Thursday, November 08, 2007

This is what it's like (Part 1)

Ackkk.. this post got really long. I'm publishing this part first. I'm working on the second part now and hopefully will get it published tomorrow. Like I said, my brain is itchy, so bear with me...

So I'm reading this book called, "The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade." It's a great book, written by Ann Fessler. And as a PAP, it's hard as hell to read.

This passage in particular struck me. The first mom who is speaking is particularly eloquent at expressing what it was like to be an unwed mom during this time period, especially the complete lack of rights or informed consent. She goes on to describe the constant, haunting pain that placing her baby with adoptive parents left on her life. She says that the only way to heal is to have that pain acknowledged:
Instead of always pushing adoption as this loving, wonderful, rescuing thing. Yes, that may be the case for people who adopt. It is not the case for us. You never are whole. Never. It's a hugely damaging thing. It's an enormously injuring, painful, fracturing, amputation of families.
Ouch. I've read blogs by first moms before and they have moved me. But something about this passage stuns me. I think it's the "amputation of families" imagery.

How can I feel good about being part of that? Really? In a way, I think I know a small part of what she's talking about. I am familiar with the constant ache for something you can't have. And I know what it's like to love a baby and send it away. I'm not claiming I feel all of her pain, not at all. But if what PB and I are going through is even a fraction of what she's experiencing, I can't imagine asking someone else to go through it.


Anonymous said...

some days i feel the same way. i don't want to cause another person pain, but i can't believe that she speaks for every birth/first mom. it's true that some may share her sentiments, but there are some who don't feel the constant "amputation of families".

Anonymous said...

That book moved me also. Before reading this book, I would have argued with people who said that women (back then) had no choice but to surrender their baby. I thought OF COURSE everyone has a choice. After reading it, there was only one choice - give up your baby.

To anonymous, read the book, you may change your mind.

Amanda: I do believe it's different today - women have more choices. So today, if a woman is considering adoption, at least know she had other options and adoption may be best choice for her.


Mary Grace said...

This was a huge issue that dh and I had to overcome before moving forward with the foster-adopt process. To build your family on the backs of people who are broken, who are hurting, and who have been living in the raw edges of society .... it just felt so *wrong*. We came to a place of seeing our desire to adopt as something else, something that would actually begin to bring something good into the world, and that was how we decided to to be in an open adoption situation. While this is by no means a perfect situation--birth moms are still going to feel the sting of separation no matter how many visits and cards and emails are exchanged over the years-- but it does allow the focus to be back where I believe it should be: on the children.

FosterMommy said...

It's true that it doesn't always feel that way to firstfamilies. But, of course, sometimes it does. There's no denying it. But just because something is awful for someone else, doesn't mean it can't be a positive for you. and it doesn't mean that it wasn't the best possible choice in a very difficult circumstance.

Shannon says it better than I could. Here are a couple of her posts, but she has a few others on adoption, as well.

In a perfect world, nobody would have an unwanted pregnancy. And achieving a some-what perfect world wouldn't really be too hard. I love Squeak so much that it hurts me that he has this loss - the lost of his firstfamily. If I could go back and get his mom whatever she needed to keep him, or to not get pregnant in the first place, I would.

It's a hard place to be - benefiting from someone's loss.

Robin said...

I have read your post and the comments that have followed and am honestly completely lost. I have never given away a baby or had one taken from me(praying hard:) I am a child of that so called situation and really if my mother was not capable of taking care of me then I should not have been with her. I just think that in the foster adopt process or in most adoptions we are not "taking" anything. In fact we are the ones making it possible for the birth parents to pull it together if they so choose. Anyway, before this gets too long and I get off topic I hope that you know you are wonderful:)))

Rebecca said...

I think a lot of that book has to do with the time. The 40s and 50s and probably even up through the 70s was not a great time in the adoption world, as far as birth parent rights or caring about what they thought. I think many truly were forceably separated, and in some cases, tricked into giving up their children.

Times are different. Yes, I'm sure that it is traumatic and will leave a whole in the majority of the women's lives, but it is now more of a choice. Society today has made it so much more feasible for women to keep their children, even if it isn't even close to the child's best interests.

And there's the minority of women that it's actually not even an issue. My husband's biological parent might be one of those parents. I don't think she really ever found that she had this gaping hole in her life after giving him up. I think he was inconvenient (the pregnancy was the result of an affair with a married man, with home she maintained a friendship with him and his current wife over the years), and it suited her purposes and protected herself by doing so.

I have to believe, as well, that foster to adopt might be THE most ethical method for the very reasons you state - they do everything to make it so the bio-parent can reclaim custody. Those who don't are deemed by a judge and the legal process as unfit and rights are terminated. It shifts the responsibility to the parent, in the end, and I'd like to think that the foster parent knows that if they are able to adopt their foster child, it's not because they coerced a parent or the parent had no choices, but because the parent chose to not parent - either by a voluntary surrender to the court system, or by not doing what the court system told that parent to do. And the randomness of our particular county in placement makes that even more of a relief that you aren't arbitrarily separating families.

To anonymous - I think you'd be surprise that the majority DO feel as if they were forceably amputated from their children, even to this day. And the children, as well. Try talking to some of these women, or reading the book, or talking to the adult adoptees before disregarding the book's perspective. I think, especially back then, and even today, it's a bit more prevalent than you might expect.