' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Generation Gap: Do Women from an Earlier Era See Relinquishing their Children Differently? A Different View

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Generation Gap: Do Women from an Earlier Era See Relinquishing their Children Differently? A Different View

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute's November, 2006 report, Safeguarding the Rights and Well-Being of Birthparents in the Adoption Process which Lorraine refers to in the preceding post is excellent and well worth reading. However, I think the jury is still out on whether women from the Baby-Scope, pre Roe v. Wade, period see relinquishing their children differently that the open adoption mothers of today. I relinquished my daughter Megan in 1966. If I had been asked how I felt about my “decision” during the next 20 years, I would have answered I was okay, that I did the only thing I could have done.

In fact, in the early 80's, I read a letter to Ann Landers from a birthmother telling of her intense, endless pain. I remember being incredulous. While I had not forgotten about my child (as social workers in my day promised), I worked at putting my feelings aside, and other than an occasional, sometimes intense, sense of loss, I was generally successful. I was actually quite proud of myself for having control.

It was not until my mother died in July of 1988 almost 22 years after my surrender that I began to suffer profound and frequent episodes of grief. I began replaying the events leading up to my pregnancy, Megan’s birth, and the surrender. I realized that I could have -- and should have -- kept her. Since our reunion in 1997 these feelings have lessened somewhat and I have been able to focus more on the present than the past.

Other birthmothers have told me that they repressed their feelings for many years. In fact one birthmother recounted how she volunteered at an adoption agency, giving talks to prospective adoptive parents about what a good decision she made. Then she reunited with her daughter and her protective wall crumbled.

We can't know until 20 or more years have passed whether open-adoption mothers are more at peace than my generation of mothers.

Tomorrow, we're moving to a new writer and a new topic. Birthfather Joe Sanchez tells us about his search for his daughter.


  1. I'm somewhere in the middle, my son was born in 1984. I think I have, generally, more in common with "baby scoop" mothers than more recent ones. I did bury my feelings for a long time. I think it was really only when my daughter was born, almost 16 years after her older brother, that I felt the full weight of what I had lost and *really* examined what had happened to me. I'd lost the denial I'd been in by then, but I didn't begin to fully explore my feelings until I held and nursed my newborn daughter.

  2. I know I am post Roe v. Wade, but I was pre-open adoption. So for me, I am not really sure how I am "supposed" to feel. I just know how I feel.

    I felt an enormous sense of loss that not only did I put a wall around, I built a whole kind of fantasy life. I never stopped talking about my daugher. Never let on that she did not live with me to most people.

    My spouse was patient and understanding, which totally amazed me.

    You are talking about fathers - I wish my child's father was alive. I think it would help her with her racial identity much more than I can.

    I think that pain, while different for men in a way, is the same.

    Confusion reigns.

  3. I became even more unstable and tried really hard to have a normal life. I became a drug addict and had anorexia and kind of ran around like a headless chicken. Moved to the other side of the world and took my pain with me.

    I didn't handle relinquishment well.

    I am handling reunion better.

  4. It has been 20 or more years for me and NO, I am not at peace. I never will be.

    I am not going to say that I am less so at peace than that of first mothers of an earlier generation, but I have not one ounce of peace for a decision that was based on the premise that I would be kept up to date on my child's life and progress, only to have the door slammed shut.

    I think all of us (no matter what generation we are from) have lost the most precious and intimate part of ourselves, that of our children. Whichever way you choose to look at it, it is still horrific and the loss is immense.

    I will say that I have felt tortured, (I think that would be an appropriate word) knowing that I chose a couple who would blatantly disregard our agreement and me, when they knew how incredibly important our agreement was to me.

    Still 20 years later, I am treated like yesterday's trash by the wonderful adopters, whom I trusted. No hello, nice to know your still alive, nothing after I located my son. None of these pleasantries from people I met, spent time with and entrusted with my child. I knew then what type of people I "trusted". Selfish and cold hearted are two word that come to mind.

    I know that in my case openness was the basis of me going thorough with my "choice." Had I known then what I know now, I would not know this forum existed.

    I think, also that had this practice (openness) been implimented during an earlier time, the same result would have ensued. You would have still had the control issues, entitlement issues and infertle women promising you the moon to get their hands on your newborn infant.

    As I have read a couple of times here... same s***, different year.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. I was a 1968 surrender, but never was able to block any of it out. I have often wished I could have. I joined adoption reform groups as soon as I heard there was such a thing and found out where my son was when he was 8.

    Through some spying which I now regret I was able to see him grow up somewhat, so did not have to go from memory of an infant to the shock of a grown man. Although my situation was closed, I do feel some kinship to those with open adoptions since I saw my son from a distance as child.

    My views have changed as well, but in a different direction than some.In the 80s I was right there with the "adoption sucks" crowd. I even had the tee shirt:-) Since then I have come to see that the experience of adoption and surrender is much more diverse and less black and white than my personal story and those of my friends led me to believe. To those stuck in anger and despair; where you are, I was for years. I am glad to be a little further down the road in a more comfortable place.

    We have all dealt with the pain of surrender in our own way, on our own timetable.

  7. School of '62 here.

    On a personal note, I didn't feel surrendering my son for adoption was right then and I don't now.

    As far as adoption in general is concerned, I have always thought that under some circumstances it is justifiable.
    However, I do not think a closed records system can ever be justified.

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. I conducted an online survey in 2005 for an honor's thesis as part of my BSW work. 177 mothers completed the survey. They relinquished their children between 1958 and 2004. Eighty percent expressed negative feelings about their relinquishment.

    Whether the adoption took place in 1958 or 2004 the emotions and pain was equally strong and expressed in the present tense. These were not memories of past feelings, but current emotions that these women were dealing with at that time. Even among women with overall positive feelings about the relinquishment there were often expressions of regret, sadness and guilt.

  10. For decades I did not understand why I actually hated myself. Then it all came together almost 5 yrs. ago when I found my first son by accident after first finding his father on the internet. I do think that no matter what generation of surrender, BSE or not, taking personal responsibility hels also in forgiving yourself without the disclaimers as Lorraine metioned in her earlier blog. It was just sheer serendipity that I finally found both my first son and myself. Just wish I had kept him too.

  11. Curious Jane, did you ever apologize to your daughter for denying her for eleven years?

    I honestly don't know how she lived through it.

    Maybe I am more sensitive than most adoptees, but I would not have lived through that kind of rejection, in fact I barely lived through a mother who didn't reject me.


  12. Lava asked if I ever apologized to Megan for denying her for eleven years. The simply answer is "no." I never considered that I had denied her. But you're right Lava, I did deny her, and I should have apologized.

    Megan tried to contact me through a relative and I did not know for certain who the person who called my relative was. I explained this to her the first time we talked. I wrote about this in great detail in July, http://www.firstmotherforum.com/2009/07/rejecting-mother-afraid-of-my-child.html

    I did apologize to Megan many times for giving her up. She told me this made her very angry. She did not want to hear this; that her adoption was God's plan.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.