Month: December 2009

“Do natural mothers change their stories?”

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This question was asked on “Yahoo Answers” a number of months ago:

“Do a lot of people believe that women give their children up for adoption and then in the future “change” their version of the facts/or their way of thinking, to reflect that their child was stolen or they were viciously coerced rather than truly relinquished due to whatever circumstances there may have been?”

Various people on Yahoo Answers had been posting comments calling into question the integrity of natural mothers (“birthmothers”) who had recounted their stories of having lost children to adoption against their will, of feeling they had no choice but to surrender.  This person asked whether mothers had actually changed their stories.

I found this question to be interesting for several reasons, as it showed how “general society” might still be ignorant of what happens when a mother loses a child to adoption, the trauma that occurs, or that she may be in a far different position later in life as far as knowledge of the processes of the adoption industry.  (Also interesting was that this question was asked in the first place: Perhaps the questioner was trying to wrap his/her mind around the very concept that coerced surrender could exist?).

Firstly, this question assumes that women don’t block out the memories of what happened to them — a common symptom of PTSD: you dissociate as the trauma is too difficult to face. I know women who can’t even remember their child’s birth date or signing papers, until much later, at which point the memories come flooding back, often in the form of flashbacks and nightmares. It is often with reunion or beginning their search that moms begin to remember details of what happened.

PTSD Criterion C:  Avoidance/Numbing
3. Inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma

Secondly, a young or otherwise vulnerable mother may be forced to surrender by various means, and it is only when she is much older — when she has far more information on what her rights were at the time — that she realizes that those rights were violated. Rights that the adoption industry never informed her that she had rights.

“The first thing the unmarried mother is likely to lose is her right to make important decisions. The agency or community tells her what she must do if she is to receive the services she needs . . . In most instances the plan for the baby is pre-determined. Often these matters are decided without her being able to state her own preferences.” Helping Unmarried Mothers, by Rose Bernstein, copyright 1971*

Or the natural mother realizes only much later that she was coerced, not realizing it at the time, when she finds out that carefully-researched methods were used on her that would increase the likelihood she would sign those papers. An expectant mother, labouring mother, or new mother may not realize at the time that various practices were being done to her in order to ensure she would surrender her baby. Thousands if not millions of dollars in federal money in the U.S. and Canada has gone into studies researching how to get more mothers to surrender. These adoption studies do not hide their purpose. Even open adoption was designed for this purpose, to get more babies to market.

Why was this done? In part, because of the post-WWII consumer demand for healthy white infants:

“… the tendency growing out of the demand for babies is to regard unmarried mothers as breeding machines…(by people intent) upon securing babies for quick adoptions.” – Leontine Young, “Is Money Our Trouble?” (paper presented at the National Conference of Social Workers, Cleveland, 1953*)

“For every healthy newborn available, there are now almost forty potential parents searching.” – (“Love for Sale” by Nelson Handel, Adoptive Families Magazine, 2000).

Adoption is now North America’s largest multi-billion dollar unregulated industry. Agencies, lawyers, and facilitators exist as “baby brokers,” practicing adoption as a commercial transaction where people pay tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for an unrelated baby (In many other nations, this is known as human trafficking).

When I found the book “Death by Adoption” back in 1982, I discovered other socio-political reasons for what had been done to me, and why adoption was an issue of discrimination against women:

“Adoption is a violent act, a political act of aggression towards a woman who has supposedly offended the sexual mores by committing the unforgivable act of not suppressing her sexuality, and therefore not keeping it for trading purposes through traditional marriage. The crime is a grave one, for she threatens the very fabric of our society. The penalty is severe. She is stripped of her child by a variety of subtle and not so subtle manoeuvres and then brutally abandoned.” – Joss Shawyer, Death by Adoption, Cicada Press (1979)

For example: My baby was taken right at birth for adoption, by hospital staff. I had never told them that I wanted to surrender my baby. I wanted to keep my baby (but no-one ever asked me about this or gave me this as an option).  They put me in a room far from the maternity ward to keep us separated, and kept me drugged for days.   I was finally allowed to see him for about 5 minutes, but bulldog nurses kept a hawk-like watch on me to ensure I could not even pick him up.  I was not welcome in that nursery.   I found out later from my son that they even transfered him over to another hospital to keep him from me! Then I learned two decades later, by reading articles in nursing journals and the government inquiry testimony of hospital administrators — and through hearing the stories of dozens of other natural mothers across Canada — that taking babies at birth was routine, and done specifically to prevent a mother from keeping her baby, to prevent all contact in the intent that she would be prevented from “bonding with” her baby, to prevent her from “changing her mind (i.e. preventing her from making ANY real decision about adoption, as that can be made only post-recovery.) At age 17, I had no idea that this was why my baby was taken. I also did not know that it violated my parental rights, discriminated on the basis of marital status (in treating me different from married mothers), and constituted abduction under the Criminal Code of Canada:

“(281) Abduction of Person Under Fourteen – Every one who, not being the parent … unlawfully takes, entices away, conceals, detains, receives or harbours that person with intent to deprive a parentof the possession of that person is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years.”

A mother may also “come out of the fog” when she discovers that other mothers “not on the adoption treadmill’ were treated differently. An example is when an agency/lawyer or parents tell(s) you: “You are 17. There is no way you can to go college and get a job with a baby — you’ll be in poverty on welfare for the rest of your life.  Besides, children raised by single mothers turn into criminals and if you don’t sign he’ll sit in foster care until you finally do!” You are not told about welfare and your parents are firm that you are NOT allowed to bring your baby home (after all, they already shut you away in (or you were shamed into “turning yourself in” to) a maternity facility, wage home, etc. so that relatives and neighbours would never find out).

A mother won’t realize at the time that this is coercion as she whole-heartedly believes the lies that the adoption worker told her — and no-one tells her differently. Then years later you meet someone your age who DID keep her baby, went to college (where there was an on-campus daycare), and works at a better or equal job, and her baby didn’t starve — you realize that at age 17 you were lied to and surrendered your baby because you believed this lie. Nevermind finding out that the paycheque of the person or agency who told you this depending on them “making enough sales”! This equates to legal conflict of interest.

For me, another wake-up call came when I met my friend Pashta back in 1990. She was a few years older than me, but also had her first baby when she was 17, also in Canada. I asked her how it could be that the hospital allowed her to keep her baby and did not take her baby at birth. Her answer: The difference was that she was married!

Does this mean I “changed my story”?  No, not at all. But it means I did not realize at age 16 and 17 how coercion worked. All I knew at the time I lost my baby was that I wanted to keep my baby and that I had no choice but to sign those papers in a state of numbness and shock. At age 17 I thought it was “normal” and legal and that somehow I did not deserve or have a right to my baby. Only years later did I find out how it was done such that I had no chance or choice, why it was done, and that it had been done to thousands of other women across Canada.

Merry Yule!

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To all my Pagan friends!  May the the Lord and the Lady in all their incarnations, and the Gods and Goddesses of Winter –  Father Óðinn, Mother Holda, Skaði, and Ullr — bless you this Holiday Season.

merry-yule

Merry Yule to All!!!

RING OUT SOLSTICE BELLS! :)

(And to my non-Pagan friends, here’s some links if you are curious: YuleÓðinn, Holda, Ullr, Skaði, Neopagan & Pagan religious traditionsGermanic Paganism.)