Monday, May 31, 2010

Attacked By Your Own

I have been reading too much lately. Remember that last post that said I felt icky, well this past week has been one of those weeks that my eyes were accosted. My heat felt daggers. My soul was rocked reading the words of others. The most disturbing part was that those words, those swords that cut so deep, those relentless letters that formed such painful thoughts, those words were spoken from other mothers of loss. I know these mothers, I read them often. Why? Because there is something to be learned from them. They have a different experience that was a very dark part of not just adoption history, but our nation's history.

The mothers that I speak of are the mothers of the Era of Mass Surrender, or EMS, or for some the Baby Scoop Era, or BSE. Their stories, their memories are nothing less than horrific. I am not making light of the issue, I mean what I say. I cannot speak for them and will not try, but know that these women were not given a choice, often were coerced to relinquish their rights as guardians to their children, some were drugged, some were blatantly lied to, it goes on and on. There are so many voices from that generation of degradation of unwed mothers it is just a terrible part of history. They have something to say and made their voices known. I am thankful that they are out there, talking and reminding everyone that this actually existed in our history, so that it is not repeated ever again.

I believe that it was those voices, those advocates for mothers of loss that helped create what is now considered open adoption. How? Well, there are many documented studies that show that what used to be the tactics of getting parental rights was not legal, nor was it in the best interest for anyone! What it did show was forced adoption was not a healthy way to adoption. Laws were put into place, wording was changed, more attention was given to the wants of the mother, and for future generations like me ... well it showed the states that railroading a mother would not work. I spoke my mind, kept my cool and eventually was able to see my children grow. I know that when I was pregnant, this whole idea of open adoption was still very new, very innovative, very controversial. It was controversial because these women began to speak up, they started to share their stories and band together as a force, they wanted to change adoption. They were being heard. Things changed, but I don't think they changed the way they thought it would.

So from this change comes a different generation of birth mothers, oh yes I did say those words and for very good reason. A generation of women who were influenced not only by those in the same shoes before them, but a whole slew of women who were influenced by a period of time when women were rising up the respect ladder with activists like Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug and Betty Friedan, women of strength with a voice. This generation was very different from the generation before it, women were being heard beyond what had been allowed before and the concept of open adoption was coming about in a whole new light. I know that these two sides of a mother's view are like night and day. They are. And sometimes a conversation between them will take ugly turns, dangerous curves and some straight aways that will have your heart racing 100 miles an hour.

I get it, I know that there cannot be a middle ground for some. I know that they are just as passionate about telling their story as I am about telling mine. What I don't get is the attacks. It seems to me that what these ladies are forgetting is that time when they were going through their pain, struggling with the loss, trying to make sense of it all. It is such a lonely place. It seems that you are the only one who is going through it, that no one could understand. What they did not have was the wonderful benefit of the world reading their thoughts. I wonder if they think about the effect that all this Internet has on a new or even somewhat seasoned birth mother? The fact that so many can come in and just rip you for your beliefs, your truths as you know them? Sure, there were those that may have told them face to face over the years. But, did they ever have complete strangers come into their living room and talk to poorly to them, speak so disrespectfully to them? I would think not. I would think that they could remember such a heart wrenching time in their lives and realize that they may just be hurting more than they are helping. To talk so poorly to FELLOW mothers, to keep commenting about how others do not know their own stories, to wrangle friends to go comment and harass mothers looking for support, to refer to those mothers wanting to help others as cult leaders ... well, who wouldn't be disturbed reading all of this? Who wouldn't need counseling reading all of this? Who wouldn't want to crawl in a whole and hide away from the world reading all of this?

Such a shame that sometimes our toughest critics are those who should be able to understand, but who choose not to. I appreciate your voices, but you have to know when to leave people alone. Sometimes it almost borders on terrorism.


Anonymous said...

This is absolute hogwash, and exactly waht the adoption industry wants you to think ---you are different from us...sorry...the bottom line is that they got your child...and they are smart enough to have you walking around being "happy little birthmothers". Oh yes, they have perfected it well.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

Thank you for helping me make my point.

etropic said...

Ah yes, & so it begins again...Thanks for trying once again though Kelsey. I applaud your effort.

LeMira said...

Kelsey, I personally think you are an amazing woman. You are a braveheart, and I can tell because you have taken your pain, your sorrow, and your loss, and you have turned it to something beautiful - something that can help others heal.

Von said...

I wish people would be courageous enough not to hide behind the anon tag.Women have always been each others worst cricics and best supporters.Lack of compassion is inexcusably whatever our beliefs and experience.
Yes baby snatch era mothers had it tough, my mother's generation had all the stigma, pain etc and they had to scrub floors!It's tough for every generation, including the BeeMommies, so criticised today who will one day open ther eyes and see how it really is, get out from under the feel-good adoption advertising and the attempts to make them feel empowered by creating 'a miracle' for adopters.
Adoption is inhumane, would be illegal in other circumstances and tough on us all, mothers or adoptees.There are so many changes that need to be made, if we all worked towards the same goal we might get there.
LeMira turning your pain, sorrow and loss into something else is not turning it into something 'beautiful'.If it helps others, if it's useful and if it makes us into survivors that's the best of life but it's never 'beautiful'.You'll be telling us to love our pain next!

LeMira said...

Von, you are right. "Useful" is a better word. I'm not always good at finding the right word to describe what I mean, but I still think that what Kelsey is doing is wonderful, and I admire her courage.

Anonymous said...

Mothers were coerced and continue to be coerced now. This coercion is not restricted to the BSE. I know this for a fact because I have witnessed it from mothers. I also believed that I gave up my baby and I was doing a heroic thing but now I realize that this is a lie, a lie that the adoption industry wants you to believe so you can believe you did a good thing. Let me ask you these questions:

1. Where you given all of the info on the life long trauma on your child as a result of adoption?

2. Where you given all of the info on the life long trauma that you would experience as a result of the adoption?

3. Were you advised of your legal rights?

4. Did they explain the documents you were signing?

5. Did they let you know what the revocation of consent time period was?

6. Were you called a birthmother before you gave birth?

7. When did they get you to sign the papers?

6. Did they say you were doing the right thing and that you were a wonderful person for choosing adoption?

Perhaps you are feeling uncomfortable with what was brought up because you know in your heart that there is some truth to what these mothers were trying to express to you.

Anonymous said...

I am a mother (not "birthmother" as i am still a mother) who lost my child to adoption in 1980. I can attest that coercion did not stop with the "BSE" (IF indeed the "BSE" ever did stop! Coercion changed, society changed, BUT there was hardly a drop in surrender rates, not even one order of magnitude).

Open adoption was implemented NOT because it was more humane for mothers, but because it was another form of coercion that could be used to get more babies to market at a time when agencies were facing bankruptcy due to falling surrender rates.

That is the only reason it exists today. Not because it was any "better" -- the industry does not care if it "better" or not for us (research shows it is no less painful/traumatic), but because it was a good lure.

Let's look at it this way: If a mother surrenders her child because she is promised an open adoption, whereas she would have kept her baby if closed adoption were the only choice, then she was coerced into surrendering. The promise of "open adoption" worked to make her surrender her baby, a baby she would have raised. See how insidious coercion is?

So, coercion methods have changed, and many mothers today feel they were not coerced -- and maybe some were not: mainly those who had no interest in keeping their babies, and who did not love or want their babies.

But for mothers who did want/love their babies, even those who only realized that post-birth, looking at their experience once can 99% of the time find they were coerced, even today. This is tragic. :(

I wrote an article on open adoption: "Open Adoption: They Knew It Would Work". Just one more coercion method.

So, I don't see the "new generation" of mothers as having much more free choice than mothers who surrendered pre-1980s. The industry has just become more adept and covert at coercing -- they now have research to show what works and what does not, and they use it.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

Oh I know Anon, coercion still exists and happens to this day. I never said that it did not. I too have spoken to women who are coerced, forced to do what they did not want to do and I do not take away from that at all. I speak about my truths and what I went through while pregnant. I know there were those before me who were not as fortunate as I was in making a choice. I never said I was heroic, I only said that I was strong.

I do not deny the fact that there are bad adoptions and there are horrible things done to women all over regarding this issue. I was not feeling uncomfortable about what was brought up pertaining to me, I know there is a LOT of truth in those women's words. What I am uncomfortable with is the badgering that happens with Senior Mothers, or other mothers who were coerced. There are many new moms out there who are just looking for some support, some voice they can listen to for guidance and help. Some of those new mothers will have the awakening that the other mothers have had, I have no doubt about that. But do the Senior mothers really need to beat it with a stick after already getting their point across? I say let these new mothers make up their minds for themselves, if they are not allowed to do that...then isn't it just another form of coercion? And I am happy to answer your questions.

1. Where you given all of the info on the life long trauma on your child as a result of adoption? Yes I was.

2. Where you given all of the info on the life long trauma that you would experience as a result of the adoption? Yes I was. I had two women in my family who were EMS mothers and I also knew one other birth mother personally.

3. Were you advised of your legal rights? Everytime I went to see the State.

4. Did they explain the documents you were signing? Yes they did. I also read them three times to make sure that I understood what I was signing.

5. Did they let you know what the revocation of consent time period was? Yes

6. Were you called a birthmother before you gave birth? No actually, I was called Kelsey. The state reserved the term biological mother when reading the paperwork.

7. When did they get you to sign the papers? Six weeks after birth.

6. Did they say you were doing the right thing and that you were a wonderful person for choosing adoption? No, actually it was quite the opposite. The State of Missouri treated me like a criminal and told me what a horrible woman I was for choosing adoption. I was called a whore, a slut, a money grubbing hoosier and I was reminded time and time again that women who chose adoption for their children deserved no rights at all. I was given rights, I made sure of that. I made my own choices, not coerced by anyone but myself and my beliefs. I chose the right parents for my children and they threw out the papers and guidelines as soon as everything was final. We have been in contact ever since, and believe it or children are wonderful individuals who tell me how happy they are and how proud they are of me for being strong enough to know what was right for them at the time.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

I agree Von, about the voices coming together to hear all the people, and then make the education of adoption the real focus. So much needs to change, for all involved. I will leave you with this link to the Bloggers Unite page I started a long time ago. There are a couple of people signed up, but I would really like to see your voice over there, too. The more voices, the more opinions, the more chance there is to get the ball rolling to make changes.

Robin said...

Wow, Kelsey, thank you again for your brave stance. Agree or disagree, I hope we can appreciate the thoughtfulness in your point of view. I am an adoptive mother, my daughter came from an orphanage in Russia, and I can honestly say I never thought of her mother in such deep terms. Our adoption agency didn't know her story, and I'm really glad they didn't because I wouldn't want them translating it for me. Part of me wants to know, but only from her, should that ever be possible. I now see that she could have felt absolutely anything, from helplessness to relief to misery to calm. She probably felt all of that. Thank you again for helping me open up the space in my heart to consider all of these possibilities and the space in my brain to divorce what she did (for which I am eternally grateful) from why she did it (which I may never know).

Anonymous said...

Cindy, birthmom said...

I am a birthmom, my little girl just turned 4, we have open adoption, including pics, videos, visits, phone calls, etc. I am the red head featured on

As far as Questions 1 and 2, I was not told about that. I was told about the stages of grief and that I would go thru them. I was not told my heart would break this way that it has at times, and at times that this loss would totally consume me.
I have mixed feelings, because I have joy I was part of creating a family.
I still feel that at that time in my life I made the best decision I could for her. As well, I got to choose her parents, then I got to fly out to Arizona and stay in their home for 4 days, then later, for almost 2 months, I got to live with them and really get to know them, and give birth there, I would not take any of that time back for anything.
Yet I feel now, like selfish, if I could go back, because of my trauma and heartbreak I would have kept her.
Yet I still must say she has 2 great parents, and a great life, and I am thankful for a very open adoption. I pray someday she can tell me "Thank you, I have 2 great parents and had a great life growing up" and that she can also feel she had a lot of love, not only from them, but from me and see me as part of her extended family.
So it is bittersweet. I read somewhere some days back, maybe on here, "Adoption can be one's greatest accomplishment and biggest regret." My counselor, Dr. Jennifer Bliss of IAC, told me time and time again, "It is bitersweet" and I must fully agree.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

Cindy, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You are right, it can be bittersweet. Sounds like you have a good head on your shoulders and a strong heart. It is a long and ever evolving journey in which no one can predict the outcome. Yes, there are studies about the effects of adoption on both the adoptee and the birth parents. There is a lot of information to find on the internet and I encourage you to do so. I always keep in mind that no one said it would be easy, and no one said there were guarantees in adoption.

I think you should do some research, do some reading so that you can sort things out for yourself. You may find that the choices you made were right for your children at the time, you may find that there were things that could have been done differently, you may find that there are other voices out there thinking the same things you are. But also keep in mind to be true to yourself, honest with what you believe and keep asking those questions of yourself and the people around you. I find that talking is always a good way to discover more about who you are and what you want out of life.

I thank you again for sharing all of that. Not always easy to open up that way.

Anonymous said...

I guess you lost any sympathy I could have had for you until you said that "yes" you were advised of the life long trauma that your children would experience. And yet you still chose adoption. I can say unequivocally, that had I been given that info alone, I would have scooped up my son and run as far and as fast as I could. Instead i was denied that info and got to find it out when my son was 18 and came to find us. The damage is done, it is deep and I cannot change it now, but oh would that I had a time machine and the info I now possess.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

At least someone asked me and informed me of it. I am pretty sure that my mother had no idea what life long trauma her daughter would have from the divorce of her parents. No one told her how many troubles I would have from my, breathing birth father who walked away me when I was three.

Life has many traumas and tribulations, it is how you handle them and learn from them that allows you to move on and enjoy life, regardless of "what has been done to you."

Anonymous said...

Kelsey I am sorry you lost your dad at such a tender age. However losing one parent cannot compare to losing your mother, your entire family of origin, your heritage and your ancestry.

Kelsey Stewart, Author said...

You are correct, I stand corrected. When you put it in those terms, then there is no comparrison. I think that the point that I wanted to get across is that there is no hurt like not understanding why someone who has access to you ... can see you anytime, call anytime, send a note anytime ... that they choose not to know you. It leaves scars that are a little different. But I thank you for making your point.

Anonymous said...

The point is...that things like "Birth Moms Make Miracles" is all part of the marketing to make adoption palatable to young vulnerable pregnant women and to make them think they are doing something noble, and good etc. Our own flesh and blood is not a "gift" to provide an infertile couple with a child that they desire. Question: What animal in nature would allow another animal to take it's child away from them right after birth without trying to kill the predator? Answer: Human women who are pyschologically "groomed" for adoption.

jennifer north said...

I don't understand why you are attacking her. She didn't want her kid, so let her be.

Anonymous said...

Kelsey is indeed an inspiration! I'm not blind to the fact that coercion still exists in the adoption world, particularly in the realm of international adoption. Our own adoption attempted to steer clear of such things - no agency....private... Our son's first mother actually found us through a mutual friend! I am also deeply concerned about the pain that will be faced by my son's first mother ... and by him in the coming years, but am confident we can all get through it together. I love her like a sister and introduce her as our son's "first" or other mother!

Life is always a miracle, but pregnancy is not always wanted - from reasons of age, maturity, life plan, socioeconomic circumstances - whatever the reason, it is not for us to judge, but to praise young women for choosing adoption over abortion! It is an act of an intelligent woman, full of love for her child and self-sacrifice, NOT the act of a victim of the adoption industry!

~ Heidi

Jan said...

As one of those mothers from the BSE that you refer to, I want to clarify one point. Open adoptions were NOT devised because moms spoke up, nor for the benefit of relinquishing mothers. If you study the history of adoption, you will discover that open adoptions were begun as a way to encourage/entice more women to relinquish through promises (no guarantees)of regular visits, etc. Not enough women were relinquishing babies, and the agencies, etc. needed more adoptable babies, so they began to offer open adoptions.

I don't enjoy seeing mothers who have relinquished children bicker amongst themselves either. However, it is virtually impossible for me (and many other moms) to relate to mothers who encourage expectant women to relinquish children, knowing the effect it will likely have on them, and possibly their children.

Julia - Finding My Way Softly said...

I hope making a comment doesn't stir up difficult feelings, but I did want to give a short comment from an adoptive aunt. (I have siblings with adopted children.)

I have met all of the parents of my nieces and bephew who were adopted. All but one of those parents continues to have refular contact with their birth children. While it isn't ever discussed with the kids, who are all still under 7, each adoptive family has made sure to have an extra space, a bedroom when possible, so that when their birth parents come to visit, they can stay in the homes of the adoptive families.

I don't know *why* open adoptions were created, but they seem so much better for the adopted children, especially when all of the parents are involved in making sure that a child feels loved by all of their parents.

I don't know how common it is that all of the open adoptions that my siblings were part of also included the birth fathers in the process, it may just be the agency that they used is chosen because they work almost exclusively with open adoptions. I do know that the birth father's being included, and invited to spend time with their birth child, along with their spouses (when they have married) has been important to my siblings who are adoptive parents.

I find a lot of blogs that seem to leave out birth fathers, and the roles they can or do play in adoption placement and the open adoption process. I wonder if open adoptions make it easier or harder for birth fathers.

I also wonder if focusing on the incredibly difficult experiences of closed adoptions, and using that as a reference point for judging open adoptions is looking at the process backward. If you come from a viewpoint that adoption should never happen, then no adoption process will make you happy. If you believe that there will always be reasons for children to be adopted, then it seems that the measuring stick that is most important is the long-term mental health of birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted children.

If the focus is on the best outcomes for all of those who have a vested interest in a child that who will be part of an adoption, and all of the parents who will be part of his or her life; then a lot of the arguments seem silly, and not helpful, and maybe even cruel to some or all of those involved in an adoption process.

Just a few thoughts.

Claudia Corrigan D'Arcy said...

Just an FYI re Open Adoption: It's a marketing tactic. I'm not saying that o put you down or argue the point. It's a fact. I have the market research available here.

THIS is what they use in the Infant Adoption Awareness Training now.