Birthmother Gaslighting Manipulation by the Adoption Industry

Birthmother Gaslighting Manipulation by the Adoption Industry

Are Birthmothers who Relinquish Babies to Adoption Victims of Gaslighting?

Gaslighting is a sophisticated manipulation tactic which certain types of personalities use to create doubt in the minds of others. I have read blog posts where growing emotional dependent Adoptees By Use Of “Gaslighting” has been discussed, but a recent link on gaslighting flowing around the nets, have made me start thinking about adoption agencies and adoption professionals using gaslighting techniques on birthmothers.

The term “gaslighting ” comes from  a stage play and suspense thriller from the 1930s entitled “Gas Light,”.  The husband makes his wife think  she is losing her mind by making subtle changes in her environment, including slowly and steadily dimming the flame on a gas lamp, hence the term.

Applying Gaslighting to The Adoption Process

I know many birthmothers who have “chosen” to relinquish a child to adoption have great difficulty explaining the very subtle coercion and thought process that goes into it.  It’s not so obvious to be called brainwashing. It is often not forceful enough to be openly accepted as coercion. We don’t even know or want to call ourselves “victims”. I don’t know how many times a member of the general public, or even one in the AdoptionLand community, will accussorily  say, “You choose it. No one held a gun up to your head.” And it is true for many of the birthmothers who surrendered post Baby Scoop Era, in the more “gentle” times of open adoption. No one held a gun to our heads and we often thought we wanted to sign the relinquishment consent forms, but then years later, out from under the spell of the Adoption Kool-aid, we wonder ourselves at why we did such an act and what the fuck were we thinking. Yes, now we can see the lies and vital information not given to us, but how come so many of us fall for these tricks? Surely, we are not all stupid!

 So let’s look at applying the techniques of gaslighting to the act of relinquishing a child for adoption.

I particular find this phrase to ring really true:

“A sophisticated tactics of manipulation — to create so much doubt in the minds of their targets of exploitation that the victim no longer trusts their own judgment about things and buys into the assertions of the manipulator, thus coming under their power and control.”

Take out the word “judgment” and replace it with “emotions” or “desires” or “even more accurate “abilities’. Adopting professionals do often inflate the natural doubt and fears of a “crisis” pregnancy and it does bolster the feelings that a expectant mother cannot parent the unborn child successfully. She no longer trusts that  her love and desires for the child are enough and buys into the solution of adoption, thus doing exactly what the adoption professionals or, by default, what the adoption parents desire, her baby.

Doubting One’s Ability to Mother; is Gaslighting by Adoption Agencies to Blame?

“Effective gaslighting can be accomplished in several different ways. Sometimes, a person can assert something with such an apparent intensity of conviction that the other person begins to doubt their own perspective.”

Think of how society, in general, views adoption;  It is a wonderful process. A selfless loving act. Adoptees are lucky and grateful. The poor unwanted babies deserve the homes and love and the deserving couples. These views permeate almost every possible view of adoption and are almost universally accepted  and magnified from within the agency walls. It’s not so much that a mother at risk might doubt her perspective, but she begins to doubt her desires, she doubts her worthiness, her ability to parent.

“Bringing up historical facts that seem largely accurate but contain minute, hard-to-prove distortions and using them to “prove” the correctness of one’s position is another method.”

This part SCREAMS adoption agency tactics to me.  If an expectant mother should contact an adoption agency, the materials then given to any such mother at risk looking for “adoption information” is completely distorted, yet, as the professionals, she is under the obligation to trust them. Typical “birthmother information packages” contain the loving “testimonies” of said agency by other birthmothers singing the praises  for relinquishment. They also are packed full of “hopeful adoptive families” that likewise tell of their abilities, worthiness and their desires that  reinforce  how much they “deserve” to be parents. The Gladney run adoption propaganda campaign aka Bravelove is a perfect example of this.

Of course, no birthmother testimony produced by any agency will tell of the great heartache and in detail or the risks of a closed adoption. And no “Dear Birthmother” package by any adoptive parents will speak of marital woes. So in reality, yes, this is another birthmother who went though the agency and yes, these are couples who desire your baby, but their stories have been scrubbed of anything that might cause a mother considering adoption to question the information given to her and the message is reinforced; Relinquishment and adoptive parents are better than what she has to offer.

Pre Birth Matching is a Form of Gaslighting

“Gaslighting is particularly effective when coupled with other tactics such as shaming and guilting. “

I could take the obvious view here and look at the general feelings of shame that happen when one find themselves pregnant before planned. The betrayal of one’s body to reproduce when not desires when “everyone knows that sex can result in a pregnancy.” The guilt of feeling that a mother to be has let down herself, her partner, her family, society, but I think applying the concept of pre birth matching with adoptive parents is more accurate.

When a mother considering adoption and an prospective adoptive family are in contact before the birth and an emotional connection begins to be made, the thought of “changing one’s mind and keeping the baby” resulting in a “failed” adoption equals great heartache for the potential adoptive family. Anyone who refuses to see that the concept of matching pre birth does not carry strong implications and put increased pressure on a mother at risk to follow through with the relinquishment is just not opening their eyes.

I can no longer count the numbers of birthmothers who had said, too long after the fact; “I wanted to keep my baby, but the adoptive parents were so happy and I didn’t want to hurt them” Recently, I was having a conversation with a “birthmother counselor” at an adoption agency asking specifically about their procedure during a revocation of adoption consent and she made sure to tell me that “it is devastating for the adoptive parents.” The tactic of making a potential birthmother taking on the responsibility of the adoptive parents emotional happiness is definitely guilt inducing.

Please Read “the promise of ‘openness’ lures vulnerable mothers-to-be” over at birthmother first mother forum for some more great adoption agency tactics

Subtle and Covert Methods Hidden Behind Benevolence

“Anything that aids in getting another person to doubt their judgment and back down will work. Gaslighting is just one of the many weapons in the arsenal of personalities hell-bent on having their way, even if it means doing so by subtle and covert means of conning others…..they will do whatever it takes to secure and maintain a position of advantage over others.”

Again, the use of “subtle and covert means of conning others” really speaks to common practices in the adoption process.

“And some of the most effective means at their disposal are tactics that conceal their malevolent intent while simultaneously prompting their “target” to accede to their desires.”

Here, a typical adoption agency does manage to perfectly conceal their ultimate goal; to get a mother to relinquish. They literally ooze  their benevolence to a woman facing a crisis pregnancy; we’re here to help, it’s all your choice, we are available to you 24/7, you can decide, etc. They, in no way, ever come clean and say that a mother at risks’ child is needed to pay their bills.  Adoption agencies hid behind the guise of being a “non profit” convincing the rest of the world that they are there only to help these poor mothers in crisis an find these poor unwanted babies a loving home.

“Deception is often the key ingredient in manipulation. Deception can be accomplished by outright denial, distortion of key aspects of events, and a variety of other methods, especially the more sophisticated lying techniques…..a really accomplished liar can deceive another person by merely reciting a litany of absolutely true things — while deliberately and cleverly leaving out one or two crucial elements that would change the entire character of what they’re trying to make you believe.”

So many aspects of life as a birthmother are definitely denied, concealed and distorted by the adoption professionals. The established research about relinquishment, the risks to the adoptee, the chances of secondary infertility, the legally of open adoptions just to start. If a mother considering adoption as actually given the full depth of information to consider when “choosing” adoption, then perhaps we could begin to call adoption relinquishment a “choice”.

“But a common element among all the tactics manipulators use is that they cause the person being targeted to doubt their gut instincts about what’s going on. Their gut tells them they’re under attack or that someone is trying to get the better of them, and they intuitively go on the defensive. But because they often can’t find any clear, direct, objective evidence that the other person is merely trying to disadvantage them, they start doubting and questioning themselves.”

The gut instinct here that is being doubted with this aspect of the gaslighting techniques is the maternal-infant bond. I think the most clear cut example of this is the time frame after the birth of the child slated for adoption. After the baby is born and the natural bonding process kicks in, a mother considering relinquishment is most susceptible to “change her mind.” And what do the adoption agency representatives do? They contact the adoptive parents if they are not already at the hospital. They try to get the mother to sign her relinquishment consent forms as soon as possible. They visit her and “remind” her “why she made the adoption plan in the first place” making sure she recalls her dire situation and that nothing is changed. Her natural feelings of loving and wanting her child as chalked up to “being hormonal” and dismissed.  She is cautioned to think clearly and logically rather than give in to her emotions leading her to gain doubt and question her motivations, her abilities, her feelings and eventually the worth of her motherhood.

Why is it Called an Adoption Surrender?

To “surrender” means to “cease resistance to an enemy or opponent and submit to their authority.” When the perceived enemy is one’s own flawed maternal desires and the authority is the adoption agency masking as a trusted advisor.

“This is the real secret of effective manipulation. If the “target” were solidly convinced they were in the process of being done in, they’d more likely put up more resistance instead of capitulating. Manipulators know this. They win by getting the other person to back down or give in.”

All too many birthmothers don’t see it coming. How many, including myself, have defended our adoption agencies? We cannot imagine that they really didn’t not care about us! How dare anyone call into question their motivations and our abilities to make a solid choice! Of course, we cannot see that this was their plan all along, if we did then it wouldn’t work. The maternal instinct to defend our babies from someone “taking” them would go into overdrive like great angry mother bears,  rather they convince us to willingly hand over our children for all our own best interests.

“Sometimes the most effective way to do that is to avoid red-flagging their intentions but rather get the other person to unwittingly but voluntarily surrender. Instill shame, instill guilt, instill fear, or instill great doubt, and the other person will likely back off the stance they really wanted to take.”

And then call it choice and a birthmother gets the blame. Reading this, I can say, I was truly gaslighted by my adoption agency.  How about you? Victims of Adoption agency gaslighting raise your hand.

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine,, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

1 Comment on "Birthmother Gaslighting Manipulation by the Adoption Industry"

  1. My daughter proclaims her gratefulness to be parented by a couple. Yet has shared with me, her mom was not ready to raise a child, was infertile, etc. Then she became pregnant, adoption was suggested and some inference that she was just like her mother. Her mother also went so far as to suggest that her faillure as a mother was choosing to attend the wrong church, which resulted in her daughter’s poor choices, like her birth mother. There is an avoidance of birth mother contact with a mom.
    I am told I am stronger, me the birth father, for having and desiring contact with our daughter and her parents. Yet, she sat down and told me with the greatest of courage, the saddest tale I had ever heard, but long expected, her story of how she came to give up our child. How after, she chose to work for a day care, and did cocaine constantly to bear the pain of being such a loser.
    Her son writes about the loss and how profoundly crippling it is for her.
    I am so confused by the complexities, so desire, our crippled lives, to be bandaged.

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