Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baby for Adoption

Sometimes when doing these posts it feels like I'm preaching to the choir. The wonderful mothers I've met online know what I'm talking about, they've been there, they understand and thank heavens for them. After 30 years I've finally found people who get it. It hasn't taken that long because they weren't out there, it's taken this long because so many of us have been silent. We were too ashamed to talk about it or too hurt to talk about it.

Now, I'm seeing a new type of mother out there, the happy mother of adoption loss. These are the mothers who have no idea what happened in the past. They don't understand why we speak out. They call us "meanies" for just speaking our truth. Even if we just express an opinion in a kind, civil tone we are called names, deleted and dismissed. They don't understand that if we as a society don't acknowledge the crimes of the past we might be doomed to repeat them.

When I was in the hospital giving birth to my first child, the one I lost to adoption, that red sign above is what I saw on the door to my room and on the wall above my bed. There were 2 of them, they glared at me, they mocked me. BABY FOR ADOPTION: the standard code for decades. It let the staff at the hospital know that they were not to let us see our children.

Because of that sign I never saw my daughter. I wasn't allowed. I was her mother, I had every right to see her, hold her and feed her. Did I know that then? No. I was a good girl and I did what I was told. I was told that seeing my baby would make it harder for me to deal with the adoption. What they actually meant was.... it would make it harder for them to take her because they knew that if I held her the chances of me letting her go dropped dramatically. Even in the delivery room I wasn't allowed to lay eyes on her at all. As soon as she was born they whisked her away and quickly wrapped her up in a blanket. I got a peek of a little arm as she flailed and I heard her cry. It didn't last long, her cry got weaker as she got farther and farther away. That was my last contact with my daughter. It took over 24 hours to find out if I had a girl or a boy. It took 22 years to find out how much she weighed.

No one could be bothered with what I was going through. I only found out the sex of my baby because I was walking down the hall in the hospital and one of the nurses asked my last name. When I told her she said with a big smile...."oh, you don't have to worry about signing the form for circumcision, you had a girl". She didn't see my scarlet brand. She didn't know I was one of those girls - BFA. If it weren't for that little slip up I wouldn't have found out it was a girl until 4 days later when I signed the papers. What a way to find out the sex of the child you've given birth to. How could women be treated this way?! And by other women? This happened to so many of us and so many people have no idea. This is why I comment and blog and run my mouth now. The young mothers coming up behind us need to know what happened then AND what's happening now.

And, to the mothers who know..... thanks for being here and understanding.


  1. Carlynne, Sometimes it seems that we women don't know how to stand together. We let our emotional needs run the world and not the good sense that we have been blessed with. A woman that harms another woman in this way...that is pathetic. I feel nothing for them. A woman that extends her had, that is wonderful and I honor her.

  2. Lori, I don't remember who said it first that adoption was woman's inhumanity to woman. It's true in many ways, not just the fact that one woman takes the infant of another. Everyone I had to deal with through the whole process was a woman - the counselors, the CSS people from here and the town I was sent to. The only male was the doctor who delivered my daughter.

  3. Carlynne, it was Celeste Billhartz - awesome woman. And you know what, women are much crueler than men...they seem to enjoy it. It is like a sick game of one ups menship...

    We say we are more compassionate, that is something I find rediculous...we are more likely to cut our sister woman's throat than a man...all over something that is unobtainable if you just can't do it...have a baby...pitiful and foolish and so very wrong....

  4. I was appalled when I first heard about the BFA sign over the head of Carlynne's bed, which I found out about many years ago shortly after we became friends. I wish I could forget I knew about it because I have been haunted by it since, it's the Scarlet Letter of adoption. I think it was not only to let staff know to keep you away from your child, but also to let them know that you could be mistreated without complaint.

    About Lori's comment: I cannot accept that women who adopt do it out of cruelty. Yes, they do it out of their own need and often disregarding the needs of another woman, but not always. Sometines they just don't know, they have been lied to just like the first mothers.

    I also do not believe that women are worse than men and that then enjoy inflicting pain more than some men. I do not believe that we should judge men or women or adoptive mothers or first mothers as a group and make assumptions about a population as a whole based on the actions of a few.

    From an adoptive mother.

  5. Carlynne, I learn a lot from reading your blog. Thank you. I'm glad that many of the women who place today do so by their own choice, without coercion, etc., and that their experience is so different from yours. However, I am deeply saddened by the "Oh, get over it already" attitude expressed by some. True compassion and peace begin with accepting each individual's experience as authentic for that individual. The abuses of the BSE don't require a woman who relinquishes today to feel any way in particular about her decision; she is entitled to feel whatever she feels about it. NOR, does the openness of today, and the post-placement "happiness" of some mothers do anything to relieve the very real adoption-related pain and suffering so many women experienced and continue to experience today.

    "...if we as a society don't acknowledge the crimes of the past we might be doomed to repeat them." Amen!

    Kelli - (re: adoptive mothers) "Sometines they just don't know, they have been lied to just like the first mothers." Absolutely true.

  6. Sally, thank you very much for your comments, I appreciate your openness to other's experiences. I do understand that the experience of adoption is very different now than it was during the BSE, BUT... there really is a lot of coercion still happening. Even after my experience it took years for me to realize the extent of the brainwashing that occured. Some of it didn't really hit home until I received the documents that I signed back then and that was just a month ago.

    What concerns me is how these young mothers are going to feel 10, 20, 30 years down the road when they look back and see how they were manipulated and I do believe the industry does that. And, how are their children going to feel knowing how happy their mothers were to relinguish their rights to them? I know there are some who really did make the decision on their own without coercion but I'll bet later on we find out that there were actually very few.

    Adoption is still causing so much pain, it didn't stop with the BSE.

    Thanks for reading and I hope you continue,

  7. Carlynne, thank you for taking my comments with grace. It's no wonder you're so popular on the blogosphere :)

    I find myself in transition regarding adoption... and lacking enough clarity to write or blog about the specifics yet. I value people like you for your honesty and tolerance for other perspectives, whether or not you agree with them. I believe that's the only way the collective 'We' can grow.

  8. We are mothers whose lives have been cloaked in all kinds of myths. 'Meanies' is just another one, which reveals ignorance or feeling terribly threatened by the vital message we who have been called 'birthmother' bring to the new 'birthmother'- a name for unsupported and vulnerable, exploited mother.

  9. What do you suggest for loving parents who are unable to have children of their own??

  10. K, it wasn't my job nor is it the job of any young pregnant woman to provide an infant for someone else. It's not the child's job to be a cure for infertility. Yes, it's very sad if someone wants to become a parent but can't do so naturally. It is painful and I understand that but using adoption to solve that issue isn't the answer. It may be joyful for them but their joy is built on loss for the mother and the child. It's at their expense and that isn't right.

    If a couple wants to parent why don't they look to the foster system where there are many thousands of children who have already been cleared for adoption, children who desperately need homes? If they know a single pregnant woman who needs help why don't they mentor her and help her raise her child instead of taking the child for themselves. There are other ways to give love to a child.

  11. Carlynne, I hope you don't mind me chiming in.

    K, I have two children, but I also went through a time where I thought I could not have any. I was diagnosed and treated for PCOS. The doctors were not sure what was wrong with my cycles, and why I, someone who was 22 at the time who was trying for over a year, could not conceive. It took me 18 months to conceive each of my children, with one miscarriage in-between.

    I am also an adult adoptee raised by infertile parents, whom I love.

    That being said, adoption ought to be child-centered. It should be seen as an institution that finds parents for kids, not kids for parents. When we view adoption's primary purpose as "creating families," we make children into commodities and their first mothers into mere breeders.

    While there is nothing wrong with wanting to be a parent, when it comes to adoption, this should mean that kids who truly need parents are the ones being adopted. This means helping families stay together whenever possible so that a mother and a child do not have to endure an enormous loss by adoption separation whereas she could have been helped. This means adopting kids that really need it. There are over 120,000 legally adoptable children in foster care who are passed by each year. They need parents.

  12. Amanda and Carlynne, I appreciate your responses. When I posed the question I was not meaning it to be accusatory. At all. I was genuinely interested in your (Carlynne) viewpoint on infertile couples. I agree 100% that adoption should be child-centered. Not for one second did I feel that it was my obligation or duty to give my child to someone else to help create THEIR family. I did feel it was my duty to my child to provide for him the best life possible. And as my religion encourages, I wanted him to have both a mother and a father. The simple fact was, I was not in a position to be both parents.

    I have honestly never read much from a viewpoint such as yours, and I am genuinely appreciative of your experiences. I spent most of one night reading as many posts of your posts as I could Carlynne, and I continue to do so.

    My adoption is an open adoption built on mutual respect between me and my son's adoptive family. I do have the privilege of knowing who they are, where they live, and how they are raising their/our/my son. I am more grateful than I can express that I have an open adoption. Although I realize that the openness is not legally enforceable, I do not believe for a moment that my adoptive couple will ever cut me off. And were that to happen, I would respect their choice. Would it kill me? Yes. But I don't consider Owen to be just my son any longer. He has an amazing family who loves him dearly. And as a first-mother as you call us, I am grateful to his family for loving him so much.

    That being said... I do agree that families should stay together as frequently as possible. I am currently getting my Master's degree in Social Work, and have the opportunity to work on a research project for the state of Utah. The entire purpose of our research is to look at the programs the state offers through welfare to single parents, and to see how it can be improved. It has opened my eyes to the extreme lack of resources available to single parents... but it has also opened my eyes to the lack of education and knowledge these single parents are given. Most have no idea what benefits the state can offer them, which is truly tragic.

    I am pro-adoption, but only when a mother is making an educated decision. If she has knowledge of all the supports and programs available to her and still decides she cannot be enough for her child (as I felt knowing I couldn't be a father to my son), I encourage adoption. I do NOT talk about my experiences to coerce or persuade. Educating myself on other viewpoints is one of the big reasons I asked my original question, and I appreciate your answers. Thank you.

  13. K

    I admit I struggle with the idea of what giving a child more with adoption means. No matter what, there is always someone out there that has more than someone else does. I cannot give my kids designer clothes and send them to a private school but I am a darn good mom. I know people who struggle to keep the lights on and put food on the table who are outstanding parents and whose children love them. When we talk about giving kids more through adoption, we're talking about issues that divide human beings among class lines. I simply do not believe that social class makes someone a better parent nor makes a child any more happier than another child.

    I also believe that single mothers are more than capable of raising their children to be fine young men and women. Because of taboo issues with female sexuality that "unwed" pregnancy brings up, it's easy to tell a single mother she can't provide this or that to her child because she's not married. But what about mothers who were married, had children, and were widowed? Who would dream of telling them to surrender their children because their children "deserve" two parents? In my humble opinion, there is a punitive tone against women behind the ideas that some single mothers are robbing their children of something by parenting, while others are not.

  14. Amanda, you beat me to it :) Thanks for that comment as those were my same thoughts. The great irony of my situation is the fact that I lost my daughter because I was single, pregnant and had shamed the family yet my daughter was raised by a single mother. My daughter's adoptive parents divorced when she was only 3 years old and her mother never remarried. I doubt anyone suggested to her that she give my daughter up for adoption because she became single.

    So it seems that it's ok to be a single mother if you're divorced or widowed but not if you got pregnant while being single.

    I've also seen cases where married couples have given babies up for adoption because of financial situations. I have to echo Amanda and say there is always going to be someone who has more than someone else. No one should lose their children because of financial struggle. These are temporary situations, adoption is permanent.

    Today my husband and I celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. We've had a wonderful life, we've raised 2 children together and we've had our financial difficulties. When the kids were little we went through some really rough times yet we were together and happy. My kids don't feel like they missed out on anything. They are now happy, healthy, successful adults.

    K, you're right. It is a tragedy that single women are not told of the resources available to them. I believe that information is deliberately withheld from them to make it easier for the industry to procure an infant. I was certainly never given any information about what was available to me. Keeping my daughter was never even part of the discussion. It's also tragic that in this country especially, there are not more resources to help young parents. Family preservation should be a top priority but sadly money is.