Birthmother Wars; When the Positive Fight the Negative

subconscious external justification amoung birthmothers in adoption

Not Internally, but Positive Pollys vs Negative Nancys

subconscious external justification  amoung birthmothers in adoption

I think I have probably written about this before, but it’s been a while and it seems that I have to write about it again because it seems like it is time.

I belong to a bunch of closed Facebook support groups for birthmother support. Now the ones that I belong to, I feel are a mixed groups; meaning that some mothers there consider themselves they have “positive” experiences, but many speak of the more “negative” issues that come along with adoption. Sometimes, all too often, we get a expectant mother who is strongly leaning towards adoption and, yes, many will provide the much needed warnings about the possible pitfalls.  Sometimes usually the expectant  mother really doesn’t want to hear the risks and leaves in a huff while complaining that “this is not support!”

“This Support Group is SO Negative!”

Lately, it seems that someone who feels “Ok’ about their  choice, will express displeasure at what they see as lack of support.  Which pretty much ends up being another long drawn out discussion where the Polly Positives complain about the Negative Nancys and the Negative Nancys defend their right to be negative. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Seriously, it’s been repeated almost nonstop for a month. Or more.

Apparently there are also pure Happy-happy-joy-joy birthmother groups on Facebook.  I don’t know where those ones are or how they are inside. I have never been invited to one of those groups. And that’s OK. I think it might be too much for me! I already know that I have trouble supporting those who have “good” adoptions. I AM working on it and there are even more than handful of other moms who do say that they had a “positive” experience and I really LIKE them. Of course, I have determine that the deciding actor for ME is IF a mom, even if she knows she got a decent deal, she STILL can see that the crappy things happen. These moms know that in some ways, they lucked out and, even in the MOST POSITIVE open adoptions by the book; they still admit to the massive hurt and grief. So in no way does HER more positive outcome get used to cancel out or dismiss the pain of others… and she / they are open to hear others pain and react in a compassionate and understanding way.

And as I write that, I am stuck with the irony that in many ways I actually fall into that same group, but never put myself there. Oh granted, Max was a closed adoption and that is different, but other than that, it WAS a perfect happily ever after adoption story!. So I can see that in many ways, I too lucked out, but still I accept the horror stories as truth and say that it wasn’t worth it for me to relinquish. It certainly wasn’t necessary and the “better” is negotiable at best.


Kool-Aide Drinkers Verses the Bitter Birth Mothers

So while I understand that some people are in a place here they need to feel OK about their adoption as a matter of survival. I DO try to be compassionate and understanding for those who are at different parts in their “journey” and I do get that. For lack of a better term, I remember how much easier it as to just believe in the Adoption Kool-aide.

I really don’t care too much anymore when someone starts calling everyone who is not bright and shiny  all “bitter“.  Oh, sometimes it gets under my skin when it is assumed that the rest of one’s life is all mope and misery.  Maybe I have been known to get a bit defensive and go off on a rant when called bitter, but mostly, I find is silly and predictable. Yawn.

I even get kind of a kick when someone REALLY fights hard against everything I say. I can almost recognize when a mom is about to crash and burn. You can see it coming. Often they protest too much.  ( and yes, I was right about the post I just linked to. Now she re-tweets most things I do and  last we spoke was listening to the stories of father’s denied their paternal rights because they were in prison.. and she feels for the dads.) I try to allow them to process their internal demons on their own time.

So  yeah, I have written about this stuff a whole bunch. I understand how strong the gaslighting done by the adoption industry is., so I hardly expect folks to suddenly be all like “ohh I see the light and hail the Negative Nancys”..and really, I AM at the point where I don’t care enough to fight with others.   It’s not that I don’t care, but more like it’s not for me to push it as that just creates more resistance.  So instead now, I just offer a the information and offer a hand. I’m not going to get personally insulted if that offer is rebuked.

Questions for Birthmothers who Love Adoption:

But seriously, and I mean this.. without saying “you are in denial” .. If I am to accept that you really did  the best thing you could and adoption was a saving grace for you, I have trouble understanding a few things.

So what I am wondering is…

  • IF you have had a “good” experience and feel “at peace” with your decision, then why does another birthmother with a not as happy story or outlook so greatly threaten your place of comfort? Like why can’t you even listen to her?
  • If you need support then WHY can the support not come from a mom who had a bad experience? Surely a mother who can openly speak of her sadness and loss can provide a well worn shoulder to cry on.
  • And if you are so sure and confident, how come it distresses you so much to hear about the realities faced by others?  How can their life or, even their opinion, really alter your reality?

Like I have heard it said that EVEN if one has a “great” adoption and one is sure that she made the best decision that she could at the time, they desire support because it’s NOT always a best of roses and there are complex issues to navigate, etc. So if a “happy” birthmother is needing to talk about something less than rosy, say being disappointed by a visits reschedule, how come the pats on the back and the “Oh, I’m so sorry hun” can’t come from a person who has legitimacy had a really bad experience?

I know I could surround myself with 30 mothers who might think adoption is the best thing since sliced bread and that won’t change MY reality. In the same way, I can surround myself with 30 mothers who were completely forced to surrender and that won’t mean that suddenly MY story began in a maternity in 1969. And why would anyone want to only be involved with people who think the same way, feel the same way or had the exactly same story – aside from the fact that it is an impossibility and will never happen anyway!

What I Really Think About “Happy Birthmothers”

I am open to being told how wrong I am, but to be honest, these are my personal observations on why I think the  ” I love adoption” birthmother cannot stand to be around the “yeah it pretty much sucks” birthmothers:

It Can’t Happen to Me: It is very frightening for a birthmother in an open adoption to be told of the horror stories of a promised-open-now-closed adoption because it triggers her fears and she doesn’t want to think of the possibility and, with even more examples, the eventual probability.

Momma Bears Protecting the Cub by Omission: It’s even more frightening for a mother of any adopted child to read up on the risks of adoption to the adoptee or even to hear personal anecdotes of poor adoptee outcomes that contradict the “better-best” tenants of adoption mythology. While it is not admitted, I think the fear is there that perhaps THEIR child could be likewise affected and denying anyone else’s reality protects their own.

I AM a Good Person, Damnit! I think also that so much of our “positive” feelings towards adoption are wrapped up in the concept that “we did a good thing” so anything that questions the “righteousness” of the “decision”  has the ability to erode the foundation of a person’s identity. IE; If the belief is that birthmothers are heroic, but evidence is leaning towards birthmothers are exploited, one is not so willing to see themselves as exploited when heroic is a much more desirable title.

Good for You, Good for Me! I think there is a whole lot of subconscious external justification going on, but I just fell into a neat rabbit whole of research and I want to go off on a tangent on this, so I’ll stop oin this right now.

Stuck on the Morally Superior: As a product of “birthmother school” I surely was taught to feel that adoption relinquishment was a morally superior choice than parenting as a young single mother. I have admitted many times that thinking I was “better” than a counterpart who kept their child was something I GOT from the relinquishment. These feelings benefitted me. I do know that other mothers also admit to this even though it is kind of icky, so I am guessing there are more that just do not want to see this aspect. However, I propose that the FEELINGS might be something that some mothers (unconsciously) desire to see repeated.  So we start to play the “I’m more at peace than you” game.  I see agencies telling newer moms that they can find  adoption healing after relinquishment and oh, we SO try to follow the rules.  So we see these “JUST BE HAPPY it’s YOUR CHOICE” moms coming in and telling everyone else how they are failing by being miserable and negative, but if we CHOOSE to, we can be happy and get out of our miserable holes or something. I think they are just getting off on being  morally superior. There, I said it.

No No No Do NOT Make Me Feel!! And, of course, the almost blanket “excuse” I have for any other fellow birthmother; she lives in fear of that pain rearing its ugly head. Let’s face it; if you watch a sad movie  or listen to a sad story, you can feel compassion for the other person. You can have your own emotions rise up and you can be triggered. So if you are desperately holding down you own grief and feelings, being around other mothers that openly express their great sadness and loss, it can be threatening.

The need to be “Ok” in the adoption is paramount for their own well being, their emotional health, their personal identity, and often, the ongoing contact and relationship with their child.  I think the need for an expectant mother considering adoption to feel “good” about what she feels she needs to do is also overwhelming. And so, the reaction is to blame the messengers.

Even if the messengers are actual the best support they can ever possible hope to have, the reality of what they suggest is just to much to cope with.. and so the cries of ” YOU ARE TOO NEGATIVE” abound.

For me.. in the end.. I have two major tenets that I live by.. or maybe three! Ok four…

  1. A mother considering adoption MUST be given All the facts of she is NOT making a true informed choice. SO for moms considering, yes, I feel it is OUR DUTY to warn her what we KNOW the adoption industry will NOT tell her.
  2. For a mother who has already placed; she MUST educated herself and become aware of the truthful history that goes into what influenced her and then she has a DUTY not to continue to continue to feed into the lies.
  3. I, personally, CANNOT  wish to see this pain and grief heaped on another mother. I would not wish this on my own worse enemy, so if there is ANY WAY that another CAN avoid the tragedy of mother child separation, then that is what I will do.

And then finally…

In the end, it’s about the adoptee and we just do not know how any one baby will feel. So why take that chance? Why risk that for another child? How can you live with yourself knowing that because YOU were too scared/ freaked out to warn another mother about the possible negative consequences that SHE relinquished and HER child did not have a good outcome?

I just couldn’t. And that’s the thing… I just could not deal knowing I HELPED a mother feel this way.. and so, I don’t. And I am POSITIVE that that is way more healthy.

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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 Wars; When the Positive Fight the Negative"

  1. “Momma Bears Protecting the Cub by Omission:”

    Oh man, this issue caused a huge kerfuffle on Twitter awhile ago between me (LDA) and a birth mother. She was so nasty to me, but then went to sub tweet that I (and a non-adoptee who agreed with me) were bullying HER because we kept pointing out the fact that adoption is inherently traumatic for all adoptees. She was just in complete denial and totally defensive that her child couldn’t possibly have been traumatised, that adoption is totally wonderful and her kid is JUST FINE, thank you and I just had issues…the whole bitter, ungrateful adoptee bs.

    I finally had to disengage. I just hope either her kid really is as fine as she insists or that by the time he decides to talk to her about it, she’s stopped being so fogged & defensive.

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