' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Giving up your baby for adoption is a 'courageous decision.' NOT!
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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Giving up your baby for adoption is a 'courageous decision.' NOT!

Jane
"A birth mother in Western Wisconsin made a courageous decision that enabled me and my wife to have a family of our own" began WEAU TV reporter's Bob Gallaher story about his own open adoption of a daughter.

"Adoption is a courageous decision" with "loving" often inserted after courageous is an oft-repeated phrase from the adoption industry's lexicon. The truth is, though, that adoption is never a courageous decision. Instead, it is a life-altering decision driven by fear and desperation.

Fifteen year old Sammie Pohle who "made the adoption plan" which enabled Bob Gallaher and his wife Colleen to become parents admitted "I was scared, I was disappointed in myself. I just wanted to shut myself out from the rest of the world and disappear." Her mother, Amy Veltus, added, "There was a little anger, scared for her, worried, a lot of stress."
 For Sammie and her parents adoption was the easiest decision, at least for now. In the 16 months since her daughter was born, Sammie and her family have had the opportunity for visits and have been able to watch the baby develop and grow.

DESCRIBING ADOPTION AS 'BRAVE' HIDES THE TRUTH
The wonderland that is adoption is filled with Orwellian newspeak (or as the industry puts it "positive adoption language") to distort the reality of adoption loss: pregnant woman and mothers make adoption plans; children and parents don't reunite, they make contact; pregnant women considering adoption are birth mothers, and adoption is an act of bravery.

For many mothers, including myself, adoption was a cowardly decision. Sign a paper and you're done--or so I thought. Taking on the responsibility of a child, (and in my case dealing with society's opprobrium) was scary. The language mothers use today to justify giving up their child: "I'm not ready to be a parent" is code for "I'm afraid to be a parent." Other mothers give up their babies because they are in a fearful situation, for example, living with an abuser. Adoption is the lesser of two bad situations.

For some mothers, adoption is an act of desperation, As historian Ricki Sollinger puts it, "adoption is rarely about mothers' choices; it is instead, about the abject choicelessness of some resourceless women." And there are some mothers--but not many--who simply did not care about their babies; these mothers are callous, not brave. Most likely, they did not get the dose of oxytocin, which urges them to love and protect their babies.

FALSE BRAVADO 
While desperation, fear, and perhaps callousness drive infant adoptions, the act of surrendering a child can appear to the outsider as a brave decision. Years ago my sister Helen, a social worker, told me how shocked she was that mothers signed relinquishment papers without showing emotion. "They just didn't care," she said. Before I gave up my daughter, I assumed she was right. I know now it was false bravado, the kind condemned men show when they walk to the scaffold rather than being dragged, the way men in orange jumpsuits kneel silently next to their executioners.

I've never heard a mother claim her decision was courageous. The industry describes adoption as courageous because it is a great marketing tool, not only does it make the young (and often powerless) mother feel better, but it implicitly characterizes keeping your baby as a hateful and cowardly act. Turning an act driven by fear or desperation into a courageous act helps adoptive parents overcome any guilt they may have in taking another mother's baby; it allows them to believe a selfless mother was acting in the best interests of her child. Adoptees too accept the bravery myth. We hear searching adoptees say "I just want to find my birth mother to thank her for her brave decision."

Let's stop the obfuscation and reserve courageous for those who are truly brave, Medal of Honor recipients, civil rights advocates, and the many unheralded mothers who, despite difficulties and parental objections, keep their children.--jane
_________________________________________
Open adoption an option for Neillsville, Wisconsin birth mother; brings joy to Gallaher family
Language of Adoption

FROM FMF:
Rose is a Rose is a Rose
Natural and Real Language

TO READ
Waiting to Forget: A Motherhood Lost and Found by 
"As a newly reunited birthmother, this book was recommended to me by my birth son. I cannot say how many tears I shed as I read Margaret Moorman's story. It could easily have been my own. How many poignant memoirs like this will it take to bring us all out of the closet? Moorman's emotions run the gamut of a typical birthmother in that era. As it was described to me, adoption then was totally 'barbaric'. Proof of this is the now generation of adoptees searching for their roots. Wonderful book and definitely recommended reading for anyone in the 'adoption triad'.--Amazon

THANK YOU FOR ORDERING ANYTHING THROUGH AMAZON FROM THE PORTALS OF FMF.

39 comments :

  1. This truth needs to be told again and again. Maybe people will start to hear it. Sometimes, I get very tired of trying to explain it....the fear, the desperation, the pressure and, for some of us raised with Bible Belt values, the shame. Things WERE different and there are those who would love to take us back to those days. Funny, but I felt neither brave nor loving. I felt like I was a puppet and so low in character that my child would hate living with me. No one should try to describe an experience they have never had.

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    1. I always have to come back and make the note that the shame is no longer there. I was 16, from a very religious family in 1963 and I had that crap pounded into my head. It took me a few years to realize that I was not a shameful "lowest of the low." But the entire experience did a job on my self-esteem. THAT recovery took years.

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    2. Robin, must vehemently disagree with you. The shame may not be as pervasive as it once was, but it most certainly is still alive and well and thriving in many circles. Type in the phrase "the shame of single motherhood'' and go to the trumpet magazine link for one example. Reading the attitudes in that article when it came out a little over 3 1/2 years ago, just about killed me. It does point out that 'there is a lessoning of the stigma'....but whew, there are MANY out there who still feel that single motherhood is the cause of all social ills and either marry or ....TA-DAAA give up the 'illegitimate' for adoption or else all the worlds brokenness is ''all your fault''. Nah, that's not a heap, deep, crippling load of shame to carry....right?

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    3. Right on, Cindy! Unwed motherhood is not as shameful as it was in the 60's when Lorraine and I gave up our babies but the shame is still there. Columnist George Will denounces single mothers as the biggest threat to the US, mooching off hard-working tax payers and raising children destined to become drug addicts and criminals. Unwed mothers are much worse than greedy Wall Street bankers who brought the economy to its knees, corporations which pay low wages and offer no benefits, those who profit from environmental destruction and peddling unhealthy food, and war mongers.

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    4. Actually Jane I was saying that it is not as widespread in the thinking and behaviors of the general population. It *is still as shameful* according to the thinking and enforcement of some/many. I'm sure there are mothers today being dosed with the same shame, disgust, repulsion and the 'you're going to hell', and 'you can come back but don't bring a baby' with no ''congratulations'' or 'how wonderful', or ANY OTHER kind comment about the 'to be/new' member of planet earth, that many of us endured even up to my day in December of 1981. Succeeding generations of mothers have spoken of it as well.

      I wonder sometimes if that isn't a bit of what keeps some (or many) mothers away from groups and supporting adoptee access, etc. is the (and forgive me if this sounds harsh) the 'we had it the worst, at least you had/have "choices" ' mentality that keeps being stated in blogs and comments. There were families way back in the BSE that did keep and were willing for mother to keep / help the mother raise their grandchild or family member. Some mothers, somehow, were able to keep and raise their children in spite of the times....(I think it all goes to being supported or not). The looks of shock and horror and 'offense' by many of the main players in my world in 81... oh is it any wonder going to a church services leaves me feeling like I should have brought a bag of stones for the 'righteous' (everyone else) to throw at me. It's still that deep some days.

      I wonder if the attitudes truly have stayed the same it is only the 'sales pitch' that has ''changed''. Because today mothers are still being truly shamed. Shamed into believing they are 'not good enough' = bad, wrong, unworthy, ought to be ashamed for even thinking of being -Mother (which is not true of course). The, as Robin said, "lowest of the low". I walked that horrible road and only in the past 2 or 3 years have begun to heal. I see mothers today going that same shame filled path only nowadays it has rainbows and unicorns and potent Kool-Aid served, like a mind blinding strong whiskey.. to try to deceive the mother (and the 'it's not as bad today' group) into believing this is all-l-l-l-l-l beautiful or, at least, 'better'. I wonder if we ought to remove that 'it's better' from our vocabulary until adoption policies and practices have been truly improved.

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  2. So well said, Jane. Giving up my son was NOT courage; it was desperation and fear that drove me to commit an unnatural act. The adoption industry is NOT in business to help mothers with a crisis pregnancy ("crisis" defined by whom?); it exists to provide babies to infertile couples who have enough money to pay adoption "fees." The propaganda that surrounds adoption is positively Orwellian. I lost my son 47 years ago, and I have been paying for that decision every single day of that time, and, you know what? The hardest years have been the last three, when I've reunited with my son. We have a loving relationship, thank God, but the awareness of all we lost never leaves us. Adoption is an act with many unforeseen consequences that may take years to manifest themselves. If a child is in danger, by all means find her a new, loving family, but absent severe threat, adoption is a bad, bad idea for mother and child. I'm sorry for folks who want a baby and can't have one, but that is no reason to deprive any mother of her own child, whether she's 15 or 35. Family preservation should be our goal. It is shame that drives many/most infant adoptions; certainly that was the case in the BSE. I, for one, refuse to be silenced by shame any longer. I loved the novel "The Scarlet Letter" the first time I read it in high school, never dreaming that Hester Prynne would someday be my personal heroine, but anyone who's read the book knows that the only moral character in the novel is the adulterous mother with the illegitimate child. It's the Puritan society that is evil, not the woman who followed her heart, whose only "sin" was love. Hester Prynne didn't deserve her punishment, and neither do the mothers of the BSE. And neither do their children.

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  3. We need to keep speaking out because conning a mother into thinking or even considering the idea that giving one's own son or daughter away is in any way brave and loving is no different than conning a young girl into thinking she needs to prove her love by giving sex. The same gender biased, ignorant, class based garbage thinking underlies both con jobs.

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  4. Giving up for me wasn't brave, it was exhaustion and years of pressure.

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  5. As I've stated many times over the years, the adoption "decision" was anything BUT "courageous, brave, loving" blah blah blah. It was a SURRENDER...to the pressure, coercion, deception, etc. I waved the white flag...I gave up, and gave in, and signed my baby girl away. The brave thing would have been to tell everyone who was trying to convince me that keeping her was selfish, and she would end up resenting me if I kept her, to "F*** OFF!" This was 1985...forcing relinquishment didn't end with the BSE.

    No, don't refer to me as "courageous, selfless,'' or an ''angel." I don't think of myself as those things, and neither does the daughter I gave up. I was weak and scared...period.

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  6. As an adoptee, I never wanted to thank my mother (neither of them, actually). I just wanted to talk to her. Even in the fog of "positive adoption narrative," I just wanted to talk, to reform this connection that was broken. Societal pressures determined who would not be my parent and who would -- the young mother who "shouldn't" be a parent yet, and the older mother who "should."

    All I needed, as an adult, was for both of my mothers to have the courage to be honest with me about who they were -- and to let me be the same. This narrative of long-ago courage to do "what was best" is still in the way, decades later, and it stinks.

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  7. I think you are getting a bit too absolute here in categorizing mothers who surrender and mothers who decided to raise their child. Not all mothers who keep the child are brave and noble, and sometimes this can be as much a disaster for the child as some adoptions are. Some who were raised by dysfunctional bio mothers resent that as much as those who were surrendered resent their fate. It is not a black and white situation.

    Not all mothers who surrender are either callous or desperate. I would not use the word "brave" to categorize either choice, but would respect any mother who wanted to categorize herself that way. I have known some mothers in successful open adoptions who I would say were brave, for hanging in there despite pain and doing the best thing for their child by keeping in contact and putting the child first. These women are not "callous". They are not suffering from some hormonal or moral deficiency, as you assert.

    Motherhood in our current society is much more complex than "a shot of hormones'. and for some women, even today, adoption is the lesser evil and better choice. We cannot judge every surrendering mother by what our own choice would have been had we had a real choice years ago. No , we need not call adoption the "brave" choice, but that does not mean we have to stigmatize any mother who voluntarily surrenders as "callous".

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    1. maryanne, you omitted the third reason and I think the most common reason for surrender, fear. Fear that they can't manage a child and school or a career, fear that they will be stuck in a dead-end job in a small town, fear that they will be stigmatized, fear that they can't match up to the awesome would be adoptive couples in the agency's book.

      The response to fear is often flight and that's what these mothers are doing. Butt out of the situation and let someone else handle it. To be blunt -- these mothers are cowards, not courageous. Avoiding a problem rarely resolves it and that's what mothers learn eventually.

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    2. So...any mother who surrenders by her own choice is a coward or callous? Is it cowardly to fear a situation that is genuinely fearful? And are "cowardly or courageous" the only choice of words to describe surrendering mothers? I still find that simplistic and stigmatizing. With this attitude coming from our own ranks, we do not need others to make us feel bad about ourselves. Perpetuating self-hatred helps nobody. Also, it is a great way to drive away younger mothers or adoptees with a more moderate view of their own circumstances. You can call yourself a coward all you want, and I too have called myself cowardly in the past, but when you start applying that word to other women whose inner life you do not know, you are on shaky grounds and dealing in insults and stereotypes.

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    3. Again, maryanne, you omitted one of my reasons. I said there were THREE reasons, none of which were courageous. Callous is the least of them. The other two are desperation -- no other choice because of pressure, lack of help, in an abusive situation, and so one. This was likely the most common reason in the BSE. The third is fear, of shouldering the responsibilities of parenthood.

      I never suggested anyone should hate themselves because they gave up -- or were forced to give up-- their child. I simply said they were not courageous. For the adoption industry to label these women as courageous is simply trickery.

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    4. I certainly fell in the fear-and-desperation category. And shame. And the father telling me "I had to" give up our daughter.

      I was not callous nor courageous.

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    5. I agree with Maryanne on this one. It is way too simplistic to put us into the "cowardly or courageous" stereotypes. No, it wasn't a courageous decision on my part to surrender my baby to adoption back in 1972, but I can tell you that it took every ounce of courage I could muster to live with the tremendous grief, loss, and pain that followed me every single day of my life from that day forward. I don't have a cowardly bone in my body.

      I also kind of resent the last sentence of Jane's blog entry, "Let's stop the obfuscation and reserve courageous for those who are truly brave, Medal of Honor recipients, civil rights advocates, and the many unheralded mothers who, despite difficulties and parental objections, keep their children." Really? Only mothers who keep their children are worthy of being considered courageous? I've known several women in my lifetime who had no business ever becoming mothers. They abused the children they brought into this world, but I guess since they kept and raised their babies, they're more worthy than natural mothers.

      I've always had trouble with black-and-white views of the world. I tend to see things in different shades of grey. Saying that most of us were cowards may be the author's personal opinion, but it is not based on fact for many of us.

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    6. Jane, since we are down to semantics, there is a line between "not courageous" and "cowardly" which you have crossed. They do not mean the same thing. Most people are not courageous. Few people are heroes. I agree that to apply the word "courageous" to all women giving up a child is deceptive and inaccurate. I would not characterize either surrendering or keeping a child as a courageous act, in most cases. It is just people doing the best they can in a bad situation.

      Calling anyone cowardly is indeed an invitation to self-hatred. Those are "fightin' words" when applied to another person. Lo, my point is that few of us were either callous or courageous. Neither word describes what happened to most of us. Replacing "courageous" with "cowardly or callous" just substitutes one extreme term for another which is what was done in this post.

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  8. Excellent comment, Maryanne.

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  9. Another way the adoption industry perverts the notion of bravery is to tell mothers that they need to be courageous and stand up to relatives who try to convince them to keep their babies and offer to help them.

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    1. Oh true. Although not a relative, a sweet nurse in my ob/gyn's office kind of took me under her wing when I was pregnant with the daughter I gave up. She was truly the ONLY ONE who ever asked me what *I* wanted to do. I told her I wanted to keep my baby and so she stepped in to try and help...on the down-low. Well, long story short, I was speaking to my boyfriend (baby's father) on the phone at my foster parent's house, and I was telling him about Melinda trying to help us. It never got very far because fmom reported it back to my social worker at the agency. I got a good talking to, and Mrs. Houston (SW) drove home to me the fact that "Melinda is NOT your friend" and basically tore her down completely. Now I know that Melinda was a threat, and probably a bigger one than I even knew at the time. Someone was trying to show me another way, and she had to be shot down.

      To this day I'd love to find her and thank her for being the only one who tried to help...even if it was in vain.

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  10. i just know after reading about what adoption workers and often, agency owners, spew in order to get a baby just baffles me. They care nothing about the mother, or the child, and the child's future.

    Amy, your story is so sad. Melinda probably wonders to this day what happened to you, and how you are.

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  11. Adoption is an action of crisis that has repercussions for many people, through decades and generations. "Courage" in the face of adversity--here, an unplanned pregnancy--is a perversion of that notion of crisis, used craftily by the industry.

    As maryanne says, relinquishing may not be callous, but it can be short-sighted: that permanent solution to a temporary problem. Mothers don't know what will come down the pike in one, five, or ten years.

    I would also argue that callousness depends on your point of view and what happens afterward. It is important to consider the ongoing behavior of the participants.

    It's easier to paint difficult things as courageous than to own a path that would involve change a person is unwilling to make. I am talking specifically about certain relinquishing mothers today, with their gift baskets and admiration societies. Make them heroes, and all the adoption bullsh*t behind the scenes is whitewashed. It is still coercion, and not about helping the families who need actual assistance through a crisis.

    What about the adoptee, open or closed adoption? If mama is a "hero," and so courageous, then is it treason to feel hurt by a life that did not include him or her?

    Adoption creates a rupture within families than can never be mended. Time is lost and cannot be reclaimed. We can reunite, but, well...that is another set of complicated stories, often unresolved.

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    1. Hannah, so true: adoption happens in a crisis situation. And what is lost can never be reclaimed.

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  12. As Hannah said, "a permanent solution to a temporary problem." I didn't feel brave while or after I surrendered my son. I felt hopeless, like there was no other way. Without resources to keep him. Forced by my parents and the attorney who handled the adoption. No one offered any support and asked what I wanted. I was easy pickins. It wasn't a "plan" or a "choice." Least of all was I callous. I loved my son and lived with the pain of losing him for decades, and even today, although we've been reunited for almost 18 years. I felt shameful for getting pregnant and then shameful for not fighting to keep him. I have never met or read about a mother who didn't care about relinquishing. That's why movies like Juno are so heinous, painting a picture of a mother who truly didn't want to parent, didn't want openness or to ever think of her baby again. Great post, Jane. Thank you.

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  13. Let's be clear. I did not write that first mothers are either cowardly or courageous. I said giving up your baby is not a courageous act regardless of the adoption industry spin. I did not label all mothers who give up their babies as cowards. Many mothers who give up their babies had no choice -- they were neither cowardly nor courageous as Denise and Raven have written about themselves.

    I reserved cowardly for mothers who had a choice but feared the responsibilities and complications of motherhood: Women like maryanne as she acknowledged in her comment on 2/27 at 12:09 pm and myself. We went down without a fight. In our defense, we didn't know the ramifications of adoption.

    As for the abusive mothers who maryanne describes as having no business being mothers -- giving up their babies would not have been courageous; it would have been an acceptance of their own limitations.

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  14. Thank you for clarifying Jane. I am far from cowardly and did not fear the responsibilities and complications of motherhood. I am also nowhere near callous; conversely, I'm quite warm-hearted and kind. Like many first mothers, I had no support and no choice and was in a situation much like Denise and Raven.

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  15. I remember the acceptance speech last year when Jared Leto won his Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. He dedicated it to his mom who had him in 1971 and raised him and his older brother as a teen mom after dropping out of high school. A story I have not heard very often.

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    1. And Kevin Duran of the Oklahoma Thunder thanked his mom who worked two jobs to raise him when he received the MVP award last year.

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  16. ....Like many first mothers, I had no support and no choice and was in a situation much like Denise and Raven.

    ...in one way or another, weren't we all? That's how life was then.

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  17. Why are mothers labeled "courageous " before the paper work is signed and crack whores after the paperwork is signed?

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    1. Because telling the truth would endanger the adoption industry.

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  18. Knowledge and support are the enemies of the adoption industry as they equip teen moms with the powerful tools needed to ‘fight” the adoption option and prevent surrender. Kevin Durant and Jared Leto were fortunate to have had teen moms who were able to live with their moms, and in Jared’s case, both maternal grandparents.

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    1. I completely agree with you Gail. Like you, I was a mother in my teens (16 years old) - knowledge and support would have changed everything.

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  19. Jane, you said about the mothers you term callous, "Most likely, they did not get the dose of oxytocin, which urges them to love and protect their babies."
    Oxytocin is a complicated hormone. Recent research indicates that it can be disrupted by stress, which is something all women in crisis pregnancies experience to a greater or lesser extent. Also, while it is essential for lactation, doubt has recently been cast on its necessity in parturition and maternal behavior. The article linked below suggests it may be best to see oxytocin as "a major facilitator of parturition and maternal behavior rather than a necessary component of these processes,"

    http://arbl.cvmbs.colostate.edu/hbooks/pathphys/endocrine/hypopit/oxytocin.html

    Like Raven, I have always had trouble seeing things in black-and-white. Saying "The response to fear is often flight and that's what these mothers are doing. Butt out of the situation and let someone else handle it. To be blunt -- these mothers are cowards, not courageous" is simplistic and stigmatizing. Intense fear can put people into a dissociative or fugue state which is not a condition under which to make serious life- affecting decisions. Unscrupulous agencies and some potential adoptive parents are aware of this and take advantage of it. That is why women in "crisis" pregnancies deserve a goodly amount of unpressured time with their child as well as proper information before they even consider relinquishing. If, after that, they still feel they won't be able to cope with single parenthood, it may be that they are just being realistic. It is sweepingly judgmental to dismiss them all as cowards. It takes a lot courage to deal with life's difficulties realistically and to have self-knowledge. The label of "coward" is something women who make these difficult decisions don't need or deserve.

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    1. Another point of view is that the hormonally induced more loving state can be abused by the "adoption industry" people to make the mother abandon her child, calling it the loving choice, rather than callous child abandonment, pre-birth contacts with adopters, and so on...

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