' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Coming out as a mother who relinquished a child in the Sixties

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Coming out as a mother who relinquished a child in the Sixties

In hiding.
Lorraine 

That's the how most of us lived when we got pregnant. In shame, hiding our pregnancies, lying to neighbors and even people we called friends. For us, it was the worst of times.

So many of us with adult children searching and/or reuniting for their natural parents today cannot understand what it was like in the decades when they were born. The shame might have been lessening after the Seventies, but it didn't happen all at once, and it was different in different places, with different religions and in individual families. No matter what, we hid our burgeoning bellies; some of us were sent away to god-awful homes for "unwed mothers" or to live relatives in a distant town. Some of us

wore simple bands to signify that we were married. If we could, we only went outside in thick coats to hide our pregnancies. I wore a big sweatshirt when I spoke to my landlord and I don't think he knew. Even in a strange town, many of us stayed indoors. Some of us left school. Some left jobs before they were asked to leave. Some friends turned away. Many lost their parent's affection and trust. Our parents walked around in perpetual shame and passed on their dire sense of dread to us. Our relationship to the father--whether we loved or hated him--did not matter. It was as if someone drew the shade down over our very existence. We were in purdah.

It was god awful.

Things didn't get much better after the baby was gone. Our parents still bit their lips and lied to neighbors and friends. And we were never ever supposed to talk about this child again. For those of us whose parents pushed the adoption--when we tried to resist--the fractured relationship that resulted would never quite be healed. Maybe the child was never spoken about again, but the wound was never forgotten, never healed. The emails from women who endured this particular betrayal talk of how, as their parents near death, they have indifferent, distant feelings towards their parents that linger like smoke long after a fire goes out.

My god, what harm was done to our psyche, but we absorbed it all, for hadn't we been the sinner? We were the Mary Magdalenes of our own family, with redemption no in sight? Christ wasn't coming to save us.

After the birth and relinquishment, we picked up the shattered pieces of our lives like so much broken glass and glued them back together. I was spared my parents' disappointment because I was able to keep the birth secret from them. One foot really does go down one after another, day after day, and I moved on. I found a new job in a different city and continued the fabrication I had told my parents after they had discovered that I had left the other job months earlier. My daughter's father and I were not to be a couple.

But I did not forget. Yet because I could I kept my secret from nearly all of my friends--friends from before, friends from after--in my new life. That is how I counted my life after I gave up my baby: before she was born, and after. I certainly was more depressed and suicidal after the baby was gone than before. My new job--demanding and absorbing--is undoubtedly what saved my life. One foot went down in front of the other, and time passed. The sore festered under the surface, and could emerge at any moment. Something as simple as seeing a blonde girl on the street could send me into a tailspin.


It took Florence Fisher, the fiery and fearless adoptee with the red hair to match, to break me out of my cocoon of secrecy and shame. There she was, on July 25, 1972, announcing to the world in the pages of The New York Times that I wasn't a crazy person, that adopted individuals wanted the same thing I did: reunion. Children wanted to know their mothers just as much as I wanted to know my child. That story in the Times awakened the latent flame in me to a) find my daughter and b) tell the world that this secrecy I lived in was wrong, all wrong.

That event coincided with the end of my marriage, to which I had called quits only days before, shortly after a total eclipse of the sun. Since I had gone to Africa to see the eclipse alone, the three events seem connected in my life in some momentous way. And so slowly, but as surely as the sun, moon and earth proceeded to the next eclipse, I vowed to come out of the closet.  I would do this not only for myself, but for all the mothers like me.

I began writing letters to the adoption agency I dealt with in Rochester, New York. I received bland responses, each time from a different person from Hillside Terrace, a name designed to hide what happened there: babies were transferred from natural mother to another. Back then, in the Sixties, they didn't even want to put "adoption" in the name.

I got involved with ALMA, the Adoptees Liberty Movement Association, and was a founding member of the board. When asked, I testified in a trial for an adoptee, and used my name. It was 1974. I shut down the lawyer for Spence-Chapin who was trying to make me seem like an outlier with this unplanned and unrehearsed statement: You don't have someone in your body for nine months and forget. He asked no more questions.

The book I left at the agency
for my daughter
Now I had come out publicly. Now I had to go home to tell my mother. Her first question was: How was your labor? She wanted to live long enough to meet my daughter, and she did. I told her I was going to write about my experience under my own name. She didn't bat an eye; she encouraged me, she said she understood. My father was deceased by this time.

That admission and my mother's support unleased me to begin writing under my byline about the agony of giving up a child and the tyranny of sealed birth certificates--first in Cosmopolitan, then in Parents. In 1975, I wrote about the trial and the unsatisfactory outcome for the adoptee (no vital information was in her adoption record) and why I was part of it for The New York Times Op-Ed Page. Coming out of the closet did not kill me. I was still standing.

In 1976 I went to New York's state capital and testified in an open hearing about sealed records. That fall there was in another trial, this one in New Jersey and covered by the local newspaper as well as The New York Times and ABC. I wrote about adoption for Town & Country (rich people adopt, don't they?) where I again spoke of giving up my child, this time in the first sentence of the piece: "Ten years ago I had a child and I gave her up for adoption." That led to the Today Show which recently had a new host, Jane Pauley. I was quite anxious, but she put me at ease and interviewed me with empathy. As I was leaving the set, a studio employee pulled me aside. I can't do what you are doing, she said, I gave up a son 12 years ago--but I am glad that you are, keep on doing it. We spoke a few words, I squeezed her hand and moved on, but I never forgot what she said.

Lee Campbell, the founder of Concerned United Birthparents, was coming out too, but initially she was held back by concern over her husband's career. At first she appeared with her face and identity hidden--that is how shameful it was to admit you had given up a baby. I don't know if I would have been able to go ahead publicly if I had still been married. My divorce freed me from being concerned about my husband's country-club parents, pillars of their suburb and their church. They would have been horrified. Horrified. 

What happened after I found
my daughter
My bookBirthmark, the first memoir from a natural mother, came out in 1979 to much publicity and mixed reviews--from adoptive parents. Many publications ignored it, thinking it was not a worthy subject--what trashy woman must she be to be telling her maudlin story? I know this because I later came to know the editor of the New York Times Book Review at the time of Birthmark's publication, who admitted my assumption was correct. Two years after Birthmark was published, I found my daughter. It was 1981, she was 15, and her parents welcomed me.

A few months later someone I saw occasionally asked a mutual friend if I had had face lift.

I am telling you all this today because the world--and especially adoptees who search--need to know how much disgrace was attached to an unwed pregnancy and giving up a child in days past. It was enormous. It covered our lives like a thick blanket of fog, smothering us, infecting our relationships with our family, our friends, our marriages, our feelings about having more children, our relationships with children if we did have more. Even today if people know we are one of "those women" we are objects of wonder and curiosity. And no one wants their daughters or sisters to end up like us. A rather famous New York psychiatrist, Lee Salk, brother of Jonas, once said of me to a girlfriend: You don't want to end up like Lorraine. 

I write today also because I hope to reach other mothers still in hiding to find the courage to throw off the mask of secrecy. I challenge them to seek and meet their own children who may be looking for them. Both natural mother and adoptee have been through enough sorrow; both are victims of ill-advised social engineering. But do not let that hamper the rest of your lives. Be bold and accept each other, understanding that the other is also hurting, no matter what they say. Separation of mother and child is unnatural. A whole lot of healing is needed. Listen to the other's pain. Do not let your own sorrow and angst be the only torment that matters. Bind up each other's wounds as best you can. Heal each other. It's the only way we are getting out of here whole.--lorraine 

PS: I am working on my talk in Minneapolis at the conference of the Alliance for the Study of Adoption and Culture My talk, Reunion--Before and After, is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, October 27, at the Minneapolis Northstar Crowne Plaza. Free and open to the public. I'll stay around after to chat, maybe have a glass of something, and sign books. I hope to see some of you there.
______________________
To READ
Legacy of Silence
By Belva Plain
Sibling rivalry in Nazi Germany, one sister adopted, the other not. Both immigrate to America but their pasts continue to haunt them. Better to read the whole book than the somewhat abridged version.

Finding Family: My Search for Roots and the Secrets in My DNA
By Richard Hill
A fascinating story of one man's successful search to find his natural family using DNA. It will inspire many to do the same.

Love
Illustrated and designed by Vanni
An amazingly beautiful and creative book with an adoption story. In one of those weird twists of fate, I found the book and bought a copy long before I was pregnant--even before I met my daughhter's father. It is a very special book.

Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
by Lorraine Dusky
My story, unvarnished, sad, amusing, an unexpected life told with candor. The follow up to Birthmark, H♥le is about my reunion with my daughter, and our long, fraught, rewarding relationship. 

BE A SUPPORTER OF FMF. Order anything through the portal of FMF. The book titles and jackets will take you to Amazon. 

39 comments :

  1. I am so privileged to know you and call you friend. You, Jane, Lee and so many others have done so much to lay the groundwork to this seemingly impossible task of reforming infant adoption. Sending much love and respect <3

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  2. The quintessential best words on adoption loss:

    "....But do not let that hamper the rest of your lives. Be bold and accept each other, understanding that the other is also hurting, no matter what they say. Separation of mother and child is unnatural. A whole lot of healing is needed. Listen to the other's pain. Do not let your own sorrow and angst be the only festering torment that matters. Bind up each other's wounds as best you can. Heal each other. It's the only way we are getting out of here whole...."

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    1. Lorraine, good luck in Minneapolis, not that you need it but thinking of you anyway. Like whirling dervish above, i really like the same passage. enjoy yourself and have a pleasant trip !

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  3. I believe it is so important to convey to the public what mothers went through and continue to go through. Adoption is not a win-win-win as some naive people want to believe. You and others play a crucial role in educating and opening the eyes to debunk the stereotypes that persist about mothers and relinquishment and with that the hopes of true reform and openness.

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  4. also, I was told my mother is covered in shame and guilt to the point that it was the main cause for her to break off the reunion rather than just taking care of herself. My father has said it for almost 20 years of our reunion that she just can’t seem to move on and places most of the blame on me and everyone else. It’s truly sad for everyone involved.

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  5. O/T, Lorraine, but just read that 49er Colin Kaepernick's a-mom says he's a "disgrace" for his protests. So who knows, perhaps in time Colin will give his mother Heidi Russo another chance? What a mess. What a tragedy.

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    1. Where did you read that? Did you see that when the kneel down first started we posted a side bar saying that we approved of his action? Since we had been critical of his refusal to acknowledge his mother, and felt differently now, we thought we'd give him a shout out. I took it down after a couple of weeks. But I had read that Heidi Russo, his natural mother, is the one who was upset with his kneel down, which has now spread to some high schools.

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    2. It's his birth mother, Heidi Russo. Since he does not want a relationship with her, maybe she shouldn't go public with her condemnation. I don't think she is doing herself any favors with her son, by seeking the limelight in this way - especially on such a personal decision he has made.

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    3. i think it is horrible when family members bring their personal drama to the nation's attention, no matter whether they are blood relatives or not. it makes me sad, i think Heidi Russo must be wanting attention so much. i guess i'm guilty of using social media to work out a lot of family issues, talk about things, but it would horrify me if that put a national spotlight on our personal drama/disagreements in any way. i hope Heidi Russo finds a more constructive way to deal with her adult son, but it looks like she is bent on defending her right to publicly comment on him, his life, and his choices.

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    4. Mrs. TBB,
      I think you got that wrong. I read that it was Heidi Russo, Colin's first mother, who said publicly that she disapproved of his protest and said that it was disrespectful to his family and country. His adoptive parents have an American flag flying outside their home and, I believe, have refused to comment publicly on his kneel down. If anything, this whole issue will probably further damage any hope of him reconciling with his natural mother, rather than the reverse.

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    5. This definitely would make me want to have any sort of relationship with my first mother. If I was in the public eye, as Kaepernick is, and my first mother (who I want nothing to do with....my choice) then lambasted me for everyone to see after complaining to the same media that I wouldn't meet with her....it would make any sort of thought of a reunion so unlikely.

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    6. Heidi Russo should write a book "How To Wreck Your Reunion." She has done every possible thing to disrespect her son and seek publicity for herself. Her story should be a caution of what NOT to do, especially if the son or daughter you found is in some way famous. Why would her son want anything to do with her?

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  6. Whoops. [Face palm]

    I did get it wrong. You all worded that kindly.

    Will do better next time.

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  7. Off topic? But before it completely vanishes in the ether, there is an article I found yesterday evening that gave this mother's heart, hope. It can be found by typing in a search engine -adopted children risk becoming the displaced poor- Amanda Boorman is the author. Way to go Amanda! It gives me hope to read things like this.

    I went to find it today where I did yesterday and it's already 'disappeared'. I had to directly type in the title to find it and then the page didn't want to load the first time... it speaks too much truth. :)

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    1. Before we blame the gods, let us blame the computer hacker or hackers who were interfering with all kinds of computer connections today all over the country. It was on the news this afternoon. Apparently it slowed down the system, and came from thousands of IP address all over the country. No one knows who did it , or why.

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    2. Hi Cindy. If people copy and paste the link below into their browsers, it should take them to the article.
      http://www.community care.co.uk/2016/10/20/adopted-children-risk-becoming-displaced-poor/
      Hope this helps.

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    3. That link doesn't actually work, Anon. It takes you to a page that says this: The easy way to find local Childcare in the UK. Can you help further with this?

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  8. Lo,

    just wanted to comment on what I understood it to mean, back in those days, when people would say, "she gave up a baby." As I understood it, that was a way of summarizing the whole unpleasant, shocking, shameful, painful, sexually deviant situation.
    As I understood it, it was not a judgment against the natural mother for surrendering her infant. That was what she was supposed to do if she did not marry the father.
    "She gave up a baby" was just a kind of shorthand expression that everyone understood in those days. People knew what it meant.

    I started speaking out about my experience as a surrendering mother almost immediately. Many of my friends already knew, as did my family. When I started telling more people, afterwards, in 1968-9, I received mostly kindness and compassion.
    It wasn't until years later, when the BSE began to fade that people began to "not understand" and i suppose some of the reason for that was because the BSE was fading from memory. Mothers were keeping babies, options were available that had not been there before, laws were different, grandparents became more supportive, schools were helping mothers get an education, etc.

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    1. kitta-I agree with what you are saying about the change in how this is viewed over time. I am not quite as old as Florence Fisher but I did experience some of the same negativity toward an adoptee searching as she did. She was shown very little respect or compassion during her search. From the nun at the hospital to the snarky clerk in the records department to the rabbi who assumed she wanted to hunt her mother down to hurt her, she was the bad apple. The smugness of the attorney's wife, her ex-husband, the way she had to lie and hide what she was doing. It seemed like the adoptee was seen as the bad guy where the birth mother was given compassion and empathy and an attitude of "but for the grace of God" understanding at least during that time frame. The adoptee seenmed to carry the burden of being labeled a trouble maker, ungrateful, and abnormal. I saw all that and more in my search along with realizing I had been lied to about almost everything. And I never understood why. Now there is a lot of misunderstanding from people who only see things from the reference of this point in time.

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    2. I respectfully disagree that the birth mother was generally "given compassion and empathy and an attitude of "but for the grace of God" understanding" during the time frame of the so-called BSE. If that had been the case, many more would have been able to keep their children. It was more like they were pitied as lost souls who needed to redeem themselves by forfeiting their children.
      I do agree that adoptees who searched during that period were regarded as aberrations and trouble makers. Unfortunately I think that some of that attitude still holds true in certain circles today.

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    3. Lisa-I was saying that was the case after the fact, after the adoption was over and done that people felt it was best to let the past stay there. And that the birth mother was viewed with more empathy than the hapless adoptee who everyone assumed was out to stir up trouble for her. In this situation of searching the adoptee was seen as the bad person and people tended to feel more kindly and more empathetic toward the birth mother. Before the adoption, yes of course the birth mothers were not given much support or empathy and as kitta said-adoption was seen by most as the only option. And yes I agree some of that attitude still exists and some say adoptees have no right to search for their own identity or know where they came from.

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    4. Can someone tell me just exactly when mothers got compassion and empathy? Some may have but I sure didn't see anything that remotely resembled compassion or empathy until in this past year after reunion and some of the tv shows that showed reunions, and only from people in the check out line at the grocery store. Prior to this recent change and still within my family system it is only barely tolerated to be discussed and only because I 'force' it, and no grief is allowed. Empathy? Compassion? What is that? It only comes in the form of other mothers and adoptees and strangers who have been touched by the reunion shows they see on tv. That's IT. The ones who promoted and still continue to promote this garbage called adoption, nah.

      Lisa's right. If there had been an attitude of compassion and empathy more mothers would have been able to keep their children.

      adoptee123, I have a very different view than your, "the birth mother was viewed with more empathy than the hapless adoptee who everyone assumed was out to stir up trouble for her." From being a mother who never wanted adoption and who wanted to search what I saw was, don't go stirring up trouble for the adoptive parents. Don't go looking the child is happy, leave them alone. So in this case it was the adoptive parents and the adoptee that were given more empathy than the heartbroken mother....who was out to stir up trouble and rock the pretty, picture perfect boat. Seems to me that we mothers and adoptees have been given the "idea" that the other is or may be 'the enemy'.... why is that? I think it is to keep us divided and conquered. To keep the status quo. Because in the eyes of many agencies and adoptive parents and some of society in general we are seen as the enemy to a "perfect family". I hate adoption. Even if one or both of a child's parents are dead, full adoption, without the fully informed consent (i.e. you cannot ever likely get your birth certificate with your parents names, and you will never be able to claim those people legitimately as your parents again-EVER, neither can your descendants, etc) of the child should not ever be done. People believe it's a good thing because it's been told to them, through repetition and saturation of media and television. But is that view accurate and true? How many adoptees and first parents and families and others would disagree?

      As far as 'fearing' what the adoptee might do it's not as if no-one had a clue as to how those who were surrendered and adopted felt. Many of them had anger problems. Who wouldn't? But no we still keep tearing merrily along saying adoption is such a good thing! We still allow, encourage separation of mothers and their children and call it 'for the best'. The issues of adoption loss for the adoptee are not fully or satisfactorily resolved for the adoptee by this new arrangement called 'open adoption'. Does it make the doubt, confusion, anger, loss, lack of trust, etc. go AWAY? Why burden a child and later the adult they become with all of that extra heavy life load and call it good? The ones who were arranging adoptions had to have some kind of clue as to how well adoptees were fairing. Just like today there is and was plenty of evidence and studies to indicate what the outcomes and struggles are for many adoptees. But folks insist on continuing to call all this good. Oh, and the mothers...well, they're just collateral damage.

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  9. Adoptee123, Lisa,
    I was speaking of my peers when I said that I was "treated with compassion and kindness" wen I started to talk about my experience as a surrendering mother (in 1968-69). My peers did understand that this could have happened to them...and in fact, I learned that it did happen to some of them.

    I met many Parents of Loss, as time went on. They understood, like no one else did. I also met adoptees who were searching, or wanted to.
    In the 1980s, I started my search, and then I started getting some negativity..mostly from neighbors who had, by that time, adopted children. I was now "the enemy and a troublemaker." But, I still had support from friends who cared.

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  10. Actually, there were some professional people who treated me with kindness during my pregnancy, particularly my ob/gyn in Cali. He tried to help me find a way to keep my child and told me that he recently had a patient who was a single mother who had kept her child. He did not believe in separating mothers and kids.
    There were others, too, who were helpful. The whole time I was in Cali, I never hid anything, never hid my pregnancy.
    But, I needed help from my parents, needed a place to live, needed the kind of support that my family should have given. I didn't have that, and I was underage.

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  11. @Cindy,adoptee123, Lisa,

    The adoption industry will never be sympathetic/empathetic to us keeping our children/family preservation...we are their only reason for existence. They need us to stay in business. But they also want to control us. They want adoptees to fear their mothers. The industry wants mothers to fear adoptees. The "client"is the pre-adoptive parent and that is the person who gets the "understanding" if there is any to be had...they are paying the agency.
    When I started my search for my son, in the 1980s, there were a couple of "friends" who tried to discourage me with negative comments.

    They said things like," well, I wouldn't want some mother coming to take my child back." (from a biological mother of 2 kids)
    I replied, "Really, well, someone took mine and I have not known what happened to him for 20 years, so you should understand how I feel."
    Anyone who made negative comments was someone I just stopped talking to.
    I made new friends who were supportive.
    Until the general public "gets" that adoption is both unethical in a "business sense" and evil in a fundamental natural sense (at least as long as the child's parents or family are capable and willing)...until that day comes....the industry will continue.

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  12. I guess my point is not coming across or maybe I am not being clear. I was referring to ADULT adoptees and the cruelty and disrespect they encountered when searching and the assuming they were out to cause trouble with no evidence to support that belief. As far as empathy for the birth mother I saw lots of that when it came to their peers and the general community during the time of their pregnancy and many peers knowing they were lucky it was not them. It was mostly the immediate family of the birth mother during that time that did not give the support they wanted or needed. But it is also relevant to remember is they were "following the rules" or the norm during that time period and no one really questioned that adoption was what was needed except for the birth mothers. Just as any woman who became pregnant, married or not, lost their job and could not collect unemployment-it was the rule and the norm during that time and not many questioned it. Right or wrong it was the norm and most families of birth mothers felt that was the best course of action. As a teenager we all saw through the stores of "sos and so went to visit relatives or had mono" and that was supposed to hide the pregnancy and time they were not around; but we knew and did not judge. I don't know if any of you read Florence Fisher's book which started communication about adoption but she was treated horribly as a woman in her 40s by almost everyone she went to as an adult looking for information on her past. No one said anything negative about her birth mother, only her. And that is what I experienced too during my search. I guess I will just repeat this and let it go and hope this clears up where I am coming from. Until recently when adoptees dared to search they encountered much disrespect and downright hatred from people who held the information on their origins as well as the general public who felt we had no right to this information. And almost everyone went out of their way to defend the birth mother and felt she should not be upset or embarrassed by her own offspring wanting a few simple facts about their origins. I'm not saying the birth mother got support from her family.

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    1. That's kind of my point adoptee123, in that you say "almost everyone went out of their way to defend the birth mother and felt she should not be upset or embarrassed by her own offspring..." Who was it who "went out of their way"? The agency workers and such? Was it mother's themselves who were telling you those things?

      Someone started the idea that mothers ought to be in hiding from their own children and be "protected" from same. The idea took off and was used as the standard shut down for searching adoptees and has morphed into allowing repugnant veto's.

      We know that a high percentage of mothers are NOT in hiding, nor do they want to hide from their children. So who started that all encompassing myth?

      In searching for my son I was treated like pariah in every encounter with the agencies and hospital and the court. From people in general I would hear, "you aren't his mother, you have no right". Many of the general public have family members who were adopted or were adoptive parents, so I found out. So that is my experience, different from yours and yet the same in so many ways. The obstruction that mothers also receive from the agencies /courts in regard to information, being forbidden by law from even their own non- id. information.. is it REALLY about "protecting the birth mother, like they tell you it is? How is keeping my information from me protecting me and my privacy? How come it works that way?

      When mothers want information, agencies are "protecting the adoptee". When adoptees want information, they are "protecting the birth mother"? Whatzup with that?

      I get and totally understand the "disrespect and downright hatred from the people who held the information as well as the general public" you received. Everywhere I turned for over 33 years there was nothing but hatred, and revulsion and outright fear of me... a mother. The mother who could shatter the illusion, just by existing. It made for a very sad existence.

      I get what you are saying. You and adoptees in general are treated horribly. It's wrong! I don't want you treated that way. The problem is we *mothers and adoptees* are treading on that "sacred cow of adoption" if we want any information, or if we step out of our expected place/roles.

      I also had the not so fun time at vital statistics trying to get my dad's(an adoptee) original birth certificate and was treated like a child and, probably pure coincidence, but some type of security guard or police officer came in right as the person who came out to talk to me 'personally' about why I couldn't have it, was finishing up her explanation. Yeah, I left with my heart and my head down. Shamed again. Feeling 'owned and like a criminal'. Sigh.

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  13. Adoptee123,

    I get what you are saying...it has beenhard to write here because my comments keep disappearing, and i don't think I am making much sense. So, I am sorry. I am writing fast, before they disappear.

    I did read Florence's book, and BJ Lifton's and Jean Paton was a friend of mine. I do so appreciate those ladies, and their courage! And I saw how hard it was for them to come forward and say what happened to adoptees who tried to search and were told to leave their relatives "in the past."

    So, I figured my son would be told that also. I didn't want him to think I didn't want him to find me. But there was no way to tell him except to find him, which I did. And he did tell me that he had been discouraged from completing his search for me.

    It is totally obnoxious that we are being controlled by other people, interfered with. This adoption nonsense needs to stop.

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  14. Hey Kitta, I know that all our stories are going to vary. I can't really compare my experience with yours because due to family moves and changes I didn't have a peer group when I relinquished in 1962. I did find supportive non-judgmental friends later as I chose to leave home and find work rather than return to my college (because my parents expected me to lie about my absence. My mom had wanted to me to swear on the bible, that I would "never tell a soul", but to his credit my father refused to stand for that!)
    I can't honestly say I received any real kindness from professionals, although unlike some birth mothers, neither was I the recipient of actual severe abuse. Mostly the professionals with whom I had contact were cold and distant. It felt like being fed into a vast impersonal machine.

    After I relinquished I worked two separate jobs for almost two years. I was fired from my first job because my boss found me crying and, appearing to be sympathetic, she cajoled me into telling her the reason for my distress. I was made to leave the premises immediately, not even given time to say goodbye to my co-workers. The irony was that up until that point, I had been my boss's golden girl. It was a lesson hard earned. After that I was more careful about who I confided in. Finally I returned to my education, although not along the same lines as those I had been following when I became pregnant.

    The world in which I now move is accepting. My friends are sympathetic and have welcomed my relinquished child into their lives. They ask about my granddaughter just as they do about other members of my family. But it was not always this way. Times have changed and I move in different circles. If I do get a negative reaction I am now in a strong enough position to let the person know what I think. However It doesn't escape me that not everyone has been as fortunate as myself. There will always be somebody eager to pass judgment, if only by "virtue signalling". We all do the best we can and some of us meet with more support than others.

    I certainly do see that adoptees have a different (although related) row to hoe than birth mothers. Many meet with disapproval and obstacles are too often raised in their path. It is important that society and adoptive parents in particular come to understand that all people have a right to their original family history and that includes access to genetic family members if that is what they want.

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  15. Lisa,
    your experience was and is pretty similar to mine, in some ways. I think that as society loosened up, and as we got older, it was easier to find supportive friends. And, we could choose who to let into our lives. Unsupportive people could be "let go." I had to cut off some former friends because they made judgmental comments, and I would not stand for that.
    I was treated very badly during my pregnancy by some professionals, but I was lucky to have the one caring doctor who tried to help me find a way to keep my baby. I also appreciated my friends who helped me.
    My parents were horrible, and told me I only reminded them of failure. I moved far away from them, finished school, met new friends, and found others who had lost children...even one of my new roommates.
    I decided not to be friends with people who couldn't accept me as I was. I became completely supportive of adoptees who searched and became involved with their issues, also.
    I was a public school teacher and a daycare provider and some of my kids were adoptees. They spoke about wanting to search and I encouraged them. No one should have to be in the dark about where they come from or who their relatives are.

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  16. Cindy-I did hear from many people including my peers and friends that I confided in that I had no right to search. It was not just agency and records type people. And apparently my birth mother shared those views as well and refused to ever meet or speak with me. I did encounter people who I wished I had not confided in who thought I was terrible for searching and these were people I thought were friends. And I never told my adoptive parents. I have no doubt that birth mothers if searched have met with the same obstacles especially from agencies and records people. We are not following the roles assigned to us. kitta-I am glad that you read the books-personally the only one I have read is Florence Fisher's so far but it captured everything so well as far as the attitudes adoptees faced especially those of us who searched in the same time period. Lisa I feel bad for what happened when you confided in the wrong person-I know how that feels. I am glad that thing are changing now and people for the most part are not as judgmental and that you have been able to incorporate your adoptee(did you say if it was a son or daughter) and granddaughter into your family.

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  17. Lisa,
    Is that nasty boss of yours still alive? If so, I wonder what she is doing now....in this brave new world of ours. I ask because, after I was reunited I decided to call the hospital where I gave birth. My reason being to confront the nurses with the horrible treatment I got from the nursing staff in 1968.
    Although my doctor was great, the nurses were cruel and downright unprofessional. They even took my baby away from me after my doctor and I had specifically agreed on a plan that he would be with me.
    My doctor was furious at them. They defied his orders. He re-issued orders for my son to be brought to me, but the nurses kept trying to separate us.
    So, in the early 1990s, I called and got the head nurse...and she apologized to me! She said, "I know that awful things were done back in those days and I want you to know that I am sorry. And no one is treated like that today."
    wow..I thanked her. Obviously, she had nothing to do with what happened to me.

    But, I still wonder what happened to those nasty ones? Do they realize what they did to us? Do they care? Probably not...

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    1. Hi Kiita. I'm glad you had the good doctor In your corner. Even though he was ultimately unable to help you, he tried. It must have been some comfort to know that somebody cared. As for my wretched boss, unless she is well over 100 years old she is unlikely to be still alive. I agree with you. People like her didn't care. I am sure once she got rid of me she never gave me another thought.
      I was reunited in 2000. She was probably already dead then, along with the rest of the usual suspects.

      I think it is important for younger people to understand that social mores really were different then, although I have to say I don't like to see the sharp distinctions that are sometimes made by some first mothers between the so-called BSE and after. It is more complicated than that.

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  18. Here's a development. Cardinal Vincent Nicholls, the head of the Catholic church in England and Wales has apologised for its part in the” hurt” caused to young unmarried women who say they were felt pressured into handing over their babies for adoption in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

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  19. In a statement to the Guardian the Church of England also expressed its regrets
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/03/christian-churches-forced-adoptions-in-the-uk-did-you-lose-your-child
    "“What was thought to be the right thing to do at the time has caused great hurt. That is a matter of great regret."

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  20. Lisa,

    thanks for the link. I read the article. Good photo of the ladies with their signs! I hope these statements by Church leaders help. At least they admitted to what they did, although it doesn't undo the past.
    Still, it is far better to admit they caused hurt than to constantly keep promoting adoption the way that the US adoption industry does. In the US, adoption is a business and it is treated as a business. New strategies are always being mapped out for ways to promote the industry.
    That was how we got "open adoption" which is nothing but another scam.

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  21. testing the comment form. My comment keeps disappearing.

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  22. Women who lost their children through these circumstances can tell their stories to The Guardian:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/03/christian-churches-forced-adoptions-in-the-uk-did-you-lose-your-child?CMP=share_btn_tw

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  23. Hello, I was forced to adopt a newborn by my parents in 1973, at the age of 18. So hypocritical as I had several cousins who chose to marry (younger) and my dad drove them to the church! My (child) has attempted to contact me but I am unable to agree at this time. My adult kids were shocked to find out about my "past" but have been supportive and open minded. One day a reunion may take place but not right now. My life was a living hell during the pregnancy and school booted me out in the final year of high school. I continued my studies by correspondence but the results were poor. 44 years have gone by but it is still only yesterday, and I am reclusive in the birthday. The father of the child was refused access to me and eventually disappeared from my life. Of course, it wss all my fault according to his mum and my parents. So with mixed emotions I end this post and get on with my life.....my way. Famous last words, bittersweet.

    ReplyDelete

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