' [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.

    1. Lisa, I really understand how you feel about this. I will always be unspeakably horrified that my actions, which I believed were the only way I could save my son from a terrible life with me as a very young mother, actually caused him the deepest suffering. Being relinquished led to him feeling the same as your dear son. He was also adopted by people who should never have been allowed to adopt.

    2. Of course Adoption is an option. Most of the time it does work out. Most adoptees love their adopted families and buy into the “gift” story, whether true or not. Most when asked right out, align their loyalties and love to the parents who raised them. Most mothers giving up their childtrn were not in the position adopting parents are to raise s child

      These are all facts. But the ugliness in the adoption industry is there and you can follow the smell of the money to find it. Where there is money to be made, there are those who will cheat to get it. Yet money is needed to vet and oversee the process of adoption which does work well most of the time.

  2. Great post. But adoption lingo is so pervasive it makes it into articles written against the practice or against negative aspects of it. "Notice to adoptive parents your child is not a gift"

    in English, absent the adoption marketing speak the title translates to:

    "Notice to those who adopt - the person you adopted is not a gift."

    Only two people are qualified to refer to an adopted person as 'their child', neither of them adopted anyone and both of them are Parents. People who adopt can look up the meaning of the word parent in the dictionary and the first definition is a person with offspring. All the other definitions are situations that look like parenthood. Child rearing is not, despite what people like to think, a defining feature of parenthood, having offspring is.

  3. Great response Jane. Any chance you have contacted the Oregonian to try and get it published as a "rebuttal" of sorts? If they are any kind of journalists, they should want the other prospective. My son's adoption, I believe, caused his ultimate demise by suicide. I, as an adopted child heard all the adoption rhetoric you state in your article. So much heartbreak, loss and disconnects, yet we still wrap it up in the "gift box".. . the gift of life, the gift of a child, the gift of a better life with better people. Ugh. Somehow a more honest voice needs to break through!?

    1. I changed the piece bit and sent it to the Oregonian when I posted this on FMF. No response from the Oregonian. Like much of the media, it refuses to acknowledge that adoption has any negatives. I encourage our readers to post comments on the O's website. We need to do whatever we can to educate the media, our families, our friends, everybody.

    2. Read Elizabeth Oats letter to the person she adopted


      where she says to the person they renamed while fostering

      "We have waited 509 days to celebrate this day. Oh Happy Day!"

      "I will always thank God that He looked out into the great, wide world, that He looked at all the potential moms available, and He chose me to be your mom."
      and worse

      "...we prayed that God would break the cycle of sin, poverty and dysfunction in your family tree. Now we hold courtside seats for the rest of your life as we watch God’s answer to this prayer unfold. For the rest of your life I will watch God’s promise of restoration play out. I am overwhelmed with gratitude and wonder."

      Breaks my heart that she writes and promotes books off this.

  4. Unfortunately the rhetoric is born of the bs that adoptees and adopters tell themselves and it is reinforced in perpetuity by the media, adoption agencies and so on. Truth is abandoned and so is the child... because no matter how much an adoptee buys into the need to be part of the adoptive family, there is always that horrible feeling that somehow they just aren't good enough because their own mom gave them up. Doesn't matter how untrue that is and it doesn't matter that this makes for lovely crazy crap, it makes those involved in this idiocy feel better about themselves....

    And makes it impossible, at times, to even try to "normalize" any kind of biological relationship with the mothers/children. I pity my daughter because of this and have finally come to understand that no matter what, I can't break the cycle for her.

  5. I did not give my child away or abandon her, she was taken from me. My parents gave my daughter away. It was decided that my baby would be adopted shortly after I told my Mom that I was pregnant. My Mom and Dad were divorced. I lived in a small town with my mother and two younger brothers. Many relatives in this town. My Mother was not about to face the scandal, disgrace and shame of having an unwed daughter giving birth to her first grandchild. She contacted my Dad, who was living in another State, and they decided I was going to his house. I know she also contacted the father's parents with the plan. I assume there was no objection to the plan on their part. They also wanted to give away their grandchild. I was sent to my Dad. After a few weeks there with his new wife and family, I was taken to his Mom's, my Grandmother's home. I stayed with her for 3 or 4 weeks. My Dad came and picked me up and drove me to a Catholic Charity Home for Unwed Mothers. I was treated well there and went to classes, as I was in my senior year of High School.
    When the time came for the birth of my daughter, I was whisked away to a dark room where I labored for many hours, I was drugged at some point and don't remember the actual birth. Next thing I know, I was told the baby was a female and I could give her a name, which I did. I did not get to see her or hold her. A day or two later my Dad picked me up and drove us to a law office. I was told to sign some papers. Looking back, I don't know why they have an underage person sign legal papers that they cannot sign until they are of age. Anyway, I signed as instructed, and several days later was flown back to my small town, as if nothing had happened. I was not consulted on my parents plan, I was not asked for my wishes or opinion. My daughter was taken from me.

    I started searching for her when she would be eighteen years old. The records were sealed in the State where she was born, so I knew it would be a mutual search. After thirty years of searching, I came across her post on an adoption website. She posted the date of her birth, place, and knew the surnames of myself and her birth father. I had found her and I was excited, scared, and joyful.

    I sent an email to her immediately. She has two half siblings. I told them of their sister when I began my search. My husband, of 48 years, was told before we married. After several weeks of anxious excitement, she responded. She had a wonderful childhood and was thankful for the way things turned out. Her adoptive Father was, ironically, a partner in the Law firm where I signed papers.

    We corresponded intermittently for about seven months. She was going through a contentious divorce and had some medical issues. She promised to stay in touch after her issues were resolved. I have continued to send emails every two weeks and now every month. I have not heard from her in over 6 months. What went wrong? Did I say something that offended her? I did tell her that I wanted to know everything; Mexican or Italian for food; cocktails, beer, or wine? Favorite color. Coffee or tea?

    I also sent emails telling her about her grandparents, my Mom and Dad, and her uncles. Basically, her heritage. Did I overstep? Would like to hear thoughts from adoptees.

    I would so like to meet her and her two girls, my granddaughters. I pray everyday that I will hear from her again.

    I did not give my daughter away, she was taken from me. I know many more birth mothers will tell the same story.



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