' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: On Mother's Day: What does it mean to be not 'ready to parent'?

Friday, May 9, 2014

On Mother's Day: What does it mean to be not 'ready to parent'?

Basketball MVP Kevin Durant and his Mom
Wanda Pratt, poor, black, young, single raised her son Kevin Durant to be a giant, not only the best player in the NBA, but a man of charity and grace. As he received his MVP trophy, Durant shed tears of thanks for his mother's love and dedication and Pratt shed tears of joy.

As I watched this moving scene, I thought of Sydney Syverson whose essay about giving up her daughter for adoption appeared in the "Less Travelled Roads" column in the Spring edition of Portland, the quarterly alumni magazine of the University of Portland, a Catholic college in Portland, Oregon. Syverson, white, middle class, educated, in her 20's proudly explained that she surrendered her newborn daughter to biological strangers "not only the best
parents but the right parents" because she was "not ready to parent." Syverson whose essay reads like an adoption agency marketing ad, tells us that after holding her newborn daughter whom she named Freya--she had not shared her daughter's name with anyone previously--for a few minutes, she "handed her over to her mother and she became her daughter, her Greta."

Syverson, who now works as a counselor, gives no reason for "not being ready to parent" other than she was unemployed and had no help from Freya/Greta's father. Contrast Syverson's wimpy "not ready to be a parent" with Pratt's willingness to give all for Kevin and his brother, Tony. "'I was 21 with two small children,'" she told ABC News. "'I had to figure out how we were going to do this, how we were going to make it. I decided early on that my desires and wants and even needs came second to what they needed and wanted. That was my mindset.'"

Shame plus the disparaging status of single mothers drove Lorraine and me to the doors of an adoption agency in 1966. Today, it's "not ready to parent," the buzz words that the adoption industry uses to frame adoption as beneficial for both mother and child. Happily for the industry, the words have resonated with the kind of mothers that prospective adopters want: mature, educated, and white.

While Syverson considers herself not ready to be a parent, she will in fact be a parent, the difference being that she enshrined genetic strangers to do the day-to-day nurturing of her daughter while, as Syverson writes, she "stays in touch with her and her parents."

What does "ready to be a parent" mean?  Like all mammals, human mothers are endowed with natural mothering skills and learn others from their mothers and often from other mothers in their herd or tribe. If that's not enough, there's a plethora of books to guide them plus baby classes galore through their county health department, the Red Cross, their hospital, their church. What comes across in Syverson's self-congratulating mantra is not that that she was not ready to be a parent but that she was unwilling to be a parent. She can tell herself that the adoptive parents were "the right parents" but of course what's right for one child is often not right for another. Nature endows us not only with skills to nurture our children, but also biological connections that help in bonding. Children are not blank slates that can be passed seamlessly from one set of parents to another. The husband of the adoptive couple is transgender, a fact which might make some natural mothers pause. (I confess surprise that the University of Portland, a Catholic Institution, would have published Syverson's essay if she had mentioned the unconventional adoptive parents.)

Syverson appeared in Season One Episode 3 of I'm Having Their Baby. A clip shows her at a table with her friends, basking in their attention as she tells them she's placing her baby for adoption. She also appeared in a Rickie Lake episode on adoption. It's hard not to think that her article in the Portland is yet another attempt to convince herself she did the best thing.

The day will come, I predict, when Syverson's confidence will fade. Perhaps it will be when Freya/Greta  asks why her why she didn't raise her. When Freya/Greta receives an award and embraces the mother who raised her while Syverson hovers on the sidelines hoping for a glimpse of recognition, tears of sorrow in her eyes. We've seen this with Heidi Russo, the first mother of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Her once open adoption closed and her son will not respond to her entreaties to meet her. What's more worrisome to me, though, is that vulnerable women will read Syverson's piece and be influenced to give up their children.

Durant in action/poster
This Saturday, Spence-Chapin, the New York adoption agency with the finishing school name and other adoption businesses hold "Birth Mother's Day" events, celebrating mothers, who like Syverson, placed their infants into the arms of another woman to raise, inculcating them with perverse pride. FMF won't join in. We consider these celebrations ruses to put more mothers on the "less traveled" i.e. adoption road and to keep those who went down that dark road in line. This Sunday, let's honor mothers today who put their children before themselves, mothers like Wanda Pratt.
Meet the Amazing Mom NBA MVP Kevin Durant Was Talking About
Kevin Durant's Acceptance Speech
Portland, Spring 2014 p. 48
Guk Means Soup 10/12/2012
'I'm Having Their Baby': Sydney Thinks It's An Asset That One Of The New Parents Is Transgender

FROM FMF                                                                           
How the adoption industry convinces women they're not ready 'to parent'
NFL Quarterback Colin Kaepernick's mother speaks of her love for him--and he can't take it.
What's Wrong with Birthmother Events on Mother's Day? Just About EVERYTHING.
Why I'm not celebrating Birth Mother's Day


Cast Off: They called us dangerous women. So we organized and proved them right. by Lee Campbell

"Cast Off is a moving and engaging account of the journey of a brave woman, who gave birth to both a son and an organisation. Her son was adopted into another family and the organisation which she created continues to bring comfort and support to those whose lives have been affected by adoption separation. In Cast Off, Lee Campbell relates how she translated her personal pain resulting from the separation from her son, into a public issue, through her activism and support for others. Cast Off carries the reader through the parallel journeys of both the mother and the support group, which she named CUB (Concerned United Birthparents)."--Evelyn R at Amazon


  1. There's a lot to digest in this post for me, and I don't agree necessarily with some points, but this is the biggest one: "This Sunday, let's honor mothers who put their children before themselves, mothers like Wanda Pratt."

    She sounds amazing, and I agree she should be honored. But I remember and think of my daughter's other mom on Mother's Day, too, and I send her a note to tell her. Regardless of the choice she made or the reasons why, she is one of my daughter's mothers, and I appreciate and recognize that. I can imagine it is a hard day for her to get through, but I think of her and feel she is a part of it.

    I see the distinction you are making between the two women in the article, and I get what you are trying to say, but that line got to me.

  2. Hurray for Wanda! I love her and I love their story. It made me smile and cry when I first read about them.

    I'm an adoptee who had a non-nurturing adoptive mom and secondary rejection with my first mom, so no solid firsthand examples of appropriate motherhood. It is women like Wanda who give me inspiration as I now raise my own beloved kids. She's a rock star!

  3. Tiffany, I won't say you're a one in a million adoptive parent, but you're rare. If I ever received a note from the woman who raised my daughter, I'd probably go out and buy a lottery ticket.

    My adult daughter hasn't spoken to me in nine years; I don't know where she's living, have no phone or email contact. Years ago I attended a couple of the birthmother (it's one word for me, not two) celebrations at Spence-Chapin, but the tears and sad stories combined with the fact that the very agency that separated many of us from our children was rewarding us just turned me off. Mother's Day for the past nine years has been all over the map--some were weepy, some were uneventful. This year I'm a little wobbly because it will be the first Mother's Day I won't be able to honor my own mother (she passed away last September at 80). Surprisingly, two friends who are adoptive mothers themselves have honored me with gifts--I'll open one on Sunday; the other was from a woman I befriended through FMF who has devoted herself to what's best for her adopted daughter. When I saw the Pro Flowers box waiting for me on the kitchen counter last night, I thought for a fleeting moment that it might be from my daughter, but quickly realized it could have only come from my virtual friend.

    My niece has sent me a handmade card, and I'm taking myself to a romantic off-Broadway play on Sunday. This Mother's Day, if someone asks me if I have children, instead of saying "I didn't raise a family," or, "Yes and No," I'll simply smile and say, "Yes. Yes I am.".

  4. Honor all mothers on Mothers Day. The idea of a separate tip of the hat day to "birth mothers" makes me queasy. They are mothers, no qualifier needed.

  5. Janes's post states:
    "Syverson whose essay reads like an adoption agency marketing ad, tells us that after holding her newborn daughter whom she named Freya--she had not shared her daughter's name with anyone previously--for a few minutes, she "handed her over to her mother and she became her daughter, her Greta."

    It makes me sad and angry that Natural Mothers don't realize or maybe even think that that is not what their babies want. All they are thinking of is themselves, not us.

    Tiffany said:
    "Regardless of the choice she made or the reasons why, she is one of my daughter's mothers, and I appreciate and recognize that. I can imagine it is a hard day for her to get through, but I think of her and feel she is a part of it"
    Well, I feel you have to do more than that. Have you ever asked her to spend Mother's day with you and her child? Do you physically include her at all even through a phone call? Thinking about her isn't enough especially for the adopted child who I am sure wants to have her around too. And I'm sorry to say but Moms like Wanda Pratt are the ones who deserve to be celebrated on Mother's day not ones like Tiffany and that bragging idiot mentioned in this article who gave her baby away whose first name I forgot. (Syverson)
    I do wonder however if it is Catholics that brainwash young single pregnant Catholics that they aren't ready to parent (which is a lie) which then translates correctly into what Jane said:
    not willing to.

  6. The fact that adoption agencies hold these "birth mother" celebrations on the day before Mother's Day makes me want to barf.

    They may be a nice dinner with wine and all, but it's like the masta from the Big House passing out oranges to the slaves for Christmas. By our participating, the agency workers get to feel like they are "giving back" by metaphorically patting mothers on the head for their "brave deeds" of "making an adoption plan" and giving your baby "a better life." Since the agency does it, the event really celebrates that they are in business of arranging adoptions, and they are giving a dinner for their suppliers, just like any business.

    Do you think this is why I haven't been asked to be an honorary member (that is, non voting, no power) of the board?

    If they were gatherings planned by mothers for each other, I would object less, but as is, the are noxious. The invitation I got this year suggested we bring photos of ourselves when pregnant or with our babies...I mean really? How many of us have photos of us during possibly the worst time of our life?

    Next year I may tell you how I really feel about these celebrations.

  7. PS:

    I will use birthmother as one word when adoptivemother is one word.

  8. I'm a first/birth mother but I never ever consider myself to be one of the women being celebrated on Mother's Day. Being a mother is about parenting. Real mothers are not weak. Real mothers do anything for their children. Giving up your children does not warrant a celebration, to my mind. And while it's hurtful, I think it's fair for my son's adoptive mother to celebrate Mother's Day for herself without thinking of me. I would give anything to be the one raising my son and spending all my time and energy on him, but I'm not.

    The self-congratulation and holy matyrdom of birthmoms is so sick. I just hope that other women are not tricked into thinking that placing a baby has anything to do with good motherhood. What if young Wanda Pratt had been convinced she couldn't keep her baby?

  9. Anonymous on May 9 said:

    "Well, I feel you have to do more than that. Have you ever asked her to spend Mother's day with you and her child? Do you physically include her at all even through a phone call? Thinking about her isn't enough especially for the adopted child who I am sure wants to have her around too. And I'm sorry to say but Moms like Wanda Pratt are the ones who deserve to be celebrated on Mother's day not ones like Tiffany and that bragging idiot mentioned in this article who gave her baby away whose first name I forgot. (Syverson)"

    I'm a little unclear here... you are saying I don't deserve mother's day, although I am a mother? If so, ok, that's your opinion, but my actual family disagrees, I think. I don't think anyone else needs to celebrate me though, and I wasn't saying that at all.

    As to the specifics of my daughter's other parents, I don't get into these in public. Suffice it to say, yes, we have invited them to share holidays and birthdays with us. You say I should call, not write, but you don't know the circumstances of what my daughter's mother may be doing that day or if it is appropriate and convenient to her for me to call her. I follow her preferences, which are text and email, preferences that are in place for her own reasons. I think in the coming years, I will be able to call without... let's just say, being an intrusion, but that is not the case right now. Sending anything in the mail is also not something I can do for various reasons. So, I do what I am able to do, and if the opportunity to do more presents itself, I happily will.

    My daughter's other mother IS her mother. So am I. She has two mothers, equal in stature and importance. No competition here from me, and I will never disagree of the importance my daughter's mother has in her life. But imperfect circumstances lead to her adoption, and those circumstances can make a relationship incorporating holidays challenging for my daughter's other parents.

  10. Gretchen, happy mother's day, mama. I'm sending you some hugs for Sunday. I am so sorry for the loss of your mother. Those first holidays without a loved one can be unimaginably difficult.

  11. And Off Topic here: Nicole Ritchie is on the cover of some magazine looking like she is heading for a hospital. Anorexic and lightly purple hair. She looks awful. All I could think was: adopted and lonely.

  12. The magazine story by Syverson is read it available online. It is really heart breaking. On the one hand she says how this child is the best accomplishment in her life; but then gives her up for basically no reason. There is a huge baby photo of her beautiful child that dominates the page. Doesn't she realize her daughter will grow up, Use Google or whatever we use in the future !-- and see this article, the Tv show and everything and basically wonder if she was so great why couldn't she be keep her?! This child is being raised outside her family for no reason. I ache for her grandparents (on both sides), her aunts, uncles, cousins... Some kids really do need an emergency family... I've seen it myself .. But that is not the case here. And how could the father stand by and let this child skip out if all their arms, too.
    Adoptee's spouse

  13. I am not a fan of Mother's Day. Looking back, I do realize that I usually found myself thinking about my first mother on this day. How did she manage to get through Mother's Day? Had she been told to relinquish me and forget and move on? I am sure she was not able to forget, but she probably had to pretend that all was well. I found myself thinking these things, but could never say so because A-mom would have gone berserk.

    I find myself pretending on Mother's Day, as well. It coincides with A-Dad's birthday every year (this year it actually falls on the same day), so we always get together and hand out gifts and cards and pretend that everyone is super happy.

    I am not happy. I would like, on Mother's Day, to be with my own children, and have some peace. I am finding that I desperately need some peace. And I hope that, at some point in her life, my first mother found some peace for herself.

  14. For me "Not Ready To Parent" meant that I had:
    1. NO MONEY
    2. No support from her father.
    3. Came from a VERY disfunctional and abusive family.
    4. Had no job, no training and no home of my own.
    5. Would have to bring a baby back to a house and be dependent on my actively drinking alcoholic father.
    6. Was already "gaslighted" by my mother into believing that I would suck as a parent.
    7. No sense of self worth, was convinced I'd ruin her life.
    8. Was absolutely terrified.

    Need I go on?

    Basically had no confidence, no money and felt like giving her to those people was the best thing for her.

    Turns out they were selfish liars who closed the adoption as soon as they could but that's another story.

    What does not ready to parent mean to you? I'm curious.

  15. Lorraine, if ever a nail hit the right head, your words ‘adopted and lonely’ are bang on.
    Tiffany, when I first read that you send a note your daughter’s other mother on mother’s day, I winced because I imagined that would be very painful to receive, more than a bit of salt rubbing, however, your later explanation sounds like you are well intended ; but it’s a rare thing. My adoptive mother basically lied to me my whole life that she would ‘help’ me search and meet my natural mother when I was ready and then when it happened she was shockingly apoplectic, beyond reasonable. She was nasty, jealous and hateful and when I later questioned her offerings of ‘help’ in bygone years; she admitted that she never thought it would be possible. So what trust could there ever be after that? Any subsequent softening and magnanimous offerings of ‘friendship’ were disingenuous and a cover for control.
    It’s so sad that mothers’ have this one huge thing in common yet so often cannot compromise enough to manage to own their own feelings and behaviours. Mothering Sundays are a shit day for me on both sides.

  16. Tiffany, your comment about "this sunday ...." was spot on and I thank you for disagreeing. What may have been the case for Wanda was not the case for countless selfless mothers, many in K's situation. Also see the story of Chris Schauble (biracial adoptee). I followed the link on the side bar here, reform talks and read his story and watched the clip of his reunion with his mother. Certainly she deserves as much honor as Wanda. Please continue to honor your daughter's mother, and in doing so you honor your daughter. As a firstmother, I am awed at what you do.

  17. Bottom line is, for the pawn in the middle of it all, adoption blows. It never was and never will be in the best interest of the child to rip it away from mother and family. Lifelong issues with identity and self worth are unavoidable, even for those adoptees who proclaim they are so happy about the situation. Buried pain.

    Wanda > Sydney

  18. A year or so ago, I found your blog and wasn't able to receive anything you all wrote.

    My birth son will be 8 this year and I guess I want to know what you think of me specifically.

    When I got pregnant, I was at a bad point in my life- 17, junior in high school, failing classes, doing drugs, anorexic, depressed, a cutter.

    I was in an abusive relationship, but we decided right away that we would raise our son.

    We moved in together but as much as I tried, our relationship kept getting worse, we had no money, we agreed on nothing, and our families were at odds. People had suggested adoption but the thought made us literally sick. Until 7 months in, at which point I knew that's what I was going to decide. It was absolutely out of consideration for our son, but it may have been more about the hope that maybe I could turn my life around, maybe even go to college, get away from the father and the abuse.

    We went through a highly reputable adoption attorney and I've continued to stay in touch with and help out with the counseling service. After reading many stories, I'm even more convicted that they're one of a kind. It would take too long to share with you how they advocate for the birth mothers side. The main counselor, who ironically is an adoptive mother, despises when people refer to the expectant mothers as birthmothers. She works tirelessly to educate APs, hospitals, the community about open adoption and they refuse to work with prospective APs who won't do an open arrangement of some sort.

    Anyway, that's beside the point.

    I agreed to the typical semi-open adoption, with updates annually until 5 years then nothing until he turned 21 if he wished to contact me. They live out of state, so no visits and everything went through the attorneys. By the last update I was married (to someone else, and I did get my life turned around) and shortly expecting our first child together. I've been at peace with the adoption ever since.

    We went one year without updates but the Amom suddenly added me on FB and asked if I wanted to get rid of the attorney and just talk to each other openly. I love it and just sit back and let her take the lead. He knows I'm his birthmother but we've never talked yet. Amom and I have sent each other things and are on good terms. I honestly harbor no negativity and feel that I really have moved forward.

    My husband and I now have two children but we stay involved in the adoption scene and I speak at classes for adoptive parents and go to an annual birth mother's day celebration (I know how you feel about that, ha) because I love the community. I do feel uncomfortable at the praise given because I don't feel particularly selfless.

    Anyway, all that to say:
    Is it because I am just self-interested that I'm not falling apart? I know there's no way to know what will happen in the future, what hurtful things may be in store after "reunion" but I've heard many say that bmom's kind of snap out of it around 10-15 years. Why is that? Will that happen to me? How am I supposed to feel about myself?

    I will say that with my third, I heavily studied attachment parenting and realized for the first time what sort of affect the adoption must have had on my first son.

  19. @K - "not ready to parent" means different things to different people. Recently there was a story in the paper about a 9 year old girl who had recently given birth. She is "not ready to parent." In my area, a downs syndrome teen became pregnant and gave birth. She,too, was not ready and may never be ready to "parent." Every single mother has a situation that is unique to her and those not familiar with the situation should not judge.

  20. I wasn't going to comment here anymore because I do not agree with some of the views of the authors but have found a feeling of not being alone(I'm not the only "birthmother" in the world!-I know what the world thinks of people like me)So- here goes Tomorrow's Mother's Day and I'm feeling particularly depressed this year(I'll snap out of it) I just wanted to say that being pregnant was not the worst time in my life. Au contraire I don't have many pictures from that time because I did not own a camera. It was different from today where everyone has cell phone cameras etc. I had no money(not many people did) but when I got on welfare one of the first things I did was buy a Kodak instamatic and take a picture of myself in the mirror of my unwed-mother's home room I remember walking through town with a bunch of other very-pregnant girls and having a carload of young men yell at us"Carry that weight" That was a line from a Beatles song I think.Well, thanks for this forum and like I said,I'll snap out of it.Time heals all wounds and wounds all heela

  21. There's a link to Sydney's full article in the Portland magazine at the bottom of the post. The article is at the end of the magazine.

  22. @honor I totally agree and am wondering did you think I was judging? I was not, I was and am annoyed by Sydney Syverson being singled out as a bad first mother. I think she grieves the same as we all do and this is her way of coping.

    Kind of baffled about the comparison to someone with Down's syndrome and a 9 year old.

    Perhaps I misunderstand you.

    I was in no position to parent unless I'd had more information and support. If I had been ready to parent then my pregnancy would have been met with joy rather than horror and disapproval.

    Got disapproval then, am I getting it now? Hopefully I misunderstood your comment.

  23. Dear Anoymous:

    I am certainly not going to condemn you. You tried and did not have any support. I condemn the community that gave you no support.

    You are one of the lucky ones in that the adoptive mother appears to be welcoming to you, and that you will eventually know your child, and he you. That does make a great deal of difference.

    And while I abhor "celebrations" for first mothers hosted by agencies, if you get something out of going, good. We all need all the help we can get. We are all just doing our best.

  24. Anon wrote:
    "I agreed to the typical semi-open adoption, with updates annually until 5 years then nothing until he turned 21 if he wished to contact me. They live out of state, so no visits and everything went through the attorneys."

    Anon you were terribly miss-led. The agreement you entered into was highly restrictive and contrary to enlightened thinking on adoption. The attorneys appear to have been concerned only about the adoptive parents not about you or your son.

    Adoptions should be fully open unless there is risk of harm to the child (mother's drug use for example). An open adoption (which you could have gotten using a different provider) would have allowed you to meet the prospective adoptive parents and have face to face visits with your son. You're lucky the adoptive mother was enlightened enough to contact you. For your sake and your son's sake, I hope she allows you to visit him.

    I write this not to criticize you but to warn others. If you're offered only yearly letters for a limited time, find another adoption provider. The best open adoptions are those where the agreement is put away and never looked at because the parties trust each other and enjoy each others company.

  25. @K - Actually, I totally support and understand you as I was in a similar position and I feel very strongly that mothers like us deserve to be honored on mother's day. I pointed out the extreme examples of "not being ready to parent" in order to illustrate the differences in what parent readiness means. I am so sorry my message came across as it did and I was not judging you at all. As a matter of fact, you probably did the very best you could given the circumstances.

  26. Honor, K,
    We should distinguish between "not ready to be a parent" and "can't be a parent." A nine year can't be a parent. A mother with Downs syndrome may not be able to parent although some are. A 17 year old with no help and a dysfunctional family can't parent.

    What happens too often is that a woman finds herself pregnant with an unsupportive father. She visits an adoption practitioner and the staff convinces her that "parenting" is very difficult and expensive, and her life would be so much better if she gave up her baby so that she can finish college, pursue a career, and so on. Parenting is an incredibly demanding task that should be left to those who are ready, i.e. those who can pay their fees.

    Ethical practitioner work with mothers on how they can care for their child rather than convincing them that someone else should do the job. These mothers are ready to parent when their child is born.

  27. It's the anon with the really long comment again -

    I agree that I was not given all the info necessary to make a decision on the adoption - had I known, I would have asked for much more open terms. And that I do fault with the attorneys (which are separate from the organization of counselors I'm involved with).

    In my case, I wasn't going to 'shop' around for adoption services- I trusted the attorneys to do their job. With that sort of mindset, it seems impossible to educate women seeking adoption before it's too late.

    And that's why I do speak at the adoptive parent classes. I can't tell you how many times people have left with just a different perspective on adoption and desiring to have arrangements that are more open than they originally planned. Sure, they could be lying, but I don't think so. If it's any consolation, at least in one city, prospective adoptive parents are being told some of the things you write on here - about APs being deceitful, about the effects placement has on birth mothers, about expectant moms being pressured into adoption.

    From where I stand, I think there's hope.

  28. Anon,
    Please give yourself a name, any name.

    It's good that you are helping to educate prospective adoptive parents. I believe that once they understand it, many will see the benefits for their child.

    Unfortunately some prospective adoptive parents go into open adoption only because they believe that it's a necessary to placate the first mother so they can get the baby. Adoption practitioners encourage them to select a first mother who lives a great distance from them so she won't try to hang around. They instruct the adoptive parents to be tough and not give her extra time or letters or pictures. At the same time, they lead mothers considering adoption to believe that the agreement just states the minimum and of course the adoptive parents will agree to move visits and so on.

  29. @honor I wrote another comment straight after but I don't see it here, I am sorry I didn't understand. Think with the Mother's Day looming yesterday I wasn't thinking clearly. Thank you for your kind and patient response. I appreciate your gentleness. Also thank you for the support and understanding.

  30. @JANE: A 17 year old with no help and a non functioning family could parent with support and information. They make the perfect targets for adoption agencies.
    I see that are not ready to parent rather than can't parent.
    Even in cases where a mother is mentally ill I think full adoption is unethical since she is not in a fit state to give consent. I equate mental illness with cancer or any other illness.

    Anyway just wanted to respond to that.
    And I also don't like it how sometimes first mothers are ridiculed or judged in posts on this forum. It makes us look mean.

  31. I think what Jane and I are exasperated by is that today the climate is so different for single mothers and we see the agencies providing so much advertising to give up your children, and we hear from the mothers later on, saying How could I have done that, can you help me? and...we get frustrated. Pieces like the one that Jane wrote about here do encourage other women, who would be perfectly able to care for their children, to relinquish them. Not a good thing.

  32. Wow...really? As an adoptee I can tell you I've had a lot of challenges in life. As a trained psychologist, with my PHD, I can also tell you that none of them have to do with the fundamental fact of my adoption. My own "birth mother" allowed my mom and dad to adopt me because she would have been a crappy mother. No matter how many parenting classes she attended. She had enough insight to know this and made one of the only honorable choices she's ever made in her whole life. And unlike a lot of the women on here she has not decided ex post facto to inappropriately blame the world (the adoption "industry", the real wake-up-at-4am, sew-every-Halloween costume, wipe-every-running-nose mothers like mine whose hug is the perfect salve to a bad day) for HER decision making that lead to HER getting pregnant with me and HER decision to give up her rights to call me her child. She accepts that her regrets about this are HERS alone and that she has to own the consequences of her decision. It would be so much better for adoptees if some more of the women here would do the same.

    I came across this blog after a patient of mine (also an adoptee) came to our session so confused. She was a little curious to find out "birth mothers" perspectives on adoption and came to my office in tears confused that she was the product of "human trafficking". A she she got from online forums. The poor thing. She came to me for help with self-esteem issues as a result of being dyslexic. Not adopted. But this naturally came out in our session as it was on her mind. I hope she reads my response here.

    Many if the comments in this blog say biology is not open to interpretation. BS...100 years ago we didn't even know about genetics and biology and some adopted kids turned out better than fine, and some struggled. Just like genetically linked kids do both well and poorly. Science has allowed you to make tracing DNA into social truth and that is so unfair to the humans you birthed.

    Also, with regard to Nicole Ritchie and L'wren Scott, please stop speculating (off a tabloid supermarket piece of trash) and picking out every potential exception to the rule and holding it up as incontrovertible fact. Some adoptees end up unhappy. That is true. But newsflash, Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults in the US. And the percentage of adoptees who end their own lives is equivalent to the percentage of adoptees in the general population. Meaning there is no increased risk. As an adoptee and psychologist I can tell you that I've seen worked with other adoptees as well as kids whose genetic donors were also their parents...trust me waaaayyyyy more kids are messed up by inadequate parenting than by the process of adoption alone, especially if the adoption was from birth and there was no mistreatment as can be the case when women refuse to acknowledge that genetics does not by default mean best parent. (See munchausen by proxy, see Andrea Yates, etc).

    Thinking that the woman who gave birth to me deserves celebrating on Mother's Day is absurd to me. She made a series of choices, without coercion, that gave me a better life. She deserves thanks for making a good decision. My mom deserves thanks for the other 34 years of my life. I would never insult my mother by comparing the two. I'm really sorry, but all I hear is the narcissism and entitlement in this board from women who presume to be taking in past tense and revisionist history about what would have been best for their child.

    1. I can't believe you could possibly really be who you claim you are with this astounding breech of patient confidentiality! I hope if your story is true, your patient does read it here and drop you as her doctor. This is a public forum and you are telling us what you are treating your patient for and the content of private conversations during sessions! You could be lose your license to practice for less! Good grief! Don't you realize how easy it is to discover your identity?

  33. Adoptee PhD:


    You are wrong about adoption and suicide. You'll find a post about it here with links to the scholarly articles written by PhDs and MDs.

    I could suggest some other reading on adoption by adoptees with Phds and Phds and MDs who are not adopted, but you have made up your mind. If your adoptee client was so okay with being adopted, why was she reading about it in the first place?

  34. I have read the studies. They show that when children are adopted from birth, told about their adoption, and when adequate parental support is present then the risk diminishes to the point of statistical insignificance.

    Of course children who languish in foster care for years and/or are adopted as young children or even adolescents (because genetic contributors refuse to do what is best for the child sooner) are more likely to have attachment issues and impulse control difficulties.

    Lastly, curiosity does not equal confusion or not being ok with her adoption. There are other reasons for my patient's online research which I will not disclose here because it is her business.

  35. Adoptee PhD, did you proofread your comment? I'm somewhat surprised that a psychologist with a PhD. has so many errors (grammar, punctuation etc.) It reflects poorly on your credibility.

  36. Dr. Adoptee, PhD,
    Wow! I am shocked by your first comment. You come across, in my opinion, as self-righteous, judgmental and close-minded. Certainly not the characteristics that would make for an ideal therapist. You say that being adopted, for a fact, gave you a better life. Are you aware that many adoptees have no idea and will never be able to know anything about their biological families? So they can never even compare as you were able to do? I am one of the lucky ones and was able to find my original families and I can tell you that my adoptive family was worse.

    Of course, adoptees have other difficult issues in life besides being adopted, but to use your own singular experience to dismiss adoption offhand as ever being an issue is outrageously biased. And bringing such a strong bias into the therapeutic relationship makes me think your therapy for any adoptee would be ineffective at best and dangerous at worst. I hope you disclose to any new adoptee clients, up front, that you do not consider adoption an issue, so that s/he could seek other assistance if the client disagrees with that perspective.

    And to post such a comment at a blog geared towards first mothers in pain, and on Mother's Day no less, shows your complete and utter lack of sensitivity.

  37. Dr. Adoptee: You are apparently woefully uninformed about the Baby Scoop Era. Women who relinquished at the time, like Jane and Lorraine, didn't have much of a choice. You could lose your job, lose your apartment, and you were shunned by society as a whole, often including your own family.

    Things are better today, but still problematic. For starters, a pregnant woman is not a birth mother--she is an expectant mother, and when she gives birth she is a mom. And yet that right to choose is often taken away from her. The pressure not to hurt the prospective adoptive parents is intense, and efforts are made by adoption agencies and lawyers to make the new mother feel obligated to them.

    And how can a woman under the influence of drugs, as new mothers often are, be allowed to grant consent? Do you have a daughter? Or a niece? How would you like it if someone had sex with them while they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol? I bet you wouldn't, because a woman under the influence CANNOT GRANT CONSENT.

    What about vulnerable young women who are capable of parenting, but who come from a religion or church that believes in a 100% relinquishment rate among unmarried mothers? The slut shaming and coercion is often relentless.

    What about women who were raped and brainwashed into believing that they couldn't possibly love the child, only to find out that the pain of losing the child was far worse than the pain of being raped, as bad as that was?

    What about women who decided not to sign the papers, only to be lied to by the adoption lawyer about how they could supposedly be on the hook for large amounts of money associated with the planned adoption?

    We have a big problem in our society with people not "taking responsibility for their actions." We also have a big problem with people misusing that phrase, and falsely applying it, in order to justify their own actions, and to dismiss the pain and suffering of people who were legitimately wronged.

  38. The Dr. Adoptee commenter is just a troll. Don't feed the troll.....

  39. According to the Guttmacher Institute, for roughly a million American women each year, "not ready to parent" means "ready to abort."

    1. Mark the a-Papa: Yes, it does mean that. Women must have the right to control their own bodies, not be governed by a man-made religion. If they are not free, they are no more than breeders.

      If every man who impregnated a woman had to carry the child, abortion would be a sacrament.

  40. Jane & Lorraine--

    Read often--comment rarely. Love the blog. Saw this video of another amazing single mom, thought you'd enjoy:


    Happy Mother's Day.

  41. Why would one so lacking in compassion and empathy (Dr. Adoptee) ever consider therapy as a profession?

  42. "Dr Adoptee" is clearly not actually a real psychologist because no counselor would actually come and comment with such detail about a client on a blog, especially one that they are aware the client reads. Although not a technical breach of confidentiality, it is borderline behavior in which no counselor, or at least no ethical counselor, would behave. It's just someone spouting off opinions with either the hopes of getting a rise out of people or lacking the confidence to simply state their thoughts without trying to pretend to give them false elevation through a made-up profession.

    1. What this "doctor" has posted would be considered a punishable breech of patient confidentiality. It's a very improper use of social media by a health professional https://www.ncsbn.org/social_media-JNR.pdf

  43. I come here every few months to read and reflect, but this post feels a bit like missing the forest for the trees.

    One large tree in the way is the aversion many of us have to the current mentality of the adoption system, which no longer relies on stigma and has shifted entirely to economics. I share this aversion, but that does not mean all parties are guilty of thinking a certain way.

    As a feminist and teacher, I support reproductive rights. Yes, many women today might choose abortion. They often find the experience difficult and do not always receive support. While we can question the notion of "choice" -- it often ends up in quotation marks for a reason -- in this case a young woman chose adoption. We can also question what "ready to parent" means, but isn't this part of supporting choice? A poor Black woman chose to raise her sons rather than subject them to a foster system, even though this meant hunger and poverty -- shouldn't we be angry about the lack of support she received, even as we hold another birthmother in judgment?

    Two friends of mine who tried for years to have a child recently decided to adopt. It's an open adoption, which they felt would be the right thing for their son. They are over the moon and I'm happy for them.

    We shouldn't assume that the birthmother in this case didn't have difficulty making a choice; she is offering a rationale and we can disagree with it, but ultimately I'd rather be supportive of the choice she made, just as I would have supported an earlier choice to terminate.

    1. Because birth involves a living breathing person who will one day be an adult, the woman's right to "choose" is not the same as it is before the fetus was viable. The choice should be between abortion, or raising the child. When a pregnant woman is "making an adoption plan" she is choosing not only for herself, but for another individual and society right now has made it seem like a wonderful choice.

      Over the moon, huh? Let's ask that child in twenty years if he feels the same way.

      As a last note, women today are not counseled about the lifelong impact of making an adoption plan. I mean, giving away their own babies to strangers.

    2. Well, I'm an adoptee and I certainly recognize that my birthmother did not have much of a choice at the time. Yet, I can't seem to nurture regrets. I had a good family, have a wonderful adopted brother, three adopted cousins, and as a person I have discovered that I am a rather interesting combination of my parents and my birthparents in every way. Don't assume that all adoptees feel the way you do. Not everyone is full of regret or hatred.

      Yes, I mentioned support as crucial, regardless of the decision. Not harsh judgments easily rendered, which you're inclined to offer.

  44. I agree with the others. Dr? Adoptee is a troll. And a very mean to post such comments on Mother's Day.

  45. Treating adoption as a matter of "reproductive rights" is simply wrong. The feminist ideal of choice (created to counter right to life promotions) ignores the difference between abortion and adoption.

    Choices are not made in vacuums. They are influenced by direct or subtle marketing campaigns. We see this in tobacco advertising where the industry trumpets that smokers choose to smoke. Thus the industry disavows any responsibility for the 400,000 deaths that occur each year from smoking. .

    We know that the "choice" to give up one's child to biological strangers is heavily influenced by marketing. The US has a much higher rate of "voluntary" infant adoption than other western countries, about 125 per year in England and Wales, for example, compared to 15,000 in the US with only 5.5 times the population.

    While smokers may "choose" to smoke, they do not choose early death from lung cancer or heart disease. Likewise, there are consequences in adoption for both mother and child which mothers would not have chosen but were unaware of or could not comprehend.

    We write on at FMF in part to counter adoption industry propaganda, whether it comes directly from the industry or new first mothers parroting the industry line as they bask in attention and try to convince themselves they made the right decision. We encourage mothers to choose family preservation because we know from our own experience and that of many of our readers of the adverse consequences of adoption to ourselves and our children. We can pity those who make choices out of ignorance but we can't support the poor choice.

    Although your friends may be "over the moon," I doubt that the boy's mother joins them in outer space. She is is likely fighting tears every time she thinks of her son. As for the boy, being raised with people who do not share his appearance, talents, or interests increases the likelihood that he will be institutionalize, use drugs, or kill himself.

    We agree there should be much more support for mothers like Wanda Pratt who want to raise their children. A high adoption rate such as the US's indicates societal failure.

    For more on the illusory concept of choice, please read our response to the Adoption Option, link at the top..

  46. Jane and Lorraine:

    For all that I have read on your site, you always give excuses for women who place. Meaning, "it wasn't their fault." When will you realize that just because a women can produce a child, doesn't mean she wants to be a mother OR will be a good mother? It's 2014, when will you all just admit that there are some women who don't want to parent!

  47. It looks like Dr. Adoptee is mad at his birther, incubator, broodmare birthmommy, so he feels compelled to come to a site called FIRST MOTHER FORUM to slander and badmouth her (and the rest of us while he's at it).

    I notice that quite a bit, actually. If these people have so much contempt and hatred of their natural mothers and would be "insulted" to wish her any form of humanization at all, be it a mothers day wish or otherwise, why mention her at all? Why troll natural parent blogs and leave comments? Seems to me if someone wished someone away so badly they would not be taking time out of their all encompassing, perfect, wonderful lives (and time away from those adoptive families they love and honor soooooooooooo much) to leave nasty, hurtful and degrading comments on Mother's Day weekend, of all days.

    Things that make you go hmmmmm...

  48. The "choice" to end a pregnancy is heavily influenced by economics and family pressure. Quite a few parents do not want their teenage daughters to continue with a pregnancy. Quite a few boyfriends pressure women.

    I am very pro-choice, and have been so all my life. (Member of NARAL and Planned Parenthood.) But it would be naive to think that all women make these decisions without economic or emotional pressure.

    We need to recognize these emotional and financial constraints, work to mitigate the pressure, and respect that women have the ability and intelligence to make choices about their own lives.

    Women have the ability to make difficult decisions about their own lives. We are not incompetent.

  49. Anon,
    Absolutely there are women who don't want to parent or are unwilling to parent. Such is the case with Sydney Syverson who I wrote about on this post although Syverson uses the more PC "not ready to be a parent." Clearly she put her needs and wants before her child's.

  50. Anon, let's be clear. Women have the right to choose abortion. Women have the right to choose adoption. .

    Adoption is not, however, just another reproductive option from the menu of option which includes abstinence, birth control, abortion, and nurturing as liberal institutions like the Center for American Progress claim Separating mother and child has grave consequences for both, for the father, and for society. The Child Welfare League of America, the Donaldson Adoption Institute, and many other authorities say that the natural family should be preserved when possible. Children are not fungible commodities.

    Feminists use "adoption is just another reproductive choice" to justify using their superior social and economic power to take another woman''s baby. Women who truly care about bettering the condition of women, should work towards the end of adoption. It's no coincidence that once women began to gain power in the 1970's and 80's, the surrender rate plummeted and the industry turned to countries where women had fewer right to get babies.

    1. Jane Edwards, I really feel you are using a broad brush here in an unfair way. I am an adoptee and a feminist and academic teaching gender studies. I long for a world without the necessity for abortion, or coercive contraception. It's not accurate to say that feminists support adoption; many of them do not think about it at all. I often include adoption issues in my teaching. I agree that adoption dropped when unwed motherhood was less stigmatized, and women gained more financial autonomy. It also dropped because women had other options after Griswold and Roe.

      Ultimately, feminists favor choice -- that is, a woman should be able to raise a child if she wishes, or not. We are not yet at a place where we can say that true choice exists, but that's what feminism is really about. Is this so hard to support?

    2. Our position is: If you are going to carry a child to term, you should do everything possibly to RAISE THAT CHILD. Do not give away your baby to anyone outside of your extended family. The choice that you talk about for feminists is making a choice for the life of another person.

      In this particular case, the woman then goes on to advertise how she knew the baby was meant for the right parents--not HER!--and basically congratulates herself for the choice she made. Stories like that urge other women to give up their babies. We are against any adoption that is unnecessary--and this young woman's was.

      I don't know if you are adopted or not, since you are anonymous, but I have been in gender studies classes at Princeton and the woman teaching the course could be working for Right to Life. Adoption was made to seem like a natural, wonderful "choice" for the woman having the baby. I was there as a guest--it was a fluke that the subject was adoption that day. Eventually the prof noticed I was having a quiet fit over what she was saying and asked me if I had anything to say. I did. I talked about how giving up my child transformed my life--and NOT FOR THE BETTER. Later I sent her some material about adoption, but never received an acknowledgment. Perhaps the point of my being there was to be heard by some student--who had been adopted but did not want to speak up.

    3. Lorraine: I appreciate your point about not giving a baby away outside your extended family. Kinship adoption is definitely preferable. But it is also not without its problems. I have read a couple of different stories--one of which I believe you are familiar with--about kinship adoption going very wrong.

      What happens if the expectant mother is treated as a birth mother before the baby is born and the papers are signed? What if there is a belief that she is committed to providing a child for an infertile family member who desperately wants to be a parent? What if she is pressured into it, and then regrets it? Kinship adoption can be a good choice if a mother absolutely does not want to parent. But it should still be a last resort (a position I know you and Jane hold). Unfortunately, it runs the risk of being treated like the preferential scenario.

      It has the potential to destroy an entire family. Adoptive parents often have trouble knowing what to do with their child's first family. There are jealousies and insecurities. And being a blood relative doesn't eliminate those challenges. In fact...it could exacerbate them. It is harder to keep the child from its mother in these cases--unless the family disintegrates. The only way to close the adoption is to close down the family. And that just might be what winds up happening.

      My point is that I think that in a family adoption you have to go the extra 10 miles to make sure it is done right: encourage the expectant mom to parent; make certain there is no coercion (including from an outside group, like a church); not look to do the adoption immediately after birth--insist that she take a couple months to parent; make it clear that the adoption is not being counted on and expected of her, and that she doesn't owe anyone her baby.

      IMO the best way to ensure success in these cases is the same as with non-family adoptions: reforms to the system. Papers should not be signed for 60 days, with the new mother parenting during that time. Or 120 days if the child is not raised by the mother during the first 60 (when she comes home from the hospital). There should also be a 60 day period in which to rescind the adoption, to give coercion and duress enough time to wear off. All adoptions should take place in the presence of a judge, not in some shady lawyer's office, let alone a hospital bed.

      I would also like it if pre-birth matching was eliminated. Then again, I would like it if the for-profit adoption agencies were eliminated altogether. Finally, no woman under the influence of drugs should be allowed to sign. A woman under the influence cannot grant consent.

      I won't say that I want mandatory counseling--I'm worried that the women will get sent to crisis pregnancy centers. And we all know how they operate. Unfortunately, our society does not, and the poor women and girls who have the misfortune of finding them definitely don't know what they are in for when they walk through those doors.

    4. Good comment, Steve. Much appreciated.

    5. Steve, the things you outline are all good, but I can still see how a child could be lost to adoption even despite the things you say.

      I am writing from the UK. I was given six weeks to 'be sure I was making the right decision'. I could've been given any amount of time, but until the situation changed - until I could find some help from somewhere - the outcome was going to be the same.

      Once you're stuck in the headlights of adoption, it is hard to make any good decisions because you can't think. By the time your baby's born, you've been already been in those headlights for months.

      From my own experience, what would've made all the difference would have been a supportive environment outside my family - perhaps a community venture or a charity - where I could've learned how to look after my baby, and where I could've had my confidence built up that I was fine as his mother. I would've had to know about the existence of such a place, but it would have changed everything.

      With no confidence in yourself as a mother, and no skills to make sure your baby gets what he needs, you're just prey for whoever wants your baby.

    6. Steve said: 'There should also be a 60 day period in which to rescind the adoption, to give coercion and duress enough time to wear off. '

      I was given a reasonable amount of time to change my mind (I think this was after one thing had been signed but before the adoption was finalised).However, I was also told I had next to no chance of getting my baby back even if I did change my mind - that that period of time was just a legal formality.

      All the time in the world doesn't change the central fact of a crisis pregnancy - that help is needed. It would probably only be for a short while, but what a profound difference that help would make.

  51. Ahh JEEZ...Bottom line there is not a soul born that WANTS to be adopted. We WANT to be brought up in our natural families...it's only normal. For a mother to say that they "are just not ready to parent" because they want a career, they want to climb mountains, they want their own life is just plain nauseating to those of us that are banished from a family for superficial reasons.
    To the feminist who believe that the "woman's rights" comes first and truly believe that it's ok to toss babies out of a natural family because of really superficial reasons..remember a good half of those blank slate, burdensome humans are FEMALE and need to live with the fact that MOMMY dearest dumped me for her INDEPENDENCE or worse tried to convince a young mother that the kid is nothing but a burden and mommies life comes first is terrible.

    I agree with the quote that "not ready and can't parent are 2 different things. Not ready is morally rehensible and can't is in the best interest of the human being born. AND if adoption HAS to happen as a last resort(not a first choice) then the little human is MORE deserving of respect then ANY of the mothers involved.

    Adoption has become a sick, sick institution.

  52. Interesting that abusive comments are put through but comment calling that out are not.

    1. K. Your previous comment was directed to us personally, objecting to our posting the comments from Dr. PhD. We pretty much post almost everything we get (except for spam, encouraging people to call a long distance number for voodoo magic), and realize that our adroit readers are going to strike back. It is worth knowing what it out there, isn't it? You don't see the comments we do not publish!

      As Marley once said, adoption is emotional. The anger can't be helped.

      As for not publishing your original comment--if you just want to complain about our choice of what we publish, please email forumfirstmother directly.



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