Why Adoption Kool-Aid Tastes so Good!

A Look at Birthmothers, Decision Making, and Denial

It was close to 10 years ago, if not more the first time I was called out on being a birthmother in denial. Max was only 13 and years away from being found and I was new to the adoption community online. I was still saying things like “Adoption was the hardest decision, but the best choice for my baby I could have made. I do not regret it” and expecting to get pats on the back for my selflessness and courage.

Instead I was publically edited, felt mad as a hornet and couldn’t sleep that night. I was told I was unaware of what adoption really was like and that I was in birthmother denial.

How DARE they, I thought, they don’t KNOW me!

Immediately, I started drawing lines in the sand of my mind. Somehow, I had to make this horrible group of angry birthmothers different than me. They were so angry. They had horrible things to say about adoption, so they had to have completely different experiences that I did. We could not be the same.

In a way, I was right. The majority of moms I was speaking to them were older and HAD had very different experiences. They were forced into maternity homes. They KNEW they didn’t want to surrender their children, but they had no choice. They were the mothers from the Baby Scoop Era and, I told myself, adoption had changed. After all, I called my agency. I choose to sign the papers. I got pictures of my baby. I got to hold him when he was born. They treated my kindly. Completely different scenario and so what they said about me could not be true, right?


Choosing Adoption

The problem is that at the core, for the great majority of birthmothers, we don’t WANT to relinquish, but we feel it is the “best” or maybe the only choice. And sometimes it really does seem that way.

Facing an unplanned pregnancy is a lot like being stuck between the rock and the hard place. On one hand, we think about doing what we WANT, i.e. keeping the baby. Then we list the huge list of seemingly insurmountable problems. How to afford everything, where to live, how to work and deal with child care, how to finish school, pay for the doctors, pay for the birth, deal with the baby daddy, hear about it from the family and friends ? Listen, no matter how much our society accepts single motherhood; it’s still seen as a big badge of LOSER to have a child when you are not ready. Then we trot out the list of things that are just WRONG about us; it’s more like the list if insurmountable problems, but now it’s all our own fault … and why we can’t really FIX all of them before this child is born. Tick Tock.

Then, on the other hand, we see adoption. It’s not something we want, but it solves so many of the big issues. Bad baby daddy? Agency social workers will deal with him. Medical bills.. paid for! School and work.. no longer an issue , etc. And then, on top of that.. the baby will now have EVERYTHING. The baby gets a perfect life, the life we don’t have.. and the baby gets a chance to right the wrongs that we got ourselves into because we are dumb and stupid and got into this mess in the first place.

There is a desperation that goes hand in hand with adoption relinquishment. There is a helplessness, of isolation. That is one feeling that ties all birthmothers together: we all were panicked and carried both a baby and a great fear in us. I will state that I see that as a given. I can’t imagine a woman of sound mind and body to desire to give away her baby. Oh, I know they are out there, the truly “horrible mother” story that everyone knows of, but I would caution to say that the percentages of those instances would equal the rates of horrible stories in the general population. It’s something like 2% of the population is a sociopath. That’s memory, not fact. Doesn’t matter. Some of us knew we didn’t want to surrender our children to adoption and some of us think/thought we should relinquish and said that we wanted; bottom line we were all desperate and often betrayed by someone’s trust. No one wants to be a birthmother.

We wouldn’t choose adoption if we did not feel we HAD to. I do believe that about pretty much 99.95% of the birthmothers in the world. We all have our lists of reasons; situational or purely fraught with doubts. It doesn’t matter HOW we all got to this place; some sections of our paths cross connected and the emotional core is the same.

Adoption: One Option =No Choice

There really wasn’t much choice, because if there was, then we wouldn’t “choose” adoption. It’s more like life turns into a giant game of hot potato. You’re at a party, having fun, the music is going, you’re laughing, skipping around, and all of a sudden the music stops and you have to race for a chair. Sometimes that chair happens to be adoption. And you’re stuck in it until the music starts to play again, but it never does.

You know that feeling. I know you do.

Just like you know that deep dark gripping pain that feels as if your heart might truly bust though your stomach and your whole body aches. You can’t breathe and you’re afraid that if you don’t get control you won’t be able to stop. You know the long nights riding the waves of birthmother grief.

We don’t go through this for fun. We do think its selfless and proves that we are strong and selfless and willing to sacrifice our own feelings for the greater good that adoption represents. We ARE convinced that our child will be better off, happier, more well adjusted and never wanting with the adoptive parents. We HAVE to believe this, or the alternative is too much to bear; we willfully let our children be taken away from us.

That goes against every natural instinct we have ever been taught.

The Culture of Adoption

Mothers are suppose to fight to the death for our children. The adoption industry can try to spin it however they like, saying a “birthmother is a good mother” , but does this feel right?

After working through their fears and conflicts, birthmothers choose adoption because they believe that it is best for their children. They realize that adoption is not abandonment; it is a loving, responsible act. By choosing what is best for their children, birthmothers see themselves as good mothers. Instead of feeling like bad mothers for abandoning children or “giving them away,” they now begin to see that placing their children with loving couples is what it means for them to be good mothers. They redeem themselves, transforming their mistakes into positive outcomes. Adoption allows them to recover their self-esteem, restore their identity, and renew their dreams and goals.

Yeah, that’s a problem. It’s not a good thing to come up with a program where girls who feel “bad”‘ can redeem themselves and become “good” by giving away their babies to other people who pay upwards of 30K for the pleasure of their paperwork.

(You know the NCFA is federally funded right? Just checking)

In adoption land, and especially once one gets within what I call the “bosom of the agency”, the highly unnatural act of leaving one’s child becomes and act of grace. What would be abandonment anywhere else becomes a loving gesture.

Yet, if we don’t continue to believe in the lies, then the walls might truly come tumbling down. And that is scary. There is so much the walls hold back. To face the truth and the depth of the loss is like facing the deepest back whole of your soul and I think we all fear getting lost in there. I know I try to avoid truly feeling it. Just because I know it’s there doesn’t make it healthy denial or does it?

Birthmother Denial = Survival

A human being cannot walk around in life constantly wounded. A birthmother cannot function while touching the deep emotional core all the time. And so, we find ways to shield our wounds. We bury the pain or we fight to control it.

Those gentle words and pats on the back from the agency were like salve on my wounds. When I was newly birthmothered , returned home after the adoption, still deeply sobbing alone at night; I would take out all those trite agency sayings and try to console myself with them. Being a birthmother become my new identity: I WAS strong, I WAS selfless, I WAS good.

I don’t have to wonder why so many new birthmothers delight in being asked by their agency to speak to some group sat some school someplace. It’s all so new that she has to be told over and over again how wonderful she is. When the other choice is that deep dark place, it’s still a rock and a hard place. I would have chosen the speaking gigs too. I would have been thrilled. I remember, my agency asked me to fill out some survey about the relinquishment experience. I think it was for a study. I felt honored they would ask. Yeah, that’s how insidious it was.

You don’t know how thankful I am that there were no blogs back in 1988. There is no public record of how full of Adoption Kool-Aid I was, just what I care to admit. I really did think adoption was the cat’s meow. It wasn’t that I was in some deep denial that adoption wasn’t the huge billion dollar generating unregulated industry that I know it to be, but that I really had no idea that there was anything BAD about adoption, except that it hurt. And the hurt was for GOOD, so it was a good hurt or some such malarkey. Besides, I was the only one hurting and really, I didn’t matter.

In that way, it is a denial of our self worth.

Oh, and almost everything I was taught about adoption from the agency was kind of wrong; so all these new thoughts on adoption just made my mind explode. I stopped feeling indignant and just started listening. That’s a good cure for denial.

I stopped making everyone different than what I was in my head . I stopped saying “You don’t know me!” and started to get to know them, especially the ones that made me feel the maddest.

That was one of the best decisions I could have made.

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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.

15 Comments on "Why Adoption Kool-Aid Tastes so Good!"

  1. Beautiful – well said and soooo true!

  2. WOW! Thank you for this posting. I surrendered in 1988 and I can relate to many of the things you are saying. How I wish sometimes that I was still drinking the Kool-Aid – it would be a facade but would somehow hurt less.

  3. Excellent post! I’m going to share. I so wish some people would read and understand(mainly some of my family)but I’m afraid the kool-aid is very strong.

  4. Wonderful post. I wish all of the “it was YOUR choice, stop being mad the world for YOUR choice” adopter trolls would actually read it, instead of sticking to this tried and true misconception that helps them sleep better at night. It helps them sleep better at night because they know it was their CHOICE contribute to this pain, all because they want a womb wet infant at all costs…

  5. Thank you for this post… I can totally relate.

  6. Great post Claud! I’m going to share this also.

  7. This is a really great post and one that I can totally relate to. I plan on sharing it as well. Thank you.

    • Dear Shannon, I just wanted to tell you that your 12 year old dethguar will want to know you. It is very important you make sure you file any legal papers that are required in your state or the state she was adopted in, so when she turns 18 she can find you. Get your information out there with the web, so she might be able to also locate you. You are her roots. Adoptive parents are thankful to birth mothers. They just want the opportunity to love a child everyday in their home and live a life of growing up together. They will have many things they want to share with you, and many pictures, but they also want to love you for you gave them a gift they consider most precious and who they would stand behind in all situations, and that would include you as an adult in her life.

  8. Write on!

    In a way, my experience was a lot like yours, though I am an Baby Scoop Era first mother: I had a good social worker who did not pressure me, but then I came to her and presented no choice, but she was kind and I think hoped that the father would come through and we’d take the baby home; no one pressured me to sign; I was totally aware how horrible relinquishment was going to be, however.

    I think no matter how you do it, you come to realize how soul crushing an act giving up your baby is.

    Great post. I hope you’ll leave a comment at the I Love Adoption site on FB.

  9. Oh Claude, you said it all. Thank you. I too am so happy there were no blogs back then. How could I have believed that giving away my own daughter was a good idea for her. I did always know it was a bad idea for me.
    Thanks for a great post!

  10. Yummm, it tasted so good. Indeed, denial was the only way we could survive at the time. It was hard to stop drinking, to face the truth about what happened. But I’m so glad I did and hope to help others do the same. Thanks for a great post!

  11. Great and humerous expression of a widely misunderstood topic. (Sometimes one can laugh or cry!) I found myself hating the 50’s again last night, when Obama was extolling that fabulous era, when it became so common for all (except for African Americans) to have their cracker box homes with a baby in every highchair – no matter who’s baby it was! I became a birth mom in 1969, acting on messages learned and implied when growing up in the 50’s. I later thought I was a coward! Thanks for the post.

  12. That was deep and beautiful. Thank you

  13. Anonymous | May 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm |

    Thank you! Your post has helped me to better understand my mother’s vanishing act. She had asked me some questions about my life, and I gave her a small glimpse because I didn’t want to overwhelm her. Well, I think the glimpse at a less-than-perfect childhood made her drop the Kool-Aid, and I haven’t heard from her since.

    Hopefully, in time, she will be able to work through the reality of adoption and reconnect with me.

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