I recently responded on another blog to a mother (I consider her to be a mother, but she calls herself a “birthmother” i.e. a non-mother) who expressed that the loss of her two children to adoption had brought guilt, grief and self hatred to her — and yet she was convinced it was her choice and she was not “bitter*” about adoption.
As she spoke about pain, guilt, grief, self hatred and tears — my heart went out to her, as those are the same words of many mothers who were forced to surrender against their will, yet who considered it to be a “choice” that they willingly and happily made.
My sincere belief is that the concept of “choice” is one that a mother internalizes from being given repeated social messages about adoption, social attitudes, and the refusal of Western culture to even consider the possibility of coerced surrender. Why? Because the dominant discourse about adoption is controlled by the adoption industry and it’s customers. And, the repeated message in this discourse as unquestioningly accepted by society is that women choose to give away unwanted babies, right? Half-right. Adoption WAS created to find new homes for orphans and unwanted children. However, exceedingly rarely were our children even unwanted, As we held them in our arms, or saw them after their birth, and fell in love with them — how many of us actually emphatically phoned up the adoption agency weeks after birth to demand “Take away this bastard — I feel nothing for her! I have no interest in keeping her!” You see, that is the situation that adoption is actually intended for.
The mother-child bond and relationship is so important that there are recognized rights that all mothers inherently possess, for the sole reason that we are human beings. One of these is the right to all the support you need in order to raise your child without fear of an “unstable life’ (i.e. missing support system). Check out Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Coercion takes many forms: It can take the form of agencies, family members, clergy, hospital staff, etc. pressuring the mother to surrender her baby or telling her that adoption is a fantastic option (making her feel she would be selfish for wanting to keep her baby). It can take the form of carefully-researched methods being applied to mothers to increase the chance they will surrender. It can also be systemic financial coercion when governments withhold vital financial support from mothers which leave them in fear of dire poverty with no guaranteed income, housing, etc. The latter is, yes, intentional, and according to adoption researcher Reuben Pannor is the leading cause of surrender. It is also preventable. Why does Australia have a mere handful of surrenders each year while the U.S. has tens of thousands? Because Australia protects mothers against ALL these types of coercion.
There is a checklist of common coercion methods here, but human rights violations including poverty also count as coercion. So does open adoption practices where mothers meet or “bond with” adopters prior to birth or prior to signing surrender documents. That has a huge risk of emotional coercion. And again, a coerced surrender is not a “choice’ at all. The choice of adoption not only must involve (1) informed consent (obtainable only once the mother has taken home her baby and found out first-hand what she will be sacrificing and with having been given full disclosure regarding the psychological risks (unresolved grief and loss, depression, PTSD, secondary infertility, future relatioship and parenting difficulties) but (2) as it is such an important decision also must be freedom of any form of coercion as this nullified freedom of choice.
Ignoring the fact that abortion and adoption are NOT related events in the slightest, the fact that this mother states regarding surrender that she “did not want to do it” and yet considers it to be a “choice,” is a huge contradiction. Only in adoption is the phrase “forced to choose” considered logical.
Let’s follow the logic: You wanted to keep your baby, you did not want to surrender: So what made you do it? Something made you surrender against you will. That “something” is called coercion. A coerced “choice” is not a choice at all, the coercion by the fact of existing has eliminated all freedom of choice. So, in essence, you did not “choose” to surrender your babies.
That’s why i’m saying that mothers who love their babies don’t “choose” to surrender them. Adoption was created in 1851 as a disposal mechanism for unloved and unwanted children, not for children were were loved and wanted. It’s the rise of the adoption industry, convincing mothers to surrender babies, that has made it into such.
You had the right to keep your baby. Your babies had the right to the support they needed in order to keep YOU.
Post-script: I have also realized that although the grief from the loss of my son has been crippling, I have never felt guilt, regret, anger at myself, or self-hatred from it. I think that this freedom has come with knowing that it was not my ‘decision’ as I had never been given a choice. A coerced ‘choice’ is not a choice at all. No decision can be made when there is only one viable option given. I wish that every women who has unwillingly surrendered a child they loved to adoption could also be free from these emotions.
* I am not “bitter.” Never have been. “Bitter” is a derogatory term used by society to describe someone they considered to be unjustifiably angry at themselves or because they did or did not do something. On so many levels this is just totally unapplicable to how many natural mothers feel: justifiably angry at the adoption industry for taking their babies via coercive adoption practices and working to end unnecessary adoptions and coercive adoption practices. If it were not for righteous anger at injustice, civil rights, human rights, campaigns against genocide, and the vote for women would not exist.
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