' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: After adoption first/birth mothers are supposed to suck it up

Sunday, January 23, 2011

After adoption first/birth mothers are supposed to suck it up

While we been picking over the differences between being kidnapped (and raised by genetic strangers) and being adopted (and raised by genetic strangers) as concerning the Nejdra Nance/Carlina White abduction, and how the public reacts to the mother--the first/birth mother, that is--there is another parallel to be learned from another story in the news: how people react to the families of mass murderers, such as the Unabomber and Jared Laughner. And how they react to women who surrendered their babies.

Robert Hyde, brother of a mentally ill man who killed five people, reached out to Laughner's parents to offer his understanding. Quoting from in the New York Times:
"While the actual victims of crimes and their relatives 'have people pulling for them, 'we on the other side don't even want to broach the subject. I will never say, 'I lost my brother too--I'll never go fishing with him again. It would look cold and callous,' he added. 'People don't understand. And you don't want to offend anybody.'

So, he concluded, 'you just suck it up.'"
I read those words and thought Yeah, right, that's what your are supposed to do when you give up a baby. That's what you are supposed to do when you lose a child to adoption. You aren't supposed to say a damn thing. You are supposed to suck it up. Unless you are on national television on Sixteen and Pregnant, shut up already. It was all the more true for women in decades past when an "out of wedlock" (what an archaic phrase that it today, when something like 40 percent of all babies are born that way) baby was something to hang your head in shame about. I was so mortified that I hid out in an apartment by myself in a strange city, far from my hometown, and since I was able to keep my shame from my parents, I did, rather than ask them for help and support.

The sucking up of the pain and grief was to go on forever, we were to go through life pretending that "it" did not happen, no baby was there trailing you like a bad odor. You were defiled, used goods, a common slut. That's how it was for those of us who gave up our babies way back when. I think that is how it is for those mothers who cannot reconnect with the children they gave up, who refuse even a single meeting, or can't tell the rest of the family and their friends about their lost son or daughter. They are unable to get past the feelings they had about themselves at the time they relinquished their children. And if we do talk about it, we have no idea whether we will meet empathy, or an attitude that says: You did it, you had sex, you signed the paper, so suck it up.

Jen RameyHow does this affect us? Not in a good way. This month's Harper's Bazaar has a story about Jen Ramey, a
big deal model manager who credits her years of obesity to something that happened 30 years ago: she gave up a child for adoption. She was 18. She gained 90 pounds during the pregnancy, and never lost the baby weight. "I can't tell you if that was emotional baggage that I was holding onto for all those years, but I felt guilty."

Her diet guru and trainer, Angelo Sorrenti, however, has no doubts: "The adoption was a trauma for her that was devastating. she became obese and she stayed obese, until now."

It was refreshing to read in a regular woman's magazine, an upscale fashion magazine no less, the frank and open admission of how giving up a child has a long-term, devastating effect. A while back I posited that giving up a child could be a cause of post traumatic stress disorder and that elicited a lot of comments from some about how that couldn't be. Well, I beg to disagree. The emotional damage done to the first mother by the act of giving up her child, which feels to us like abandonment, no matter how many pretty words you put around it, is going to vary from woman to woman. I'd say it hit me pretty damn hard. An 8 on a scale of 10; I was never institutionalized. And until I started to write about it five years after I gave up my daughter, I simply sucked it up.

But how about the rest of us? I came across this statistic a few days ago in the only comprehensive study of the health and well-being of birth mothers after relinquishment, one done in England, where adoptees have had the right to their original birth certificates since 1975:
While only an insignificant proportion of birth mothers had been diagnosed with a mental health problem before adoption (3 percent), in the time between the parting and contact, 24 percent had a psychiatric diagnosis mainly for depression, with half of them having had inpatient treatment. *
If you are reading this and do not think that giving up a child causes enormous psychological impact that most of us feel as damage, nothing I can say will change your mind--lorraine
*The Adoption Triangle Revisited: A Study of adoption, search and reunion experiences by John Triseliotis, Julia Feast and Fiona Kyle, 2005; The British Association for Adoption & Fostering.


  1. I will say this; every aspect of my life has been affected by the loss of my first born child to adoption. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. For anyone to suggest that we should just "suck it up" and get on with it, let them lose one of their children to adoption.

    It is an ambiguous loss of having a child out there but not able to be a part of their lives; a REAL part of their lives and forever being regulated to that of shadow mother; on the outside looking in to the life you created. That can be at times, nothing short of emotional torture.

    Yeah, I will "suck it up", when those who can't become pregnant "suck it up" and stop thinking they are owed our children, because they think are so much more deserving of them than we are.

  2. No matter what we say or post about losing
    a baby to adoption it will always be countered.
    If it wasn't those who have made a living off of
    adoption wouldn't be in business. Those who
    deny the pain are those reaping off of that pain.
    It's in the best interests of their well being for the
    truth to be covered up. To he'll with the best inter-
    ests of the baby. It's all about the money involved
    and those who adopt it's they who benefit. The two
    most important are torn apart for what someone elses
    bank account or someone elses well being or sense of
    well being.

  3. I feel honored to have met so many first mothers who speak openly about their experiences. I have benefitted from learning about what you have gone through because it helped me have compassion for my own first mother, even when she treated me terribly.

    I cannot speak directly to my first mother's mental health, but she did say to me that she stuffed down her experience and refused to speak of it to anyone for almost 40 years. She remembers nothing of my birth or the days immediately after, and she told me that when I approached her 10 years ago, she lost 10 pounds and experienced extreme anxiety that required therapy and medication. Whether these are manifestations of PTSD, only she and her doctor can say, but it sure sounds like her trauma--and yes, I go out on a limb and call it trauma--is far from resolved.

  4. I totally get that! There are points in time that I am oblivious to throughout the year after my daughter was taken..... stolen. Things I supposedly did and still do not remember. I tried, truly tried and still nothing, a blankness. The day I found her, I started losing weight..... not much, but some. I started feeling and being awake for the first time in years.... Now, I sleep sometimes again, doing things on autopilot because I don't know how to feel, my husband dying was and is as traumatic as my loss of my daughter...... I wake slowly....painfully and with great anguish.

    Yes, I get that.....

  5. My mother sucked it up from age 24 unitl she died.Even speaking about it and reunion which helped a bit didn't take away the trauma.Guilt too was ever present.She had secondary infertility, loved children and had a double tragedy.
    Mine was a forced adoption and I will make my submission to the Inquiry to honour her and her suffering.
    Incidental my word verification is hersin! Not!

  6. Ms Marginlia,

    Your mother may not remember your birth
    or days after because the Dr's often drugged
    mothers at birth on order to make it easier to
    take the baby.

    I am not sure where you were born but the
    abuses of young mothers were very common
    when adoption and a single mother were used
    on same context. Human rights abuses were

  7. Anonymous,

    I was born in 1969. I have often wondered if they gave my mom something like conscious sedation to prevent her from being present emotionally, and from forming memories. Under conscious sedation, you remember little, if anything about what happens. I don't think sedation necessarily precludes her having PTSD. I haven't asked her straight up about her feelings related to it, or her diagnosis. We are still in a very new reunion, and she is fragile. She says that she keeps things very heavily suppressed even now.

  8. Well, I have to say - I gave up my daughter in 1969 and when I found her in 2006, I lost 60 pounds during our communication (letters)!!! It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. I weigh as much as I did before I got pregant - 100 pounds!! Unfortunely, she doesn't want ANY contact...

  9. Sorry that I missed you asked where and not when. I was born in a big teaching hospital in St. Louis. She had only told my grandparents about the pregnancy a week before my birth, and my grandparents apparently scrambled to find a place far from home and an agency. My mom is from a very small town, and the town doctor worked with my grandfather to set it all up post haste.

  10. Anonymous,

    I am so sorry that your daughter doesn't want contact. It is incredibly painful to be on the rejected end. I was there for 11 years before my fmom finally changed her mind and decided to speak to me. We still haven't met in person, and perhaps we never will. But at least I feel she sees me as a human being now, not a nameless, faceless baby who "ruined" her life and was meant to stay in the shadows.

    Hugs to you. I hope with all of my heart that your daughter will come around.

  11. As a mother who also tried to "forget" ,as I was told I would do, I still suffer from memory loss about alot of the experience. Having reunited with my daughter after 36 years I am fortunate that together we are attempting to bring down all the barricades we both put up around our hearts. We have come to believe that it was about self preservation. It was the silence from all involved that was the most painful. Now that we are back together we have vowed that the silence will never retrun. We are trying to look forward while realizing that we have always been connected and will always share a past.

  12. I'm glad to have come across this post. I have never been able to talk about my experience losing my child to adoption, and it's taken its toll. It's only been 11 years, and sometimes I feel so detached and numb to it that I don't even know how long it's been. I am often very angry and sad over it, and do not share my experience with others. When I have shared, I get such a range of responses - I've been told that what I did was "brave" and I brush this off, because it doesn't feel brave. I've also been told that what I did was selfish. I hate all the responses I receive. It doesn't matter what others think because I still carry so much shame with this memory. I would never wish this experience on anyone - I hate when people tell women to just give up a baby. It's traumatic and heartbreaking and the pain remains long long after. I am pretty sure every decision I've made since then is to distance myself from feeling that kind of pain ever again.



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