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)


Joe Soll said...

I think adoption is an act of violence against a mother. It then turns into an act of violence against the adoptee.

Joe Soll, LCSW
Author of "Adoption Healing... a path to recovery" and "Evil Exchange"

Erika said...

i wish someone would explain this to my child's adoptive mother.

i often compare the love adoptee's feel towards a-parents as stockholme syndrome.

its SICK.

HeatherRainbow said...

I am a mother, and I was coerced. Suffice it to say I have never heard of a mother who consented to adoption that knew all of the consequences of adoption. However, if they did know and did it willingly... then yes.

adoptionroadkill said...

heather, the analogy to explain how it would be perceived as an act of violence no matter how forced the mother was, is the horrible violation where siblings are forced by an abusive parent to themselves abuse younger siblings. the ULTIMATE responsibility for ALL the violence rests with the parent, but the younger child will perceive it as violent no matter what the circumstances for the older child were.

i'm interested in the adoptee POV, because natural moms are starting to speak up about the violence done to them, but i'm wondering if adoptees experience it as such as well.


Is it an act of violence? Good question. You always force me to think. I think adoption as it is and was practiced is a crime. I think adoption is emotionally violent. We all think of violence as physical brutality. In adoption, they use mental and emotional abuse to wear down a parent. They use words to prey on the emotions of a natural mother and father. It strips a woman and a man of their parenthood. Society and those involved in child procurement use words against the parents. To read (please pardon the terminology) B!^%hmother Good mother by the National Council for Adoption, you can see it. Then in their factbook III, they call the mothers and fathers of loss biological strangers. My attitude towards it is which is it? Either they are good mothers or biological strangers. Adoptive parents need to realize that they can't have a child without a natural parent. They need to respect the natural parents because in doing so they are respecting their child.

As an adoptee, yes it is a form of violence as well. Any adoptee who speaks out is considered troubled, mentally ill, angry, and ungrateful. I get told regularly that I should be grateful that I was aborted or dumped. I get told that all of my parents would ashamed of me. That right there is emotionally violent. Again, either we were trash or we are gifts. Which is it? Its a double standard. I have been treated like a shameful secret all of my life. I don't think anyone intended it that way. It just happened. I was allowed to tell anyone that I was adopted. It is a constant battle within my soul to not be sucked into the darkness and cruelty of adoption. I walk so closely to the edge of death every day. Some days farther and some days closer.

I don't know if it explains it. I may post about this and link back to you.

Still Born said...

Is there a difference between 'an act of violence' and 'a violent act' because I'm inclined to describe it as the latter.

suz said...

"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)

One of my favorite quotes by Joss.

Anonymous said...

it is violence to separate babies from mothers

there is only one mother a baby wants, mine wasn't there so i must have cried till i fell into despair.

since the age of 7 i wanted to kill myself, but i knew it would cause others pain, and my purpose was to ease the pain of others, so i suffered silently.

adoption is evil

The Passionate Peach said...

Thanks for writing this ~ the harsh reality.

I once heard someone say that the definition of "abuse" is "being used for something other than your purpose".

Changing the legal identity of a child and locking their original, God-given identity away forever ~ stripping them of their very origin, genealogy, relationships with those from whom they come ~ it sounds very much like a violent act and feels like one in the core of this adoptee.

Society is perpetuating a crime against mothers/children in current adoption laws ~ jmho.

joy said...

As an adoptee, I have to say, what surprises me is this sounds like a new idea to you, that this is a conclusion you are tentatively drawing.

An abandoned infant feels like he/she is in a life threatening situation, with zero resources.

It seems pretty self-evident.

I don't know, it continues to amaze me how inhuman we adoptees are perceived to be.

Robin said...

After 14 years of reunion with both my adult surrendered children, I think that the violence perpetrated against the mother causes a violent act against the child. When you can see the damage so plainly and it is so evident where it originated, you can't come to any other conclusion. The only thing is that those of us from the BSE were assured that our children wouldn't miss us, that they would "bond" with the adopters and wouldn't need us at all and, because I was young and naive, I believed that. I also know how many of my contemporaries and I have stated that, had we known what was going to happen to our children, we would have broken the law, stolen away with them during the night...whatever it took, but we were made to feel totally unnecessary to the child's wellbeing. I was astounded when my daughter searched for and found me. I was sure that neither of my children would want anything to do with me.

Anonymous said...

As an adoptee I don't agree with this. Yes there's coercion, yes most of the parents of these young mothers forced them to relinquish their children, yes some made bad choices but the crime was committed by people other than the birthmom, adoptee or adoptive parents. I don't consider myself a victim. My birthmom was a victim in the fact that she felt she had no other choices (yes she did have choices even back in the 60's in her case).

The word violence does not belong in the verbage of adoption.


Its violence at its finest because no one can see the marks left behind. society makes it almost impossible for those harmed to speak out against it.

I have to wonder what you do define as violence, anonymous.

Have you been told that you should shutup and be grateful that you were not aborted or dumped in a dumpster? At the very minimum its emotionally abusive. I do consider it emotionally violent.

I do not consider myself a victim to the extent that you mean but I do consider myself and my natural mother in the extent that is intended in this post. I think it does belong in the context of adoption.

Dana Seilhan said...

And this is not just in your imaginations. Speaking as someone who surrendered her almost-three-year-old and then kept her second child almost nine years later when people were telling me I should give her up too... They brought her in to me after she was born, and I said her name, and she heard my voice and shut right up. She knew who I was. She remembered my voice.

People think you're just a container for the baby they want. It is horseshit. I was able to witness that for myself. The baby knows who you are. The baby suffers if she never sees you again.

Anonymous said...

Dana, That's something I've always thought. An unplanned pregnancy by someone not in the best circumstances does not make one woman the brood mare to others who cannot or will not gestate their own child. A child belongs to it's biological parents, and the way things are done now are disgusting, with guilt laid on so thick of how a kid will have a "better life" than the birth mother and father could give that they often feel they have no choice if they love thier child but to give it up.

Kristy said...

Are you kidding me? Seriously. Okay, I was adopted the moment I was born. I was nourished by 9 months from a mother who didn't even REALIZE she was pregnant, until she had bad "heartburn" one morning, went to the ER, and TOLD she was in labor. She gained 10 lbs during her ENTIRE pregnancy. I weighed 5lb 15 oz, leaving about 4 lbs for placenta and all the other fun garbage that comes along with it. That's not much. No prenatal care.

I was given to two people who 7 years prior, had a baby that died 2 days after it was born due to developing blood poisoning. They waited for SEVEN YEARS before I came along. I was told from day one that I was adopted, (as was my younger brother...not from the same family), that we had two sets of parents out there that loved us so much. I had a great childhood, and when I was 18 and showed an interest in finding my birthparents, I was supported 100%.

I found my birthmother at 19, and was told I was the product of a one night stand, with a man she doesn't even remember. Fabulous. I have a younger 1/2 sister and 1/2 brother, and so I chose to stay in contact with them over the years. I am now 28, and have a son of my own. And what I can tell you is THANK GOD THAT I WAS ADOPTED. I would not have had the experiences I did, the opportunities I did, or the support that I had without being adopted.

Adoption may be violent to someone who is forcibly made to give up her child. It may be violent to a 2 or 3 year old who has already been given a chance to develop a bond with his mother. But to say it's violent to an infant is just too much. I felt no bond with my bio mom through the years, in fact, the only thing I ever wanted is just to know the facts surrounding my conception and why I was given up.

Adoption CAN BE (and WAS in my instance) a selfless act of love on the part of a mother who knows she's ill-equipped to raise a child, and a gift to two people who can't have children.

Lighten up a little bit.

WiccanMom26 said...

I don't think it is violence against the child if the mother "surreders" the child for adoption, of course this depends on the mother's reasons.
My youngest sister was put up for adotion at birth. Everytime I see her I can see that the couple who adotped her (who could have no children on thier own due to medical reasons) are able to offer her a much better life then my parents would have been able to. She is so happy with the acctivities she's in with church and the school. At her age me and my other sister were quiet and withdrawn.

Anonymous said...

Okay, hate to be blunt here, but that is what I am. You asked for adoptees to weigh in on this matter and when they do, they are rebutted by birth parents. Hmm. I myself am an adoptee, so anything I say will be construed as "mislead, brain-washed, clueless" by those who were forced to surrender their children.
I was not raised in the best of circumstances. My adoptive mom was, indeed, unable to give birth to a child. She was also bi-polar and had many other problems. Had I been a child who could have "chosen" I probably would not have chosen my adoptive mom to Mother me. However, after meeting my birth parents and my biosiblings, one who killed herself on meth, one who is currently in a mental institution, I CAN tell you that NOT being raised by my birth family was a blessing.
Act of Violence? No, in my opinion. Act of coercion, act of cowardice, acting without actually knowing the repercussions, yes.
YUP! I said cowerdice. While many first moms chose to keep their children, no matter what the consequences, many opted to follow the "norm" of society. These days, 43% of unmarried, non-commited women choose to keep their babies. Someone had to start that somewhere.
Adoption as an act of violence? Sorry, not on my list. Rape, physical assault, having a baby FORCEFULLY taken from your arms, yes, absolutely.
I should mention that I am also an "adoptress". OUR son came to us from HIS MOTHER who deemed herself to be unfit. We WANTED them to stay together. Now, he's been waiting 8 years to talk to his Mother again... and she refuses at this time.
Okay, attack now, because you will. I am adopted. I am NOT a people pleaser.

Anonymous said...

I agree its extreme violence I am an adoptee and my daddy has suffered unimaginable torment from my being given away a daddy is forever no matter what they say love Judy

Anonymous said...

I'm an adoptee who was taken at sometime before 6 weeks of age, and who also was abused by the adoptive mother for many years. And I completely, totally disagree with this victim-blaming horse***t. These people forced a teenage girl to give up her baby, damaging her for life...and now you want me, her child, to BLAME HER for what they did to her? No way, sorry...if anything, when I think about what they did to her and hear stories from other moms who lost babies I get so angry -- NOT AT the people who did this to her. All of them. From the people who didn't stand behind her when she wanted to keep me, to the people who made money selling me, to the people who bought me...THEY are to blame. SHE is not to blame for this and I think that if you started posting blog entries blaming rape victims or domestic violence victims or child abuse victims for what SOMEONE ELSE did to'd not be taken seriously one bit. Nor do I take this seriously, one bit. I love my mother and SHE didn't do anything to hurt me, we are BOTH VICTIMS.

Anonymous said...

I just posted directly above about how I do not blame my mother for being forced to give me up. I just wanted the blog author to know that I am angry at the people posting here and who have linked to this and are posting things that are blaming these mothers. I understand you the blog author are a mother who has suffered the same loss as my mother and I will never blame ANY mother who went through this's not your fault. you never had a choice.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things for me as an adoptee is the fact that throughout my life people have told me how I should feel about my adoption. When I don't express anger about being given up by my natural parents, I'm told that I'm just in denial, that I have unresolved issues regarding my adoption. When I wasn't angry about being adopted and living with people who I am not related to by blood, I was again in denial. The simple fact is I am not in any sort of denial and I find it truly offensive that people are unwilling to give me the respect I am due and recognize that I do know my own feelings on this issue.

While I feel for any mother or father (the fathers are disappointingly forgotten on so many of these pages that I have seen) who had their child unjustly taken from them, to make blanket statements about adoption is completely narrow-minded. Are there adoptions that end badly, in abusive homes or with unfit parents? Yes. Are there families related by blood that experience the same tragedies? Yes. Is a life in foster care without the love and support of a family better than having a child adopted when natural parents are abusive, when there is no choice for the safety of the child but to take the child from his or her home? To say adoption is always an act of violence and should be outlawed is to fail to see the uniqueness of situations of the failings of some people.

As for my own story. I was given up at birth, by both my sixteen year old parents. A decision made by my parents together. Mine was a closed adoption, but my social worker felt it important for me to have some details about where I came from and so I know a little about my parents. The one thing I never needed to be told was that my mother and father loved me. They proved this by giving me two wonderful gifts. They loved me enough to give me life when this could not have been the easiest choice for children, I'm old enough now to know I was a child at sixteen. They also loved me enough to give me the chance for a better life than they would have been able to offer me.

I do not remember being told I was adopted, it is something I have always known. My Mom and Dad never tried to hide that fact from me, or my brother who was also adopted. I am loved by my parents that raised me, loved me, supported me and encouraged me every day of my life. I had everything I could need as a child, I was able to enjoy an excellent education, I had advantages that would not have been mine otherwise.

Most importantly I have my family. My brother is my brother whether we share blood or not. My nieces and nephews are my nieces and nephews just as much as they are the nieces and nephews of my sister-in-law's brother. My cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles are all mine because of love not blood and I would not trade one of them for anything. Seeing my love of my family being compared to Stockholm Syndrome might be the most offensive comment I have ever heard regarding adoption. They are my family and I will defend them to the end, as they would me, and we are not suffering from a mental illness for loving each other.

I love mother and father, I love my mom and dad, I just happen to love them for very different reasons. One for the gifts they gave me in the brief time we were together, for my very life. The other for life they made sure I had growing up and as an adult. But I do know they love me in similar ways, because they have always wanted the best for me. My mother and father wanted it on the day I was born and my mom and dad wanted it on the day they first brought me home.

Stealing a child should never be sanctioned, murdering a woman for a child is a despicable act that should be punished, but do not paint a picture that this is only done for the sake of adoption. Women have murdered to have a children of their own, children have been kidnapped not to be given up for adoption but to be raised by the kidnappers. Situations are unique and should be recognized as such and dealt with as such.

If you all wish to attack for my opinions, feel free to do so. I have a family who love me and that is thanks to adoption, not in spite of it.

adoptionroadkill said...

anonymous, i do wonder how much "choice" your natural mother and father had at age 16. Not old enough to vote, to sign any commercial contract without parental consent, not old enough to get an abortion or medication in many areas w/o parental notification or consent -- but considered "old enough" to give away their first child?

many many young parents thrive with family and social support. the lies about teen motherhood being a 'tragedy' are nothing more than research being misinterpreted and results skewed. recent studies have shown otherwise, that young mothers actually can do better in life than had they postponed childbearing. with the support they deserved, your natural parents could likely have kept you. the tragedy is that this may have been yet another "unnecessary adoption." :(

to address another point you make. i doubt that i have ever denied the love an adoptee feels for their adoptive parents. don't put that label onto me. i was raised in a "blended family" and i know that step-parents and adoptive parents and other non-related family members can be loved just as much.

you have a family who loves you, but you have another family who likely didn't have to lose you in the first place.