' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: An adoptive mother asks "How can adoption be less horrific on first mothers?"

Monday, July 23, 2012

An adoptive mother asks "How can adoption be less horrific on first mothers?"

An adoptive mother wrote to First Mother Forum apologizing for “intruding” and asking a series of questions, trying to get her head around first mothers’ pain and how it might be lessened. She has a fully open adoption with her daughter's first mother, who has told this adoptive mother repeatedly she is so glad her daughter is happy and safe. She closed by saying “I just want to commend you for speaking out so courageously about your grief.”

First Mother Forum thanks Anon for writing and assures her that in no way is she intruding; FMF welcomes all readers. Her questions are excellent and FMF appreciates the opportunity to respond. 

Those who have suffered so terribly, were your adoptions closed?
Fellow blogger Lorraine and my adoptions were closed. Knowing that my child was gone irrretrievably—and that I caused it-- made the pain almost unbearable. I consoled myself by telling myself I would find her someday.

Although it may seem an odd analogy, the best I can describe my feelings is that they were like what I felt watching The Bridges of Madison County. The Meryl Streep character ends her affair with the Clint Eastwood character because she knows it would be wrong to leave her husband and children for him. The movie closes as Streep sees her lover on the street as she and her family drive by. She follows him with her eyes, peering through car windows obscured by blinding rain until he disappears forever, the sorrow which she tries to hide from her family glistening on her face. I could not breathe watching the scene.

Lorraine here: The knowledge that the closed adoption meant "forever" added a crushing layer of misery to relinquishing my daughter in 1966. I managed my life day to day seemingly quite well, but episodes of grief continued to haunt me: How could this be forever? Was she alive? Was she well? Was she loved? When my daughter, found in 1981, died in 2007, the grief then too was overwhelming, but different. I knew I would always miss her, but the knowledge that this was final, that this had an answer, was easier to accept than the endless questions before we had reunited. I believe it is impossible for women who have not experienced relinquishment of a child to an unknown faceless future to understand what a hell adoption is to a woman who has.

I don't mean to imply that open adoption solves all issues. It must be extremely heart-wrenching to watch from near or afar your child becomes also someone else's child. But at least those first mothers in open adoptions do not stare at faces in the street, at the mall, in Starbucks, and wonder: Could that child be my daughter?

“Is it at all possible though that through reforms and just plain good sense that the experience for a birthmother, though always a lifelong loss, always a life altering event, can be less horrific?
Studies show that fully open adoption makes the loss of a child easier to bear. By fully open, FMF means a trusting relationship where the birth and adoptive families become extended families to each other. While they have an open adoption agreement spelling out rights and obligations, the parties never find the need to look at the agreement.

Open adoption agreements are not enforceable in many states. Sadly, some adoptive parents treat the agreement as just a ruse to get a child and soon close the adoption. What research there is shows that mothers whose adoptions have closed have the poorest grief resolution. *

Short of doing away with all adoption, would educating more people on the plight of the birth mothers and things that can make the ordeal easier on her be the answer?”
Educating the public is not the answer to making the ordeal easier on mothers but exploding myths about adoption would help. FMF would like the public, particularly the media, to stop glorifying adoption. The public should know that mothers do not give their children as gifts to deserving couples and birth mothers are not baby factories. Adopted children are not meant by some higher power to be born for the enjoyment of adoptive parents. Adoption often results from of lack of resources, not choice. Many birth mothers in closed adoptions long to see their children and support opening records--to adoptees as well as birth parents--so that they and their children can find each other.

“Is it the feelings of this community that NO woman, even an adult who of her own free will who seeks out an agency and chooses adoptive parents, should ever choose adoption?”
We do not suggest that mothers who truly do not want their children raise them. See our explanation regarding adoption, What We Think of Adoption.

However, FMF doubts that significant numbers of mothers exist who give up their children of their own free will. Women who do not want to be mothers usually have abortions, as over a million women did last year. The 15,000 or so who lose their children to adoption every year are often driven by clever industry marketing, religious beliefs, or lack of resources. Giving up a child is contrary to human nature. Where mothers have true choice as in Western Europe and Australia, only a handful choose adoption. 

Birthmark is blogger Lorraine's searing and raw account of giving up her daughter in the era of closed records. Highly controversial at the time it was released in 1979, it was the first memoir by a birth mother and is a seminal work on the topic. 
The Other Mother : A True Story by first mother Carol Schaefer was published in 1991, and was the basis of a Lifetime movie of the same name. Carol's story ends with reunion, as the cover photo indicates. Click on the either to order through Amazon.


  1. Hi Lorraine and Jane,
    Thanks for another thoughtful post. I think that Anon's questions were good ones, although the answers might be hard for her to understand if she has not given birth to a child herself. I know that when I almost couldn't have a second child, due to the secondary fertility issues of many first mothers, I swore that no matter what I would NEVER build my own family on another woman's sorrow. I could never adopt after what I went through. Thankfully, I was able to go on and have a son. However, I knew then, and I know now, that there are many ways to be in children's lives and help them without adopting them.

    Thank you again for another wonderful post.


  2. What do people not get about birth mother pain? See the photograph on Facebook for the page, Considering Adoption.

    It is a very large pregnant belly wrapped with a ribbon and bow. I am at a loss for the lack of empathy these people have and how the adoption culture we live in today makes adoption seem like such a good thing. The idea seems to be that women and teenagers sitting around making nice babies they can gift to others. Nobody who had an ounce of empathy for first mothers would have dreamt that up.

    The woman who wrote to us in unusual and prompted this post is unusual. Rare.

  3. Why are these revelations so often AFTER they adopt?
    It doesn't take a genius to figure out that separating mother and child is generally horrific.
    Most adopters seem quite contrite once they have what they want.
    I find the crocodile tears reprehensible in light of their gain.
    Where was all the thought before adopting?
    Infertility should not be an excuse for acting without thought.

  4. Keep the promises you make before the adoption is finalized. Don't lie to a mother just to get her child and pretend you will have communication.

    Treat the mother with respect, acknowledge who she is. By respecting her you respect the child you are raising.

    Don't regard her with fear and suspicion and don't speak negatively of her to the child you are raising.

    If you are not able to handle a relationship with her then you will not be able to make it possible for her to have a positive experience.

    I do believe a positive adoption experience is maybe possible but it would have to be a very special situation.

    It also needs a strong mother to be able to do this, otherwise she will crumble into self pity even when she has as many visits as she desires and is on a good relationship with the mother who has adopted her child.

    Who am I kidding, it's next to impossible for relinquishing your child to be anything less than horrifici BUT you can try to at least make it less so by treating her the way you would wish to be treated.

    It can't be easy for women who adopt if the last thing they want to do is share the child. I know for the woman that raised my daughter she wasn't prepared to share and cut me out of the picture as soon as she could.

  5. To be honest, as an answer to the question in the title, I don't think there is anything that can make it less horrific. Because it is an unnatural act in the first place to separate mother and child - which is why the mother and child bond, outside of surrogacy and adoption, is so revered.

    The best thing to make adoption less horrific for a mother is not to have adoption in her life. Very simple really.

  6. "Giving up a child is contrary to human nature. Where mothers have true choice as in Western Europe and Australia, only a handful choose adoption. "

    Yet this follows a statement about the millions of mothers who have abortions. Is that not "contrary to human nature" as well by the standards of some kind of absolute and universal maternal love?

    Mothers in crisis should absolutely have a real choice, as many did not in the past and do not today. The numbers of those who freely decide to surrender will of course be much smaller if there are real options and that is a good thing. But they will still exist, and those women do not deserve to be vilified or dismissed as "against human nature".

    Much of what has been touted as immutable human nature in the past is in reality a social and cultural construct, and it has been used as a weapon against any group considered aberrant, like gays or women seeking abortion or even equal rights. Let's not do that to those mothers who do have a choice and make the free choice to surrender, for whatever reason.

    That it was not my choice does not make it the wrong choice for every mother.

  7. Just in case anyone thinks I am "pro-adoption" here is a really nasty story of international adoption abuse from Spain, Have to love the title, "Pius Demons":-)


  8. In response to K...

    I was treated and respected in all the positive ways in your post, had a VERY open adoption (her adoptive mom embraced me and did her best to help me through my grief over the years)and yet I still feel it was a horrific and traumatizing experience. This was 27 years age when open adoption was hardly heard of, everyone kept saying how much better it will be for me and my daughter but I have the very same deep scars that Mom's from the baby swap era do and I am not convinced my daughter being around us while she grew up was positive. She has developed a jealousy from seeing her half sibs with me and my husband, and ironically enough, we were/are better off financially than they are. She does the see saw thing with me...having contact for a while then nothing...then back to contact.
    I am not so sure that a VERY open adoption is better for the adoptee...it did ease my worry but for her it created more issues being an adopted person. Maybe the once/twice a year type of visits are better for them. Who knows.

  9. Don't be part of the problem, be part of the solution.

    Do NOT pay tens of thousands of dollars to agencies. If you are not helping the child you are adopting be kidnapped, you are likely helping someone else's child be!

    If you want to HELP, be a foster parent, send money overseas to build school and but mosquito nets, eater...

    If you hear of a woman in crisis looking to place a child, offer her housing and assistance until she gets back on her feet. Make sure she has sought help among ALL of her extended family and the baby's father and his family. Make sure she is aware of all the facts such as that open adoption contact agreements are unenforceable in most states... and that she may never have another child... and likely will never get over her grief and guilt!

    These are things you could do!

    Not to be mean, but I cannot help but wonder if you really trying to make things better for a mother whose child you have, assuage YOUR guilt, or worst still, are you just seeking to look like MORE of hero and wonderful person and acquire yet more kudos? You must look deep inside at your true motivation, first, before you can be of any help.

    As I say these things I feel the need to apologize for my extreme cynicism. It is one of the lasting legacies of loosing my child to adoption 45 years ago... I AM bitter! I am bitter and angry! I wish it were not so.

    I wish I was a happy person. And I am sure you mean well, but your asking what can make it better AFTER the harm has been done, just reopens my wounds and pours salt in them.

    Nothing or no one can make it better for me - ever. My daughter is dead and she isn't coming back. The pain never lessens it increases and intensifies as does my anger and resolve to stop or reduce the numbers of unnecessary adoptions and the promotion of encouragement of a practice that South AU has APOLOGIZED for and this country continues to encourage with tax benefits and state bonuses... and we use the exploitation of young women in crisis for ENTERTAINMENT on TV!!

    What is wrong with this nation?! You want to help make it better? Fight for equal access and join the movement to end the insanity of encouraging more and more familial separations! Become involved and learn about Family Preservation. Read my book! Read articles by EJ Graff and Kathryn Joyce; read the works of David Smolin at bepress online; read books by Jane Jeong Trenka.

    become educated and educate others!

    BE THE CHANGE YOU WNT TO SEE and be part of the solution, not part of the problem! that is what you cna do to make ti better!

  10. Open adoption is still in experimental stages. Does it help mothers? Does it help the adoptee?

    I think the answer is that both are simply given a different set of issues to deal with.

    Under closed adoption mother and adoptee were left with lots of questions, doubts fears, concerns and wondering.

    With openness - true openness which includes visits, mothers have to deal with seeing their child call someone else Mommy. Some are very much made to feel subjugated to the wishes of the adopters as to how, when and where and for how long that can see their child. Some are in relationships with children who are not allowed to call them their mother - even with a prefix. The results can be too hard to bare and some have stopped visiting.

    Adoptees have to figure out why a mother who is CAPABLE of visiting is not capable of keeping them! They often have to watch as she has subsequent children, or they have to deal with her already having previous children. Why was "I" given away? These are all very painful things.

    There was something easier for adoptees in the old secretive days, not that I'm advocating a return to lies. But the truth is surely not without PAIN!

  11. The something easier was because of sealed records there was no thought of ever knowing. Adopter's thought they had it all including the baby.
    Mother's and adoptee's want to know their beginnings the truth.
    I can remember when I found my son with help of an adoptee. His adopter was quite surprised. So much for sealed records.

  12. Giving up a child IS - IMO - against human nature. And adoption cannot be compared pregnancy termination - an argument you, MaryAnne have made a gazillion times!

    Some women place children for adoption because they are ill, physically or mentally or "too young" or because they lack the resources to care for a child and are led to believe it is in their child's best interest to let them go and let others - with more resources - care for them.

    In some cases it IS for the best for the child. Surely if the mother was abusive or seriously neglectful she is not fit to care for her child and her child needs and deserves protection and safe care.

    But whatever the reason that causes the relinquishment or termination of rights, it is NOT the natural order of things. Best interests and being in keeping with human nature are not one and the same!

    To say that is NOT to demonize or judge anyone who made the decision to place a child thinking it was best because even those who believe it was best know it HURTS like hell and is it was a difficult decision that went against their maternal nature.

    Are there some mothers who lack maternal nature? Yes. These are the ones I categorized above as "ill" or those who were abusive or neglectful. The other thing that lead to a lack of maternal nature is having been systematically brainwashed all through out ones pregnancy - made to believe you are carrying a child for another and forced not to have any normal maternal bonding.

    Adoption is social construct. It is NOT natural!! We need to make that perfectly clear lest it be promoted more than it already is. We need to keep saying so that young, naive mothers-to-be do not fall into traps of believing otherwise...beleiving that it is the loving, unselfish thing to do to give away your flesh and blood - cause it AINT!!

  13. To answer the blog title question, the only way is to not give the child up for adoption in the first place. Adoption always causes pain.

    Maryanne wrote:"That it was not my choice does not make it the wrong choice for every mother."

    I still think that most children do not want to be given away by their natural parents. And this should be taken into account when making the choice.

    Thank you Roni and Mirah. I have often put in comments that I don't think open adoption is the panacea for what ails adoptees. In some ways it is an improvement but in just as many (if not more) I think it could be worse for the adopted child. I realize this does not make me Ms. Popularity at this blog but I am not surprised with what Roni is saying about her relinquished daughter's experience and I agree with what Mirah said at12:21 pm.

  14. Robin: I really don't know what's best for the child in an adoption: open or closed.

    But speaking as a Mother, at at blog for mothers, we do think that open adoption, with the mother having a say in choosing the adoptive parents, is a better option (if there will be an adoption) for mothers than blind, closed adoptions--even in states that allow adult adoptees to get their original birth records.

    You are not any less welcome stating your opinion about them; in fact, I was thinking about trying to do a blog about how open adoption affects the adopted, but I haven't seen any real research on that issue. If anybody knows of any, please let us know.
    Email: forumfirstmother@gmail.com

  15. How to make it less horrific?

    Once you have learned that the mother is traumatized and grieving, give back her child to her. A social worker, Michael de Simone, found out in his PhD dissertation research that grief is proportional to coercion. It stands to reason then that if a mother has not been coerced, then she will not experience grief, as she has "lost nothing."

    So if adoption has caused her pain, horrific pain and trauma that lasts a lifetime (and in most cases it does), then why not admit that adoption was something she was forced to do, and do the right thing, and restore her family once more?

  16. I dont think there is really anything out there like that on open adoptions. Mine was in the mid 80's and open then just meant you picked and maybe met the paparents and sometimes yearly photos and a letter was allowed. What we had was unheard of. I have only known of one other mother who had a very similiar situation to what I had n..the others I know from my time were all closed.
    As for the adoptees from open adoptions they are all mostly too young still. Like I said, my daughter is 27 and is probably on the upper age bracket of adoptees in open adoption. I would imagine it might be years before we start hearing from them how it affected them.

  17. Totally agree with Roni. My daughter is 27 also, and her aparents opened up the adoption to visits and unlimited contact when my daughter was 9...before that, just letters and occasional pics. Very rare, and quite unusual for the time to be sure. Daughter had to watch me raise her younger sibs, commenting once that she "wished you would have held and rocked me the way you do for them." She told me several times, once through tears, that she felt she belonged with us, which of course, she did! Doesn't mean she didn't love her aparents, but I think it causes much confusion in the mind of a child. Recently, she told me she quite frequently felt "left out" of our family, but knew that was par for the course. How sad...breaks my heart. I won't go into the pain I felt upon watching her first hand cling to another "mommy" but agree with one of the posters before me who said something along the lines of no matter open or closed, if coercion was involved, there will never be peace or happiness completely. I am proof of that. I think that open adoption simply trades one set of problems for new ones. There is no making an unnatural situation "right"...at least for me, and apparently not for my daughter, who bounces in and out of our lives at her whim. One day, I hope she will open up completely and share what being adopted actually meant to her.

  18. As I said it would take a strong woman to do an open adoption successfully where she was treated with respect and had access to her child.

    I know myself quite well and am sure that if that had been my case I would have found that much easier than being lied to, coerced and not knowing where my child was for decades on end.

    This is not the case for everyone, I'm convinced also that had I been a mother of the baby scoop era I would not have survived such a trauma, it was hard enough dealing with a coerced situation that almost felt like I had some choice in the matter (had I chosen to raise her in an unsafe environment)

  19. Do not agree with earlier comment that abortion is contrary to "human nature," as the millions of abortions done without long-lasting grief and attendant ills would indicate. Even the Catholic church in the early days went along with some form of abortion before the "quickening," whatever that was. If abortion were truly against "human nature," so would IUDs and most forms of contraception be against "human nature." Until a child becomes real to the individual carrying the fetus, choosing not to carry to term is hardly against human nature. Some native cultures do not consider infanticide the same as murder of child slightly older than immediately after birth.

    At some level, we share many traits and urges with the animal kingdom. We all do our best to survive, that is "human nature." But giving up a child after birth even under the worst of circumstances is normally felt as instinctively wrong, due to the flood of nuturing hormones all mammals (including us) typically receive when we give birth. Our bodies and hearts tell us to nurture, and in difficult circumstances, our brain (or our parents, or society) tells us we must not. And when we are unable to nurture and lose our babies, that is going against "human nature."

  20. How do you define "Human Nature"? That is the crux of the issue. Humans do many things that are horrific like murder and torture, and throughout human history infanticide has been sadly common, as has abortion.

    As higher animals who live in a complex society we and our human nature are composed of much more than our hormones, although they do play a part. It seems to many people "human nature" is doing what they approve, "against human nature" is any act they find abhorent.

  21. Wait a minute! Let's stay on topic! What was the original question, again?

    "Since we, all, know that mothers don't give children away, how can the coercion/finagling of children from vulnerable mothers be less horrific on the vulnerable mothers!?"

  22. Is there a species of animal other than human beings who routinely take another mother's newborn infant for their own? I have heard so many times from self-centered adopters or would be adopters the cruel statement that "any animal can give birth" as a put down to minimize our importance. What animal other than a human being puts their need to nurture a child before the needs of an existing mother and child? Only humans, as far as I know. So any animal can give birth, but only a human prospective adoptive parent would put their needs before the needs of the mother who has just given birth?

    To address the original question, yes my adoption was closed. I was offered one picture of my child by the "family services agency" that trapped me, but the female adopter decided that she didn’t want to “share” and so declined to give me that ONE picture of my child. I also found out two decades later that the adoptive parents had lied on the home study and were not the people they had promised themselves to be. In my opinion, adoptive parents only get to be as “human” as they reveal themselves to be in the home study or in the “Dear Birthmother Letter” (which are highly unethical and should be banned, but that is another discussion). You have a 100% duty to be the people you represent yourself to be. When I said that during reunion, I was told I was owed NOTHING! (their emphasis). I guess that includes honesty. Yes, I hate adoption and have an extremely low opinion of the people who adopted my child, even lower than their stereotypic opinion of me.

  23. "any animal can give birth."

    Newsflash...try to take the newborn cub of an "animal" and see if you don't get ripped to shreds. If I could go back 22 years and to the hospital where my son was stolen from me, the moment anyone other than me touched my infant that is what would have happened. Allowing them to take my infant and walking out of the hospital without him went against every cell screaming in my body. It still does and it always will. It was wrong and unnatural and I made a horrible mistake.

    And thanks to our capitalistic, me, me, me society any animal (of the adopter variety) can buy the child of another woman and pretend she doesn't exist, or that some sky deity willed her suffering for their narcissistic gain.

    How can adoption be less horrific on mothers? I, too wonder why it is always AFTER adopters get their coveted prize that they seemingly have so much empathy (or some, anyway... that sure isn't the case with my child's adopters). It can be less horrific by ceasing to exist. Stop going to baby brokers and buying the babies of vulnerable young women and BINGO, you have your answer.

    Next question...

  24. Someone asked if any animals give away their offspring Don't know Vaguely through a distant fog I remember someone saying after my son was given away that starlings lay their eggs in other birds' nests I could be wrong

  25. The cuckoo and the cowbird lay eggs in other birds' nest for the other bird to raise as their own. Some mammals will nurse and raise the babies of orphaned animals, even other species once in a while. See Youtube for that!

    On the not so heartwarming side, males of some species will kill the young of another male so they can mate with the mother and pass on their own genes. "Nature red in tooth and claw" as they say. What is "natural" is not always nice nor a standard for human conduct, although we are by far the most destructive species.

  26. Don't know about starlings but I know that cowbirds do it too. And they grow bigger than the other birds too and often kill them. Bird nature.

    It's a jungle out there.

  27. What would make adoption less horrific for birthmothers? No Coercion and real informed choice. Nobody promising things they cannot know, like that your child will thank you some day for surrendering them. Nobody using religious guilt or speaking about what "God want" in attempting to force a surrender. Full disclosure about the sealed records and how hard it may be for the adoptee to get any records as an adult, unless laws change. No contact between prospective adopters and pregnant women in crisis, all arrangements made after the birth when mother has had time to recover. Full disclosure that open adoption agreements are not enforceable in most states. Real options counseling including the parents and partner of the pregnant woman, and this counseling must be realistic about the problems some adoptees experience that cannot be loved away.

    If you have already adopted, honor any agreements you have made about openness, and see your child's mother as a human being, not as a vehicle to provide you with a child. Not all mothers who surrendered feel it is horrific, but those who do also feel they were lied to and had little actual choice.

  28. I wasn't officially adopted meaning that I lived with my aunt and uncle and they raised me as their daughter without any legalities other than guardianship.

    However, they never had to allow me to talk or see my bio parents and I don't regret that it was always my choice as to what contact I wanted with them. I don't regret that and I don't regret that my aunt and uncle, who I consider mom and dad, never tried to be my only parents in my hearing tho I found out they had very different private opinions.

  29. The support of her child's father, family, friends and wider community, is especially critical when an inexperienced young woman first gives birth.

    Relinquishment is not usually rejection, although it can be. But that is how it often translates to the child who is relinquished.
    I believe that in most cases the word "surrender" is a better term than "relinquishment", although it is a word that doesn't sit well with adoption agencies. I think if people accepted that, it would relieve first mothers of much of the guilt that contributes to their grief.

  30. Lions hill the cubs of a female they mate with...a huge storm is coming my way. See you tomorrow!

  31. I once used the term "surrender" with an adoptive mother I knew quite well and I thought was quite open about everything. When her 12-year-old daughter wanted to meet her natural mother, she found her and took her to...alas, the trailer park where she lived.

    When I said "surrender," she asked, "hat were you, drowning?" You made an 'adoption plan.'"She somehow had absorbed the "preferred adoption language" of the adoption industry. We were never friends after that. I couldn't deal with it. With her. With the phony language. In my writing, I tend to use relinquishment and surrender interchangeably. I don't think either word assuages the guilt, and pain, but I understand the difference in emphasis that "surrender" implies.

  32. maryanne said: "Yet this follows a statement about the millions of mothers who have abortions. Is that not 'contrary to human nature' as well by the standards of some kind of absolute and universal maternal love?"

    Good question. Think about how the culture speaks of pregnant women, though. Unless it's someone who has been targeted as a future "birthmother," or unless the speaker is an anti-abortion fanatic, you will not hear a pregnant woman referred to as a mother, but rather a "mother-to-be."

    Having something (someone?) in your abdomen that you can't even feel yet, and having given birth to a brand-new baby, are two very different situations--not only psychologically but also biologically. The hormonal profile is different and therefore the emotions are very different.

    And, all other things being equal, assuming fair laws all around, the vast majority of women who obtain abortions obtain them well before quickening (being able to feel the baby move).

    Those who are forced to get an abortion against their will early on or forced to get one later, because they are facing health or serious personal circumstances and must terminate the pregnancy where ordinarily they would have chosen to carry to term and parent? Well, they're just about as devastated as someone who's relinquished to adoption.

    Mind you, at one time (prehistoric times), it was sometimes necessary for a new mother to commit infanticide so that she could regain her health, assure the health of her older children and so on. I have no idea what a mother in that situation must have been feeling. We could assume that because of cultural values she felt nothing, but somehow I have trouble believing that. Cultural values now say that "birthmothers" are callous, heartless abandoners. But we here know the truth, don't we?

  33. I too use the terms "surrender" and "relinquish" interchangeably, though this not technically correct. State adoption statues use "surrender" when an adoption agency handles the adoption; mothers surrender infants to adoption agencies which is turn place them with adoptive families. Statutes use relinquish for private adoptions, that is those handled by attorneys; mothers relinquish their infants to specific adopters.

    The adoption industry can throw around "make an adoption plan" all it wants, but when it comes to the legal documents, it's surrender and relinquish.

  34. I use the terms "gave up" or "surrendered" quite frequently and I dare anybody to try and correct me with correct "adoption speak." There was no "plan"...I "gave up" fighting and "surrendered" to the people who were controlling my life at the time. Just my .02

  35. Thanks Jane, I never knew there was a legal difference between the words "surrender" and "relinquish." I tend to use "surrender" which I guess is right since I dealt with an agency, but "relinquish" works for me too.

    There isn't a word that makes me feel better about what I did, but like most of us here I truly did not "make an adoption plan" or any plan at all, I just gave up, which is another definition of surrender.
    "Making an adoption plan" would be wrong for me to say, or for anyone to say about me.

    I find it accurate to say I "gave up a child" too. Prettying up the words does not make the act any prettier.

    Nobody should tell anyone else which wording to use about themselves, including those who actually did make an adoption plan and carried it through; yes, they exist, but they are far fewer than the "positive adoption language"promoters would have us think.

  36. My "plan?" That the father of my unborn child was going to marry me and we would keep our baby. That was my life "plan."

    My "adoption plan?" WTF are you talking about?

    I purposes use the words "gave up" when talking to people. It makes it very real and besides, it is the way people thing. Outside of the limited number of PAPs who want to prettify up what is happening: a child is being bartered.

  37. Been thinking about this post and could not come up with a good answer about what might make adoption better for the mother.

    I like Maryanne's comment. Truthful information must be provided - stop with the sugarcoating, love, and god-talk and put adoption out in the open, warts and all.

  38. @Lorraine, "My "plan?" That the father of my unborn child was going to marry me and we would keep our baby. That was my life "plan."

    Ditto! Too bad for me that everyone else had a different plan.

  39. Girls, girls, girls!

    Single mothers did none of the above, surrender, give up, put up, shut up, or relinquish when their children were FINAGLED from them in the oppressive 20th century, for heaven's sake, at a time when we didn't even get equal pay and we needed our husband's signature/permission to get a credit card, and the like. Even today adoption is still replete with coercion but it is more subtle! Words are especially powerful!

    Please let us start using correct adoption language: Single mothers were COERCED into giving our children away!!! No doubt about it! I don't care who you are!

    Coercion, in law, means "...the unlawful act of COMPELLING a person to do, or to abstain from doing, something by depriving him of the exercise of FREE WILL, particularly by use, or threat, of physical or MORAL force...."

    After an assault on one's psyche - victimization - the oppressors no longer have to work so hard, the VICTIMS TAKE OVER THE VICTIMIZATION FOR THE OPPRESSORS! THAT IS WHY VICTIMS STAY SILENT FOR SO MANY DECADES!

    Decades later, we still believe what was ingrained in us - it's your fault! All victims think the victimization is their fault. Let us convince ourselves of the truth, "It was not my fault even though I think I had control." You were not in control! There is simply no way that you could have fought the adoption machine and society! (I understand that today we are survivors.)

    I'm tellin' you - this site is addictive! As healing is. I got places to go, people to see, and s--t to do ha-ha! Thanks for being here! Or there?

  40. Jane,

    I did not lose my son to a private adoption agency in 66.
    It was done by Los Angeles County of Adoptions.
    The only piece of paper I was given had my son's name in quotatIon marks. Named after his dad.
    They used relinquish as opposed to surrender. I am not sure what was on court documents I was not given anything legal papers at all.
    Hell dogs have more than a human pedigree when adoption comes into the picture. I did get orginal and it had my son's name on it along with me as his mother and his dad's name. Info I gave in my private hospital where no church or lawyer could alter vital statistics to show lies.

  41. Mirah wrote:"And adoption cannot be compared pregnancy termination - an argument you, MaryAnne have made a gazillion times!"

    My statements previously about not comparing adoption to abortion were in the context of legislative arguments against open records by some right-to-lifers that open records lead to more mothers deciding to abort. That is just not true, and the two separate decisions have no real relation and cannot be compared or conflated that way.

    My comments here were in a very different context, about the concept of natural vs. unnatural, and how it was not consistent to see adoption as unnatural and abortion as natural. The point I was making is that the categories of natural or unnatural are not really accurate for judging human actions and motivations.

    It has been said adoption is a "social construct". So is marriage, divorce, community, work, pretty much all of society is a social construct of some sort. Society is human, and we are more than creatures whose whole reaction to anything is biological and hormonal. As in food or drugs, "natural" does not connote "good" or "harmless", and "social construct" is not a pejorative term.

  42. @ Caleigh, use whatever language is comfortable for you, but there is no "correct" adoption language that everyone has to subscribe to.

  43. Like Maryanne, Amy and others, I too use the word "surrender" because this word best describes how I felt and coercion causes surrender to occur. I absolutely did not make a "plan" and I take great offense to the word "abandon" which is totally misleading when it comes to the circumstances surrounding MY pregnancy.

  44. "caleigh brooks said...Girls, girls, girls!"

    Caleigh, please stop trying to impose your personal brand of "correct" adoption language on others. It's almost as bad as having to put up with the "positive" adoption language police.

    The word "surrender" implies duress or compulsion:
    "1. To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion."
    Coercion is a synonym for compulsion.

  45. My plan was to raise my baby with or without dad. He had a full sister born in 63. I knew nothing of adoption.
    My step thing made sure my baby was adopted years later after reunion he wrote letter to my son and I to try to make amends. Didn't make me feel any different.
    I really believe he was punished. He has three grown adults of his own. Not one of them was able to produce a grandchild!!!
    My babies father joined Army and was sent to Nam where he lost his life.
    Others who had no business making any lifelong decisions for me and my kids. Wrong!!! So wrong! We
    my daughter and I were already a family. My son was adopted by a woman who soon divorced after acquiring him. You guessed it a "single" mom just like I was when I had my babies. Was she better NO way just a woman who was married to a man 25 years older than she was surprised they qualified because there was a combination of adding ages together. Luckily she was only 27 made the total qualifying number lower.

  46. (Yes, I absolutely agree, use whatever language suits you best. And you can love adoption, too, if that suits you best. We're all here just sharing our views.)

    I would like to quickly add the following thoughts to my previous comment:

    The average American citizen doesn't even know what the words, "surrender," and "relinquish," mean.

    When the average person hears the word, "surrender," the image that comes to mind is the surrendering of the enemy in an army flick they saw in their youth, and the like. And the word, "relinquish?" Well, it isn't even in the purview of people. Even MY eyes glaze over when I hear those 2 words; I don't even know how these 2 words fit into the single mother's experience.

    Just for the heck of it, I looked up the word, SURRENDER; and, now I know why the adoption machine (which includes adoption lawyers and society) chose the words, "surrender" and "relinquish."

    To "surrender" means: to give up, ABANDON, or relinquish. Now it makes sense - the adoption machine wanted, and wants, it to look like single moms abandon their children!!!

    There are many such examples. Today the industry uses the insulting term, gestational carrier, for surrogates and, perhaps, even single moms. These words are all deliberately chosen, and used, to aid in the victimization of our beautiful young women. Is that as in postal carrier? Or, is that as in the airline industry?


    These words are a slick & sneaky way to say that these women ABANDONED their children so THE BUYERS have no guilt about taking the children. The buyers actually feel entitled to the children who come from the body of another.

    I wouldn't doubt if the coercers looked up these words in the dictionary - like I just did.

    * If you have any doubt that you were forced (coerced) to give your child for adoption, ask yourself the following question:

    Did I want to give my child for adoption? Of course not!

  47. Caleigh, the words "surrender" and "relinquish" were not invented by the "adoption machine". They are legal terms as Jane pointed out and they are perfectly good English words. Unless there was a court-ordered termination of parental rights, we all signed a document of surrender or relinquishment. No surrender, no adoption. In many cases there was coercion, but that does not mean that we did not give up our children. Calling it something else does not change the reality.
    Surrendering under duress is still surrender, and personally I think the word fits really well what I experienced. Defeat, giving up.

    As to the word "abandon", I think that is for adoptees to define, and many of them do feel that they were abandoned. I think adoptees who feel that way are justified in using that term. I do feel as a mother I abandoned my son, and it breaks my heart. 44 years later, there is nothing that can make that not so. But I can at least take responsibility for my part in what happened.

  48. I'm an adoptee in a closed adoption but I can imagine how painful an open adoption would have been for me. It would've been torture for me to have my mother visit and leave time and time again. Every time would have felt like abandonment. And to see her with her son would have been very hard. I have a terrible time seeing her care for her grandchild even today. To see my mother loving and caring for a child when she never took care of me still hurts. I don't visit anymore. My mother was married, but still coerced. My father and her circumstances convinced her she was unworthy to raise me. I wish she had kept me. My parents marriage was annulled months after I was born.

  49. Sorry, Caleigh, but the term recommended by the "Adoption Machine" is "make an adoption plan." You know--positive adoption language? First mothers seem to use "surrender" or "relinquish" quite openly. Adoption agencies generally don't.

  50. Aww Michele :( That's what I wonder about my daughter...did she/does she feel the way you describe? Her amom told us A would cry all the way home after visits with us. She would be somewhat depressed for a few days, but then she would get back to normal. I'm not so sure open adoption (infant adoption anyway) is in anyone's best interests...until I hear OVERWHELMING positive responses from the adoptees who were raised in fully open adoptions, I won't believe it. Yes, they know their heritage etc. but is it EMOTIONALLY healthy for them? It wasn't for my daughter.

  51. http://forums.adoption.com/general-adoptive-parent-support/406128-i-am-horrible-even-thinking.html probably not the right time or place to post this, but instead of trying to make first mom's lives easier, these aparents are hoping for us to give them another! Somethings gotta change, quick!

  52. Michelle, my daughter let me know she was happy I had no other children. She was an only child and she was very loved - before adoption. I know she was an only child after adoption. The thing is, you seem angry and hurt that she didn't stop living after you.... for which I have sympathy, but not total understanding. I would have to consider, you aren't just hurting inside, you are hurting those around you.... it is hard to understand at times, but we react to everything in a negative way when we are hurting as bad as you seem to be.

    Maybe it would help you get peace if you tried to work out your issues with your mother...Cutting her out and off because of pain she can and does share (we totally hurt over things like not being the ones to hold and rock our babies)... it won't help either of you.

  53. Language is very important. The words we use do reflect our culture and affect our consciousness. Take that new show, She's having 'their' baby. I mean, how coercive can you get? No, she's not. She's having HER baby. The only way 'their' would apply is if the show was referring to the expectant mother and the natural father. And we all know the show is referring to the PAPs.

    Or how about "unwed mother"? Single mother is now the preferred term and it doesn't differentiate between divorced mothers and never married mothers. This certainly reflects society's greater acceptance of single motherhood. Although I realize there are some who would like to bring back the term "unwed mother" with all of the stigma and shame that implies.

    Or what about "co-parenting"? That's a relatively new term that reflects the large number of divorces and the fact that raising children separately is now considered normal and commonplace.

    Or "bachelorette". That's certainly an improvement over the judgmental and negative connotations of terms like old maid and spinster.

    I didn't know the precise legal definitions of surrender and relinquishment. I have used them interchangeably. This reminds me of foreign languages where translation refers to the written word while interpreting is spoken. Many laypeople (not laymen :) don't know this and use them interchangeably as well.

  54. I don't advocate going back to the blind, closed adoption system. It is dangerous. As so many first mothers have said, it is devastating to not know where you child is or even if s/he is alive. And every child has the right to know who his or her natural parents and families are and needs to have an up-to-date medical history.

    With that said, I still think that open adoption presents a lot of painful pitfalls for the adoptee. The child, in most cases, wants to be raised by his natural parents and will still have a lot of pain over having been 'given away'.

    Also, I think the BSE was based on a whole lot of bullsh!t premises and I worry that a second BSE is right around the corner. What with the increasingly anti-abortion sentiments and the glorification of adoption. I worry that BSE II will be based on more bullsh!t premises such as that adoption is different now, it's open. You can know your child and your child can know you. I don't think that OA will really help much to get rid of all the negative aspects of adoption itself.

  55. Michele-
    I too wonder if this is how my daughter feels from the way she acts towards us (me and her half sibs). I think it was harder for HER to see me having a close relationship with the two I raised and she was more like a niece/cousin...really an outsider to our immediate family unit. Our communications now are spotty at best (she is 27)

    As for my side of it...of course seeing her helped MY mind BUT I still totally have the depth and feelings as you older first moms do. Surprising, probably because another lie the industry is selling is that it is easier to surrender your child that it use to be because you will know where he/she is. I have found out the hard way this just isnt so.

  56. Lori said:"you seem angry and hurt that she didn't stop living after you."

    Lori you are so right that is a self-defeating attitude in reunion. The fact that life went on for most mothers does not mean we do not forever love the child we did not get to raise. Having other children we did get to keep because circumstances changed is not disloyal to the surrendered one, but a sign that we were strong enough to carry on and live and have some joy even though grieving a loss that cannot be replaced.

    Why would anyone want either their mother or their child to be miserable forever, and angry when they were not?

  57. I would like to summarize for my own info to get this clear in my own head (What happened? I was going to make this short):

    Our esteemed FMF attorney, Jane Edwards, said, "The terms 'surrender' and 'relinquish' are not technically correct. Jane said:

    *Adoption agencies (public): use 'surrender.'

    *Adoption attorneys (private): use 'relinquish.'

    We all agree that (1)adoption agencies and (2)adoption lawyers make up the adoption machine or the adoption industry. Don't you think that these entrepreneurs and legal eagles stay awake nights conjuring up new and improved ways of doing business or they're UNEMPLOYED; we, all, want to eat and feed our families, first and foremost; hence:

    "An adoption plan" was invented by the adoption machine (all of the above people) because, as I stated in my previous comments, society-at-large is too stupid to comprehend the definitions of the above 2 verbs. "How can we make adoption more attractive? We, coercers, know that WORDS ARE EXTREMELY POWERFUL! WORDS SUBJUGATE & OPPRESS THE VULNERABLE!"

    When agencies go into business, they first seek attorneys (legal counsel) to tell them what's legal and what will work with a stupid society. How do we file the company papers? These agencies and attorneys together scoured the dictionary of legal terms and 1st used these words so it looks like single mothers abandoned their children, "So, go ahead, feel free to adopt the kids of another. No problems, no guilt. These kids were abandoned. Sleep good at night. Help us make our business flourish. You deserve kids, too. Don't worry about the promiscuous single mothers, they can always have more kids. Hey, you're ENTITLED to have kids, too! You followed the rules; you got married!"

    Now, in the 21st century, the adoption machine realized -


    "Hey, our society is more STUPID than we thought. Let's not make it sound like the single moms abandoned their kids."


    "Hey, our society is getting more INTELLIGENT than we thought. Let's make it sound like the single moms made an adoption plan."

    "Let's make it look like, 'Hey, society of infertile couples! These vulnerable, poor, and/or sick moms actually made an adoption plan, they didn't abandon their kids at all, SINGLE MOMS WANT YOU TO TAKE THEIR KIDS! Sleep good at night. Help us make our business flourish. We want to get rich, too. There simply aren't any other jobs out there. Come on. Help us stay employed. Remember, these mothers are fertile, they can always have more kids. Don't feel guilty.'"

    While vulnerable single moms and their vulnerable families are trying to be good people, the shark-infested adoption industry is staying awake nights trying to figure out how to drum up more business (kids)! And they do this by way of words. How else can they do it? Advertising is done via words!

    (I wish you "guys" would leave me alone - I have work to do! ha-ha)

  58. Adoption is based on words or rather a phrase..."In the best interest of the child". But is it? In the U.S. at least, we seem to have a knee jerk reaction that any and all adoptions are in the child's best interest without doing any critical thinking as to whether or not this is actually true. Only those of us who have been run over by the adoption steamroller, first mothers and adoptees alike, know that in the majority of cases adoption is not in the child's best interest. That children who are being abused or neglected or foster children being bounced around from home to home without any stability or permanence need adoption.

    I see adoption as a tragedy. It means that something went terribly awry for a child to be tossed from his original clan and for a family to lose one of it's valuable members.

  59. Robin, we have neither clans nor valuable family members any more, in our post-industrial society. Children are financially a liability, not an asset, to any family. Nobody supports the elderly in their old age any more, and few have farms or family businesses that need lots of laborers. There are emotional reasons to keep families together for the most part, but clans and value are no longer part of it.

    Yes, adoption is often a tragedy, except in those cases where it is preferable to a worse tragedy of being raised by people who do not want you. Our society does a very poor job altogether of caring for children in need of any sort.

  60. "Why would anyone want either their mother or their child to be miserable forever, and angry when they were not?"

    It's easy to ask this [rhetorical] question when you don't feel like you are second choice.

  61. Lori
    Adoptees are often told their feelings are wrong. I've heard it all many times. Yes, my terrible anger is hurting everyone around me. I'm a monster. I don't want my mother to be happy. It's all my fault. You assume I cut my mom off, that's not really the case. It's very sad and complicated. I don't know how it feels to be a first mother and I won't tell you your feelings are wrong. You seem angry at adoptees who express pain. I've been blasted so hard by my natural family that your words seem almost kind. And I take care of my amom in her old age, despite never feeling like her child. She's 82 and lives with my family. I would take care of my other mother too, but she would be too unhappy. I bring back too many unhappy memories for her.

  62. I was second choice and I would never want my mother to be angry, miserable, or any other sad and depressed state of being. It's sick to wish that on someone. I wouldn't care if I was third choice! I'm first choice to myself and I like who I am. That's what matters.

  63. Jan, that sounds like a very healthy attitude. We can't change other people but we can change our own attitude and how we react to them and what they do. That is called being an adult. Congratulations on really growing up and showing compassion and empathy for others.

  64. As a fellow adoptee, I didn't read anything in Michele's first comment (7/27/12 10:28pm) that she wished her first mother to be unhappy or to have never moved on. First mothers and adoptees so often interpret things differently. It's no wonder there are so many problems in reunion.

    I disagree with you. I do consider myself a member of both of my clans and believe that each family member is valuable even if it is the 21st century. I do agree with you, however, that our society does a poor job of caring for children in need.

  65. Well Maryanne...call me way out of date.
    I live and work on the family farm of over 100 years. I run the family business of over 64 years. I am part of a huge clan and consider each one an asset.
    My daughter which I lost to adoption and the daughter I raised have always been a huge asset to my life. Never once have I considered them a "financial liability". And when I go to my mothers house today to bring her groceries, drop off her clean clothes and pick up the dirty, make sure the housework is done and all meds have been taken I will consider myself a "nobody" doing something for the elderly.

  66. On topic.
    In my case nothing can be done to undo all the horror of losing my daughter to adoption. Not even a fantastic relationship that we now have. We were cheated out of being who we should have been, together.

  67. The hardware store in the town I live in is being taken over by the third generation to run the place. Ditto with the old fashioned department store in town.

    My family on one side has just put up a Facebook page where everybody is sharing old pictures and even pictures of grave sites of our grandparents. My husband's family gets together for all major holidays and has big boisterous parties. I know several people who are taking care of parents.

    How clannish of us.

  68. Janet, Robin, Victoria: I find your comments and assumptions about my life ironic considering that I live in the house I grew up in, inherited from my parents on land which was once my grandfather's farm, took care of my elderly aunt and parents at home until they died, am third generation in this town. But I do not consider myself as part of a clan, and am closer to my three best friends from childhood than to any relative. Nobody is more valuable to me than my grown children, but they have their own lives and it is that generation whom I do not expect to take care of me in my old age. Nor do most people my age expect that from their kids.

    I personally find the idea of a clan stifling, not comforting, a web of obligations and expectations rather than freely given love. If that is how my surrendered son feels, I understand. But of course we are all different and lead different lives with divergent values.

  69. Janet wrote:"We were cheated out of being who we should have been, together."

    What a great way to put it. Yes, even a good reunion can't repair all the damage that was done or give us back what we could have had.

  70. Mary ann said

    "Yes, adoption is often a tragedy, except in those cases where it is preferable to a worse tragedy of being raised by people who do not want you. Our society does a very poor job altogether of caring for children in need of any sort.""

    Its a worse tradegy in that case when the orginal family is so horrible that the infant is at risk...yes, anyone would be happy to goet out of it but to know that you came from such horrid genes and the fact that another family has failed a child is tragic by all proportions.

    to the perosn who said they felt they were first choice is wonderful, to the person who patted her on the head and said what a good girl....and stated she was "healthy...does not make the rest of us "unhealthy that don't quite like being 2nd choice...there is not a personwheter it be mother or child that likes being 2n choice. I have accepted it as my reality and gone on but from a very young age, I KNEW i was not a good as being a bio child...does that make me immature? think not..more based in reality and not allowing myself to be told how to feel , or letting someone try to manipulate my feelings to allow someone else to feel better about their chioces that impacted my life. It has NOTHING to do with compassion for either of my mothers and everything to do with accepting myself. I am 54 years old...don't try to talk as if i am a child and need my head patted.

    And most of all i would NEVER want my mother to be miserable because she gave me away. I am GLAD she went one to live a moresecure life and had another child. Not only for her sake but for MINE! If i thought she went under the covers for the rest of heer life i would have blamed myself...not realistic i know but I know i would have felt it. the other thing i am grateful for (that dreaded word) is that she did not (genrally speaking) demand me to be anyone but who i was her daughter, but thedaughter or another. On some level she respected that. It may have hurt her but she never let me know it. she had lived a whole another life as did I and it could not be changed. On the flip side I did not accept her to come running for meeither, i expected her to be closer to her kept children..she knew then better! I have often said you can't go back and you can't....

  71. "As I say these things I feel the need to apologize for my extreme cynicism. It is one of the lasting legacies of loosing my child to adoption 45 years ago... I AM bitter! I am bitter and angry! I wish it were not so. I wish I was a happy person. And I am sure you mean well, but your asking what can make it better AFTER the harm has been done, just reopens my wounds and pours salt in them."

    Myra it's not all about you! You have no right to attack this woman, who has done nothing but attempt to open lines of communication and have constructive dialogue.



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