In the adoption support arena, the main thrust has been obtaining and maintaining reunion between the mothers who lost to adoption and their adult adopted children. Sometimes it works and sometimes, the stress of the stigma and the separation throws the whole thing into a cocked hat. It is what it is and we try to learn to live with it.
But for Senior Mothers from the EMS (Era of Mass Surrenders), it is no longer about reunion. Some of us have been reunited with our children for nearly 20 years. My own reunions are 15 years old. Once the pink cloud cleared and we stopped listening to the destructive, demeaning tapes that were planted in our brains, we started thinking for ourselves (what a concept!) and coming to some startling conclusions.
We have found ourselves remembering and confronting the horror of our tragedy that was intermingled with the joy of giving life. We have noted and compared notes on how we were treated by family, clergy, social workers, extended family and the community at large. We are gathering our medical data and case records and finding that there were many things that were done that were very, very wrong.
The birth and subsequent loss to adoption of our newborns was not, for us, the beginning of the story. Our stories began with the realization that we were pregnant, with the horror of confronting our parents, with, for many of us, the abandonment by the fathers of our babies, with shaming, stigmatizing, and emotional manipulation. There was the isolation that was the maternity prisons. Being sent away from home, from all we held close, and put into an environment that was, in many instances, totally punitive is a common thread in our stories.
Being used by the people who were responsible for our medical care as "practice patients" for interns, given medications we should not have been given, and laboring under the disdainful eyes of morally offended nurses were parts and parcels of the punishment we had to endure. The best reading for this era is Rickie Solinger's "Wake Up Little Suzie" and Ann Fessler's "The Girls Who Went Away." Both these books give insight into the attitude towards the unwed, usually white and middle-class, mothers of our day.
During this horrible period of isolation, most of us were doing what most pregnant moms-to-be do...we were falling in love with our babies and having to deal with the fact that we might never see our child after she or he was born. Some of us looked out windows and daydreamed of the fathers coming to rescue us and our child. The fact that it didn't happen or wasn't allowed to happen is evident by our sheer numbers.
In SMAAC, we look only at the mistreatment, the emotional and mental manipulation, the injustices that would let a minor sign away her child while refusing her jobs, an education, or even a place to live. People could treat human beings like that back then because of "moral reasons." We also look at the life-long damage that this treatment caused and that reunion could not repair.
Reunion was just the beginning of our awakening. It was the spring-board, for many of us, to self-esteem, strength and renewed sense of purpose. The isolating, shaming, manipulation, punishment and ultimate harvesting of our infants, indiscriminately and with no thought to our grief and pain was wrong then as it is wrong today. This is a women's issue, even if our silent sisters at NOW don't include this. Men were the ones who created this atmosphere of the scarlet letter. Our boyfriends were the ones who walked away with a wink and a nudge while we hid, labored and bled.
THAT is what SMAAC is about...it is about injustice, it is about acknowledgement and, above all, Sister Senior Mothers, for a change, it is about US.