' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Adoption Not Abortion: First mothers who never have another child

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Adoption Not Abortion: First mothers who never have another child

Someone--an adoptee--recently posted on Facebook about how she did not want to see any posts about abortion right now, which may have been triggered by our earlier posts about the presidential election this Tuesday, and our keen backing of Hillary, who supports choice for women. That includes the right to have a legal abortion.

Abortion can be difficult for adoptees to ponder because that ultimately leads to an awareness that they could have been aborted. I had to explain to my daughter how my trying to have an abortion--when it was illegal--was unrelated to any maternal feelings and the deep, consuming connection to her once she was born, and the soul-shattering sadness of losing her to the adoption that was inevitable. I changed--everything changed--beginning in the months just before birth, and then, her birth. Perhaps the worst day of
my life, knowing that I would be losing her. When I talked to my daughter Jane about this, she seemed to understand (but how could she really?), and she was pro-choice herself when she lived.

But what if I had had an abortion? Maybe I would have had the baby hunger of women in their late thirties that we know is so common. Had I not had Jane, maybe I would have had a child later, a child who would not have been adopted. 

The sorrow and emotions of losing a child to adoption apparently shuts down the desire in many of us--including me--to ever repeat the experience of birth. Some early research backs up the power of the "love" hormone--oxytocin--that is released at birth, propelling some of us to resolve never to experience a birth again because that is so closely associated with our terrifying loss. All I knew is that I would never, ever have another child. I rationalized what my mind and body knew this way: Doing so would be "unloyal" to the daughter I gave up; how could I keep one, give another away? Never again is something that I immediately internalized. No children was an absolute condition of my marriage to my first husband, two years after Jane was born and relinquished, and he said he did not want children either. He was so sure that he had a vasectomy. By the time I married a second time, I was 38, and my husband had two children and wanted no more. It also was a tacit condition of our marriage.

How many of us fall into this category? Thirty percent of the women who give up a child to adoption never have another. And if we had never lost a child to adoption, it is entirely possible we might have had children--children who were not adopted. Reliable abortion studies show that having an abortion has a little to no long-term effect on the woman's mental and physical health, while the opposite is true for mothers who relinquish their children. A study still in progress, the Turnaway study, of mothers who were turned away from an abortion clinic and gave up their children to adoption show that these women do not fare well.

Not all adoptees have such theoretical feelings about abortion as the one who posted on Facebook--if I had been aborted, I wouldn't be here. Of course if you weren't here, thinking about any of this wouldn't occur. Adoptee memoirists Jean Strauss and Sarah Saffian wrote about their own abortions and seemingly had them without deep misgivings or pondering the theoretical.

While abortion remains a still controversial issues in some quarters, any theoretical consideration of it needs to reflect on the children not born from those mothers who path was adoption, not abortion. Those children would be individuals who would have not had the burden of adoption laid on them. They would be children raised by their own mothers, without all the conflicting, troubling, painful emotions that being given up for adoption involves. One can love one adoptive parents, but still wish not to be adopted. I know my daughter felt that way.

The trauma of adoption following birth for a mother appears to guarantee that other children with fewer burdens in life will not be born. My first husband, so positive he would never want children? He did change his mind, had a reverse vasectomy and had a daughter with his second wife, who coincidentally shares a name with my step-daughter. But she is not the daughter I might have had.--lorraine 

'Pro-Life' equals 'pro-adoption' in Pence's punishing choice

'Love' hormone's dark side may explain secondary infertility

Second Choice: Growing Up Adopted
By Robert Andersen, M.D.
He pulls no punches and speaks truth. Chapter Nine is called: I am, Therefore I Search.
The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child
By Nancy Verrier
Always popular explaining the psychology of adoption. Many adoptees find it helpful in understanding their own emotions.
Beneath a Tall Tree
By Jean Strauss
The touching follow up to Jean's first memoir. Exciting as a detective story.



  1. Anyone could have been aborted or gasp, birth controlled. There are many ways to not be here. Heck, I wish my mom had stayed home and watched TV instead of creating a child to be the fodder for the infertile.

    Also, I wish my mother never had to go through adoption. I am not so narcissistic that I think her needs should come second. I would have been fine if she has stayed home, used birth control, or aborted. Oh wait, I never would have known which one it was now would I?

  2. My son's adoption happened when he was four (his grandmother walked out the door with him when he was three, saying "just think of this as a visit to Grandma's until you get on your feet," then sued for custody unnecessarily when she got home), so I don't have the emotional association with birth and adoption that a lot of first mothers have. And I did have a second child, and sometimes think I might like to have more if I were in a better place in my life. But there were still effects on me. I find it difficult to trust my kept child with stranger-adults for any meaningful length of time unless I'm there and immediately available. And everything in her development being new to me from age three onward when I KNEW I wasn't a new mother... that was a mindf?!k. And I'm at the point that places me at odds with many adoptees and first mothers when I say that if I ever did do it again, not only would I have to have a better life situation first but I'd go to a sperm bank. Because the last two times I had children, the males involved treated me like I'd done something horrible and shameful, and then I had to deal with their BS later on even after they'd come to terms with it (or, in the case of my wasband, my son's father, pretended to--he has nothing to do with his son anymore). If some man is stressing me the hell out, I can't be the best mom to my children, which is going to have lasting traumatic effects for them too. Then there's the risk I could wind up with someone abusive--and all too often you do NOT see those coming. Somehow I think that's just a bit more important than everybody getting to have a perfect nuclear family--which even a significant number of KEPT children do not get to do.

    I'm getting a bit too random now. Sorry.

  3. I relinquished my second born. I'd decided at that point to get a tubal to ensure I could never get pregnant again. All I kept thinking about was how it would effect the girls (both my raised daughter and relinquished daughter). What message did it send to them? Wouldn't my relinquished daughter see this as a slap in the face? What about the daughter I'm raising? She watched me give away her sister and then suddenly things are okay enough to have another?

    It's been 9.5 yrs and though there are some small twinges of baby fever, I know I am solid with my decision to never have anymore. If by some fluke I get pregnant again, abortion will be the first option on my list. Raising another child is not an option and I cannot put my older daughter or myself through another adoption.

  4. I never had another baby, having been told I was unfit to be a mother..

  5. You are spot on. Got pregnant in 68', didn't find out until almost 6 months, she was born in November. Put on a plane the day after her birth and flown from Washington to Florida, to be the baby of a much older couple. At any rate, it destroyed my life. I wouldn't acknowledge the pain because there was nothing I could do about it, so it eroded all of my relationships along with my soul. I just want to say, my daughter is pro-choice also, and I thought wow, just wow, after all I went through to make sure she got to live. Back then abortion was unthinkable to me. I now think, if it had been legal, and I caught it at six weeks or so, I would have had an abortion and gone on to marry and have children that I got to love! I miss the kids I never got to have! I know I would have loved them so much and they would have loved me! So, yes, this is part of the pie. So many feelings in there. I can't ever say I wish she had not been born, I can't, I won't, because it has cost me my life, and if I say that, I might as well not have lived. We have a fairly good long distance relationship, I'm trying to build on that.

    1. "it destroyed my life" I know exactly what you mean. I did go on to marry a man and have three more children. My children and my grandchildren are the only "good" in my life. I am sixty-two now and still have many regrets. I do have a relationship with my surrendered daughter but we are not as close as I would like us to be. High hopes were anticipated but never realized. The only suitable epitaph for me that comes to mind is "...a wasted life...", or to quote Emily Dickinson, "Knowest thou the shore where no breakers roar, where the storm is o'er? Thither I pilot thee - Land, ho! Eternity! Ashore at last!"

  6. Had it been legal or safer, my birth mother likely would have aborted me. She didn't realize she was even pregnant til she was almost in her 3rd trimester (not sure how that's possible). It was much too dangerous to have an abortion that far along if she even could have found someone to perform it. People are always surprised if not shocked that I'm pro choice (up until 15 wks or if the mother's health is at risk). I figure if I'd been aborted, while I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't have any consciousness of that either as I never would have been. It's not for me to decide what others do with their bodies. While my birth mother did go on to have other children that she kept, she also had many strained relationships and divorces. Her parents never really got over what she done (she had been 14 at the time) So while she and I tried to have a relationship, it was just too difficult. She actually resents and blames me (who was an innocent fetus at the time) for all that happened. Thankfully, I am very close to my birth father who didn't find out I even existed until 30 years later. She told someone else he was the father, even though she knew it wasn't him. I'm actually friends with him as well. Neither of them speak with her anymore, though. She blames everyone but herself. It's a sad situation. I wish she would get some help.

    1. 'She blames everyone but herself'
      'She had been 14 at the time'

    2. Do you think that getting pregnant at 13, maybe, giving birth at 14 might have screwed her up?

    3. "She didn't realize she was even pregnant til she was almost in her 3rd trimester (not sure how that's possible"
      If she was only 14, it was very possible. She might not have understood what was happening. She could have been terrified. She might have been in denial, as young girls often are.
      At 14, she was probably an 8th grader!
      She was in junior high...
      I wonder what her parents did when they found out?

    4. It's not uncommon for women/girls to be pregnant and not realize it for many months. An emergency room nurse told me about a young teen coming in for severe abdominal pain and it turned out she was in labor and had no idea.

      Some women continue to have periods when they are pregnant. Some have always been irregular. Some young girls don't even know they had sex.

      At the other end, the mother of a college friend became pregnant at 42 She thought she was going through menopause until she was about six months along. And she was a registered nurse.

  7. I have worked for two decades with post abortive women and the last 5 years with mothers who lost children to adoption, and adult adoptees. I have never advocated adoption and have strongly and loudly protested the sloganism of 'adoption not abortion'. I have been stunned though by the hostility I have experienced by some in the online community of people lobbying against adoption when I share that the stories of post-abortive women are as real as their own.

    It isn't so long ago (and it still happens) that the research which denied negative outcomes from adoption was marginalised as flawed and ideological. This is what is still happening with the very sound and consistent research on abortion harm. The Turnaway Study is methodologically flawed, yet touted as the authority.

    I have a colleague who works as a mental health counsellor and who is a first mother who lost her child to an unwanted adoption. She too, sees many women (and men), suffering after an abortion. She has a unique insight into seeing both perspectives. Her view? Consistent with mine.. that the pain of both can be equally debilitating and profound. It disturbs me that one group who have suffered such marginalisation and dismissal (first mothers) can also do the same to another group who are trying to find their voice (post abortive mothers).

    I understand the pain of your experience, as much as is possible from the outside. Please don't deny the pain of women who took another path; women who often also felt they had not other choice. It would be so much more effective for all mothers to unite and decide that every mother needs every support to have her child, not be forced to choose between full participation in society and their children. I hope that if you publish this, you will see my intent to support you in your endeavours, not to take away from them. I want the same for all women suffering the loss of their children. Thank you.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. DM, I'm not sure why you removed your earlier comment, but I wanted to let you know that you said what I was thinking, exactly, only you stated it much better. Comparing the pain of abortion to the lifelong pain of adoption is comparing apples and oranges for sure. No comparison, and I know this from first hand experience.

    3. Yes, I definitely can agree with Sandy about the two experiences being very different and I too had experienced both. As far as what Debbie was saying, I know that there are *some* women who very much suffer after an abortion, and I have to think that these are people who are very in touch with everything around them because with me, I don't tend to emotionally react to anything traumatic that happens until well after the fact; plus, they may already feel that what they were doing was wrong in their eyes, as opposed to someone who had thought through an abortion and was already at peace with the decision. I am trying to express something but am not finding it easy to do so...in my situation, I honestly thought that the child would have been better off if they were not born (myself having gone through bad things all my life as well as the adoption experience)so it is easy for me to think that not being born is better overall.

      I don't know if Debbie is a Christian or not, but I think people who have that faith think more about unborn children's souls and that they (the aborted children) DO know if they have been aborted or not and are in heaven, knowing what has happened to them. That might be another reason people are sad about aborting, because they think that this person is alive (in the spirit) and know what happened to them. As far as Christians, however, I have found that although some of them (like in the "Pregnancy Centers") have started to have counselling for post-abortive women, they do not recognize the extreme grief that women have after surrendering their babies, they do not have any counselling for this nor do they inform the women that come through their doors, of the ramifications of placing their children for adoption. This really makes me very angry because I have tried to get help from the Christian community and got nothing but blank stares and unconcerned attitudes. They seem to want to "save the babies" in their extreme way while throwing the mothers under the bus.

  8. I certainly assume that some women would suffer post abortion regrets and emotional suffering; especially if they have reasons for wanting a child or are going against deeply held religious beliefs. But over all the difference in outcome for those who have had a abortion to those who had an adoption is like day and night.

    1. I had two miscarriages in the middle of the third month after I gave up my daughter. Although I felt a twinge of guilt (I should have done something different but I don't know what) and a bit of sadness at the time (felt sorry of the fetus), the sense of loss and grief was NOTHING like giving up my daughter. I imagine that for many women, abortion would be similar. You get over it quickly.

      I think the regrets from miscarriages and abortions come when a woman is not able to carry a child to term. But the sorrow, grief, worry about searching or not, where is she, who is she, none of those emotions arise after a miscarriage or a abortion.

      I've known several women who gave up a baby and had an abortion later and said they were totally different experiences. They never looked back at the abortion but continually regretted the adoption.

    2. Spot on, Jane and Lorraine.

      Sorrow is sorrow and comparing it is unfair. I have no doubt there are some women having regret and sorrow that their embryo could not be carried to term - Especially if the baby was planned and wanted. But NO ONE knows the pain and sorrow of a lifetime when you surrender a baby to adoption even though you body and heart screams to be able to keep that child.

  9. My birth mother did go on to have two more children but a part of her was inaccessible to them. You can't maintain a secret like that without walling people out.
    My adoptive parents couldn't afford another mouth to feed and were not really fit to be parents to anyone (myself or their biological kids)
    I lived a life with confusiono, fear and sadness (joy and live too).
    Looking at things logically it would've been better had I been aborted...better for all of us. No I don't dislike my life. I love my life, my kids and everything in it. Still, being perfectly honest abortion would've been the better choice.

  10. Unfortunately, abortion wasn't legal when my mother was pregnant with me. I absolutely wish I'd been aborted rather than be forced to endure the hell thrust upon me by adoption.

    1. I'm sorry it worked out so badly for you. That is terrible for you and for your Mother who hoped for a better life than the one she felt she had to offer you.

  11. I rarely say this, but I will right now: people - plural - in my religious community tried to terminate my pregnancy through beatings and douching. I was eleven when my child was born and by the time the birth occurred, I was so physically and psychologically damaged that I believed one minute I'd had a kidney infection and the next minute that I had a baby who came to me by mistake. I never got pregnant again - I used contraception while married and thereafter - until my mid-thirties at which time I miscarried after three months of bleeding. I did not at that time know I'd had a baby at eleven, such was my trauma. My mindset my entire adult life was that I didn't want to have a baby I would have to leave with other people to raise while I worked. During my brief ill-fated pregnancy, I sought an MA program so I could quickly, at night, when I worked, study to prepare myself for a "school year" job. I wanted a family but I was so hyper- financially responsible that I never felt secure enough to have one as a single woman and I never found myself in a stable enough relationship with a man to rely on his financial care. I suffer severe PTSD and that has affected every aspect of my life. When I remembered the events of my childhood, I could barely go on. I have tried to contact my child a number of times and been rejected and that is a story I won't go into here but what I sense happening in the zeitgeist is a return to judging women for having vaginas. It sickens me. I suspect that the people behind "abortion trauma" studies judge women for getting pregnant in the first place. "Surrender" trauma for a woman includes being judged for being sexual, fear of being judged for being sexual and most importantly, being not valued enough to get financial assistance AND be respected. I know I was very young and few people think I should have kept my child, but the fact is, my child was MY child. My life was destroyed by this.

    1. My heart breaks for you. 11 years old .... my goodness.

    2. My surrendered son realizes if abortion had been legal I most likely would have sought to have one. He is pro choice and he knows the loss of him to adoption has harmed and damaged me.
      When I first was involved with adoption support groups and other mothers like me, I was shocked to find out that so many (30-40%) of the women did not have another child.

      While I appreciate their feelings if that was a conscious decision, it surprised me how many of them just didn't get pregnant again and suffered from secondary infertility. It made me sad to think the only child they had was raised by others.

      This is not the subject of this column but so many of us, like me, couldn't wait to get pregnant again and have a baby we could keep and no one would take away from us. Maybe we were more selfish and just wanted to feel better anyway we could. For me having another baby saved me. I was the 8th daughter in my family so having babies around was just a part of normal life for me. Of course having another baby was the eye opener of all I had lost. And one child never replaces another. It did not lessen my pain and in some ways made it worse. But I am happy I had the chance to be a Mother AND get to mother her.

    3. I am so sorry for you. Trying to terminate a pregnancy through beatings and douching is criminal. Letting an 11 year old bear a child is despicable beyond words.

      It is amazing how ignorant and cruel people can be. I know a family whose 15 year old daughter became pregnant. Her mother would not hear of abortion or letting her keep the baby and helping to raise him. These were people with considerable means. The girl delivered the baby a month shy of her 16th birthday and it was taken from her. Her mother insisted that all the mothers she knew who gave up babies never gave it a second thought.

    4. We all should have screamed out loud instead of that silent internal scream that played so long in so many of our souls. Maybe others would have heard all those 'second thoughts' we had and been made at least conscious of what really happens to a mother when you force her to surrender her child.

      I often wonder if all we mothers had a set time world cry/primal scream if the world would be standing afterwards.

      And if we added the children?

    5. DM, the way you were treated as a child was wicked. I am so sorry. You deserved gentleness, care and respect. I believe you are right about there being a surge in the judging of women for being sexual. Of course, it never entirely goes away, but it seems particularly ominous at the present time.

  12. I,too, never had another child. How could I? After losing my son to adoption in 1975, I threw myself into academic pursuits and buried my need to grieve in work. Fortunately, my son found me 34 yrs later and we learned to love and grieve.Life is good together.

  13. Some comparisons are invidious, and I am sorry to have to say that this is one of them. Adoption and abortion do not bear comparison.

    1. It may be invidious, but anti-abortion people use the comparison all the time because...really what else is there/ in their minds? Nothing about offering support to women who need help to keep their babies. No, that's not the American Way.

    2. I beg to differ. In my opinion, just because the anti-aborts do it doesn't make alright for those who disagree with them to do the same thing.
      Abortion comes under the aegis of reproductive rights according to Roe versus Wade, i.e. the right *not* to continue with an unwanted pregnancy, the right *not* to reproduce. Abortion should be free, safe, legal and accessible. But to conflate it with adoption, which is *not* a reproductive right, is wrong. It only serves to further confuse the general public and is hurtful to many.

  14. Well, if I look at the published data on the 2015 Dutch "women with intention to relinquish", (n=74, though only 45 were classified as originating in the Netherlands, and 8 of them were too young to relinquish (5 of them mothered themselves, 2 had a network foster placement aiming for themselves mothering, and one had her baby live with her boyfriend and HIS father, mothering your child (in part) because you are too young to relinquish, may seem a bit like a reversed universe, but if we look at the pregnancy stages in which women entered the category, only 1 became part of the 74 in a pregnancy stage in which abortion is obviously legal, the second rarest stage was the 20-25 week class, in which the end of legal abortion for normal situations and viability out-of-the womb points are situated n=5, which does suggest that relinquishment for adoption is largely the post-viability alternative to abortion. OK it is from a different country, but it suggests that relinquishment often functions as a post-viability abortion.

    (in case you wonder, of the 74, 39 mothered, 10 foster placements, 16 relinquishments and 9 different/(still) unknown at time of publication, in three relinquishments the sire was involved, while in two cases he became the primary caregiver instead of the mother, and 8 of the women had pro-life counseling, 66 pro-choice counseling.)

  15. Anyone could've been aborted. Not just adoptees. Most pregnancies are unplanned. If I could go back I would abort as soon as I found out I was pregnant. Adoption is long life pain. I was lied to. I will never see my daughter ever again because her adoptive parents cut me off. Ladies please don't think adoption is better than abortion it's not. Adoption is long life pain. Adoption and abortion are two different things. Don't let the industry tell you adoption is the only and right choice. It's not. I'm a birth mom. I'm living in pain forever.

  16. Slate Magazine wants to know if anyone has information on whether any of Trump's women have had abortions that may have been paid for by him.


    Trump’s promise to overturn Roe v. Wade is a frightening prospect for poor women in red states who cannot afford to travel to states where the procedure remains legal. What makes Trump's new position particularly obnoxious is that in a 1999 interview on Meet the Press he declared himself "very pro-choice" and that he would not ban abortion - even late term abortion - if elected president as the Reform Party candidate. In 2003, on The Howard Stern Show, he implied that he had considered abortion for a pregnant girlfriend.



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