Shame

We feel shame when we violate the social norms we believe in. At such moments we feel humiliated, exposed and small and are unable to look another person straight in the eye. We want to sink into the ground and disappear. Shame makes us direct our focus inward and view our entire self in a negative light.

I came upon the powerful graphic above yesterday and felt there was more that I could personally say about it. On my Facebook profile page yesterday, I shared – I have owned up to this before. I had an abortion at the age of 23 or so – mid 1970s. I am glad it was safe and legal. I was not being reckless. I was driving an 18-wheeler with a partner. Our dispatcher didn’t get us home to where my pharmacy was in time and I ended up pregnant. Neither he nor his family were the kind of people I would be glad to have been tied to through a child today. At the time, I had breakthrough bleeding. My ex-SIL and ex-BIL had a child with serious birth defects. I just felt the pregnancy was not progressing normally. Also, to be honest – I didn’t want to commit my life to 7 more months of going it alone with no financial support. I’ve never regretted it but pro-Life propaganda has definitely haunted me. In writing this, I searched my memory for all of the reasons why I chose that course of action.

The mothers and women in my family, and to whom I am genetically related, chose other courses of action. Back in the 1930s, the mothers of both of my own parents, chose to carry their pregnancies, spent the first few precious months with their babies, and one way or another lost that first child to adoption. I wrote, and it was true, “I didn’t want to commit my life to 7 more months of going it alone with no financial support.” In some people’s minds I was simply being selfish and I will accept that judgment, though in truth I have no regrets about doing what I did and for the reasons I did it at the time.

Yet, I felt enough shame for having chosen a different path (both of my sisters carried unplanned pregnancies to term but also gave their babies up for adoption) that it was a long time before I admitted to anyone what I did earlier in life. It was my private decision which no one but the circumstances influenced. Maybe influenced in no small measure by the legality and safety of the choice at the time. Only as Roe v Wade has come under increasing opposition have I started sharing my own story of what it was like to have made that choice and my gratitude that I had it available to my own self when I felt I needed that.

The father of my own conception made it clear he would not stand by me if I chose otherwise but I don’t think that was my major motivation. In reflecting on my statement that I would have had to “go it alone” above, I also know my parents supported one of my sisters throughout the pregnancy and then, remarkable to me now that I know more about adoption in general, my own adoptee mom coerced my sister into giving up the baby she wanted to keep and then, encouraged a lie to me that the baby had died. Intuitively, I knew it had not and concocted fantastical stories about what had actually happened to the baby believing it had been stolen and taken into Mexico (my sister had delivered at a hospital in El Paso TX very near the national border). Because of this, my mom finally admitted her truth regarding the whole situation to me.

Many women bear a cross – maybe they suffer their whole lives knowing their child is out there somewhere out of their own reach. Many of these original mothers suffer a secondary infertility and never have another child. Many struggle as single mothers to keep and raise their child. Our society does nothing to help them. My sister actually sought financial support during her pregnancy but was denied it based upon our parents financial condition. It was not my parents seeking financial support but my sister and not in increase my parents financial condition either.

After I divorced the father of my first child, I had to go to work and that meant child care. When one “family style” child care that she loved at first became a tearful battle, I left work to check on her and discovered through the window of a half door, an older child bullying her and no adults in sight. I pulled her out that day. I often had to go to my mother to beg $20 to make it through to payday. She never denied me but financially it was always difficult. At the time I divorced her father, he told me he would never pay me one cent of child support because I would just party with the money. Such a horrible perception he had of my own integrity and ethics. I didn’t want to spend my life in court fighting him for it even though the judge insisted in awarding me $25/mo “in case” I changed my mind and wanted to seek an increase. I never did. Instead, I left my daughter with her paternal grandmother while I tried to build a financial nest egg for the two of us by seeing if I was capable of driving an 18 wheel truck cross-country.

I always intended to return for her and would have never given her to her father to raise but his mother did that. He remarried a woman with a child and then they had a child together. Unintended consequences of financial desperation. And now, in a sense my story has come full circle, my shame – not even listed above – is that I gave up raising my child for financial reasons. Back when she was in day care, I couldn’t hardly answer the pediatrician’s questions, because she was away from me all day. After her father and step-mother raised her, I struggled to find birthday cards for her that reflected the lack of a daily, physical relationship I had with her. There were no role models for an absentee mother back in the mid-1970s, even though the absentee father was a standard reality.

Shame. Oh yes, I am well acquainted with it. As my daughter knows, I have struggled to find peace with not having “stuck it out,” as my own mother said to me that she would have done, to do the right thing by my daughter. It is a work in process. Recently, I reflected on all the things I did right by her in the brief early years she was physically under my care. I told her, I realize that when I was mother to you, I was a good one. And the abortion ? I atoned for it, by giving up my own genetic connection to have two egg donor conceived sons (same donor both times), that my husband might be able to have the children he desired, even as we both realized I had gotten too old to conceive naturally. Even so, they are now almost 18 and 21 years old. They have proven to me that I can “mother” children 24/7 throughout their own childhoods. At least I have no shame in that. I even breastfed both until they were just over 1 year old. I also have the knowledge that I didn’t put adoption trauma onto the fetus I aborted early in that pregnancy.

Related Issues

Two articles came to my attention yesterday that I believe are related. One was titled The Baby Bust: Why Are There No Infants to Adopt? The subtitle was – Declining birth rates and other factors make it difficult for hopeful adoptive parents to create their forever families. In my all things adoption group, it has become obvious to me that many prospective adoptive parents have become more than a bit desperate.

I actually do believe that the Pro-Life movement is driven by the sharp decline in women either not carrying a pregnancy or choosing to be single parents. Our society’s norms have changed since the 1930s when my parents were adopted.

The other article was Why is the US right suddenly interested in Native American adoption law? In this situation, laws meant to protect Native Americans who have been exploited and cheated out of so much, including their own children, is being challenged by white couples wanting to adopt as being a kind of reverse discrimination against them.

So back to the first article –

The number of adoptions in general has been steadily declining over the years. U.S. adoptions reached their peak in 1970 with 175,000 adoptions tallied. That number had fallen to 133,737 by 2007. Seven years later, the total sank further to 110,373, a 17% decrease.

Reports of a 50% or more decrease in available birth mothers are coming from adoption agencies all over. As a result, some agencies have folded. Those still in operation are compiling long waiting lists of hopeful adoptive parents.

Even so, the demand for infants to adopt remains high. The good news is also that fewer teenagers are becoming pregnant. Teen birth rates peaked at 96.3 per 1,000 in 1957 during the post-war baby boom. However, with the widespread acceptance and use of birth control, there has been a dramatic decline in the teenage pregnancy rate.  This rapid decline in teenage birth rates was seen across all major racial and ethnic groups. 

Estimates indicate that approximately half of the pregnancies in the United States were not planned. Of those unintended pregnancies, about 43% end in abortion; less than 1% of such pregnancies end in adoption. Adoption is a rare choice. The pandemic shut-down also reduced places where meetings could occur that tend to lead to casual encounters, which often result in unplanned pregnancies.

On to that second article –

A 1978 law known as the Indian Child Welfare Act or ICWA tried to remedy adoption practices that were created to forcibly assimilate Native children. Last April, an appeals court upheld parts of a federal district court decision, in a case called Brackeen v Haaland, that found parts of ICWA “unconstitutional”. The non-Indian plaintiffs (mostly white families wanting to foster and adopt Native children) contend that federal protections to keep Native children with Native families constitute illegal racial discrimination, and that ICWA’s federal standards “commandeer” state courts and agencies to act on behalf of a federal agenda.

The thinking that non-Indians adopting Native children is as old as the “civilizing” mission of colonialism – saving brown children from brown parents. In fact, among prospective adoptive parents there is a dominant belief that they are actually saving children. Native families, particularly poor ones, are always the real victims. A high number, 25-35%, of all Native children have been separated from their families. They are placed in foster homes or adoptive homes or institutions. Ninety percent are placed in non-Indian homes. Native children are four times more likely to be removed from their families than white children are from theirs. Native family separation has surpassed rates prior to ICWA according to a 2020 study.

The fact is that there is a dark side to foster care. Some state statutes may provide up to several thousands of dollars a child per month to foster parents, depending on the number of children in their care and a child’s special needs. Why doesn’t that money go towards keeping families together by providing homes instead of tearing them apart?

A Necessity ?

Over time, I have come to understand that there are so many problems with adoption that generally speaking I am not in favor of the practice. I am pro-family preservation and anti-unnecessary adoption. I believe that most adoptions are not necessary.

What are the answers to such questions as – “what would happen if there weren’t adoptive parents?” and “what if no one adopted.”

Babies are highly in demand and sought after. There are 40 waiting hopeful adoptive parents to every ONE expectant mother/baby.

Looking at it as a business person, I know the dynamics of supply vs demand. This is real reason a domestic infant costs so much to adopt. This is why, if you are wanting to adopt, you often have to wait YEARS for a baby.

The honest truth is – these babies aren’t “in need.” They won’t age out of foster care. They won’t grow up with “nowhere to go.”

Adopting these babies isn’t helping anyone except the couple wanting a baby to adopt. Seeking to adopt an infant in the United States is always a 100% selfish desire.

Most of these original mothers relinquish their babies for purely FINANCIAL reasons. If they had more money/support/resources they would keep their child.

A woman who simply doesn’t want her baby is RARE.

The babies you are seeking to “save” don’t need to be adopted. They have a mom and extended family. These family only need financial support (and sometimes treatment for emotional issues and even professional services) and they could stay together.

Most newborns end up placed for adoption because of a TEMPORARY situation that feels like a permanent obstacle.

In Australia, where women (and families generally) are supported. Overall adoption numbers have declined 50% over the past 25 years— from 668 in 1995–96 to 334 in 2019–20. Adoption rates have steadily declined since 2004–05, with 2019–20 marking the 15th consecutive year of decline.

Compare this to adoption in the US where it is a major industry. About 135,000 children are adopted in the United States each year.  62% of babies in domestic infant adoptions were placed with their adoptive families within a month of birth.

While there truly isn’t a shortage of children to adopt (if someone is determined to do so), there is an acknowledged shortage of babies/toddlers available for adoption. With reproductive freedom for women (yes, the availability of birth control and abortion) and the end of social stigma for single mothers (I know more than one), this is the cause of a shortage of infants available for adoption. A large supply is never coming back. When I was seeking to know more about my dad’s adoption, the Salvation Army told me they had closed their unwed mother’s homes because there wasn’t enough demand to sustain them.

There are over 100,000 children currently in foster care right now, who are available for adoption. Their parents’ rights have already been terminated. Those kids NEED homes but many will age out of foster care because most prospective adoptive parents want babies. Many children in foster care actually do WANT to be adopted. They seek stability, which they will never have in foster care.

Limited Perspectives

I was thinking yesterday evening that the same mindset causes both adoptions and abortions. It is the limited perspective of the pregnant woman about what she believes she is capable of. In my adoption group there comes occasionally a pregnant woman who is trying to decide whether or not to surrender her baby to adoption. Not all adoptees say they are happy their mother didn’t abort them. It is a sad commentary on the experience of some adoptees and others feel they had a good enough life and accept that their mothers did the best they could in that moment for the higher good of all concerned.

So in the adoption group, when a pregnant mother shows up and hasn’t made a decision, the group always recommends several courses of action to her. The main one is – don’t decide right away. Don’t allow prospective adoptive parents to be at the hospital with you. Don’t sign the papers in advance. Spend some time with your infant. You can always make that choice – weeks, months later. Hopefully not years later when it may be even more traumatic. Give your infant some time with you. In these modern times, there are groups who will try to help you with the necessaries, at least in the short term.

I was reflecting recently on the fact that each of my parents were with their original mothers for about 6 to 8 months as infants. I take some comfort in knowing they had that forward development time not separated from the woman who gave birth to them. All a baby knows at birth is that mother who birthed them. I do know my dad’s mom breastfed him. I don’t know about my mom’s mom. Certainly once she was taken to Porter-Leath orphanage in Memphis, she would have been fed a bottle of formula (what was considered a formula at the time).

Most of the women who chose adoption or abortion do not believe they are capable of raising a child. Society’s willingness to financially help such women does not have a good track record. When I ran out of birth control while driving an 18-wheel truck cross county and quickly became pregnant, I knew that if I went through with that pregnancy, my partner was not going to be there for me. He said as much but he left my decisions up to me, if it can be called solely my decision under the circumstances. I already had struggled to raise my daughter following a divorce when I received no child support. Her father and a step-mother were raising her by this point. I chose an abortion. It was early in the pregnancy, the procedure was safe and legal and I’ve not regretted not being tied to that family by a child. I have struggled with the morality of it thanks to the vocal efforts of the Pro-Life contingent but it is a done deal.

As I have learned more about the subconscious trauma of babies being separated from their mothers for adoption, I am also glad I didn’t inflict that on my unrealized baby. I already had done enough damage to my daughter, though at the time I thought her circumstances were better than they were. Both of my sisters gave up babies to adoption. One always knew she was going to do that and went about it rather methodically. The other explored abortion but was too far along. She tried to get government assistance but was rejected because she was living with our parents and their financial resources were the grounds upon which she was denied (which I will always judge as very wrong of the system). Our mother, an adoptee herself, coerced my sister into choosing adoption. My parents were unwilling to take on the financial responsibility that potentially would have fallen upon them. We’ll never know what the alternatives would have yielded.

The point is that in my adoption group, time and again, I’ve seen a variety of outcomes. In some the young mother does wait and finds resources and decides without regret and great joy to try and parent her baby. Some make some other arrangements, either for temporary help or for an open adoption, that fail in some manner and it becomes a legal battle to get their child back or to know how the child is developing when as often happens, the adoptive parents renege on the open part.

It is said in a song – you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need. And I think generally speaking whatever we get, actually is what we needed, because the reality is, that is what we got. Hasty decisions can lead to a lifetime of regrets. I’ve seen that too in women who relinquished their child. I’ve been told that was the case for both of my own original grandmothers. Both remarried. One went on to have other children.

Skewing The Narrative

It is a fact that many adoptees will actually say they wish their natural, genetic, biological mother had aborted them.  It is also a fact that the government does NOT fund abortions, contrary to the messaging that comes out of evangelical, pro-Life and conservative interests with the hidden agenda of triggering people’s emotions in order to get their vote.  It is also true that the government is already funding some adoptions through a huge tax credit for the single adoptive person or couple.  The government also funds adoptions from foster care paying court expenses.  Many of these adoptions also receive an adoption subsidy, Medicaid and free tuition for the child.

And finally, I do speak from experience on this issue.  I am grateful for access to a safe, legal abortion back in the early 1970s.  That is a blessing that is increasingly hard to get access to.  This planet actually already has enough people and truth be told, more than is sustainable.

I do believe in letting nature take it’s course.  I believe that purging events such as the COVID 19 pandemic is an activity of this Earth.  I believe that predators cull out the weak.  Not that I wish to be a victim of either.  I believe in the kind of God that always knows what each of that God’s individual expressions will do in any given situation.  I believe in a life that is meant to teach our soul important lessons, make us more empathetic and give us a more tolerant perspective on human behavior.  I also believe there is never anything wrong going on, even if we are unable to truly comprehend what we are seeing.  And I do believe that humanity evolves and progresses and that includes what medical science advances including safe abortions and reproductive assistance.  Finally, I believe that death is only an experience in our human lives but personally, I believe in eternal souls living more than one incarnation.  We cannot kill a soul though we can kill the body that the soul moves about the planet with.

An image like the one above is offensive. Abortion and adoption have nothing to do with each other.  Speaking of government funding – why not help families stay together, fund the help that struggling families actually need and support them through a financial crisis ? What if government funded birth control ? What if society supported struggling mothers ? What if society held fathers to higher standards ?

While I’m at it – what about free health care ? Mental health intervention ? How about the government starts caring about drug addicts and puts more funding into rehabs and counseling ?

Some of these people who think like the image above should have to spend at least 9 months forced to serve as a walking incubator for someone they’ll never be allowed to meet again, and then have all proof that they gave birth to a child erased by changed birth certificates and sealed adoption records.  Yes, think about all of those mothers who have had that very experience.  One can get over a conception and abortion quickly.  One lives with the pain of having been separated from their child for a lifetime.

 

Plan B

It may seem strange to write about this but unplanned pregnancies are a leading cause of adoption.  Adoption results in often unconscious and definitely life-long trauma for the adoptee and for their mother from whom they are removed.  Ridding one’s self of the possibility quickly, results in less guilt and shame than an abortion, even when done by 3 mos gestation.  If definitely prevents the surrender of a baby to some stranger.

An interesting fact about this method is that it often fails obese women.  Weight matters in this regard.  This is an important consideration in the United States, where over 35% of adults are obese because obese women (with a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or greater) became pregnant over 3 times more often than non-obese women when trying this method.

While the commercially marketed brand names are expensive and often kept in anti-theft cabinets, it is possible to obtain a generic.  I have read that with a coupon code from GoodRx the cost of a generic could be as low as $14.

Plan B is meant to delay or prevent ovulation. It does not “end the pregnancy”. Plan B is not an abortion pill.   It’s a heightened dose of birth control to prevent implantation. It’s not misoprostol or mifepristone.  So there is no danger of harming the fetus’s development, if a pregnancy develops after trying this.  Using this does slightly increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.  If you’re already pregnant, it won’t work; but it will basically force you to have a period, if you’re not pregnant.

If you’re on Medicaid, they have an online site and will mail it and birth control to your home for free monthly.  And at pharmacies, it is often found on the shelf right next to the pregnancy tests and near the condoms! Don’t be in denial about unprotected sex.  Believing “Oh it won’t happen to me, I’m invincible” could prove to be wrong and then it is too late for the easy precautions.  Girls under 18, be aware that many states require a prescription to buy it at a pharmacy, making it much less accessible but you can actually buy it on Amazon, of course.

Beware though if you live in a conservative, religious right state like my state of Missouri – you may get a judgmental/religious pharmacist. There are tons of stories of women being blocked by pharmacists from getting it – either lied to or just told no.  And parents in these conservatively religious regions often don’t believe in sex education and tell their children to just say “no” with predictable results.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever Heard Of Birth Control ?

I am a compassionate person and I don’t want to be cruel but I really have to question this story I read.

Hi, I am 30 weeks pregnant with my 7th baby. I plan on placing him for adoption and have found an amazing family for him. As I get closer to my due date I am starting to get mixed feelings. My other 6 children are all under 8, so idk if I could mentally handle another baby. I have severe depression and anxiety dating back to high school. I already am overwhelmed with the kids I DO have. My husband is supportive of either choice I make, but he lost his job last year and we have been living off of 900$ a month in cash assistance and 900$ in food stamps. All 8 of us live in a crappy 700 sqft 2 bedroom trailer so there’s no room for another baby ( my youngest is only 8 months old) . My brain knows that all these factors mean I can’t keep this baby, but my heart is tearing to pieces at the thought of having to say goodbye. I guess I just need some outside perspective.

No matter how challenging the circumstances this just seems irresponsible to me when one realizes how many ways there are to protect one’s self from having unwanted children.

One response was this (I agree with it too) –

I’d hate to see you make such a permanent, life-altering decision based off a temporary situation.  I am a birth mom, and my perspective is that adoption should never be the answer. Anyone who is willing to help themselves to your child rather than helping your family as a whole does not deserve to be a “mother”.

Another realistic response to the actual situation was this –

Just keep in mind that your situation is temporary. Your husband will get another job. If you place for adoption this child will lose both of their parents and six siblings.  If you feel your heart falling apart just know it will get worse. It doesn’t matter if these people are the most amazing people in the entire universe, all your baby wants is you. It is a loss you won’t recover from.  I thought I couldn’t handle another child, turns out losing your child forever takes a whole hell of a worse toll.

Another one was –

Something I am learning, if I am not at peace with a decision, then it is not the right one for me. I have had to make some pretty tough decisions, however, had a peace when making them, as they were the right ones.

Yes, trust your intuition and follow your heart.  Also know this – at some point you have really conceived and given birth to enough children for any lifetime.  There are so many ways you can take control and prevent it from ever happening again.

 

A Brief History of Adoption

Willa Cather said that those who gave up carried something painful,
cut off inside, and that their lives had a sense of incompleteness.

Before Georgia Tann, some states had laws that insisted a single mother breastfeed her baby for at least six months.  This was to encourage the mother to become emotionally attached and raise her child – thus relieving the state of a need to care for them in an orphanage at public expense.

After Georgia Tann popularized adoption, these babies became a marketable commodity, and this necessitated the separation of mother and child.  During the 30s, mothers were sometimes blindfolded during labor to prevent them from seeing their baby.

By the mid-40s, adoption was nationally popular.  White single mothers were EXPECTED to surrender their babies to adoption. This policy was endorsed by the Child Welfare League, The Salvation Army, Catholic Charities and most psychiatrists and psychologists.

It was even predicted by a social scientist, Clark Vincent, that in the future, all white newborns from single mothers would be seized by the state – not for punishment – but in the scientific best interest of the child, considering the rehabilitation goals for the unwed mother and the stability of the family and society overall.

Such a concept was even advocated by the author, Pearl Buck, who asked Georgia to collaborate on a book about adoption. Georgia Tann died from the complications of cancer after dictating only two chapters. By then, the scandal of her baby stealing and selling operation seems to have discouraged Buck from pursuing the topic to its completion as a book.

Even so, Georgia Tann had influenced Pearl Buck’s thinking – in a 1955 article in Woman’s Home Companion – Buck advocated legislation forcing single mothers to surrender their babies for adoption – thankfully such a law was never passed.

Social pressure was enough to separate many single mothers from their children. By the 1950s, 90% of white maternity home residents surrendered their children. It is because I understand how close I came to being given up for adoption as I was born in 1954, that I consider it a miracle that I wasn’t. My mom was only 16, unwed and a high school student when I was conceived.

Adoption came to be seen as the perfect solution for infertility. Birth control and abortion were considered threats to the availability of children for such women and it would seem are viewed the same even today.

My source for this information is The Baby Thief: The True Story of the Woman Who Sold Over Five Thousand Neglected, Abused and Stolen Babies by Barbara Bisantz Raymond.