A literature review was recently done on a collection of peer-reviewed journal articles on natural mothers published between 1978 and 2008. The results of this literature review were published as part of a masters thesis on trauma and are reprinted here with permission of the author.
In this literature review, 98 articles were identified, and 91 of them obtained. The author did a thematic analysis of the articles, using grounded theory to identify the themes present in these articles. Nine themes were identified, including search and reunion, the surrender experience, open adoption relationships, and advice for professionals. But there were two main themes in this literature that were found to be above and beyond all others in terms of frequency. I am going to quote directly from the thesis:
” There were found to be two main themes in literature on natural mothers. These can be viewed as two “streams” of research, as the articles within a stream mainly refer to other work and prior research within that one stream. The first stream (43 articles) examines the consequences of surrender on the mother. The second stream (32 articles) examines factors that may predict and/or influence rates of surrender, often stating with concern that surrender rates have declined significantly and should be increased. The latter stream contains three main sub-themes: factors (socio-demographic, educational, attitudinal, familial, or economic) that distinguish mothers who surrender their babies from mothers who keep their babies, surveys to determine what would encourage expectant mothers to consider adoption, and comparisons of differing agency practices and their effects on surrender rates.”
Let’s come to the point and put it into more concrete terms: These 32 articles are on how to take babies.
The author of this thesis provides a list of some of these articles (below, reprinted with permission). So, seeing these, how can anyone believe that a “decision” about adoption is free from influence, coercion, or manipulation? When agencies have 30 years worth of research on how to increase the likelihood a mother will surrender her child, is she really making an informed decision completely of her own free will?
|Bachrach, Stolley, & London (1992)||Analysis – how demographic/economic/social trends affect and predict future surrender rates, plus factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Baran, Pannor, & Sorosky (1976)||Results from a focus group on how to increase adoption: Open adoption can persuade single mothers to surrender.|
|Barth (1987)||Research on adolescent girls and mothers: how to make adoption more appealing. Recommends open adoption as a way to encourage more adolescent mothers to surrender.|
|Berry (1991, 1993)||Study on effects of open adoption on family members and relationships. Suggests that open adoption can benefit adoptive parents by enticing more mothers to surrender.|
|Caragata (1999)||Examines teen pregnancy as an economic problem.’ Suggests open adoption to entice more mothers to surrender, that adoption should be “restructured,” and that meeting with prospective adopters might prevent a mother from “changing her mind”|
|Chippendale-Bakker & Foster (1996)||Studies of what demographic/economic/social factors distinguish mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Cocozelli (1989)||Research – what situational variables predict surrender rates. plus factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t (life plans, social worker visits, sign consent before delivery)|
|Custer (1993)||Research on influencing attitudes, beliefs and decision-making about adoption among pregnant adolescents. Found that deterrents to surrender include: fear of harm to baby, social disapproval, feeling that it shows lack of responsibility, lack of knowledge of benefits, “failure of professionals to actively initiate discussion of adoption with clients,” and anticipated psychological discomfort. Suggests that these issues be actively addressed in “social programs and political interventions.”|
|Daly (1994)||Research on adolescents to find out what keeps them from considering adoption. Recommends agencies do educational and public relations programs to explain the benefits of adoption, promote open adoption, and conduct face-to-face outreach programs to adolescents.|
|Donnelly & Voydanoff (1991)||Research on pregnant adolescents and new mothers: attitudes, demographics, relationships, experiences, and perceptions of early pregnancy distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t. Suggests programs to present benefits and “promote positive attitudes towards adoption” as those who surrender have more positive attitudes than those who don’t.|
|Dworkin, Harding, & Schreiber (1993)||Research on pregnant adolescents, regarding how adoption knowledge, social/psychological functioning, familial influences (grandmother and father of baby), and demographics correlate with surrender rates.|
|Geber & Resnick (1988)||Research on family functioning, cohesion and adaptability differences between parenters vs. surrenderers using “FACES II” questionnaire.|
|Hanson (1990)||Research on factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t, to recommend early intervention based on those figures, especially to get mothers “who might exhibit poor parenting styles” to surrender.|
|Herr (1989)||Research study on maternity home inmates to examine what affected their decision most: parents, “decision counseling,” and peer role models who are parenting.|
|Kallen, Griffore, Popovich, & Powell (1990)||Research study on attitudes towards adoption and open adoption in mothers who surrendered, mothers who don’t, and their own mothers. .|
|Kalmuss, Namerow, & Bauer (1992)||Research study on socio-demographics, family, education differences of mothers who surrender vs. those who don’t. Plus 6-month outcomes on life satisfaction, outlook, relationships, etc.|
|Leon (1999)||Instructions to physicians on treating surrendering mothers, including how to promote adoption to pregnant mothers.|
|Low, Moely, & Willis (1989)||Research factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who do not, in terms of parental influence and vocational goals.|
|Miller & Coyl (2000)||Analysis of how demographic/economic/social trends affect and predict future surrender rates, plus factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Moore & Davidson (2002)||Socio-psychological influences (family background, peers), cognitive functions, beliefs, and decision-making in pregnant adolescents, to determine how to best influence decision-making processes as part of “adoption education” of adolescents and promoting “more reasoned choices” (i.e. adoption) for pregnant teens|
|Namerow, Kalmuss, & Cushman (1993)||Research on what social, demographic, beliefs, and attitudinal factors influenced the pregnancy decision.|
|Resnick (1984)||Overview/analysis of research on decision-making and what distinguishes mothers who surrender from those who keep. Mentions sociological, psychological, factors.|
|Resnick, Blum, Bose, Smith, & Toogood (1990)||Studies of demographic/economic/social factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t, including their views on adoption vs. parenting vs. abortion.|
|Sobol & Daly (1992)||Overview and summary of the literature and findings: Factors influencing adolescents’ decisions about adoption. How to get more babies surrendered: Promote open adoption; make surrender easier; encourage pregnancy counsellors to suggest adoption; and present more “options” to make adoption more attractive.|
|Warren & Johnson (1989)||Research on factors distinguishing mothers who surrender from those who don’t.|
|Weinman, Robinson, Simmons, Schreiber, & Stafford (1989)||Research on mothers who initially planned to surrender but then decided to keep their babies: decision-making process, demographic/psycho-social and health differences, and treatment plans.|
|Weir (2000)||Research on what familial, developmental and peer barriers might prevent mothers from surrendering, and suggests how to remove them through group and family therapy.|
Being related to someone, having that natural connection of a mother giving birth to you and this event of creation and nurturance being your connection to the human race through millions of years of evolution, having the innate and emotional blood-bond and instinctive mother-child bond and biological/genetic connection to a family, to mother and father, is highly important in the rest of society. EVERYWHERE other than adoption.
In legal child adoption, invented only in 1851 as a social experiment, it is dismissed.
It shows how we in modern society put adoption upon a pedestal, one built on artificial and discredited notions such that infants are “blank slates” and that “environment is everything.”
In the rest of society, outside the adoption realm, being actually related to someone IS important. If it were not so, then women giving birth in hospitals would not care which baby they brought home with them. Push out a baby, then choose whichever one you want to take home with you. Or, be handed the “next one up in the rotation.” And why on earth should it matter? Why in heaven’s name would it matter? If we were to use the make-believe logic of adoption, it wouldn’t matter. But we all know it does.
I think that adoption as an institution is based on lies, fabrications, and the financial/social power and emotional “needs” of those who can afford to buy a baby. Reality has nothing to do with it. Instead, we are pressured believe that parents are replaceable and interchangeable, that children will “get over it,” that natural mothers are nothing more than heartless abandoners and willing incubators.
None of this is the truth, but it is a direct result of the legal principles underlying the first child adoption act, passed in 1851 and copied throughout the Western world. Terminate all parental rights AND all filiation. Permanently and without revoke. That is what differentiated this law from ALL others that preceded it. As long as adoption exists, it will be based on these lies, and will assume that biological connections, relatedness, are irrelevant.
I have to admit, I feel very uncomfortable with the word “bastard.” Mainly because it originated as a derogatory term used for children born out of wedlock and I feel strongly that any form of discrimination against a person due to their circumstances of birth is reprehensible. Even if the term “bastard” has come to mean “jerk” or “impolite/rude/inconsiderate [male] person” — or even sometimes serving as a humorous term of endearment/admiration for someone who has managed to come out ahead of the game (“Hey, you know Bob? He won the lottery last week — that bastard!”) — I still refrain from using it even in casual conversation. And if I do “slip up” and say it, I feel a small pang of something (guilt?).
Having said, that, I have a huge amount of respect for adoptees such members of Bastard Nation, and bloggers such as Bastardette and Bastard Granny Annie and Ungrateful Little Bastard, for proudly taking ownership of the term and using it for their own purposes, and in doing so are removing some of the stigma from it. Good for them!
But this post is not about the term, it is about the stigma that is still attached to the birth of children outside of marriage. You can see this in figures quoted in newspapers, about how it is a measurement of the “social ills” in society. You can hear it in the derogatory words thrown at single, young mothers on buses, at least where I live. And the “campaign against teen pregnancy” that assumes that all young mothers are not only irresponsible monsters but are unwed.
I personally knew the shock when I met a woman in 1990 who had also given birth at age 17 in Canada, but had been allowed to keep her baby — the hospital did not abduct her baby at birth — the difference was that she was married!!
… And having to wear my grandma’s wedding ring whenever I left the wage home to go anywhere.
… and when I found out 24 years after the fact that my father had phoned my son’s father around the time of the birth of my son and asked him if he would do the right thing and marry me (Grandma Maxwell told my son about this one). I guess, that was the condition on which they would allow me to keep my baby.
… and being a single mother giving birth in a hospital in many places in Canada will still prompt a social worker visit while you are still in hospital, questioning your motherhood and your right to raise your baby, giving you adoption pamphlets and asking “How do you intend to support this child?”
But getting back to the stigma that in many places still surrounds having a baby outside of marriage, it is interesting about the double-standard that surrounds adoption.
Question: Given that it is such a social crime to give birth to a baby outside of marriage that the child is termed a “bastard”: What about a child who was born to a married couple, surrendered (perhaps due to poverty — this is happening all the time) then adopted by a single person (male or female)? That person was not born “illegitimate. ” The modern child adoption system that was invented in 1851 makes a child “As If Born To” the person who has adopted them. So, does that child become “illegitimate,” and hence a “bastard”? If not, then why not?
Only in adoption is there a paradox that a single mother “deserves” to adopt a child — but a child *born* outside of marriage is “illegitimate” and the mother is deemed not to deserve her own child.
Why is it is okay to adopt as a single mother, BUT if you dare to give birth to a child outside of marriage, that child is called a “bastard” and the mother vilified??? The woman who adopts is put onto a pedestal while the mother who has given birth is considered by the same people to be inherently irresponsible and potentially unfit? Being unwed is still considered to be “just reason” to surrender a child, or imply to a mother that she should surrender her child (“Have you considered adoption?”). Books on “how to adopt” advise prospective adopters to, in public places, approach pregnant women who do not have wedding rings, to hand them “adoption cards.” To imply that the people who want to adopt deserve her baby more than she does.
An interesting double standard.
~ ~ ~
Postscript: I want to recommend a related blog post, about how some mothers are condemned while others are honoured: “The Right Kind of Mother: Intersections of Race and Class and Choice“
Unlike what alarmist government-funded programs and conservative-religious lobby groups will try to tell you, teen motherhood is neither a crisis nor an event that will destroy or ruin the life of a young mother.
Old studies that supposedly proved that teen pregnancy was a crisis were based on biased data with confounding variables (race, culture, social class, etc.). But this supposed “research” fulfilled the right-wing, socially conservative, political purposes of the time.
New data proves what people knew up until 50 years ago: teen pregnancy is natural and is NOT a crisis. (When was the greatest rate of teen pregnancy during the past century? During the 1950s. These were the mothers of the Baby Boomers!)
Here are some quotes from recent studies, illustrating the new knowledge about young motherhood:
“.. a review of the research evidence finds that the age at which pregnancy occurs has little effect on social outcomes. Many teenage mothers describe how motherhood makes them feel stronger, and marks a change for the better. Many fathers seek to remain connected with their children.” (Duncan, 2007)
“Moreover, we find that teen mothers may actually achieve higher evels of earnings over their adult lives than if they had postponed motherhood. Finally, we find evidence that while teenage childbearing does seem to increase public aid expenditures immediately after a teen birth, this “negative” consequence of teenage childbearing is not a permanent one, in that teen mothers use less public aid in their late 20s as their earnings rise and their children age.” (Hotz, McElroy, & Sanders, 1999).
Of young mothers who had left foster care: …”becoming a parent meant a positive change in their otherwise chaotic lives. Their experience of motherhood brought about love and enjoyment,
and it signified continuity and fulfillment of a void. For some young mothers, the child provided a focus in their lives and a drive to achieve a position.” –Barn and Mantonavi (2007, page 236-237)
Look at your family trees. My guess is that almost all of your female ancestors prior to 1900 were teen mothers when they had their first babies.
And, existing social class that a woman has grown up in indicates that social class she and her child will be in — NOT the age at which she has given birth! A mother who has grown up middle-class does NOT automatically become a “welfare mom” just because she started a family when young:
“Teen mothers’ life trajectories reflected legacies of unequal life chances that began in childhood and persisted into their 30s. Mothers with childhood advantages fared better over time than impoverished mothers, and a legacy of advantage contributed to a cushion of safety and opportunity for their teenaged children. Conclusion: The powerful legacy of social class and racial divisions on teen mothers’ long-term outcomes challenges the view that teen mothering leads to a downward spiral with negative repercussions for mothers and children” — SmithBattle (2007).
Not only this, but recent research has shown that there’s no good reason to postpone childbearing, especially postponing it until you can no longer conceive. Nature made women to be their most fertile between the ages of 16 and 26. Age-related infertility begins it’s slow climb at around age 27. So, whey are women waiting until their 30s or even 40s to try to conceive? It is their individual choice to do so, but if they do, then I do not believe they “deserve” another woman’s baby to fill that need. It was their own choice to wait, and to take the risk that conception would not possible.. Whitley & Kirmayer (2008) mention that the average age of first births in Canada in 2003 was 28, compared to 22 in 1972.
“Don’t be selfish! Think of that poor couple who can’t have a baby of their own!”* — my father’s words to me when i was crying my eyes out, wanting desperately to keep my baby.
We as young mothers were (and are) supposed to put the wants and needs of adoptive parents before our own, to give away our babies in order to allow them to “build their families.” We are called selfish, self-centred, and immature for wanting to keep our babies. (But does anyone apply these adjectives to older, married mothers who have children? No, because it is only teen mothers who are considered “not worthy” to have babies at all.)
Is it any wonder that a teen parent not only has to fight for the right to raise her baby, but also for her basic human right to the support to keep her family together — and on top of that, she has the social stress of the stigma against her? To show how incredibly unnecessary and inappropriate this stigma is, Whitley and Kirmayer (2008) found that it is now being applied to women in their early 20s!
“Anglophone Euro-Canadian mothers in their early 20s may now be experiencing aspects of social exclusion traditionally associated with ‘teenage mothers.’ This may have a deleterious effect on health.”
I was forced to leave high school in 1979 when I became pregnant – that’s what girls did. I worked on courses by correspondence. It wasn’t even an option to stay in school. This exiling and ostracization was barbarous to do this to any woman — and I thought that this inhumane, discriminatory, and backward practice had ended — but then I read this, written in 2008:
“Girls are forced out of the mainstream education system because they are pregnant or have given birth. The consequences for the young mothers and their children are dramatic… there is a los tgeneration of teenage girls who hve become pregnant in the last two to three years and have effectively ‘fallen through the net.'” (Lall, 2008)
What we need are strong programs that support young mothers, without exclusion, without limitation. Programs that recognize that young children NEED their mothers at home, and that mothering as a career is JUST as important as any other career. Not only that, but recognizing that becoming a mother can be a powerful incentive for a woman to advance her education. Here is one study’s recommendations about helping young mothers:
We suggest that the UK Government adopts a broader approach to addressing social exclusion associated with teenage pregnancy, and one which: values and supports full-time mothering as well as gaining skills; affords teenage mothers the same rights as less vulnerable mothers; fosters supportive social networks and enables the young women to engage actively in the process of their own inclusion. (Austerberry & Wiggins, 2007).
Austerberry, H., & Wiggins, M. (2007). Taking a pro-choice perspective on promoting inclusion of teenage mothers: Lessons from an evaluation of the Sure Start Plus programme. Critical Public Health, 17(1), 3-15.
Duncan, S. (2007). What’s the problem with teenage parents? And what’s the problem with policy? Critical Social Policy, 27(3), 307-334.
Gibbs, N. (2002). Making time for baby. Time Magazine, April 15, 2002. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1002217,00.html .
Hotz, V. J., McElroy, S. W., & Sanders, S. G. (1999). Teenage Childbearing and Its Life Cycle Consequences: Exploiting a Natural Experiment.
Hope, T., Wilder, E. I., & Watt, T. T. (2003). Pregnancy, pregnancy resolution, and juvenile delinquency. The Sociological Quarterly, 44(4), 555-576.
Lall, M. (2007). Exclusion from school: Teenage pregnancy and the denial of education. Sex Education, 7(3), 219-237.
Luker, K. (1996). Dubious conceptions: The politics of teenage pregnancy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Oberlander, S. E., Black, M. M., Starr, R. H. (2007). African American adolescent mothers and grandmothers: A multigenerational approach to parenting. American Journal of Community Psychology, 39(1-2), 37-46.
Richards, J., Papworth, M., Corbett, S., & Good, J. (2007). Adolescent motherhood: A Q-methodological re-evaluation of psychological and social outcomes. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 17(5) 347-362.
Shanok, A. F., & Miller, L. (2007). Stepping up to motherhood among inner-city teens. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 31(3), 252-261
Smith-Battle, L. (2007a). ‘I wanna have a good future’: Teen mothers’ rise in educational aspirations, competing demands, and limited school support. Youth and Society, 38(3), 348-371.
SmithBattle, L. (2007b). Legacies of advantage and disadvantage: The case of teen mothers. Public Health Nursing, 24(5), 409-420.
Solinger, R. (2000). Wake up little Susie: Single pregnancy and race before Roe v. Wade. New York: Routledge.
Whitley, R., & Kirmayer, L. J. (2008). Perceived stigmatisation of young mothers: An exploratory study of psychological and social experience. Social Science and Medicine, 66(2), 339-348.
Zeck, W., Bjelic-Radisic, V., Haas, J., & Greimel, E. (2007). Impact of adolescent pregnancy on the future life of young mothers in terms of social, familial, and educational changes. Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(4), 380-388.
* The sad irony is that this “poor infertile couple” that i was supposed to give my child to, to satisfy THEIR needs, then went on to have two children of their own. So there was absolutely NO reason for this adoption to occur. They could have children of their own – they did not need mine.
Same URL, same blog, same author … but yes, a different name. Of course, i’m waffling on it. What should I name it?
Thank you, dear readers for your suggestions, and I am open to hearing more of them. I have not completely settled on “Adoption Critique” for the name of this blog. There are many other options:
… Adoption Voice?
… Adoption Trauma Survivor?
… Adoption Words?
… Adoption Critic?
So, what do you think? Do you like “Adoption Critique”? Is something else better?
I thought it was better than “Adoption Analysis” (boring?) 🙂
So, your feedback is always invited.
…. Ten years ago today, our reunion. We hugged for the very first time. I got to touch him for the first time. That right, the right that all other mothers take for granted, the right to hold and hug their babies, had been stripped from me — stolen from me — the moment he was born.
Child adoption, as it currently exists in Western law, was first created in an 1851 statute in the state of Massachusetts to deal primarily with the social welfare problem of poverty and “unwanted and unloved children.” At the time, social welfare reformists were looking for a solution to the problem of poverty: work-houses, orphans on the street who were in danger of exploitation, and rapid population growth in-part due to birth control prohibitions and legalized marital rape.
“Its illegitimate origins, its birth in the workhouse, so to speak, has been another adoption secret and is usually omitted from official genealogies of adoption” (O’ Shaughnessy, pp. 68-69).
Child adoption was considered a “progressive” social policy at the time, and other states and countries (the U.K., Australia, Canada, etc.) soon passed their own similar laws. By the 1930s, almost every Western jurisdiction had some form of adoption law.
That child adoption is a modern invention is often a surprise to people who believe that it has existed since time immemorial. The fact, however, is that it was relatively rare and legally limited throughout history, and while it has been common practice throughout history for children to be fostered, legal adoption in most nations and situations was usually reserved for adult males to adopt other adult males for inheritance purposes.
As opposed to fostering or legal guardianship, adoption involves a complete legal severing of all legally recognized family relationships (“filiation”), inheritance rights, and parental rights. Before the 20th century, with high child mortality rates being the norm worldwide, adopting an adult to be a legal heir was a much surer bet.
One example of this distinction between fostering and adoption is the case of Moses in Jewish and Christian religious tradition, for whom a strong argument can be made that he was fostered, not adopted. At no time were his birth records changed to indicate that an Egyptian princess was the mother who had given birth to him, nor were his legal ties and legal family relationship with his Hebrew family severed. Aaron remained recognized as his brother, and Jochebed as his mother..
There was also little demand for adoption prior to WWII, as the historical norm up until the 20th century was for women to marry in their middle to late teens and began their reproductive careers long before the progressive and inevitable decline in fertility due to age. Thus, the late 20th century “infertility epidemic” did not exist.
Adoption laws since then have not changed significantly since they began a century and a half ago, other than to close and seal original birth records in most jurisdictions and issue new official birth records falsely stating that the adoptive parents gave birth to the child (beginning in the 1920s and going onwards). Other minor changes have included gradual elimination of inheritance rights from natural parents, modifications to the legal process of surrender, and a few jurisdictions that have re-opened their records again under highly restrictive circumstances. None of these changes affected or questioned the underlying assumptions on which adoption was founded.
But adoption as a legal and social institute assumes that the child is unloved and unwanted, or that the parent is devastatingly unfit. That’s the social problem adoption was created to address. No matter how one fancies it up, this is the reason behind it. Find a home for an unloved and unwanted child.
And adoption would likely have stayed this way except that after WWII, the interest in adopting newborns grew. In part because the emergence of social work as a profession defined unwed mothers as neurotics who could be “cured” with separation from their babies, and defined the unhappiness and “empty homes” of childless couples as an equally important social problem to address. Add to this mix the rise of J. B. Watson’s behaviorist psychology (“Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own specified world to bring them up in and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select … regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations, and race of his ancestors.“) which left the former universal belief in “bad blood” in the dust, and a market demand for newborns emerged.
And on it went. But adoption laws still assume that the mother and father do not love or want their baby. Read almost any state or provincial adoption statute and it is evident that the law is built upon the assumption of complete legal and emotional cut-off from the original family. The complete absence of the natural family from legal statutes after the surrender has taken place reflects the assumption that this family has no continuing interest in the welfare of their lost child. The loving mother’s interest in the continuing welfare of her child, her love for her child, and the mother-child bond forged during nine months in the womb, are all assumed to not exist.
And, tragically, moms who love and want their babies, and assume that a continuing connection will be guaranteed through open adoption (as the industry began to promised them as it worked to persuade more moms to hand over their babies), get caught in the middle. Those who buy the promotional hype that “Adoption is the Loving Option” and surrender their babies on this assumption find out the hard way to their surprise that they are suddenly judged by both the law and by society to be “heartless abandoners,“as one adoptee so eloquently put it.
Is it any wonder that many (most?) adoptees feel abandoned and/or rejected on some level?
One hundred and fifty seven years of continuity in adoption law is not going to change any time soon. Especially because the underlying legal principle that adoption was founded on (child abandonment) is never questioned by politicians or society in general. And especially as adoption is now used by child protection departments to “save” children from parents who have been judged unfit and abusive in a court of law.
It is a tragedy that we who are natural mothers of adopted children got caught in this trap, of believing what we were told by adoption industry workers: that adoption was what it wasn’t (loving) and would provide what it legally can’t guarantee (a lifetime of happiness for our child and a continuing connection with us). We were sold a bill of goods. Adoption was created to provide homes for “children with no parents,” abandoned children, and unwanted children. In essence, it is a form of legalized abandonment. No matter how you dress it up, this fact will always remain.
But if you are an 18 year old mother, lying there in your hospital bed with your precious and much-loved baby in your arms, the facilitator and the “waiting parents” standing there wanting you to hurry up and sign the papers, has anyone told you any of this? You are but one signature away from signing into a system that assumes your baby is unloved, unwanted, and to being willingly abandoned into another family’s hands.
- Brace, Charles Loring. (1872). “The Life of the Street Rat,s” an excerpt from The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years’ Work Among Them.
- O’ Shaughnessy, T. (1999). Adoption, Social Work and Social Theory : Making the Connections. Ashgate Publishing, Limited, ISBN 1-85628-883-8.
- Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. (Nov. 2006). “Aging and Infertility.” Fertility and Sterility, Vol 86, Supplement 4.
- Samuels, Elizabeth J. (2001). “The Idea of Adoption: An Inquiry Into the History of Adult Adoptee Access to Birth Records” Rutgers Law Review #367.
- Solinger, R. (2000). Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade. New York: Routledge. ISBN: 0-41592-676-9.
Copyright 2009 Cedar Bradley. All rights reserved.
… a seventeen year old with no-one to talk to and no-one who would listen to me.
… parents are 62 and 61 years old … small town Prairie mentality and Fundamentalist beliefs.
… internment in a wage home once I began “showing,” hiding my growing belly to protect my parents from the shame of “what would the neighbours and relatives say?”
… being shamed by my parents into wearing my grandma’s wedding ring to hide my shameful “unwed” status from the world.
… a week of false labour.
… my parents dropping me off at the hospital slightly past midnight, and the nurses telling them to leave. Being put on a gurney and given a sleeping pill to sleep, then put into a closet for the night. Lights on. The pain was strong and the sleeping pill did nothing for me. Awake all night. Alone.
… strapped down to a bed with a fetal monitor wrapped around my stomach. Another one screwed into his scalp.
… my mother coming in the afternoon to sit with me, acting ashamed, never showing concern or affection.
… screaming in pain … and being told by nurses to shut up.
… nauseated and disoriented from the straight Demerol injections that did nothing for the pain
… a doctor telling the intern that he had given me too much Demerol.
… 18 hours of labour with no food or water
… wheeled down the hallway
… climbing onto the narrow delivery table, as flat as an ironing board, my arms strapped down with leather straps, feet up in stirrups.
… trying to push out a baby against gravity, not having slept for 36 hours … not having eaten for 24 hours … overwhelming pain.
… episiotomy sliced down with a deep 4-inch-long cut, without anaesthesia … sewn up again without adequate anaesthesia. Permanent nerve damage.
… sheet put up in front of my face to prevent me from seeing him as he was born and whisked from the room, abducted.
… given a shot and waking up 18 hours later in a ward far far from the maternity ward and nursery, other end of the hospital, different floor.
… a huge huge sense of loss.
… my breasts bound up to prevent lactation.
… unable to walk for 2 days after.
… not allowed to see or hold my baby. Never being told I had the right to. No lawyers to explain to me that i had *any* rights at all. No nurse brought him to me
… finally allowed to look at him for about 5 minutes in the nursery several days later, watched over by hawk-like nurses to prevent me from picking him up. I was not welcome there. Seeing him confirmed for me what I already knew: that I loved him beyond all measure. I wanted to keep him.
…. a woman who had surrendered a baby 2 months prior being sent in to convince me to “do the right thing.”
… forbidden by parents from taking my baby home.
… never told about welfare or any other way to keep him. At age 17 from a small farming town and a sheltered upbringing, I had no idea even what ‘welfare’ was.
… the social wrecker telling me to sign or he’d be in foster care until I ‘decided’ to. Telling me that the children of unwed mothers grow up to be criminals. Lying to me that I would “move on.” No informed consent, no other options, no choice.
I wanted to keep my baby. I was capable. I was never given the chance or the choice.
This is adoption. This was coercion. I was nothing more than a convenient uterus to them, to take away another baby for adoption.This was done to thousands of unwed mothers across Canada for thirty years, until about 1988. There is nothing “voluntary” about “voluntary surrender.” A coerced “decision” is not a decision at all.