Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Surrender is a Bitch
I held a lot of promise for a successful life, as a child. I was precocious and bright. I am sure my mother had wonderful hopes for my future. But, just as I was about to blossom, the bud was forced to remain a bud.
I wonder how many women who could have done marvelous things were derailed by surrender? I know some that closed off the pain and moved ahead with grit and determination and became very successful, as if to show their families that they, indeed, had real worth. But some of us, full of the stuff of creativity and ambition, found ourselves so stymied by the ordeal of coerced surrender and the unnatural separation of mother and child that our growth was stunted. A wounded bud has trouble blooming.
I took a few college courses, but never got a degree. I could have graduated high school with honors but, because I was pregnant during the EMS, I had to settle for night school and a GED. My mother settled for seeing me safely married and out of the dating pool. My first marriage was a twenty-four year ordeal but I was respectable and I had children I could keep and raise. At the time, I thought it was a fair trade.
Some people think that this is all about adoption. But adoption was not our bailiwick. Our emotional trauma was contained in the time leading up to and the actual surrender. Pregnancy is a time of physical and hormonal stresses for any woman. It was murder for a single teen in a time of social hypocrisy that judged her as less than she was. The constant and forceful arguments that constitute coercion, the emotional pressure of frantic parents wanting their little girl back as a faux virgin, and the dread of that day when we would labor and give birth without a loved one to even hold our hands were enough to subdue even the most energetically ambitious among us. The ultimate loss, the unnatural amputation of our sacred ties to our babies, was the coup de grace.
We either lost ourselves in our ambitions or, like me, we only had thoughts of those children the SW's had promised would heal our wounds. I married the first man that would have me (eloping because my mother said it would be unseemly for me to have a church wedding) and, nine months later, I was a "respectable," married mother. The empty promises of the social workers played out as they have with so many others. While my raised children brought me much joy, I never stopped mourning my lost babies. I didn't forget, I didn't "get over it" and, while I went on with my life, it was not the life it could have been had I not been beaten down into the lowest of low self-esteems.
While some of my sister mothers and I call ourselves "adoption activists," what we really are, in advocating for the mother, is surrender activists. Adoptees have their groups that fight for open records. We are fighting for something more esoteric and that is recognition and justice. This is not a solid piece of paper we can hold in our hands, but something more essential to our being. The industry and the government were complicit in what we endured and the damage we suffered. We need to hear them recognize and admit that. We need the American public to know that something very, very wrong went on in our recent past that caused as much heartache for over a million young women as warfare causes a nation.
Will we get what we want? I don't even begin to see myself as able to answer that one. But, just like I hoped for a better life as a frightened girl, I hope for a light of truth to shine on this era and the story to eventually be told in larger terms than in individual anecdotes and experiences.
Identifying myself as a mother of adoption loss has been a freeing experience. It is a fact that the truth will set a person free. Secrets, lies and misconceptions are a prison of this nation's own making when it comes to the adoption industry and its crimes. The fact that girls like me had to bear the derision and judgment, not just of our parents, or our church, or our own small community, but the entire nation, makes this crime all the more heinous.
It is past time that a light was turned back to those days and made to shine into the dark corners of overt, legalized but criminal coerced surrender. We speak now from a place of realization, awareness and courage that we didn't have when we were part of the huge number of surrendering mothers.
Though our hair may be gray, the buds are finally blooming.