|Mother and child, photo by Lisa Roberts|
You want to ask--What were they thinking? when someone came up with this horrendous idea. Sign here! and we'll give you a gold watch to boot? You know right off the bat that the adoption industry was behind this noxious and unethical practice. Back in the day when Jane and I relinquished, no such crazy system was in place. Only as adoption became a big business did the purveyors of babies--in response to demands from their true clients, the adopting parents, did even a whisper of "pre-birth" consent come into being.
There is no other contract like this in life because we are talking about a born unto a woman and a man, a body and being that is part of the continuum of life, born of the DNA of the two people who conceived the child, and asking the woman to agree to give up that part of her while she still carries the unborn inside her. Even writing about this is toxic. I feel sick to my stomach just discussing it.
The states that engage in this practice supposedly give mothers an out: 48 hours or a week in which to change their minds, to withdraw the consent. But anyone with a brain knows that it is harder to abrogate that which is already signed than it is to NOT SIGN AT ALL. Typically, the adoptive parents will already have the baby in its freshly painted nursery--because they will take the baby home from the hospital--and returning a child to his mother is no easy task.
GETTING A CHILD BACK IS NEVER SIMPLE
On Facebook and blogs and in movies one can see the "worst nightmare" of the adoptive parents played out when fickle first mothers--and that is how they are usually portrayed--change their minds and want their children back. Getting a child back from adoptive parents is almost certainly going to involve legal fees, counseling, emotional pleas conveyed by social workers to "to do the right thing" and not keep the child. A birth mother wanting her child back after the so-called time allowance must prove coercion or fraud. Adoptive parents have been known to flee with the child, making returning him or her impossible. It happens.
What is different about a baby and a diamond ring or washing machine is that the producer of the "item" is not a business, is not a manufacturing facility, but a living, breathing human being that is subject to emotions, thoughts, feelings. A woman never knows how she is going to feel about relinquishing her flesh-and-blood until the baby is born; after birth females of all species normally are flooded a hormone--oxytocin--that informs her that above all else, she must protect and care for that baby.
The argument for pre-birth relinquishment is that is allows the adoptive parents to take the child directly from the hospital to their home, instead of having the baby go to foster care. While this sounds reasonable, it abrogates any of the unknown in regards to a living, breathing creature that comes out of a woman's body. It diminishes the role of the mother to a baby-producer, a manufacturer of a transferable goods, from that of a mother who wants to love and protect her child.
OFFERING A FINDERS FEE FOR A BABY
A few states already have pre-birth consents in place--Alabama, Utah, Hawaii, Washington, and perhaps others--and all differ in the particulars. But there is no question that these pre-birth contracts were not dreamed up by first mothers, or mothers-to-be considering relinquishing, but instead by adoption-industry hawks whose main purpose was to streamline the process for adoptive parents. How thoroughly the adoption industry is geared towards providing product, that is, a baby, to their paying clients, the adopters, is evident in some modern agency practices. One agency recently was offering first mothers a $500 bonus for every referral to a pregnant female that led to a relinquishment.
Sound apocryphal? It isn't. A Guardian Angel Adoptions in that adoption-loving state, Utah, did it until recently. You do not have to wonder whom the "guardian angel" of their name was supposedly protecting--the adoptive parents, of course. The agency stopped the practice after some noisy birth mothers outed them and posted a picture of their $500 offer on Facebook (at left).
In my own relinquishment, I did not sign the papers for a few weeks. My daughter was not with the parents yet, but in foster care. Quite honestly, I don't remember much about the day except that it was sunny and I thought that was all wrong, not in keeping with the awful actuality of what I was doing. Mrs. Helen Mura, my social worker, kept telling me that if I signed there was no going back, that signing the papers were final, that if I saw any other way, I should not sign. I do not remember if New York allowed any time to revoke the consent to relinquish, because I did not see any way out of the dilemma. Neither did Jane. On opposite sides of the country, a few months apart, we both relinquished our daughters. Call our relinquishments "adoption plans" if you will, but at the time, we both felt as if we were drowning in a sea of condemnation without any real choice.
Most natural mothers (which is what we were called then) were discouraged or even prohibited from holding or even seeing their babies after birth. Social workers understood that if we had a chance to bond with our babies, more of us would resist giving them up. The move to get a pre-birth consent is a modern extension of this. If the pregnant woman signs when the baby is still a bump, an abstraction, it's probably easier to convince her that she wouldn't make a good mother, when there are such worthy people waiting in the wings who will. And while we are at it, agencies start referring to mothers-to-be as "birth mothers," the minute they walk in the door of an agency, reinforcing the notion that the mother-to-be is carrying the child for someone else.
Any state that already allows this barbaric practice needs to rethink what they are actually doing. Any state that is pushing for such a change in their current legislation needs to consider that "pre-birth" consent has that awful stench of slavery, when slaveholders impregnated the women slaves to make more slaves. Whenever possible, this practice needs to be stopped, dead in its tracks, before more mothers and children are sacrificed.--lorraine
For those of you who read a different version on this topic, we apologize. Hitting "post" is as easy as an unintended click.
Child Welfare Information Gateway: "Consent to Adoption"
Elizabeth J. Samuels, Time to Decide? The Laws Governing Mothers' Consents to Adoption of their Newborn Infants
Media Coverage -- Returning a Child to her father is the right decision
By Carol Schaefer
Carol Schaefer, whose original book, The Other Mother, was made into a TV movie, tells the story of what happened after she reunited with her son, as well as her spiritual journey in life. The book shows how adoption affects not only all the parents involved, but extended families as well. Carol has long been a friend of ours and to all first mothers, speaking the truth about the pain of relinquishing a child to adoption.
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