There are ex-husbands and ex-wives, but there are no ex-moms, ex-dads, or ex-children.
Newborn baby (photo: Barbara Tang, flickr creative commons)
Between 1940 - 1970, approximately 4 million women (in the U.S. alone) relinquished newborn babies for adoption; I was one of them. This time period is now known as The Baby Scoop Era and there has been a great deal of research on the unprecedented numbers of adoptions that took place during those years. I gave birth to a beautiful daughter on July 25, 1971 (still within the boundaries of this era, in my opinion) and wasn't allowed to hold her or touch her. The pain of the moment they took my daughter away, has echoed through the rest of my life. Tragically, when my baby was born I was only 17 and my boyfriend and I didn't understand any of the consequences of this relinquishment and subsequent adoption. It wasn't a choice, however, but more like the only thing we knew to do or were allowed to do by the adults in our world. No one told us what the consequences might be, what our rights - as parents - were, or what help we could have had in raising our child. We also had no idea of the huge consequences this act would have in our daughter's life. That's because it is rare, even today, to tell the truth about adoption: not the sugar-coated truth, the truth.
Pregnant woman on the street, Thailand (photo: drbutoni, flickr creative commons)
Recently, I was delighted to discover the book Adoption Healing: a path to recovery written by adoptee, and therapist, Joe Soll. This book validates many of the feelings I've had over the years about the lasting pain of adoption loss. As Soll says, "Everyone involved in an adoption has many losses." The book is broken up into short, digestible chapters and Soll, a longtime counsellor, provides helpful advice at the end of each chapter for those readers who have become emotionally overwhelmed (Soll calls this "whelmed") through reading.
Each chapter also has valuable sections that contrast the Myths of adoption with the Facts. I found these sections to be particularly healing for myself and I hope they will be just as healing for adoptees. Here are some of my favorite facts.
- Most people surrender a child to adoption because they lack the resources to do otherwise
- Birthparents (Soll is now using the more politically-correct terms first or natural mother) care forever and have great difficulty going on with their lives.
- Bonding begins before birth.
- Adopted children think about their birthmothers all the time.
- Babies suffer from the loss of their mothers.
My favorite chapter of the book, however, is the one titled, "The Respect We Never Got." In this chapter, Soll describes the many ways in which all members of the adoption triad were not treated with respect. Much of what he says in this chapter rings so true that it made me cry. As a first mother, I was treated like a criminal by most adults. Kindness was rare and after I agreed to relinquish my daughter for adoption, comfort was nonexistent. Soll uses a wonderful analogy to describe the deep truth of adoption.
It was like a big plane crash in a field. All the mothers and babies lying there crying and the rescuers came and carried them off in different directions. When they got to the Emergency Room they dusted them off, told them they were fine and sent them on their way. The mothers went home and the babies went to new homes. All were told they were fine. The most sacred relationship in the world has now gone up in smoke. They were told that there wasn't any accident, no crash, forget about it, just get on with your lives. (Soll, p. 153)
According to Soll, "Real healing can only be done when you know where you hurt, why you hurt, and the extent of the pain." I agree. This book, although written for adoptees, is recommended for anyone who has experienced adoption loss. My only criticism is that, as with much of the literature on adoption, there is little mention of the role of the first father and the pain he experiences. Soll and a co-author have written several other books, including one specifically for mothers. Unfortunately, my local library doesn't have a copy. I will suggest that they purchase it and, if they don't, I'll buy one myself.
Soll runs Healing Weekends in New York State Even though I live on the West Coast, I am considering going to one. If his small book is so powerful, I can only imagine what workshops would be like. From a look at his website, they must be good because I see that they fill quickly.
Note to readers: If you want to take a look at my other blog, you can either follow the link here to The Caregivers Chronicle or click on the link at the top of the page. The Caregivers Chronicle is about caregiving for my aging parents and topics that interest other caregivers.