' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Notice to adoptive parents: Your child is not a gift

Monday, May 14, 2018

Notice to adoptive parents: Your child is not a gift

I hoped I could go one Mother's Day without reading a piece by an adoptive mother expressing her gratitude to her adopted child's first mother for "the precious gift you gave me" and also insisting that giving up a child is a brave and loving act. No such luck. There it was on the first page of the Portland Oregonian's Opinion section "A message to my daughter's birth mother" by Ann Grimmer of Boring (that is the actual name of the town outside of Portland), Oregon.

The characterization of children as gifts given freely to deserving strangers is just nonsense. Children are not baubles to be passed around. It's wishful thinking on Grimmer’s part when she writes that the birth mother “made the decision that she [the daughter] was better off without you, better off with me, thousands of miles away.” If Grimmer had read even one book by an intercountry adoptee or an inquiring journalist, she would have known it is unlikely that the surrender was a voluntary, thoughtful decision.

Harrowing essays by
intercountry adoptees
The mother may have been poor or sick or unmarried, thus coerced by cultural norms into giving up her daughter. If adopted from another country, the child may have been kidnapped, or her mother conned into believing that the child would go to the United States for an education--and return. The mother did not select Grimmer, and could not have known much about the woman who the adoption agency would select for her child.

Grimmer tells us that adoption does not seem to have affected her daughter negatively. How does she know that, even as she adds, "quite the opposite. That adds a whole new layer of meaning, as it implies the adoption affected the girl in a positive way. Adoptees are often adept at hiding their true feelings, fearful of being rejected again, and especially fearful of hurting their parents.

Children instinctively know that the oft repeated phrase “your mother loved you so much she gave you away” is an oxymoron. Logically it doesn't make any sense for you don't give away the stuff (or people) you love unless you are a poor, drug-addled woman living in a shelter. Growing up with people who don’t look like you, think the same way you do, and don’t share your culture is stressful. The daughter’s chances of reuniting with her mother, and learning what most of us take for granted, our family history, are slim. It should not be surprising that the harshest critics of intercountry adoption are those who were themselves adopted from abroad. 

Grimmer concludes by telling us that her daughter understands that her mother entrusted her to me in order to give her a better life. "She feels fortunate. You [first mother] made her world a better place." Grimmer knows this for sure-- although she's never met the first mother.

Notes from adoption
reality by a talented writer
Grimmer also thanks the girl's first mother for "choosing to give this glorious human life. Because you choose life for her, she will be able to fulfill her purpose." Besides suggesting that the hand of a higher power was behind the girl's conception and adoption, Grimmer promotes the view that it's virtuous, even an obligation, to carry a pregnancy to term to fulfill the dreams of a barren woman. Guilting pregnant women in this way is more than hubris; it is unabridged cruelty.

While Grimmer's appears to be an intercountry adoption (the first mother is unknown and thousands of miles away), the same words are used by those who adopt domestically. These messages are, of course, scripted by the adoption industry as part of their marketing. They help convince those seeking children, women in unplanned pregnancies, and the general public to view adoption as a win for everybody, rather than the deep and abiding loss that it is. The words assuage the guilt women may feel in taking another woman's child precisely because they obscure the pain of mothers who lose their children to adoption, and these thoughts are passed down to the children who then have convoluted ideas about the women who bore them, the women whose DNA they share--their natural mothers.

As long as there are billions of dollars to be made in the adoption business, these messages won't go away, but we can counter them. I encourage our readers to go to the Oregonian article (link below) and add your comments.--jane


Adoptionland: From Orphans to Activists
Compiled by The Vance Twins
I live in adoption land and this book was absolutely and utterly eye-opening. It is amazing to know that there are others who have asked the same questions I have. Lorraine here: The essays from adoptees all over the world are mind-blowing. I've read a lot of adoption writings, but these have quite an impact. If more people knew, they would not be hungrily taking children and moving them around the world. 

You Don't Look Adopted
by Anne Heffron

I'm reading it slowly because each set piece is arresting, reminding me, a natural mother, of the negative, life-altering effect of giving a child to a new family, one that she pretty much gets by crap shoot: "As an adopted person I am a silver ball that just happened toland on Red 9, Anne Heffron. I could so easily could have landed on Black 4, Jessica Silverstein, say, or Heidi Stork. and so maybe I just keep reliving the crap shoot of my life." --lorraine

THANKS for ordering anything at all from Amazon. Just click on the book links to get there. 


  1. I truly believed that I was doing the best for my firstborn. When we reunited, he told me that he had all of the things that I wanted for him... those things that I thought were so important. He also told me that there was not a day in his life that he didn't feel that there was something wrong with him. .. something so wrong that his own mother would give him away. Heart broken. I broke my son's heart. My new mantra. Adoption is not an option.

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you, but Jane is the writer here.


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