ideal for either of our daughters to end up a young mother, it would also not magically fix the situation if they gave away their child. It would be a second, far graver, mistake, and one that I don't think any of us would ever get over. But welcoming an unexpected baby into our family under not such ideal circumstances? That would be something that I know we would end up finding joy and happiness in doing.

    I do want to take a chance to make mention of the Pennsylvania bill HB 162. Tomorrow, on September 16, the Senate Aging & Youth Committee will hold a vote hearing on this bill, which would allow adoptees access to their OBC. If those living in PA could please contact their reps and indicate support for this bill, maybe it will gain some traction. I believe Amanda from Declassified Adoptee has been working on supporting this bill. Info on reps and what to say can be found at: http://www.pennsylvaniaadopteerights.org/2014/09/call-to-action-last-chance-to-contact.html.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks about the bill--I made it a sidebar and put it up on my Facebook page as well as at my son in law's--who lives in PA.


      Delete
    2. Disappointing update. The bill passed, but with an added amendment at the last minute that allows for birth parents to file a "Denial of Release" of the birth certificate. It's very disheartening.

      I'm only an adoptive mother, and I do have my daughter's OBC for her, but I feel so let down today. After the mess earlier this year in my home state of NY, and the flubbing of the bill in my current state of CA to the point where adoptee rights group killed the proposed bill because it was so bad, I'm just feeling overall disappointed in humans. What right do these representatives have to decide the fate of people they have no relation to? Adoptees should be able to have the stronger voice here, and today, I feel like my daughter, even as an adult, will always be treated as an errant child who needs the "real adults" to control her behavior.

      Sorry... I know this is off topic. Just feeling a lot of hurt today for adoptees.

      https://www.facebook.com/adopteesrightspa

      Delete
  9. Julia Emily, Tiffany, and others: the sensitive amoms here at FMF help restore my faith, that they're/you're not all remotely like the ones I witnessed as my sons were growing up: These aparents were able, mostly, to go first-cabin and purchase those elusive healthy white newborns from places like Gladney in Fort Worth, passing them immediately into the hands of the hired help.

    While sitting in the hallways of the nursery school among the Spanish-speaking nannies who talked, with amazement, about their patronas (bosses), I was amazed.

    Another eye-opener was the number of high-ticket aparents who did NOT want their children's arrival printed in the monthly "Congrats!" column in the school newsletter that I put out for years. Since their kids were both dropped off and retrieved by The Help, the fact that these amoms had not, in fact, been pregnant was doled out strictly among their "own kind."

    I did get excessive enjoyment when one amom was asked about her labor and delivery by an effusive and clueless fellow parent. "Oh, it wasn't bad, not bad at all," fudged this ambassador's daughter, eyes darting wildly for an exit to this unwelcome conversation!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Whoa! You do bring a refreshing outsider vibe to us. What you described would be hilarious...if it weren't pathetically true.

      I hope you were able to clue in the clueless. That would have been what the amom deserved since she couldn't even tell the truth when someone was calling her out.

      Delete
  10. The insanity continued even after Roe v Wade.... and parents and social workers continue to force girls to do things that are wrong for the girl, the baby and the family of the babies. Until people learn that sometimes you just have to be the "Aunt" or "Cousin" and not the "momma" then it will never stop.

    ReplyDelete
  11. "I am an unwed mother who kept her child. And I fear no hell after death, for I've had mine here on earth. Let no man or girl deceive herself--hell hath no punishment like the treatment people give a "fallen woman." The heartache, tortured thoughts, recriminations, far, loneliness,could not be put on paper. Neither can the scorn, insult and actual hate of self-righteous and ignorant people."--a white unmarried mother from Pittsburgh, in a letter to the Ladies' Home Journal, 1958, as quoted by Solinger in Wake Up Little Susie.

    An extremely angry and nasty adoptee is spewing her hatred and anger of all birth mothers (she calls them BMs) on the Bastard Nation page on Facebook. I made a few comments but what is the point? She just responded with hate. This letter was published 8 years before Jane and I relinquished. As far as I believe, attitudes had hardly changed--if you got pregnant outside of "wedlock."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lo,

      thank you for this excellent post . I too was a BSE mother, forced to relinquish, and during the late 60s I recall many many friends and others known to me who became pregnant out of wedlock.

      Most, as I recall, entered into "shotgun weddings." There were several girls on my block in the 60s who had such quickie weddings. People gossiped, but they stopped after awhile, because the couples were now married and part of the community.(or, sometimes, the couples had moved away...)

      Another "solution" at that time was what we called, "family foster care." This was an arrangement in which family members raised a child and kept the actual parents' identity a secret from the public. I had a close friend in this situation and I never knew who her mother actually was. She wasn't talkin...

      There were quite a few in my community in family foster care....which was usually not a "government program."

      I grew up in upstate NY,in a small community outside of a medium sized city, in the "dairy belt.". I came from a middle-class professional family. My family also had a home in the mountains(where my father's family lived) and I knew a number of girls who got pregnant and were sent away from both areas.

      These pregnancies were not uncommon. You and I are from the same era!

      Delete
    2. "BM"? Is that the worst epithet she can hurl? Amateur. Most original mothers have been called far, far worse than that, and by angrier (and real, as opposed to cyber) people. A family member used to refer to me as "pig" more often than is wise for me to recall.

      I recently read a biography of a British woman born at the very beginning of the last century. She recounted how her late Victorian, upper middle class, suffragist and Labour member mother complained when a nurse from the local hospital district was forbidden to treat an unwed woman's pregnancy. That brought to mind my own experience, generations later, when an obstetrical nurse refused to give me care. I overheard her tell another nurse on the maternity ward that she didn't want "to touch that." How might I, a young woman who needed her medical skills, have harmed her safety, morality, or sanity? What frightened or repulsed her to the point that her professional ethics and humanity wilted in my presence?

      Back to the present: The family member continues to treat me with contempt, but she no longer compares me to a farm animal, at least not to my face. Pigs are routinely slaughtered, aren't they? Is her behavior and mindset late Victorian, post-Roe, or early 21st century? I don't have the answers. I could ask her, but I think she lacks self-awareness.

      Delete
    3. Hmmmm. Personally, I don't like to be referred to by what is normally a bowel movement. Birther was my other choice.

      In any event, the facebook persona (not a real name) post on Bastard Nation's page has disappeared. I think even for BN she was out of control and so very nasty. Every first mother was a pig.

      Delete
  12. Good post Lorraine, as it pretty well sums up the situation most of us found ourselves in. Add to this is the fact that as single mothers it would be extremely difficult to get gainful employment in order to earn money. And then who would watch the baby? Day care centers were non-existent - and then how to pay if they were? Credit cards weren't invented yet and even it they were,I highly doubt the credit line would be much for a poor, unemployed teenager. And, to add insult to injury, no one recognized our grief or helped us with the tears. We were supposed to forget and pretend nothing ever happened. And some of us, believe it or not, were criticized and falsely accuse of abandoning our children!!!! Unbelievable!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is that a false accusation? Forced child abandonment, justified child abandonment, OK, but unless we are talking about (legalized) abduction, it is still child abandonment, without which legal adoption would not be possible,certainly from the p.o.v. of the child concerned. That does not make it a wrong choice in itself, like homicide, child abandonment can be justified, but denial of the fact that surrendering, relinquishing, is in many jurisdictions the very act of child abandonment itself is just helping the industry getting more babies. And that explains why Julia Emily's replacement parent feels justified in treating her mother as less than her, her mother abandoned her, even if forced by circumstances, of which the replacement parent herself is part.

      Delete
    2. 'Abandonned' is a loaded word. It implies lack of care, lack of connection, lack of consideration, lack of motherly feeling. ( 'Walked away from...' is another version of this. As is 'threw me away').

      NONE of these are true for me, or for many of the mothers who write here. In fact, the VERY opposite is true. So don't pretend you are speaking neutrally or objectively when you use that word. You are not. Reach for a dictionary all you want, you are not.

      I agree with Gail's feelings. I feel really wronged, really misrepresented by such descriptions. I actually feel it victimises a victim of the adoption situation. I don't feel a victim of hardly anything, and I do of the world of adoption.

      About seeing things from an adoptee's point of view? I've made a point of reading as widely as I can things written from adoptees' points of view, and in the process have encountered some breathtakingly painful things. But a lot of what I am aware of now is because of the writings of adoptees.

      But I also have a point of view and an experience. I also think that deserves to be heard and acknowledged, and seen for the intensely painful, the ongoingly painful experience it is.

      I have just seen on FB a photo of an old family friend and his wife, in a hospital, cuddling a newborn baby. They have 84 likes under that photo. All I can think of is that a girl or woman will right now be distraught, and that little baby is needing and seeking his mother. I can barely breathe.



      Delete
    3. ...of course, the family friend and his wife are anticipating adopting that newborn they hold in the photo.

      Delete
  13. Theodore: I am a bit confused by your comment. Could you clarify? I hesitate to comment since I don't really understand what you're saying.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Sorry, I am afraid that I misread your comment, it was early in the morning after a short night with a painful foot and all, I got the impression that your a-mother was rather full of disdain towards your missing mother. Rereading it seems you meant from society, sorry, I did not want to insult her, but it seemed so wonderfully human

    ReplyDelete
  15. Theodore: my AP's are full of hatred for my first mother. All because she disappeared for almost 4 years and held up the finalization of the adoption. They have hated her forever because of that. You can't imagine the things I heard if I ever brought her up as a child. Any curiosity was quashed. I was told to change the subject. Yes, they hate her.
    Adoption is just so awful. It has destroyed so many lives.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you, Cherry, for your comment. You expressed how I feel. Only I know my situation and I did not abandon my child and I resent those who tell me I did. As I've aged, I've developed a much stronger spine and I have no problem telling people like Theo to stfu.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you say your child was abducted, I believe you unconditionally. Don't expect me to accept abandonment for adoption as a well-informed, well-considered and loving decision however.

      Delete
    2. Feeling abandonned and being abandonned are not necessarily the same thing.

      Delete
    3. No, they are not. But we mothers feel on some level that we abandoned our children, no matter the circumstances. Did we abandon them or were we coerced by society? Maybe because I was somewhat older I feel responsible. I can't go back and rewind my life. I wish I had called Patrick's wife on the spot--their marriage was already in free fall, he was planning to leave her and that family; that certainly would have changed the equation of what happened when. And then I wish I had told his brother when I met him after our baby had been given away.

      I wish I had been stronger.

      But I wasn't. I made a huge fucking mistake. What difference does it make? To the adoptee?

      A rhetorical question or a real one?

      Delete
    4. What difference has it made for you?

      I thought of your comment last night as I watched the Ken Burns documentary "The Roosevelts: An Intimate History."

      FDR, in his acceptance speech as the Democratic Party's nominee in the 1936 presidential election:

      "Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales."

      It's known as his "Rendezvous with Destiny" speech.

      Consider using a different set of scales.

      Delete
    5. Difference to me? None at all.

      But I agree with Gail that sometimes you can rightfully tell someone to STFU.
      I felt as if I absolutely had no choice when I relinquished my daughter.

      Delete
    6. 'What difference does it make? To the adoptee?'

      Judging by my son's words and body language, it made a great deal of difference to him to know that he was extremely important to me and that I thought endlessly (within a very limited palette of options and understanding) what to do to make sure he had the best chance at life possible.

      That that didn't materialise; that I misunderstood the situation on an absolutely tragic scale, and that he now has to live with all that being an adoptee brings, is undeniable.

      But thank god he understands that no, I didn't just walk off as if he didn't matter, which is an idea that terms like 'abandonned' strongly promote. Once he understood that, he visibly grew in stature and self-respect.

      I know he will still experience feelings of abandonment because I was not there, as his actual mother, when he was extremely vulnerable as a baby and needed me. But knowing now that he mattered greatly to me, which terms like 'abandonned/walked away/threw me out like trash' fail to recognise, has made a huge difference to him and how he feels about himself. He still has to deal with the complexity and pain of being adopted, but he no longer has to deal with the storyline that he wasn't important to me, his mother, (which is what terms like 'abandonned' promote) because now he knows that isn't true.

      On a secondary note, I perceive attempts both noisy and stealthy to shame first mothers on this site. Just saying, I notice it.

      Delete
  17. Thank you too, Gail. Your previous words on this blog have helped to strengthen me, and I've appreciated them very much indeed - they really have made a difference to me.

    I sometimes think the dismissal or degradation of first mothers' experience is part of a dominant culture which is expressed both outside AND inside the adoption community.


    Meanwhile, as the congratulations on my old friend's FB page mount up (even by some adoption-aware members of my own family, who've seen the extreme pain that adoption has caused my son and I), all I can think of is 'Adoption is built upon loss, why can't anyone see this?'. But everyone cheers, as if that little baby got dropped into their arms from nowhere. I feel for the mother whose very existence and grief are now invisibilised, and for the vulnerable, bewildered, lonely baby.


    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Cherry,

    I actually often used to think that the dismissal and/or degradation of the first mothers' experience is often a strong part of a dominant culture which is expressed both outside and inside the adoption community. This very factor, imo, adds to the difficulties encountered when reunions occur. And, in some cases, may actually be a significant contributing factor to the demise of a reunion relationship.

    Adoption is built upon loss and, like you, find it difficult to understand why so many people can't see this. It's the story of the emperor with no clothes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I agree, I often think of the story of the emperor with no clothes. Or that it is a world entirely through a looking glass.

      A while back, I watched 'The Truman Show' and saw the film in a completely different light. I wondered whether the writer was making any sort of commentary on adoption.

      Delete
  19. Sigh,.. Whenever possible I do think if the child in question can stay within the extended family it is best. My own great-grandfather was essentially orphaned at age three when his father died and his mother was institutionalize do. He was raised by a succession of half-siblings, aunts and older brothers, went on to college, marriage and professional success in the skilled trades. Strange to think by today's standards he could have been swept into the adoption system and we his many descendants would know nothing of our heritage. Instead he was passed from home to home and state to state but his identity remained intact not erased. Very strange to want to erase someone's identity.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Growing up my 2 best friends had little brothers that were adopted. I have always known about adoption. We had a biological daughter, then adopted our son 5 years later. We had a typical adoption, private, where we never met the birth parents, but our attorney did. We sent letters and photos through the attorneys,spoke on the phone, and at age 8 our son met his birthfather. It was really a joyous reunion, and gave his bfather peace. We now have an open relationship with his bfather's family. We get together a couple times a year, and phone too. Our son has known he was adopted from day one. Society, as well as today's adoptions are very different from years ago. I don't think you can compare the situation created by society, and the bio mom's family to today. As open adoption becomes more common today, many happy joined families have been created. I wish all well in all adoption triads. I think all parties involved should be proud of the initial choice of the bparents to have the baby, versus terminating that life. I'm grateful every day for our son's life!!!

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was recently informed here https://forums.craigslist.org/?ID=256119798 that you "blew my arguments out of the water." I don't see that having happened here, but I'd really like more info on footnote 5. This is not available online and as far as I can tell that page is referenced by no one else.. if you have the book can you show me the portion you are referring to? Is it like 5, where it only mentions how many were asked or even cohered? I also included more information about the total number of adoptees in the era, I got less than 1.5m total including foster and step adopts.

    {1} and {2} what stat are you footnoting here?

    {3} As I mentioned before, there is no way there were more than 1.5 million involved in the BSE as there were not more than 1.45 TOTAL unrelated adoptions in that era. I'm shocked that so many continue to claim 3 or 6 million, when that's just not possible.
    http://pages.uoregon.edu/adoption/archive/MazaAT.htm
    When I added up unrelated adoptions from 1944 to 1975 from this page, Maza's stats that you appear to have gotten your numbers from, I get 1,457,700 . This does not include black market adoptions but they were not BSE adoptions either. This does, however, include adoptions of any age and step-parent adoptions.

    {4} What was the quote exactly? Was it refrenced back to another source? I can't find this anywhere online and don't want to buy the book, but this link shows that you might be the only person to use the book as a refrence. https://www.google.com/search?q=Welfare%3A+A+Documentary+of+History+of+U.S.+Policy+and+Politics%2C+2003&oq=Welfare%3A+A+Documentary+of+History+of+U.S.+Policy+and+Politics%2C+2003&aqs=chrome..69i57j69i58j69i59.1391j0j4&sourceid=chrome&es_sm=93&ie=UTF-8#q=%22Welfare:+A+Documentary+of+History+of+U.S.+Policy+and+Politics%22+177

    {5} is available online.
    http://www.readcube.com/articles/10.1525%2Fmaq.2003.17.3.322?r3_referer=wol&tracking_action=preview_click&show_checkout=1
    .. the majority (85-95 percent) of single white middle class women who either could not or would not procure an illegal or theraputic abortion were encouraged, at times coerced, to adopt way their child...
    There is a big difference between being encouraged and being forced or going through with it. I would not doubt that near 100 percent were enocuraged or even coerced, but more than 8 of 10 still were able to keep their children.

    {6}I agree with the point but I'm confused about this footnote.

    {7} it appears that the drop in adoptions after 1970 or later roe was not as much as I and many others had thought, if you look at the actual numbers dip up a bit.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Like Really, I don't do forums so I don't know what you are talking about. Also, I think we will never come to any agreement on what it was like back in the day. You seem to think that the single women who got pregnant had total free will in regards to keeping their babies. Yes, I actually got some of the numbers out of the state library references. The fact that you can't or won't get this book is not my issue, is it? I do not have the time to debate these points with you.

      Delete

We welcome comments from all, and appreciate letting us know how you relate to adoption when you leave your first comment.

COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish or not. Anonymous comments from the same individual are more likely to be NOT POSTED. Select the NAME/URL selection, add a name. You do not need a URL. Fine to use a nom de plume.

COMMENTS AT POSTS OVER 30 DAYS OLD LESS LIKELY TO BE PUBLISHED.

We aim to be timely but we do have other lives.

For those coming here from Networked Blogs on Facebook, if it does not allow you to make a comment, click the "x" on the gray "Networked Blogs" tool bar to exit out of that frame and it should then let you comment.

We are unlikely to post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.