Today I finished this latest piece in the Silent Voices series. Only a handful of people have seen it as I was working on it. I was told it was - creepy but effective and potentially offensive. I guess they're both right. I don't think I could've painted an image like this years ago. We all go through stages of development and healing when dealing with issues about adoption. At the beginning of the series I was painting as a catharsis. It was my own personal therapy. As the series progressed it became more about a statement on infant adoption in general.
When I started sketching for this piece I think I had Kathryn Joyce's book The Child Catchers in the back of my head. If you haven't read it, it's an important read. I highly recommend it.
Infant adoption is seen as such an idyllic institution. People love the idea of saving babies. Who wouldn't? And it gets better.... not only do they see adoption as saving little babies, they see it as saving the baby's mother from a life of shame and drudgery, limited opportunities and poverty. Of course religious folk are gonna jump all over that. They're encouraged by their pastors and consider it a mission. Some focus their mission here in the United States and some go overseas to bring babies back to what they consider to be a much superior country.
What does that say to the international adoptees when they grow up? Do they consider their lost culture to be inferior? And what are they saving the domestic adoptees from? In days past children of single mothers were considered bastards. People truly thought they were saving a child from the stigma of being illegitimate. That's not the case anymore so what is it? Some claim it's from a life of abuse or neglect. And they would know that how? Maybe if she had some support and the opportunity to raise her child she could be an excellent mother.
Being young does not equal bad. Unmarried does not equal bad. Young and unmarried does not automatically equal abusive and neglectful.
The comments I see from people are the typical..... "well it's better than the baby ending up in a dumpster". If they take the baby away from his mother right away, they can save the child from certain death. Why is this the view? Is this a hold over from the old days of unwed pregnant girls being considered mentally unstable and neurotic? Exactly how does putting a ring on a finger suddenly make a woman mentally stable and capable of mothering?
So, in the process of saving the baby, the baby is traumatized. The baby grows up with a feeling of abandonment and no knowledge of her beginnings - in the case of closed adoption. And in the case of open adoption (we know that 80% of those close in the first couple of years) she has knowledge of her history but is still left with the feeling of abandonment. In both cases, in the majority of states, her birth records are sealed, hidden from her and she's treated as a second class citizen.
Now what happens to the mother who is saved from this burdened life of motherhood? She is left with a lifetime of grieving that can in some cases become debilitating. It can lead to a life of depression, anxiety and sometimes even suicide.
The two people who are supposedly saved don't seem to be faring all that well. But... the infant adoption industry seems to do just fine when all this saving is going on. They're making some good money. The adoptive parents seem to be doing just fine. They're growing their family and scoring some religious points in the process. The industry loves to encourage this, it's good for their bottom line and the churches love to encourage this because it brings more followers which is good for their collection plate.
In the meantime, the babies and mothers are the ones sacrificed at the altar of greed.