Monday, April 23, 2007

Looking at traffic accidents ...

I do not understand it, but it seems that humanity must have a morbid fascination with viewing disaster, death, pain, or affliction. Maybe it is the fact that the bored love to get shocked out of their cozy little worlds, or that we are an innately curious species -- but what is it that compels many of us such that many people just cannot help but slow down and look for the worst when they drive past a particularly bad traffic accident? Is it adrenaline, or is it genuine human concern and caring, that makes people slow down to "take a look" at carnage?

Anyway, out of curiosity, I decided last week to join a particular (new?) little message board I had heard of, rumored to be the site of frequent metaphorical "traffic accidents." No, not Adoption.con, or alt.adoption, but supposedly a kinder, gentler place where "all members of the triad" (as if there is any such things as an "adoption triad"!) could relax and converse in a positive and happy manner (dodging traffic accidents...).

Perhaps I should not mention the name of the group, as this post is not supposed to be about bashing any one message board site, but about an incident illustrating a dynamic common to all other "triad" boards and groups that I have ever belonged to.

But, as with any other triad group I have seen: traffic accident zone it is. And, for some unknown reason, I find myself coming back every day and reading there ...

The particular hit-and-run ...

Anyway, "P.," another natural mother (I use this term out of respect, to respect and honor her as being a Mother to her lost daughter, rather than using a derogatory term analogous to incubator) posted a sincere and insightful post on that forum about coercion and how most people seem to turn a blind eye to it. Why is it that no-one believes us when we speak about the coercion that took our babies from us? Why do they think that our experiences are the exception, rather than the rule? Why is there this stigma that comes up, over and over again, around mothers who have lost children to adoption?

As people-who-adopted are part of this forum -- and in-fact seem not only to set the tone of this forum but to dominate almost every discussion on it -- I was curious to see what the responses would be.

"I'm sorry you felt that way... "

Well, somehow, as i expected, very soon the dismissals began. Although the first person who responded understood, believed, and was cool-- as did the second -- the third, however, gave a mini-lecture about how it was all P.'s personal perception of the situation (stressing though that we have to honor her emotions and personal perception, right?), likening it to how some families faced with the prospect of cancer take the news in stride, while others view it as a huge disaster.
  • Coercion is NOT a matter of perception, it is a matter of legal fact. Emotions, feelings, beliefs, responses .. these are different: One feels fear, pain, loss, violation ... one believes in God or in an ethical code or in the supremacy of law ... but coercion either happens or does not. To say that it is a perception, a feeling, again dismisses P.'s realization and her experience as just being a personal subjective belief rather than a fact, an experience, series of incidents adding up to the loss of her child.

Another person then chimed in with this gem: "I will just say I'm sorry you were made to feel dehumanized."
  • Made to FEEL dehumanized? Again, another variant on "I'm sorry you were [made to] feel this way."... NOT "I'm sorry that you were treated in a dehumanizing manner" or "I'm sorry that you were coerced." Again, an adoptive parent puts it as, not that N. was coerced, but that she just "feels that way"! Let's use an analogy: "You were not date-raped, you just feel that way!" See how it looks?

Reminded me of a conversation I had, my one post-reunion experience with an adoption agency. While looking for a support group, they were recommended to me. So I phoned ... Part of the conversation went like this:

The Agency: "So, when did you place your child?"
Me: "I did *not* place my child for adoption. She was taken from me at birth. I was given no choice."
The Agency: "Oh ... (pause) ... Often, birthmothers *feel* this way ..." (said dismissively)
Me "This is not just a feeling. It actually happened."

Now, perhaps the participants involved don't even realize that what they have done is totally dismiss P.'s experience and reality. Maybe they posted in all innocence, thinking that they were showing support? Or perhaps their responses to her are an unconscious way to protect themselves, to deny that coercion exists in adoption and thus to protect themselves from any niggling question that the child they obtained was perhaps unethically procured for them? Perhaps they are not aware that coercion (including duress) is recognized in law:
Coercion, in law, the unlawful act of compelling a person to do, or to abstain from doing, something by depriving him of the exercise of his free will, particularly by use or threat of physical or moral force. In many states of the United States, statutes declare a person guilty of a misdemeanor if he, by violence or injury to another's person, family, or property, or by depriving him of his clothing or any tool or implement, or by intimidating him with threat of force, compels that other to perform some act that the other is not legally bound to perform. Coercion may involve other crimes, such as assault. In the law of contracts, the use of unfair persuasion to procure an agreement is known as duress; such a contract is void unless later ratified. (from
Is this a feeling, a belief, an emotion? I think not. Maybe the particularly little bits of support are sufficient such that P. does feel supported, does feel that the fact that they "believe she feels coerced" will suffice. Frankly, I think she deserves better.

Aberrations, Mutants, Abnormalities ...

The stigma of being an exiled mother is another fact that P. mentions, and she is right-on with this. Why do people feel uncomfortable around us? Why do they give us looks that either dress-us-down as being unfit to be mothers, scrutinize us under a microscope as if we were some strange disease, or treat us as "cold hearted bitches who gave away" our children?

This quote is from an article on open records, but it is so true about the stigma that surrounds natural mothers:
"It is the child welfare establishment that has provided the picture of 'birthmothers' as indifferent -- as mothers who abandon their unwanted children with a wish to remain forever hidden from them. They know that this is seldom true, but it helps to facilitate their work for the public to believe this. Society does not dismiss the importance of the natural family as readily as the social planners, and so it is useful to portray relinquishing parents as different from caring parents.

"The 'birthmother' must be different, an aberration; for if it were true that she had the same degree of love for her child as all other mothers, the good of adoption would be overwhelmed by the tragedy of it. Adoptive parents are presumably somewhat relieved of guilt if they can be assured that the [first] parents truly did not want their child; for, under those circumstances, it is possible to feel entitled to claim the child of others. Neither society nor the mother who holds the child in her arms wants to confront the agony of the mother from whose arms that same child was taken.
It is true. We are stigmatized because we are seen as aberrations. And not only that, but once you have diminished a mother to being a "birth mother," referring to her by this artificially-created term, you now speak of her uterus, her vagina, her blood and her amniotic fluid. These are not subjects of "polite conversation" with strangers. So, no wonder the people at P's daughter's school play flinched and became uncomfortable when she was introduced to them with this word by the a-parents. ("P," I will link to your blog post where you describe this event if you want me to, or if you prefer to remain anonymous, I will honor that also). She was not only defined solely by, but her role was circumscribed solely by, her reproductive organs. Plus, you can bet that some of them wonder how much she got paid for providing the gestational service: the word "birth mother" is synonymous with "surrogate mother" in the minds of many who are not "adoption-affected."

So, maybe not much carnage on the road today with this incident, luckily. And it is possible that many may not realize that anything actually occurred that was wrong or even out-of-the-ordinary, but once more I see one more dismissal of the experiences of a natural mother on a "triad board," even when people-who-adopt are trying(?) to be supportive. This "kinder, gentler" board is indeed not quite as bad as some boards where a mother's decision to have sex is used against her as justification for disembabyment and to say that thus she had a "choice" (as if one is supposed to lead automatically to the other!). But unfortunately, many still just do NOT "get it."

But I do have to stop looking at these on-line "traffic accidents," reading at the sites where I know they will happen, even if I do fervently pray that I will be surprised and maybe one day a "triad group" will exist where they do not happen. I'm not holding my breath though.

Footnote to "P." I do not know you, but I would LOVE to see your first post on that message board reposted on websites where people read to learn about adoption and its issues. I sent you an email. Stand strong, I hear you. WE hear you.

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