The Choice in Adoption: Innocence, Idiotic, Irrevocable

Adoptees have no choice

Who Has the Power of Choice in Adoption?

There was a discussion on Facebook not too long ago; it was stated that in adoption, the adoptee is the only party that has no choice. Their adoptive parents had the choice whether to adopt or not. The agency or lawyer or adopting professional had a choice whether to take on this business. And it is part of the adoption mythology that the birth parents also had some control and “made the wise decision”.

For the most part, I completely agree with the above. In my own adoption narrative, I did play an active role even if it was often a lack of decision. Yet, my story is not every mothers story and we all have our own tale to tell. Many mothers wereforced to surrender under various states of duress, drugs and lies. And when that wouldn’t fly anymore, adoption remarketed itself as the kindly older sister/aunt who would solve all your problems. I know, it seems hard to believe that people can be convinced to actually give away their babies. I know. I can hardly believe it myself and I did it.

At the time, adoption seemed like the best option. I believed what I was taught about adoption by the “professionals” for many years, but the birthmother rules they taught us were all wrong.

Getting the Adoption Narrative to be Truthful

Like so many, it was not until I found the Internet and the adoption community that I could even think about taking off the rose colored glasses and even begin to question my adoption story. If what they taught us was wrong, then the  way we live on our own adoption journey is inherently right. Simply because it is true. So, we are in a place where the adoption community has to rewrite the adoption textbooks and explain how it is really like.

With that, we must be mindful to be as truthful as possible. So I propose a slight addition:

The adoptee is the only party that ALWAYS has no choice. 

I don’t think anyone can argue that point. I know we can find exceptions of older children who can express wishes to be adopted, but infant adoptions? Toddlers, preschoolers…they really don’t have a say about what happens to them. No voice. Which is why it is so very important to listen to the adoptees who do speak, even if they are “angry”, especially when they are “ungrateful”. They have a right to feel that way- everyone made all the decisions for them and then expect them to be happy about it all forever no matter what.

I acknowledge it. I have to admit that I did the very thing to my own son. Worse still, in my eyes, I cannot claim that I was forced to surrender. I was seduced, beguiled, and weak; thinking I was strong, wise, and selfless.

Yet, still, I understand just how incredibly stupid it sounds now.

Somehow, I thought it would be a GOOD IDEA to GIVE MY BABY AWAY.

Who Gives Their Baby Away?

Normal people don’t DO that, right? There has got to be something wrong with ME? Right? Because I just have to be incredibly stupid to have fallen for that. I know. I know it sound just unbelievable. Plus we have the happy adoption story time that tells us about the “sweet young momma to be who love the babe so much that she selfless put her own desires aside and lovingly made an adoption plan.” Not only do these virtuous vessels have an obvious choice should one believe your local adoption website of choice, but then they go off and speak to high schools and hopeful adoptive parents about their bittersweet sacrificial joy.

I’d be pissed if I was an adoptee. How could one not be?

Choosing Adoption separates mothers and childrenNo matter how you slice it, be told that you were given away by your mother hurts a lot. Even if it was for a better life. Even if she had no choice. Even if she loved you so much or was so young or whatever. It just doesn’t feel good, even if you, I, us, society, “understand” the how’s and why’s. Even if we murmur kind things like “you made the best decision you could at the time”. Even if we all can rationalize that we wouldn’t trade the lives we do have for something else, it still hurts to think that your mother could bring herself to part with you.

There is always someone who says that they could never ever do it no matter what. Maybe it is a way of deflecting judgment, but I understand the sentiment. It comes back down to the pure horror at that thought that IGAVEMYBABYAWAY. People aren’t meant to do it. It’s not natural.

The Reality of Adoption verses the Ideal

Plus the other thing to consider  is that when a parent makes a statement that nothing would ever come between them they are already holding their own live breathing flesh and blood child . The vulnerable mother considering adoption and having the pro adoption message fed to her, often she does not know what her motherhood really is. I know that was completely the situation in my case.  As one of my new favorite quotes says:

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before, The woman existed but the mother, never. She is something absolutely new.

– Rajneesh

There is a huge difference between the idea of being a mother and the reality of that motherhood. There is a huge difference in the idealized child and a real flesh and blood child. There is a huge difference between the idea of adoption and the reality of what that life is. Like so many situations in life, we can pretend that we know what we will do with any given situation, but our reactions might be completely differ when confronted with the reality of a circumstances. And sometimes, we can be convinced to go against a our very nature when confronted with some ideal that we embrace. The problem is that parents separating themselves from their children is unnatural no matter how we try to spin it. The horror of the aftermath of that choice is real. Which is why it still hurts the adoptee. Which is why so many mothers don’t ever come close to “getting over it”. You have to trick, fool and force people to agree to such a thing.

Or you have to market adoption really, really well.

And they have. The proof is that women keep falling for it. Women somehow are convinced that it’s a good idea to give away our babies as long as there are promises of pictures and their mental version of Betty cleaver.

And that’s the thing, back in this Facebook conversation someone said that they would seriously kill anyone who tried to take away their baby. And that’s a NORMAL reaction. I mean think of a what any parent would do to defend their child against a kidnapper.. We would take a bullet for our kids, not use them as human shield. The concept of parenthood has built in sacrifice in it on many levels. So how does adoption mythology teach us to embrace this unnatural act?

Adoption is Not the Enemy, but the Salvation

The ideal of relinquishment morphs to meet the needs to the intended mother. Making an adoption plan can involved weaving a tangled web of subtle coercion, but that’s behind the scenes. The mothers don’t see it. Maybe we don’t want to see it. Maybe there is something that makes certain mothers more susceptible to the types of coercion, trickery, unbelievable-believable-ness that adoption promotes. Naive, idealistic, too proud, poor self esteem?  Bottom line, when adoption enters the picture, adoption is not the bad guy. Adoption is not seem as a threat that will hurt the child. Adoption almost never shows it’s true hand as something the child needs to be protected FROM. But rather, the tool that will provide the protection.

Bad mothers make bad children

Adoption aims to protect a baby from its mother or, in a kinder way, the perceived life of despair that the child would have if it was raised by his or her own mother. No matter what the circumstance: a mother stretched too thin, lack of finances, education, money, stability, permanent home, lack of two parent household, medical insurance, adoption provides the answer. And that is, in so many way, the crux of it all. Mothers are convinced to relinquish their children because we are convinced that we cannot do what is “best” for them. Our children need to be protected from US.

Think about it. The feelings are almost ingrained. Our society blames so many woes on the evil single mother, the collapse of the American family, the grand mythology of the super mother that no one can live up to. Is it so hard to believe that somewhere, deep inside, after constant messaging, that mothers don’t somehow believe this, even subconsciously?  Is it that hard to see that the ideals of adoption somehow might trigger those beliefs until they seem like reality rather than rhetoric? Is the individual who falls for it the stupid one, or are we all guilty in society for allowing these falsehoods to stand?

Why Mothers Believe in Adoption?

In the many years I have been intimately involved in the reality of adoption, relinquishment and the aftermath of life as a birthmothers, I have only truly met a handful of mothers who I felt were really truly seemingly OK with it all. Wait, not even a handful. Even the later moms who have successful open adoptions speak of missing their children, the pain of waiting for pictures, the constant dance required to keep the approval  of the adoptive parents and the access to their child open. Yes, there will be moms who still speak of the glories of adoption, but know that adoption Kool-Aid is part of survival. Time is the antidote and eventually that potion wears off even if it takes years or a lifetime.

What I have found to be almost 100% universal is that every mother who “choose” to relinquished did so because she felt it was BEST FOR HER CHILD.  The adoption choice was presented as keep your baby and struggle and be an unhappy loser and make you child suffer for your selfishness OR place your baby in a better home, with better parents and enjoy knowing that you did the best thing you could. Yes, it will hurt, but you are doing WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR BABY.

Even when we are warned that it will be hard, we think we can do such a thing because IT IS FOR OUR BABIES.

We believe because we doubt ourselves too much. We believe because we are told to do this thing for the good of our children. We believe because almost every bloody thing about adoption on TV and in the movies and in the news shows some happy version of adoption. We believe because we don’t see another solution and adoption solves every issue. We believe in adoption that  protects our children from the horror of having US as a mother. Yes, we would stab anyone who threatened our children too.. just like any parent. The problem is, WE are the enemy to our own children in this story. So in essence, we take the hit, make the sacrifice, because we are told that our children, these adoptees we create, will be better, happy, thankful and love us for it.

We emotional stab ourselves.

And once again, the adoption professionals, agencies, lawyers are wrong and by time that truth is known, it is too late.

All we can do is shake our heads and go WTF: how could I have been so stupid as to think it would be a god idea to give my baby away. That’s almost the single sad response that I see from mothers over and over again:  Most are overwhelmed by the level of pain. Many are surprised that it does not subside through time. Many are angry that the “perfect lives’ promised for their children do not pan out like they were told whether adoptive parents close the adoption, get divorced, have bio kids, lose jobs, get cancer, etc. And many, many, I see are just plain shocked that they thought they were doing the best thing for their child and in reality, it turned out to be far from the best.

Yes, Mothers choose adoption. It’s not always brainwashing, or through coercion, or forced, but it is a choice without true facts. It’s a choice made in a vacuum. And, often, in the end, it’s not a choice we feel proud of.

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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, Adopt-a-tude.com, 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.

19 Comments on "The Choice in Adoption: Innocence, Idiotic, Irrevocable"

  1. Absolutely wonderful post. Incredible! It covers all the bases.

    “I’d be pissed if I was an adoptee. How could one not be?”

    I do want to say though that I did not expect my mother to buck all of society to keep me. Just the fact that she did give me up lets me know beyond any shadow of a doubt that the pressure had to be overwhelming.

  2. I agree in general with what you are saying, but have strong reservations about your statement that it is almost 100% universally true that all mothers relinquish in the belief that the adoption is best for their child. I think many know it is the wrong decision, but they do not have the power (or fortitude, or whatever word applies best to their particular situation) to withstand the pressures put upon them.

    • Ah yes.. completely agree… many women had no choice what-so-ever.

      I should probably clarify in the post,but at that point I am taking about the women who supposedly, by the adoption industry standards “choose to make a loving adoption plan” and then go off afterwards to some form of a “successful” open adoption (that doesn’t close) or by their become of of the parroting “adoption is grand” moms.

      • Alas, my dilemma. Have you met birthmothers who really did it because they thought it was best for them, and that the fact that it would also seem to benefit the child was just a plus?
        I fee alone, but that’s both why I made the decision and why I don’t feel particularly remorseful: my life did turn around, I wouldn’t be where I am today without that choice.

        • I have HEARD of birthstones doing it for more self serving reasons, but my impression for those stories ( which I haven’t heard directly form the moms, so there is that filter to take into account..it’s usually the adoptee telling the tale) is that the moms in questions aren’t really concerned about the baby at all (and that is repeated by not seeming to care about the adult adoptees well-being now) So I don’t think the “plus” of it being beneficial for the child comes into question.
          I guess one could say that post relinquishment, I also had my life “turn around”…I was still in the proving stage- I had learned my lesson; but I definitely DO see that I could have just as easily done the same with my child. Like, of course the fact is I would not have the same life as I do now is a given. So I think this statement “I wouldn’t be where I am today” DOES hold true for ALL moms, but the question sis did we benefit? Did your child? Did mine? So for me, I can say for sure that the loss and grief, which was inherently unnecessary for both my child and I to go through, was not worth the perceived benefits. Plus I do always try t look at the adoptee side of it.. in the end THEY will be the judges.
          Have you thought about what you would say to your child if they were standing in front of your face and asking why? That was one of the things that got me thinking years ago. Yes, I was able to continue on with college, yes, I went to parties and concerns and had fun like any other young adult (the “benefit” as sold for me); but could I say to my child that parties were more important than you? In the end, for me, what I wanted to believe as legitimate reasons, really became weak excuses when I framed it that way. Not saying you HAVE to think the same of feel any differently; but just sharing that was a game changer for me.

          • See, those benefits you listed weren’t applicable for me – I did all the partying and drugs and messed my life up by the time I got pregnant. Choosing adoption meant I could get out of an abusive relationship, finish high school maybe even go to college, which was never in my mind before. It meant a real second chance at life.
            And I didn’t waste it- I got out of that, I’m married now to a preacher, we have two children, I’m a stay-at-home mom, I’ve matured. And my son has a good life as well and isn’t exposed to what he would have been in our family. Yes, it could have turned out okay – he could’ve had one of those redemption stories many years down the road after a hard life – but he could’ve ended up like all the other people we knew who never recovered.

            Now as for what I will tell my son, I’m not going to paint the picture in a way to make him feel worthless. I won’t say things like I never regretted it and I won’t focus on what I got out of it – the only reason I’m bringing this up is to answer my own personal questions, which I don’t usually make public.

  3. Great post, Claudia.

    Anonymous, from what I’ve seen of adoption counselling, it is approached from the angle that women want to parent and everything is done to make them “reform their thinking” by implying that parenting a child that is unplanned and thus not prepared for is a selfish and dangerous act and that it is far more loving for the child to grow up in a family who has been prepared for a child. The very question – “what can you offer a child compared with adoptive parents” is coercive in itself because of course the mother will never be able to measure up. They are also told to remove their “self” out any decisions they make which means they end up making decisions not for what is in the best interest of “their” child but for “a” child. Making a decision for another person without one’s own wants and needs factored into the decision can mean the other person ends up feeling that the person making the decision didn’t want or need them.

    This doesn’t mean every women who approaches adoption is wanting to parent but often that is out of fear as well and the counselling does nothing to couteract that fear.

    Also, you can look at any adoption agency website and at no time is the child ever referred to as being a human in their own right who is made up of biology inherited from both sets of parents and thus being separated from both parents and placed with other people not related to them at all may cause the child to feel that THEY need to adapt to fit it rather than just fit in. Also, the child being born into one family and raised in another ends up having to use coping mechanisms to handle that as well – it is not surprising that many adoptees want nothing to do with their biological family at all because they just want one family like everyone else.- ironically, these adoptees are the ones considered the “ideal” adoptee even though, when you think about it, these same adoptees probably wish that they had been born to their APs and that adoption wasn’t part of their life at all.

    Whatever the case, I believe counselling should involve personal counselling first, i.e. getting the woman to a relatively better position so that she can truly make the decision about her baby’s future. Above I said about her not being “prepared” for the child, so the counselling should involve helping her to at least prepare herself for the possibility of parenting even if she says she doesn’t want to. Most agencies will tell you that a certain percentage ends up parenting, including women who didn’t really want to before the birth, and thus having them prepared is still a worthwhile thing.

  4. I don’t mean whether they had “choice” or not. Anyway, I think that when it comes to relinquishment the word ” choice” should be abolished. it is too facile.
    What I meant is that I don’t accept that anything near 100% of women who relinquish are fully convinced they are doing the “best” thing for their child. It’s a massive over-simplification of a situation that is too fraught to talk about in such terms. They may think that relinquishment is the “best” decision they can make for their child *under the circumstances*, and they may even, in some cases, be right. But *best* to me implies a degree of choice that doesn’t really apply to most cases.

  5. “This doesn’t mean every women who approaches adoption is wanting to parent but often that is out of fear as well and the counselling does nothing to couteract that fear”

    Exactly. I wanted to parent my first born desperately, but after months of being told how awful it would be, how bad our lives would suck, and how if I really loved her I wouldn’t dare parent her, I gave in.

    Never once was I told about the long term ramifications of giving your baby up. Never once was I told that my daughter might have no interest in meeting me when she turned 18. Never once was I offered counseling after I gave her up. Never once was I told that I would struggle with self-doubt and self-loathing 20 years later, and that I would doubt my ability to be a good mother even now.

    Choice implies informed consent.

    I didn’t have a “choice”.

  6. There is no question, if money were taken out of the equation, adoption would look and feel very different. Birth mothers would not be solicited for their children because no one would want to manage and facilitate this type of an adoption case on a voluntary basis. Attorneys wouldn’t touch the case if they weren’t allowed to “broker” children for money, no matter how badly adoptive parents wanted a child. With all the hype for educating our school age children on sex, where is the positive results of fewer unplanned pregnancies? The statistics don’t corraborate the fascination and fad of making sure sex education is part of the public school curriculum. Maybe the curriculum should include the results of the pain and heartache of children being placed in families outside their family of origin. The actual drama of going home without the child to whom you gave birth…empty arms and overflowing heart that fashion the rest of the life of the birth family, adoptive family and adoptee. For every redeeming story of a child finding a family, there are 100 more that scream injustice and torment because the adoption was all about meeting the needs of the adults, not the best interest of the child.

    • ‘There is no question, if money were taken out of the equation, adoption would look and feel very different’.

      My son was adopted in the UK in 1980, in a system that involved no money but all the hallmarks of coercive adoption practices, including the well-honed script we all know so well (To relinquish is to love. That one). It wasn’t so different.

      • Last I knew, the UK government pays bonuses to its social agencies which place children in adoption from care. It’s part of the reason so many babies and small children are removed from their parents on the slightest pretext.

        That may not have been the case in the 1980s but it is a huge problem now.

  7. I am a 46 year old adoptee who is just getting how hard it has been to be adopted and to be raised by people who never felt like family. I have had the world’s best coping skills and now they are failing me…and it is really hard. Even my counselor who I think is the bomb told me that there would have been no guarantee that things would have been better for me with my birth parents. What she fails to realize is that I would have had my birth parents. I didn’t get to decide anything, but my birth mother really didn’t either for the reasons Claudia writes about. My original father didn’t get to decide because his parents kept me a secret from him. My birth mother thought he just didn’t care about her.

    And I find myself feeling responsible for it all in my heart while in my head I know I am not. No one wins.

  8. Julie, I only just found this site and so am a little late to the party, but I think I understand what you mean in your last paragraph. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Well, if I was any kind of self-respecting embryo, I would have miscarried myself and saved a whole lot of people a whole lot of anguish”.

    I don’t really want to die. No. What I desperately want is to be unmade. Maybe, you know, fly around the world like Superman and turn back time, so my fmom can think twice about hopping into bed with my fdad. Then none of this would have happened, and so many people would have been spared such heartache.

  9. My feeling on all this is that if you have ANY REASON WHATSOEVER for relinquishing your child other than “I never wanted children and I don’t want this one either” (and I mean you had better genuinely believe that, not be convincing yourself because your life sucks so hard), you’re being coerced into relinquishing, even if people around you are sugar-coating it.

    If you do not have a free and equal shot at choosing any of the options presented to you, you don’t have a free choice. One option is no choice. Reduced options are not much better.

    For the vast, vast majority of mothers who give up their kids, the thought process is always some variation of “I want to keep my child, BUT…” Forget the “but” and everything that comes after it. You want to keep your child, period, end of story. Anyone getting in the way of that is not your friend and is especially not your child’s friend either. Period.

    • Cindy Aulabaugh | April 21, 2015 at 12:20 am |

      Yes! Your last paragraph and the “anyone getting in the way of that is not your friend and is especially not your child’s friend either.” ..ought to be engraved in stone somewhere for all expectant mothers to read again and again… the antidote for adoption Kool-Aid.

      • I was not in this situation of putting my child up for adoption or being an adult who wants to adopt. So therefore, I really do not understand the pros and cons. But I have to ask why there are so many children ‘left on doorsteps’ when there is so much availability of birth control pills? The teenagers of today need to have more knowledge of knowing what to do (birth control pills) if they choose to ‘go all the way’. Don’t do it is, of course, the best answer. Don’t bring an innocent child into this world if you cannot care for that child. Sex may be all about you and your desires, but it can do so much harm if you produce a child and then have to give the child away. Please believe me that I am not standing in condemnation because an ‘oops’ child can potentially happen to anyone. I just would love to see more emphasis put on prevention of pregnancy when it is not in the best interest of the child that might be conceived or even the parents of said child. THINK about it. You give birth to this precious bundle and you can’t take care of this baby even halfway properly. You are a single mom and you really do need to support this child because YOU made the decision to have sex without precautions; you thought only of yourself. So this little innocent victim gets put ‘in the system’. And I am sure there are some happy stories to be told by adopted children. But what if your child does not have a happy story to tell? What if he/she is abused mentally and/or physically? Once that child is adopted and out of the system, WHO keeps tabs on that child to be sure they are being raised in the right way where there is a balance of love and loving discipline? I have recently been acquainted with a situation where a child has been adopted into a particular family and another that might be adopted into that same family. They have run away 4 times and who really cares? Who is protecting them? The hands of the police are tied. The Privacy Act doesn’t allow ‘outsiders’ to learn anything. I am praying for these two children but have found, thus far, no avenues to help them.
        Please, let us get our young girls educated as to their having children and giving them up for adoption or even keeping them and not being able to give them a decent home life because of whatever issues. Once you have a baby, life is no longer about YOU; there is another life that becomes top priority. Prevention of unwanted births is the answer. Girls need to know that having sex is not always love; it is a natural instinct. Don’t let a little child suffer because you put yourself first. Let us get our young girls educated in all phases of this sad situation. My heart has become burdened with this situation. You mothers know the anguish you suffer, wondering how your child is doing in some unknown foster home. Don’t put on your rose-colored glasses and think every adopted child is living happily ever after because maybe they aren’t. Let’s work to prevent unwanted pregnancy not have to decide what to do with the innocent victim, the child. I ask that God will somehow help all of these mothers and their children.

  10. Anastasia | May 3, 2016 at 3:07 am |

    But Claudia, a choice made based on lies and manipulation is coercion and isn’t a choice at all. I admire you and your writing, but it hurts my heart, as a mother of the same generation, that you are still serving yourself such a huge slice of pain pie. What you’re describing is the industry standard rogering with your pants on. They did studies between 1980 and 2005 perfecting the technique and the most important part was that we and society believe that we participated in our own rape and reproductive exploitation and the enslavement of our children. The old questions about who benefits apply here. I hope your reunion with your son is going well. Reunion is a joy but it is still a ride on the adoption express and has its own challenges.

    • Believe me.. I am fully aware of the lack of choice and the coercion involved. There are plenty of posts that deal with those issues exclusively.
      I am quite confused on how you can say that I am “serving yourself such a huge slice of pain pie” When this post is trying to help explain to others who did not live though the subtle coercion techniques that we did HOW we were convinced to believe the unbelievable and do the unthinkable.

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