Thursday, January 17, 2013

Force Of Nature

In all the years I've been a part of the fight for adoption reform and family preservation, in all the different First Moms I have come to know, the many stories and experiences I have heard, there is one overwhelming similarity we all share . . .

We wanted to keep and raise our children but, for whatever reason, unique to our own experiences, we believed giving our babies up for adoption was what we had to do.  We didn’t have the confidence in ourselves, the belief in our own importance to our child, and were left with feeling as if we couldn’t possibly raise our own child and the only solution was to give our sons and daughters away to someone perceived as better than us.

Of course, like in all things, there are the exceptions, the minority . . . those few . . . who truly just don’t want to be bothered with parenting.  Who, even with all the support and help they could have possibly been given, would still give their baby away because they have no desire to take on the responsibilities of being a parent.

But they are so far from the norm.  So far from what I hear, over and over again, in the world of adoption . . .

“I wish I could keep my baby . . . but . . . “

Though so many have tried to do so, you cannot dismiss or weaken the natural, primal instinct that exists inside a mother to care for and love her child.  She’s not a fish, a reptile, an insect, who simply lays eggs and walks away.  She’s a mother.  One who nurtures her child’s life inside her body.  Who is already prewired with hormones that connect her to her child in a way that can never be replicated with any other relationship.

But in adoption, where I have often said all logic goes away, there are those who believe you can coerce or force a mother into doing something that is natural and instinctive – keeping and raising the baby you have carried for nine months inside of you.  Your child, who is a part of you in a way no one else ever can be.

They claim every mother should have the “right” to give up her child if she feels she is incapable of raising him or her.  Which, okay, in the broadest of terms, perhaps, to some, this sounds acceptable.  But if you are going to carry that belief, then shouldn’t it pass to all mothers of all ages of children?

What about that mom, newly divorced, just lost her job, with a fourteen year old son who is in and out of trouble?  We wouldn’t want to force her to parent, would we?  We should give her the same encouragement and support to give up her troublesome son as we give the mothers who are still pregnant and haven’t yet even had the chance to try parenting their children.

We wouldn’t want to coerce her into parenting if she feels she just can’t do it.  We should instead give her that same right so many are fighting for pregnant mothers to have – to go to an adoption agency and be reassured how brave she is for recognizing her failures as a mother, guaranteed that another, better couple will be found for her child.

All of her bills, from that point, should be taken care of until a hopeful adoptive couple is found and she signs away her rights to her teenage son.  She should be offered temporary housing, perhaps college tuition and even presented with gift baskets and blankets to honor the wonderful sacrifice she has made by knowing she is incapable of taking care of her fourteen year old son and “choosing” to give him away to a “better” couple.

And if we are going to go by the terms of what is considered coercing or forcing a mother to keep and parent her child, we cannot judge this mother for giving her child away while she is facing a hard time in her life.  We cannot tell her anything about the damage she will cause him or even suggest that he will feel pain from such a loss.

She will have to be restricted from hearing from any mothers about the pain they suffered from being where she is . . . in the midst of a crisis, feeling as if they had no choice and believing giving their child away was the only answer.  And she will have to be protected from hearing from others, who were also given up by their mothers as a troublesome teenager, if they have anything to say that doesn't praise the separation they suffered because nobody wanted to "force" their mother to keep and raise them.

This mother can also not be offered help and support to keep her teenage son.  And if she is offered such things, she needs to be made aware that those who are offering to stand by her won't keep their promises and won't be there when she needs them.

See, that's the thing.  If one truly believes that the majority of mothers can be forced to keep their children, then they have to carry that belief for ALL mothers and offer the same encouragement and support for every child to be given away whenever their parents face a hard time in life.

Since the claim is that it's not about the demand for infants that persuades others to fight for the right for a mother to "choose" not to parent, then it shouldn't matter the age of the child she is giving up.  If he or she is fourteen years or fourteen hours old, there should be that assurance that there is a "better" couple willing to adopt them and raise them as their own.

But that just isn't the case.

The myth of mothers being forced to raise their children only lasts as long as that child is of the young age where they are still sought after to meet the demand of hopeful couples willing to pay to adopt them. 

Once the children are past a certain age and are no longer considered "adoptable," the rights of all those poor mothers being "coerced" to raise their own children suddenly changes.

It then becomes more of what you would expect to hear . . .

How could a mother not take responsibility for her child and just want to give him up because times are hard? 

How could she do that to her own son? 

Is she aware of how much damage she will do to him by giving up on him instead of doing everything in her power to help him, help herself, and get past whatever troubles she is facing?

There wouldn't be any question about forcing her to parent.  Society, as a whole, would expect her to get help for her son, for herself.  To take responsibility as a parent and not give up just because times are hard.

It's an interesting dilemma, isn't it?

Depending on the age of the child, we either encourage mothers to give up their responsibility and give their children away.  Or we expect them to stand up and be parents to their children and think of the damage they will do if they abandon them just because they are facing a hard time in their life.

And yet, the reality is, every mother, no matter the age of her child, deserves our help and support to overcome whatever it is leading her to believe she can't care for her own son or daughter.  She deserves empowerment to be the best mom she can be.  Encouragement for how important she is in her child's life and the knowledge to know that at a day old or a decade old, her child will suffer a loss if he or she is separated from his or her mother.

That isn't coercion.  That isn't forcing a woman to do what comes naturally - care for her own child.  That is stepping in when a mother feels so desperate, so lost, she sees no other choice but to give up on parenting.  It is offering the guidance needed to work through the problems in front of her so that she isn't left with the most unnatural thing a mother can do - give away her own flesh and blood.

Yes, there is always the sad reality that there will be mothers who resent their children.  There will be mothers who truly just don’t care to parent and want nothing to do with it and will give their children away no matter how much help and support they are offered.

But they aren’t the norm.  And they should never be reason to try and suggest mothers don’t have a natural, primal instinct to care for and raise their children.

We SHOULD expect mothers to step up and be the best parent possible to their sons and daughters.  We SHOULD provide help and support for those who find themselves in a place where they feel as if they are unable to do so.

We should be empowering them, not discouraging them.  Be truthful with them about the very damage they and their child could face by being separated.  About the fact that there will be those who believe, for their own gain and benefit, in encouraging a mother to view herself as a failure and incapable of parenting while being led to believe that a complete stranger to her child would do better than she ever could.

It’s not coercion.  It’s not force.  It’s human kindness.  It’s caring about the well-being of families . . .

And it’s supporting and believing in the very natural process of a mother’s desire to keep, love and raise her child without outside influences trying to convince her otherwise.


  1. Thank you Cassi... Thank you!! I love the way you wrote this; the part referring to a newly divorced woman is brilliant... I have often wondered why these is such a disconnect between seeing these women, once married but now single mothers and those facing an unplanned pregnancy... Of course there is not much different save the baby is a newborn and simply, marketable. A young pregnant woman is easier to influence, brainwash and coerce, using her natural primal love as a weapon against her...

    Great post! I have always seen the 'coerced parenting' concept as simply a lame retaliation to the very real coercion to separate mothers and babies... There is no such thing as coerced parenting but they try to make parenting look worse in order to claim their booty... Adoption, just so sickening when you look at what it really is.

  2. Being a parent for the first time is scary, whether the child is planned or not. But the adoption industry EXPLOITS that fear and turns the mother's thoughts that cause that fear into the insecurities they want her to have. So they can break her which enables them to take her baby. It kills me that since everyone knows new parents are scared to be parents, AND THIS IS PERFECTLY NORMAL, and will be with every new situation as the child grows up, adoptive parents are never shown that way. They are represented like they know everything, have no fear at all and can handle anything that arises. I find this disturbing, especially when the child comes from another woman, another bloodline and there is no bond at all like the baby's mother had for nine months. Adoptive parents are painted by the adoption industry to be more than human and I am getting really sick of it, as many adoptees know how narcissistic they are and how much they abuse the kids they adopt. Adoption is such utter bullshit.

    1. "Adoptive parents are painted by the adoption industry to be more than human..."

      I totally agree with you. It seems that when someone is even considering adoption, they get put into the saint, saviour category who can do no wrong. They are suddenly larger than life. I can't think of any other group who has such a good reputation. We all know that APs have just as many problems, just as many marital failures, just as much abuse, etc. as anyone else.

    2. Sorry but i feel that people who take other's children don't think. They believe that if they do parenting properly the child will become what they are expecting. there is more abuse and divorce in adoptive families per capita than in intact families.

  3. Thank you for explaining this so well. As you know, money is the reason infant adoption happens the way it does.

  4. Loved this! I've been struggling with the "forced to parent" issue. I couldn't come up with a good argument against it, and you did a fantastic job.
    I was having a conversation today with someone about having a child. She doesn't have any, and she was discussing the cons. You have to get up in the middle of the night...etc...
    I said there is a lot of responsibility, and they make your life messy, but you will never regret having them and parenting no matter how much hassle and mess. They will always be worth it. How can you say you're "forcing" someone when it's something they will never regret doing? They would probably thank you for it in the end.

  5. Wow...and, a thousand times, YES!!!

  6. I loved your analogy with the 14 y.o. boy. One of the many myths of adoption, especially in the BSE, was that as long as a child was placed as an infant, s/he would totally assimilate into the adoptive family as if s/he had been born there. And that s/he would have nothing but the mildest curiosity about her original families. Not true. I was placed as a newborn and still had enormous grief over the loss of my mother. Of course, at that age the child doesn't have the cognitive understanding of what happened, but I believe s/he is just as profoundly affected. We have to keep fighting to get people to understand this.

  7. thinking all a baby needs is love is liken to saying the first person to anounce in high school that they loved you, you would be forever happy with since the only requirement was provided.

  8. Everything stated is so true! Thank You!

  9. I do feel if a woman says i have a child i don't want that is different than a crisis pregnancy that is coerced with untruths. Have you met anyone that bemoans they were forced to keep their baby?

  10. This is excellent Cassi. Thanks for articulating a logical argument against the "a woman shouldn't be forced to parent" reasoning that promotes then continuation of coercive tactics.

  11. This is really an interesting post.Thanks for the share..

  12. So true. Nobody seems to think it's an act of love to relinquish your teenager.
    Really I think infant adoption fills the social role that infanticide did/ does and abortion does. It is key that it's a newborn bc the child has not been socially incorporated into the family yet and so it's not considered the loss of a real child. I remember how chilling it was when my reunited birthfather kept referring to 'the baby' as in 'a baby deserves 2 parents' while I was standing there in the flesh. He never referred to me as 'his baby', just a baby, any baby.