Sunday, July 06, 2008


Many people see this blog as an "adoption issues" blog. For those of us from the BSE, Senior Mothers, the issue is a bit more complex. True, it is the demand for infants for the infertile that was a motivating force in what happened to us and our children. But, when we talk about investigation, redress, apologies, and attention to what happened to us, we are talking more about the events and actions that led to the act of the surrender of our children.

Surrender is an act of defeat..more caving in than giving up. It comes after a war has been waged. It happens when there is no other option available for survival. It happens when someone has been beaten down to the lowest point they can go. It is the waving of the white flag of losing and sorrow and pain. It is the Hiroshima of the Senior Mother of adoption loss. It is the withdrawal from the fray and the tears of the disarmed, out of ammunition soldier who knows she can fight no longer.

Most of us were forced by the social climate, shamed and angry parents, coercive social workers, cruel nurses and doctors, judgmental clergy...all or some of these....into a corner where we were seen as and, often felt, "unfit" by virtue of our unmarried status, and/or our youth and lack of financial independence.

Very few of us were given a choice in the matter. I was told I would not be bringing a bastard back to my home by my father. My mother was frantically trying to "re-virginize" me and save my "future." I was bombarded by the social workers with all the reasons why I should surrender and all my reasons for keeping either of my children, including the son conceived by violence, were beaten down with reasons of my basic lack of "fitness." The "horrid consequences" of keeping my babies, in terms of what would happen to them and to me, read like a tragic novel.
This was a different time..a time when women, especially YOUNG women had little to no autonomy. This was the time when conceiving outside the bonds of marriage meant expulsion from school, eviction from apartments, being fired from your job and being seen as both morally and psychologically deficient for the girls. The guys got a wink and a nudge and went on with their lives. We were caught in the riptide of a horrible social injustice and pulled under by the millions. Don't take my word for it...go to the SMAAC or the BSERI homepages. Read Ann Fessler's "The Girls Who Went Away" and Ricki Solinger's "Wake Up Little Susie."
Most of us are grandmothers...those of us who were not stricken by secondary infertility caused by our trauma. Many of us are in reunion and have seen the sad, angry results of that "ideal solution" of the BSE...the one that would address two "problems," the 'unwed mother' and the infertile, married couple. Wow! Wasn't that a smart idea? NOT! Now, our instinctive wisdom in wanting to keep and raise our babies is being proven to be valid and as nature intended.
Surrender was all we had left. PTSD, holes in our hearts, bad lifestyle choices, yearly pain on birthdays and secrets and lies were our lot in life as a result. I became an over-protective mother to my raised children, eating disordered and a silent partner in a bad, first marriage. Some of us told our spouses, if we married, some of us kept the secret and then had to come out of the closet, years later, when those children, whom we were told would never think of us, came searching.
For many of us, reunion threw us into a paroxysm of grief and the re-living of that time in our lives when we were isolated, coerced, blamed, shamed and deserted by our friends, families and, too often, the fathers of our babies. I had to take time off work in order to live through the onslaught of emotions, both positive and negative, when my daughter found me after a long search. That same year, we found my son and it was as if I had been gut-punched to see the damaged individual he has become. Reunion did not and does not "fix" the pain of the Senior Mother, nor does it make up for the injustice that led to surrender. To say that is was "just the way things were back then" is the same as saying that slavery was "just the way it was" in the day when kidnapped African men and women were treated like animals.
The crimes against the mother of the BSE are legion. We were the objects of scorn, rejection, judgment, and every kind of injustice that could be heaped on our very young shoulders. Just as Bastard Nation keeps its priority one of open records, we Senior Mothers have our priority..the seeking of justice for those of us who suffered under a very harsh social system and lost our children to the system and then, to closed, secret adoption just because they could do that to us, openly and without fear of interference from anyone. They are not so overt, these days, but they are trying to pull this Puritanical mess of a society back in that direction. We have to keep our eyes on the one goal that needs our attention which is addressing what happened THEN. That could, very likely, keep it from being repeated in today's world.
Not no, but HELL no to that giant step BACKWARDS! Not if we can help it and we think we fact, we are at the point of KNOWING we can.
Move aside, NCFA and the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. We Senior Mothers are more than capable of speaking for ourselves. (And we are still a wee mite pissed about it when you try to speak for us.)


Unknown said...

Well said, My Sister. Heck, you made ME cry!!

And, yes, Mr. Donaldson's stooge and the ncfa's puppet, we will thank you to sit down and shut up. We will take it from here, thank you very much. We can handle it quite nicely without you cluttering up the works!

This is excellent, Robin. Thanks again for being so very persistent about the writing. You do it so very well!


Robin said...

Thanks, Sandy. One thing that happened to me that I failed to mention was the fact that I was told if I kept my baby(s), either I or my parents would own FCH and the SC Children's Bureau a lot of money which I knew neither I nor they could pay.

Anonymous said...

As one wise mother said... we can liken this to 'ransom'.

money demanded for the return of a captured person
payment for the release of someone
the act of freeing from captivity or punishment
exchange or buy back for money; under threat

1. the money demanded in return for the release of someone who has been kidnapped
2. hold to ransom
a. to keep (a prisoner) in confinement until payment is received
b. to attempt to force (a person) to do something
1. to pay money to obtain the release of (a prisoner)
2. to set free (a prisoner) in return for money [Old French ransoun]

I was told and it did happen... the only way I would be 'allowed' to see my newborn, ONLY if I Promised to sign the Surrender papers. I 'promised' and I was 'allowed' to see my newborn for a short while...then she was gone....

Anonymous said...

Well said.

Though I am a Bastard, and not a Mother, my heart is at its core with womyn and what has been done to them.

More people need to listen when Mothers who have endured such speak.

I particularly found your explanation of "surrender" useful, surrender is far from a starting point, it is to the Mother, in many ways a place of no other option left.

Yet even that is no ending- as almost any Mother will remind one- the aftermath post "surrender" goes on and on.

Again, thanks for articulating so clearly the fallacy of the "surrender" mythology in particular.

Marley Greiner said...

Thanks for this great post, Robin!

I am increasingly disturbed by the idea that the "bad old days" are over with and we need to "move on."

Though things have improved for many women, those days are not over by a long shot. Women are still abused and manipulated, are still shamed and guilted. Just look at the baybee harvesting programs of NCFA and CPICS.

The consequences of "bad old days" thinking are the 6 million bastards walkng around the US today without records and the millions of parents and extended families left in limbo. We are expected to shut up and be grateful.The "experts" know best.

Politically, the "bad old days" define archaic adoption practices and laws and the near impossible task of changing them. Go to any leg. hearing on records acces, for instance, and you'll see senior mothers (and, of course,younger ones)) used to justifying secret adoption. When moms object, speak up, they are ignored and ridiculed as cranks and people with "issues." Nobody held a gun to your head.

The movement has to be us--not outsider institutes and lobbyists. Bastards and mothers/fathers have distinct experiences and arguments We may not always agree on tactics or priorities, but one thing we can agree on that this is about us. We are the leaders, not the followers.

Anonymous said...

I am continually amazed at how much I learn from all of you who have suffered tremendous loss. My education began in the late 70s and early 80s when I met three Moms who shaped my perceptions. As an adoptee and a half-orphan, my surrender was quite different. I struggled to understand my father's predicament and at the same time I felt incredable empathy for you Moms of BSE. My heart goes out to you.

Keep writing, keep fighting, keep educating.

Joan Wheeler

Anonymous said...

""Nobody held a gun to your head. ""

Yep..that is the standard retort to many a now Senior Mother when speaking honestly about her surrender experience and closed adoptions. The nay-sayers who so enjoy closed records, can repeat the words above like a broken record, for eternity. Should those closed records ever get fully open, I think we will see how dishonest (and possibly criminal) the words 'Nobody held a gun to your head' really are. Because there is no open, written factual evidence to contradict these words, the adoption engineers have been most cozy/comfy on their adoption thrones. Closed records HIDE lots of secrets and lies, that the agencies, SWs, maternity homes, etc., have hidden behind for decades. How I wish those records could be blasted open across this nation. One can only imagine how the adoption worms would squirm!