Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Stigmas and Shaming and Secrets, Oh My!

It was really good to read at The Declassified Adoptee blog and see that she has become very savvy about what has been done to us as mothers. This is down a couple of paragraphs in her most excellent post, but it is so very, very true. The fact is that we were stereotyped, stigmatized and dismissed as disturbed and delinquent. She dug and read and learned and put it so well, here.

"...When First We Practice to Deceive

Birth records became more difficult for Adult Adoptees to obtain as the later-half of the 20th century progressed. This was due to the social stigmas that unwed, "adolescent" mothers were fundamentally flawed and would interfere with the adoptee's developmental stages and the Adoptive Parent's ability to bond with the adoptee if they knew the adoptee's identity and/or whereabouts. What started as a way of hiding illegitimacy turned into a way to label Original Mothers as a threat to their children."
You know, from that evaluation, I can't help but picture us natural moms as a bunch of dingbat witches intent on cursing our own, much loved babies with something awful. I don't know what they thought we could do to them other than want them back. I don't know if our flaw was moral or psychological as these "experts" saw it, or both by all, but that mind-set worked well enough that the attitude stayed with quite a few of us for a long time. Not being considered a "whole" and "unflawed" person played Hell with my self-image for years.

I can remember the first time I ever heard any mothers protest the labeling that was put on us during the EMS. I had, timidly, gone to a "search and support" meeting. While there, looking for some support when all the emphasis seemed to be on search, I did hear something worthwhile. Some adopter was there making comments about how we shouldn't feel bad that we weren't in a position to keep our babies. Another mother spoke up and said, loud enough to be heard by all, "We were unwed, NOT unfit." Hallelujah and Amen, Sister!

We are still being blamed for the fact that records closed, for the fact that some people want to keep them closed and probably, global warming. The industry hides its misdeeds behind our stereotyped images. We used to joke about natural mothers wearing bangs because it helped cover the scarlet letter branded on our foreheads. Now, we just refuse to wear the letter. We didn't deserve it then and we don't now.

We can now look into our research and see the number of successful, well-adjusted people who were raised by single mothers. It wasn't the fact that we had no husband. It was because we had never had a husband when we became unmarried moms. Many women, divorced and widowed, raised children on their own. But, we didn't have that man's name as our own, nor never been gifted with that gold band. This had the social workers, psychologists and clergy judging us as a group without knowing a single one of us as an individual with values and a heart that could be broken. They only saw single girls who had engaged in "carnal intercourse" as evidenced by our growing bellies.

The social workers never, that I can remember, took the time to get to know me when I was in that situation. I imagine they saw the fear and the dread and the loneliness but that was due to my "flaws," as well. Our minister suggested to my mother that I should have a hysterectomy when I became pregnant after being date-raped. All he could see was the fact that I had gone and gotten myself pregnant, again. Neat trick, huh? I, and earthworms and some phyto-plankton can do that. It's bio-magic with a twist.

I am sick and tired of the Industry, their lobbying cartel, attorneys and legislators using us as an excuse to keep from looking at the families being ripped apart, and people becoming unable to know who they are or where they originated. We went from being breeding stock to being portrayed as frail, frightened, fragile older women afraid of their scarlet past catching up to them. Ye Gods! it makes me want to jack-smack as many of them as I can find. And most of us are about as "fragile" as Mack Trucks.

I imagine that the NCFA and their ilk are having quite a problem understanding the phenomenon of mothers not only challenging them but using our own names when we do it. What happened to all that shame the "counselors" so carefully worked to instill in us?

Sorry Chuck, and all the rest. We grew up and wised up. Go peddle your lies to adopters. We aren't buying them and neither are our adult children.


Just Me said...

Great post!

Amanda said...

Great post :-)

There's a video on the sidebar of my blog that I think is very interesting. Rickie Solinger was talking about "Begars and Choosers" and basically said that adoption was centered around taking vulnerable women and keeping them vulnerable.

IMHO, the facade of "lifelong secrecy" imposed in adoption and the NCFA claiming to "protect" you is to promote this seperate class of subordinate women that society needs to shroud in this mysterious veil of protection, rather than elevate to equality and give a voice.

The NCFA makes me sick.

Robin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robin said...

Trying one more time.

I watched Rickie's video. I never really realized how badly we were labeled and used until I read her first book. It opened a flood of memories that almost overwhelmed me. I read it the same year I reunited with my adult children.

That "go and sin no more and keep your mouth shut" farewell I received from the social workers is still fresh in my mind. I'm a baaad girl because I didn't keep my mouth shut. ;o)

Sandy Young said...

But, Robin, that not keeping your mouth shut is part of your charm and one of the major reasons that I love you so much! I have never been known as a retiring type, either, and I welcome a kindred spirit. Now, all I have to do is shut up for a minute and remember where I left that darn broom and fly on down there, pick you up and we will go jacksmack that asshole together!!! Can we pick up some of our friends on the way. I am sure that some of them are ready to fly the dust off their brooms, too....

Great post, Sister!

Anonymous said...

Amen, Robin....I decided when my son and I reunited that keeping my past and his existance a secret w wasn't worth it. Not only that, but I knew so many women who "were in a family way" and "had shot gun marriages" that I figured the shame was dissapated 40 years later. I didn't condemn myself to hell by having my son...He is the best aspect of my "affair" with his father. To bad my lover didn't realize what a mistake he was making by leaving me and my baby....