Sunday, February 28, 2010

Time To Lay This Burden Down

"Those of us, who are less than perfect can never understand the reason for this lifelong punishment for what is, often enough, scarcely a sin, certainly not the mortal one.” ( The late Jean Paton, Adopted Person and Activist, talking about mothers of adoption loss.)

As mothers from the EMS, many of us have carried the burden of imposed guilt for decades. Some of us have awakened to the fact that, though treated like second-rate criminals, we have committed no crime. Some call sex outside of marriage a sin, but, as the esteemed, Ms. Paton observed, it is hardly a mortal sin. It's actually a very human act, programmed into us to continue the species.

I feel we are on the cusp of something exciting. We are reaching out to our children and they are reaching out to us in a new way. Yes, our goals are defined by our different circumstances, but we are edging closer to the time when we can watch each others' backs. While what we want and what our adult children want is geared to our separate needs, there is no reason we cannot stand in support of the goals of each. Let's face it. The way it has been done, so far, with mothers only taking a subservient role and our needs being seen as "clouding the issue," isn't working all that well.

This isn't going to sit well with some adopted people, the industry, some "martyr  mothers" and adopters, probably. It's a bold idea but one that is overdue. Quid pro quo works well if given a chance.

We mothers that are in this particular stage of activism are hoping to recover  the human rights denied us for so many years. Equal access to records would mean that mothers from the closed records eras could learn the fate of their children. That would be no small gift to mothers still in search. Those of us already reunited would have vindication. We are fighting for respect and acceptance of the motherhood we never surrendered. Given no options other than surrender, we gave up our parental rights and responsibilities, NOT our motherhood or our right to know the fate and welfare of our children. We are hoping for eventual recognition of the crimes committed against us in the name of "the perfect solution."

Some people, especially those who oppose the mothers' right to equal access, still trot out that old onus of shame for "spreading our legs." When we try to explain the coercive and judgmental society of that era, it is if we are speaking another language. "No one held a gun to your head," many say. We say, "They might as well have." Ann Fessler's "The Girls Who Went Away" and Rickie Solinger's "Wake Up Little Suzie" are the go-to books for a real picture of the times and mores that caused us to be treated with so little regard for our dignity, rights and feelings.

Unaccessable, closed records, for mothers, is a continuation of the original punishment laid on us by society when our children were taken from us. The punishment continues in the erroneous picture of the mother of adoption loss as a slut, slattern, crackwhore and potential abuser. Yes, there have been some, but they are the minority. But, hey, there are adopters who haven't been saints and who have abused and even murdered the children they adopted. That doesn't mean they all are homicidal.

Someone said that it "didn't matter" if we were sluts, that we were still the object of discrimination. But, yes, to those of us who have had that self-righteous finger pointed at us when we dared come out into the DOES matter. No matter what anyone else says, I, personally,  suffered from this labeling for years. I am ready  to deny and defy those who are still into blaming and shaming. This is not something with which I expect our adult children to be able to indentify. Yet we both have suffered from heinous discrimination.

I am blinking back tears, as I write this. I am overwhelmed by the memory of the pain of always feeling "not as good as." I never defended myself against the lies told by my daughter's father, the lies in the non-identifying information my daughter received and even the assumptions of my own family as to my character, until just a few years ago. Standing tall and speaking out as a woman of values and character has been my salvation. Perhaps, in our quest for cooperation and better communication, we can give this gift of renewed self-worth to mothers still hiding their "terrible secret."

It's time for all of us to lay that particular burden down and live our lives out in the light.


Anonymous said...

Kitta here:

thank you Robin. Those who condemn unmarried mothers simply for being unmarried mothers need to remember that there was no crime committed. Not even in the law.

The only crimes committed were against the mothers and their children, through legalized kidnapping.

Jean Paton was a friend of mine, and I dearly miss her. She always said that opening records only to adopted people, but not to mothers, made no sense.It especially makes no sense when one thinks of all of the adopted people who wish to be 'found' by their mothers.

Having a child as an unmarried mother meant that we would lose our children, one way or the other...and sometimes guns *were* used. Security guards in hospitals sometimes prevented mothers from seeing their babies. It happened.

People who accuse unmarried mothers of drug use and child abuse without evidence are, themselves, guilty of slander and libel,and those actually are crimes against the mothers.

Lori said...

"spreading our legs" - mmmmmm - That would make me a huge whore! LOL!

I planned and got pregnant. I knew that my timeline for having children was very very short (cervical cancer from the DES and other "make sure it's a boy" drugs can make life interesting).

I get so tired of it all.

Samantha Franklin said...

This post made me cry too, Robin. Thanks so much for continuing to stay strong and speaking out.
Today is the anniversary of my first Mother's passing. It is a hard day for me, but knowing other
Mother's who are speaking out brings comfort. Bless you!

Unknown said...

Peach, I am sorry about your mother. I know that these days hit us hard. Take care of yourself.

Good post, Robin. Thanks for putting this up. I am going to work on one, too.....