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hole in my heart. Coming soon.
I've never shied away from saying: I gave her up. When an acquaintance--an adoptive mother--criticized me a decade ago for using that phrase, I was quietly astonished. Quietly because I didn't want to raise a fuss--but since we had been friends, and she knew all about my story, I was surprised that even she had been influenced by the adoption industry, an industry that prefers the antiseptic sounding, "make an adoption plan." I feel now, as I did then, that I gave up: gave up on finding a different path, gave up on believing my daughter's father would leave his wife and family for us and our new family; gave up on being able to write and support myself, and a baby. I gave up, and in the process, I gave up my daughter. Society made me feel I couldn't/shouldn't keep my daughter, but at the same time, my parents did not "force" me to give her up. They did not even know about her. My social worker did not push or coerce me to leave my baby with her agency; in fact, I think she would have been relieved had the father, with whom she had some contact, changed his mind and said, Bring her home, we'll figure this out.
I effing made no more of a "plan" over the months I was pregnant than a woman who's fallen overboard swimming toward a life preserver. The times, they were so different then. I felt societal pressure bearing down on me--a single woman who was impregnated by a married man, such a hussy was I!--to the degree I saw no way out other than surrender my daughter to adoption. That would give her a better chance on life, right? I couldn't see then that adoption would mean different, not better. Yet with the wind behind me pushing adoption, I went forward. I know many adoptees today look askance at that language, for it absolves me of the act of surrendering my daughter somewhat. It says: Society made me do it.
I get that. It's the reason that when we talk to our reunited children we at some point need to simply say: I'm sorry. Without excuses. Just I'm sorry you were adopted. I'm sorry I didn't raise you. I'm sorry. And the sooner the better, by the way.
Fellow blogger Jane points out that in legal lingo, mothers "surrender" to an adoption agency; in private adoptions--those arranged by an attorney--the child goes straight to the adopters and the word "relinquish" is used.
But all this led me to wonder how readers today--from anyone in the triad--prefer to use language. For instance, a great many teens and women were promised openness in their adoption--that they would be given photographs, have regularly scheduled visits, sustain an amicable relationship with the oh-so-nice people who wanted to adopt your baby. Yet frequently none of that happens. Or the very minimal letter-of-the-law compliance. A photograph of the back of the baby's head. Excuses are made to cancel visits. Or, a complete denial of all the promises made, promises that may not have been written down in a contract, but made at the hospital bedside.* Shouldn't that be called fraud? In that case, is the baby stolen?
How do you feel and what language do you use? Do your feel scammed? Do you feel that your baby was stolen by trickery and obfuscation? Were you coerced by your parents, the father of the child, or anyone? Did you feel the agency and your social worker or adoption broker was at times both sympathetic and predatory during the adoption process? Did you give up, surrender, relinquish? Were you forced/coerced? Was your baby taken under false pretenses? Stolen? Do you feel lied to? What do the natural mothers reading here prefer to be called? I started out with natural mother and I still prefer that. When somebody insists that the phrase birth be inserted every time I refer to my daughter, I'd like to smack that person--there's only been one--right back with, "How's your adopted daughter?" Of course, I haven't done that.
The phrase birth mother, or even worse, birthmother, further cementing the term birth before mother, has been contentious for more than a decade, but is still in wide use. This blog's url is firstmotherforum.com, but I had to add "birth mother" to the title page to get more people to find the blog when they were searching for the topics we cover.
I'd love to hear from adoptees about this too--what words do they use in their own minds? In conversation? What words do they wish natural mothers used in reunion? What words do adoptees use? With their mother? With friends and adopted relatives? I imagine most of them grew up hearing only birth mother if they heard anything at all about her, and that's partly why reforming what we mothers are called is so resistant to change.
However, this morning I learned that Children's Minister of Ireland, Roderic O’Gorman, has said the term “birth mother” is “reductive and hurtful,” adding that an alternative term should be used--first mother or natural mother. This is in regard to long-awaited legislation will enshrine into law a right for adopted people to access their birth certificates, and birth and early life information.
Well, how about that? Progress is slow, but it moves relentlessly forward.--lorraine
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