Adoption “Choice” – A Response to a Mother

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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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15 thoughts on “Adoption “Choice” – A Response to a Mother

    Other Mother said:
    February 9, 2010 at 1:56 am

    Adoption is built on deception, beginning to end. We are talking about taking another persons baby and pretending it belongs to us. The only way to make this devestating act possible, is to believe that a woman made a ‘choice’ or is herself an undeserving bad mother. I think the lies are easier to believe. Society has never been good at seeing the truth, we see instead colors, stereotypical roles and warped personal politics.

    Lori said:
    February 9, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Other Mother – BRAVO!

    I don’t know how many adoptive parents and adopters I have heard say that they are so blessed that their birthmother (womb donor) decided to follow through with the adoption.

    It makes me want to puke.

    There are women who make the choice when they conceive – before total hormonal over load.

    I have only heard of one that honestly hates herself enough to believe that the child was the issue – that her child was not worthy of her!

    I truly believe that a woman that “has” to have a child is the one that should never be allowed to adopt. If they say “I have always wanted” it means that they think about a baby doll – babies and children are not toys!

    Our children deserve better.

    There is no choice in relinquishment, not ever. It is the only contract a woman or man can sign under duress and coercion that is upheld in the courts.

    Sadly, people live in their little rosy world of the glass half full and adoption is a warm fuzzy way of helping some poor stupid girl that got pregnant too young.

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cedartrees4, yolanda powell. yolanda powell said: Adoption “Choice” – A Response to a Mother « On a Little Island in …: And, the repeated message in this discours… […]

    Denise said:
    February 9, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    Great post, Cedar. Thanks for including the list of coercion methods. So many people say (or at least think) something like, “What do you mean you didn’t have a choice? Did they hold a gun to your head?” when we express being coerced into giving up our children. Coercion takes many, often very subtle, forms.

    unicorn said:
    February 10, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    What gets me after reading the coercion methods is the one about being told that your child needs 2 parents.

    Now these same agencies are giving children to single adopters. What hypocrisy!

    Why is it all right for the adopter to be single but not us? I don’t get it.

    Mama K said:
    February 11, 2010 at 2:23 am

    Thank You Cedar for outlining and exposing
    the forms of coercion…what a shape shifting bastard!
    There NEEDS to be a way to get this out there more for expectant mothers that are considering adoption..or just teens in general – this knowledge could really prevent some heartache and unnecessary trauma? yes?
    Do i have your permission to link to this. I would like to be able to have some of this on my blog.
    lemme know xxxooo
    Respect and Kindest Regards…
    Mama K.

    Cedar said:
    February 11, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Yes, Mama K. I would be honoured if you linked to this. 🙂 Everyone who wants to has my full permission to link to anything in my blog.

    Mama K said:
    February 11, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Great! Thanks Cedar :~)
    I am off to see Richie Havens tonight, i haven’t been “out” since August!! Whew. Hope i still know how to socialize!! xox
    I will write on coercion and link tomorrow! Great!
    Much Love
    ~Mama K.

    val said:
    February 12, 2010 at 2:41 am

    So true. I also never felt guilt or self loathing and it wasn’t until I was in reunion when people made comments about the “guilt” and the “right decision” and so on…I had to explain to them that I never felt guilt, and because I was not an enlightened mother at the time, thought to myself that there must be something wrong with me because people think I should feel guilty and I don’t. I had pain…lots of it…but not guilt. I learned that this is because it was never my decision or my choice…so how could I feel guilty?

    Lori said:
    February 12, 2010 at 3:10 am

    Val, I agree. There are sometimes when the guilt of not being able to stop it – somehow failing my child – creeps in but in truth, I was never given a choice and no I do not feel guilty about the adoption.

    However, I can’t say that I don’t feel guilty for feelng a failure simply because I finally agreed because I thought I was protecting her – and still failed to protect her.

    I think that the guilt that a lot feel is not really all that well defined.

    But no, guilt about the event – no! Guilt about the aftermath, yes, at times.

    Kittz said:
    February 14, 2010 at 6:26 pm

    Truthful and logical post. Thank you Cedar.

    I never felt guilty nor hated myself, either. I knew I had been forced to surrender my child.It came as a shock to me, years later, when I learned of this “great guilt” that mothers supposedly feel.

    No matter what we did, we were going to lose our children. The government had the power to take them from us.

    I look at surrender, in a sense, like the fates of the people who jumped from the WTC towers on 9/11. They “chose” to jump because they were already on fire. Either way, they were going to die. It was inevitable.

    If we had not “signed” the surrender, our rights would have been terminated in court later without a signature, after our children had spent an amount of time in foster care.

    maybe said:
    February 18, 2010 at 3:32 pm

    I’ve been thinking about coercion, maniuplation, whatever people want to call it. So many people simply refuse to beleive coercion in adoption exists. This makes me wonder what they think of young girls who are married-off to old men against their will in fundamentalist communities. Polygamist sects are notorious for this, but other fundamentalist societies engage in forced/arranged marriage as well. Would they tell these young woman, “well you said ‘I do’ at the altar, therefore you were not coerced?”

    Lori said:
    February 18, 2010 at 5:32 pm

    Maybe, people only believe what they want to believe. I know that no one would have believed and some still don’t believe that the social worker – a unit supervisor no less – told me that she would place my daughter back into the home that almost killed her and take me to court until she won. She flat out told me that no matter what I did, no matter how well I followed the rules, she was taking my daughter.

    This occured after the presiding JUDGE told her to return the child to me and close the case!

    So, coercion – oh no, no one made me do anything – after all I signed that stupid paper didn’t I?

    Cedar said:
    February 18, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Your point about polygamist sects is very apt. Here in Canada, women from Pakistan and India etc. are pressured into forced marriages. A page about it is at .

    The same pressure tactics applied to them resulted in it being designated as “forced.” So why is “forced surrender” considered to be a myth? Why do people not admonish women who are victims of forced marriages that they have to “take responsibility for their part in the decision” to get forced into a marriage not of their choosing?

    The same pressure — the same emotional, social and financial coercion — and often the same threat of violence. Yes, women ARE sometimes brutalized until they surrender. The difference? Pregnant women are used as cattle and broodmares because the adoption industry has built a myth about the existence of “choice” and people believe it. It is accepted in Western culture and forced marriage is not. Yet both involve the same coercion.

    CarolC said:
    May 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Excellent Cedar! I agree totally. Sometimes we evolve though. I am convinced that until I found my son when he was 21, that I felt guilt. I thought there must have been some way I could have fought harder to keep him. It’s taken a lot of work to get to the place of understanding that I did not have a choice based on the only options presented to me.

    Mothers who are just coming out and haven’t been exposed to the research, literature and other mothers need to be treated gently however. Assuaging ourselves of that guilt doesn’t come easy and I find it harsh that some are critical of others who they claim, are still filled with guilt.
    I believe healing from the coercive tactics used to take our babies is a different kind of process for everyone. Most moms I’ve known need to at least find out that their child is alive and well before they can move on to looking at their own feelings.

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