I read a post today on proving one’s love to the child one lost to adoption. Suz describes how some natural moms have approaches to reunion — to try to show their love to their found child — that don’t work at all and in many cases can actually do damage to any post-reunion relationship. Some of these approaches that Suz describes include smothering our children with love or presents, acting like a doormat, and having a double-standard such that we will put up with being treated badly in ways we would never dream of treating another person. I would also lob in there: “letting the adoptee make ALL the decisions.”
I have a theory, based on what I have heard many natural mothers state in support groups, and what I read in their blogs: Many of these unhealthy approaches to reunion are based on guilt.
If a mother is to want a healthy reunion, then perhaps part of the preparation is to work on any guilt, shame, or self-blame she may be feeling regarding the surrender/loss of her baby. As long as she has no idea about the dynamics of coercion, she may always carry a ball-and-chain of guilt and self-blame that will damage her chance of a healthy post-reunion relationship.
That is a whole huge issue: Why do mothers blame themselves? Why do they take this burden onto their shoulders instead of placing it firmly at the feet of the baby brokers? And if you surrendered a baby for adoption post-1955, and still blame yourself, you may wish to look into what systemic methods were used on you to “persuade” you to surrender your baby.
Many mothers are reconsidering the idea that they “had a choice.” Especially in light of information found by mothers who have turned the tables, putting the adoption industry under a microscope in the same way that they studied us to find out how to get us to surrender our babies. Perhaps in the majority of cases, surrender was not by choice. Read the stories of other mothers who may have experienced the same thing.
Read up on some things that adoption industry “professionals” did and said to us to get us to surrender our babies, and remember that a coerced decision is not a decision at all. After women began keeping their babies post-BSE and agencies were faced with going out of business, they even engaged in research to ensure that open adoption would get more mothers to surrender their babies. Other research was aimed at getting teen mothers to surrender.
Ask yourself: Did you love your baby and want to keep him/her? If so, then somehow, something was done to you to ensure that this was not going to happen. And it was NOT your fault. Check out how social workers even in the 1950s thought they could “play God” with us. And, did you know that it was because white babies were “marketable” that they only pressured white mothers to surrender, not African-American mothers? If not, check out Solinger’s book “Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade.”
“By the early 1940’s, social workers became convinced that adoption was preferable to”keeping mother and child together” . . . Rejecting the idea that all women who had borne children were suitable mothers, social workers maintained that they must individualize each case . . . and decide which women should or should not put their infants up for adoption.” And Sin No More: Social Policy and Unwed Mothers in Cleaveland 1855 to 1990, by Marian J. Morton, Historian, 1993 (quote from the BSERI website)
“An agency has a responsibility of pointing out to the unmarried mother the extreme difficulty, if not the impossibility, if she remains unmarried, of raising her child successfully in our culture without damage to the child and to herself …. The concept that the unmarried mother and her child constitute a family is to me unsupportable. There is no family in any real sense of the word.” – Principles, Values, and Assumptions Underlying Adoption Practice, by Joseph H. Reid, 1956 Nation Convention for Social Work (quote from the BSERI website)
We need not feel guilt.
We need not take the blame.
We loved our children and wanted to keep them.
We had no choice.
The blame is with the baby brokers, not with us.
Once we shed this guilt and stop blaming ourselves for being pressured to surrender our babies (and if you don’t believe that a pregnant/birthing woman is seriously affected by hormones in such a way that she’s left vulnerable to coercion, then you have never given birth) then we can work on a reunion that won’t consist of years of hopelessly trying to “prove” our love for our children.
And as long as we continue to feel guilt and take the blame for having “given away” our babies, we cannot expect those rejected children to believe that we love them. People do NOT give away those they love (See “Andy and Marcie” for an allegory about this). The fact is that 99% of us did not “give away” our children — but our children will not believe this as long as we feel guilt or act as though we did (example: did you apologize to your child for not keeping them?)
Shed the self-blame and the guilt, for your own sake, not only in reunion but to be free to live to the fullest in other parts of your life as well. Do not blame yourself or feel you have to “make up for” something you had no control over at the time, no way to prevent. You do not need to bear that burden. You do not deserve to carry that pain.