Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Surrender is a Bitch

Sometimes, I can remember enjoying being pregnant with my first two. The longer they were inside me, the better. I tried not to think of the constant litany of coercive phrases being force-fed to me and enjoyed my moments of escape, just feeling that little life move in my belly. I would dream impossible dreams but watched as my hope diminished and died.

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 remember a movie I saw about a young woman who was a brilliant dancer. Her star was just starting to ascend when she suffered an injury to her legs. I identified, at the time, with the crippled dancer. I could make the motions but I couldn't make the leaps nor do the footwork. Emotionally, I was sabotaged by defeat, sorrow, damaged  self-esteem and the realization of my own powerlessness.

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. 


Chris said...

Surrender is/was a bitch...that's for sure...thank you Robin..many of your words hit directly home for me. My self-esteem went directly to the sub-basement when I was a young child and being molested by my step-father. Enter my teen-age years, well supplied with shyness, no self-esteem and no self-confidence (I already felt worthless, Thanks Dad!), I would attach myself to bad-boy relationships...the abusive kind..afterall it was something familiar, something I knew. Add a teen pregnancy, add more insult to injury (thanks Lutheran Child & Family Services, River Forest, ILL.), add the inhumane treatment I received at Illinois Masonic Hospital courtesy of the nursing staff there...and signing the surrender was a foregone conclusion. There was no one to hold my hand, no one to tell me I understand, no one to tell me they loved me..there was no one. And at the age of 18, that is a very, very lonely place to be. So Buh-Bye Baby...Hello marriage to the abusive guy, armed with my anger and self-deprecating attitude. Then one day..I had a nervous breakdown at the age of 29 and would have to claw my way out..and after a lot of clawing up & out with a lot of help that I sought out, I rediscovered myself..I was not evil, I was not unworthy. I never deserved the treatment that was forced upon me..by a Dad, by a boyfriend/husband...terrible treatment by the people who I trusted the most and who were supposed to love me, care for me and defend me. Even worse...I had come to believe I wasn't worthy of my own newborn that I surrendered, while I was pg, during L&D and for 3 decades afterwards.
The saving grace..I conceived 3 more children in marriage and those children graced my life with 4 beautiful grandsons. Certainly not a fairy-tale ending...still at the end of the day..I know who I am and who I was...just a girl, just a young woman...who was abused and cast her ownself to the dogs...because that's all she believed she was worthy of.

My so-called Inner Child still at times cries out in her dreams, waking myself up..screaming HELP ME, HELP ME...and I feel so sorry for the little girl and young woman I once was...she was so sad, so alone. BUT not today!! Today I can comfort the little lost girl within me, put my arms around her and tell her...I won't let anyone hurt you again..I am here for you..with a little help from my/our friends!

Thanks Robin...

Unknown said...

There could not have been a more cruel, unjust and unwarranted social program designed to keep an entire generation of women in their place if the leaders of the English speaking world had sat down put their heads together to come up with one. However, the very same atmosphere that kept mothers acquiescent also allowed us to find each other and grow strong enough to speak out about it. If it makes them uncomfortable now to have to hear us, tough rocks! It wasn't such a piece of cake living this loss for decades, either.

You are absolutely spot on, too that our issue is not really adoption. By the time the adoption is complete, we are a distant memory, if we haven't had the good grace to die in the process. To our children we are as if dead, legally, if not physically.

What never stops being a shock to me, however, is how virulent the opposition is to the voices of the mothers, especially from the children we grieved for decades. I understand in theory the idea of their feeling of abandonment, but I cannot understand the willful refusal to learn and to recognize that it was abuse when the original loss occurred and the abuse continues when we are attacked today.

The only people to whom I owe anything is to my children both lost and kept and to myself. To the rest....PFFFFTTTTTT!!!

Unknown said...

Forgot to say, EXCELLENT work! Thanks for putting it out there....

Mother said...

Brilliantly written Robin you certainly have expressed what we mothers felt and still feel to this day.

Little did we know that our loss and pain would be like a big anchor attached to us our whole lives. The anchor was the loss and the connection we still had to our babies. The pain was the unknown if we would survive the hell we were put in for another woman's happiness.

WE survived because we had to just like our babies did with the pain buried deep inside. While everyone around us was living their lives we were stuffing our pain to appease them. wtf

I am no longer stuffing the pain for anyone, not my mom, not my grown adults that I bore, not my step thing, not another mother who still believes the bull crap social workers lies, even those adopters who somehow got our babies because they had a ring, because they were married. They were no better off than we were just older and mostly barren and needy.

Our babies used just like we were by society and the wreckers. They were used to try to make another whole while making us sacrifice ourselves for breaking the rules.

How many others broke the rules without having to pay the sacrifice we did? Lots we didn't invent pregnancy, we were used because we could get pregnant.


KimKim said...

Not going to let that Bitch get me, I keep getting up and fighting and I won't stop. I'm determined to have a great life and be happy.

Before reunion it was much harder. During reunion it was easier and now in the middle wondering what next and what now it's become a familiar enemy that I know better how to fight.

Yes it is a blow that knocks you sideways I won't deny that but I keep getting up and trying to walk a straight line.

Celeste Billhartz said...

Oh, my God, how I am so sorry for all the mothers who had not one person in their/your lives to help, to support, to love you! What an atrocity. Speak out .... loudly, often .... until the history of this abomination is written in the text books and people learn ... and, believe you. What a horror in our history. It must be told, it must be acknowledged and, it must never happen, again.

Susie said...

GREAT post! You are so right ~ it is not the surrender ~ it is the garbage we lived through & believed before the surrender. So much of what you write are words of my journey. I too held a lot of promise. I have accomplished much in my life ~ but how much more was lost, along with my innocence and my son??


Anonymous said...

"The oppression of the unwed mother is capitalized on before and after the birth of her child to the point of her nonexistence even unto reunion making her painful past an ever present reality, in that even though she may survive the experience, she may never live with the fullness and richness of those whom have gained what she herself has lost. For how can anyone give back even a little piece of what she gave without taking away from themselves. Everybody is entitled to a new beginning at least once in their lifetime, as those who desire a child more than anything in the world would know. For the unwed mother who chooses to remain unwed after the birth of her child and through the remainder of her lifetime reunion may be the only summit she shall ever reach, for the oppression she felt at the beginning of her experience manifests itself at the end leaving no more promise nor hope for the life she lost and struggled to find. The search is all that remains for her in the minds of those who would not have her find."

Unable to surrender to adoption, I am yet wed to my past by it's desire to reproduce life for others, if not by my flesh, by my bones.

Never before did I cry out for help but it came to me when I was in need, even to the point of being forced to surrender my children. Now, the need I feel after reuniting with three, has drained me of any ambition for a life of my own though a life of my own is all I truly have.

I feel slandered and mocked at every turn of the road. I thought it would pass after reunion but my joy was eventually usurped by the realization that my past became someone elses present and no one will let the present escape them.

Without a fight I will not go to my future for I have no future if I let this injustice continue.

In 2003 I began searching on the Internet for my second son unsure as to whether he was adopted or not. I surrendered while he was in foster care, I was fighting for him as an unwed mother. My personal information is on Adoption.com Forums who banned me a year later for unknown reasons. To this day I am unable to contact them with any kind of response about having my account deleted. All of my personal information is visible to everyone on the Internet through the search engines. Of course I retain the same phone number and address where I can easily be "reached" and "found". It has been over seven years, longer than any credit reporting agency retains information that could potentialy harm a persons ability to move forward with a new life.

Adoption.com Forum has a very sneeky way of publishing one's personal information and I have created a new account on my own behalf, once again jumping through their hoops, with the hopes of having my original account removed, at best, or undermining them at their search engine game and crippling their organization, at worst.

They now hail themselves "the largest multi-triad forum on the Internet". I am sure anyone who is reading this knows how unwelcome "Birthmothers" are
after birth.

I would like the help of a few creative minds. Search for "MarbleBalls" in the search engines. She was immediately banned from the forum for responding to posts created by "apainter" back in 2003~2004. She has not logged out from the day she registered on the Search Registry, which is part one of the right to passage to the Forum. It is my guess that her registration information, speaking on my behalf, will be appearing everywhere Adoption.com Forums does not want to see it very soon on the search engines as well. The site is too busy making updates to even notice, in fact, it seems like noone is at the helm at all. If anyone feels so inclined to create an account that will last forever I will be happy to assist in helping you to understand exactly where you should place the information you would like the world to forever know.


Anonymous said...

Brilliant as ususal Robin. Your post touched me and made me cry again. 43 years after losing myself.