Monday, April 07, 2008

Adoption: Is surrendering a baby an act of violence?

Just wanted to drop in and let you know i have not forgotten about you, friends and readers. Life has just been very busy lately all around.

But I wanted to share some thoughts with you. I have been corresponding lately with some wonderful people who do research on trauma and violence, especially violence (physical, emotional, psychological, or sexual) against mothers and children.

And it struck me, of course we all know that "disembabyment" (using coercion to make a mother surrender her baby for adoption) is an act of violence; HOWEVER, is the surrender ("placing") of a baby for adoption also an act of violence, perpetrated on the child?

The fact that someone is coerced to perform a violent act, or is an innocent victim of the same act, does not make it any less violent for the other victim involved: the child who is ripped away from family, heritage, blood kin, family history, and the nurturing maternal presence he/she has bonded with for nine months and knows of no other.

I have met many adoptees who have very justified feelings of anger, rejection, and betrayal. But what if it is not just anger and hurt from being rejected: What if there is also a very justified feeling of having been the victim of violence? What if because there are no words for this crime, we all have a hard time expressing the emotions resulting from it? Or recognizing it as a crime. I.e., if the mother voluntarily surrenders her baby, it is an act of violence against her baby. If she is coerced into doing it, then she was forced to commit an act of violence and as such was a victim as well.

What if this is why most of society shuns women who have surrendered their babies? What if this is why many mothers who have surrendered feel guilt and shame? Because they have actually committed "a crime with no name." A crime that became socially sanctioned when infant adoption was legally invented ~150 yrs ago, but even now which makes many people feel uncomfortable. A crime now promoted with carefully-researched advertising campaigns geared at impressionable young mothers who want to "do the right thing." A crime that is no longer considered a crime as it is now "legalized abandonment," but about which all humans have an instinctive feeling is still just as violent. Is this why many people's first response to a natural mother is, "I could never give away my child!"

Not violent? Let your imagination picture a 4 or 5 yr old being suddenly and permanently pulled from their mothers arms ... if i were a young child it would certainly feel violent to me. The only difference? A 4 to 5 year old is verbal and has words for their loss, their pain, their trauma. Love her or hate her, this is what Nancy Verrier says:

" While adoptive parents may refer to the child as "chosen" and to themselves as the "real" parents, the child has had an experience of another mother to whom he was once attached and from whom he is now separated which he can never completely ignore. The words we use to describe that separation or the cognitive reasons we give for it make no difference to the feeling sense of the child. As one adoptee told me, "Being wanted by my adoptive parents didn't compare to being unwanted by my [mother]." Whether we refer to this separation as surrendering or relinquishment, the child experiences it as abandonment."

If the act of surrender, or of being taken, is a violent act against a helpless newborn, then how about a billboard campaign about "Giving away your baby is an act of violence. If you really loved your baby, you would keep your baby. Have a heart!" Tell it like it truly is.

Maybe it would counter the latest nauseating NCFA-promoted "Adoption is being a good mother" and "Adoption is a loving option" billboard and TV ad crap.

If you are an adoptee reading this: What do you think? What do you feel about it? Do you feel that it was an act of violence you experienced? (Comments enabled for this post)