In Loving Memory of Gwendolyn Archard

On August 26, 2016 I heard the news that a dear first mom friend of mine was no longer with us. The previous day, beautiful Gwen had decided that the pain was too much and bowed out of this circus called life. Just before her decision, she deleted dozens of her first mom friends. I am assuming she did not want us to know what had happened. We found out anyway.

Shock, sadness, and despair ripped through our online communities. We searched frantically for an obituary, in the days to come, but none was to be found.

A few days ago, Gwen’s brother, the only family that Gwen really felt she could rely on, posted publicly of her passing. He didn’t indicate any formal funeral, but it was clear other non-traditional arrangements to honor her memory had been made.

Today I write to honor Gwen and her life inside our private world, the world of first moms. Gwen was an activist, a warrior, she dedicated her life to fighting injustices. Gwen had Cerbral Palsy but she didn’t let that stop her. As a practicing criminal defense attorney and disability rights champion, Gwen was thrust into another arena, unexpectedly. And she fought there, too. Side by side, with other first moms, she fought against the injustices and coercion in the world of adoption.

You see, Gwen wanted her son. A beautiful little boy she named Atticus. However, upon his birth, Gwen was threatened with foster care and CPS if she did not relinquish her rights to her child. One particular nurse made it abundantly clear to Gwen that her disability would mean her child being forcibly removed and lingering from foster home to foster home while she fought for her right to parent him.

Because Gwen loved Atticus more than life itself, she was coerced into believing this nurse, and others, and relinquished Atticus for adoption after his birth to spare him the perceived pain of living in foster care.

Gwen believed fighting for her son was not in his best interests because she was not good enough for her son. She was made to believe this.

While Gwen’s case is an extreme, it is the same concept of almost all domestic infant adoptions. It was easy to target Gwen because she had a disability to use against her as an excuse for why she wasn’t good enough. Almost every woman considering adoption has to be made to believe the same thing for a successful adoption to ensue. Maybe they don’t have a visible disability. Maybe they are poor. Maybe they have an anxiety disorder. Maybe they aren’t married. It’s all the same, the message that’s received. You aren’t good enough for your child, they deserve better.

Gwen would have made a fantastic parenting mother. Like everything she did in her life, I imagine she would rock at it. She was an amazing person and the world has suffered a huge loss with her passing. Atticus, her son, has suffered the most tremulous loss.

People say that adoption isn’t trauma. They say it’s a beautiful thing. They don’t recognize the aftermath that can follow for first moms and many adoptees. When presented with stories like Gwen they will say, “See, it’s better her son was adopted. Look what happened. His mom was mentally ill.” To which I say, NO. Nothing in Gwen’s life, prior to the loss of her son, indicates any mental illness. Instead, Gwen’s death can be blamed solely on adoption. She lost her son. A mother LOST HER SON. It’s enough to make anyone not want to live anymore, to throw in the towel, to give up. The pain can be so suffocating, at times, that death seems like the only reprieve.

Atticus last saw his mother as a newborn in the hosptial. Gwen did not get her “open adoption.” She was left to use non-traditional means to get glimpses into his life. I am happy to have been a part of that, to have given her a little bit of comfort in her too short life as a first mom. The pictures brought her great joy, but they also brought her great pain. To see her son, her baby, not living the life she wanted for him, with her. Such is the life of a first mom.

I’m hoping that one day Atticus can find this post and know how much his mother loved him, how hard she fought for him, and how devastated she was without him. I hope he knows how much he was WANTED and loved.

In closing, I will share with you some private thoughts from Gwen that she posted, over the last year or so, in our private group. The admins agreed that Gwen would want this. No one can hurt her anymore so there’s nothing left to lose.

We will be your voice now, Gwen. We will watch over Atticus and make sure he knows your story.

We miss you. We love you. Sleep peacefully and free from the pain of this world.

-Your first mom sisters

“Atticus is 2 today.

The birth announcement I never got to make:

Atticus Kitwana Mulupi, Born July 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm.  4 lb 1 oz, 17′ long.  I love you, baby boy.”

“Happy 3rd birthday, Atticus Kitwana Mulupi.  I love you more than you will ever know.  I am more proud of you every day.”

“I think my issue is that my son’s adoption was very coercive.  I “picked” the AP’s, but only because I was told he would risk being taken into foster care if I didn’t have a family for him when I left the hospital.  I’ve always sensed that they look down on me because I have a physical disability.”

“I had been threatened with foster care right after birth, simply because I have cerebral palsy.  That is the ONLY reason why I got involved with the adoption lawyers in the first place.”

“Been feeling isolated lately.  Dealing with crap about how my disability made me feel like I had no right to ask for any help with Atticus….I’ve been to like 4 different counselors since relinquishment and none of them really understand that aspect.  I just want to be told I have the same rights as others and that nobody’s judging me for what I can and cannot do.  I don’t want to burden anybody but a counselor with this crap.  Not sure who else to talk to.”

-Gwendolyn Archard


11 thoughts on “In Loving Memory of Gwendolyn Archard

  1. I, too, am crying for Gwen, and this is the first I have heard about her. It makes me so mad they did that to her. To us in different ways maybe. And I am so sad. We’ve all ALMOST been there so I understand the pain that makes you want to give up and have it all disappear. Like you can’t stand it for another second. Luckily I had my husband to bring me back and make me want to live for our future.
    When someone chooses death by suicide, those left wonder why and what hurt so much. But we don’t wonder. We understand and know.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Writer and Friends:

    Thank you for sharing Gwen’s adoption story. I fully support your advocacy and cause for first mothers and helping women make educated decisions in the adoption process. What a noble effort to devote your life to. I also cannot imagine the events your life has taken to land you here as an advocate. I pray for you and your family for whatever story that may be. I am very thankful that you and other first mom friends were there for Gwen. Actually, I cannot thank you enough.

    When I read a little further into your article, I was taken aback on a couple of things you wrote that perhaps need a little more education before deciding to write and post a blog article. Frankly, some of the information you wrote is untrue, and insensitive to our grieving family during this difficult time.

    Before Gwen’s loving brother, or anyone else, announced to the world Gwen’s passing, we had family that needed to be told in person. Her two Aunts traveled across the country to make this trek. In regards to your words on a proper memorial, there were a few things that we had to figure out as a family in order to set up a memorial that people all over the country could attend. For example: there are many laws that must be obeyed (especially in Louisiana) before any official plans can be made. A memorial is being held in Pennsylvania – Gwen’s home state – where her family has a plot and has decided upon a beautiful ceremony to honor her sweet soul.

    When writing that there was only one person in our family whom Gwen could rely on, that cut deep. Marrying into and being a part of this family for 13 years, and getting to be Gwen’s “extra” cousin, I have to tell you there was nothing that the family hasn’t done, or wouldn’t do for our dear Gwen. In fact, you do not know the depths to which this family has gone for Gwen – and not for glory or recognition – but because we love her. I am watching the entire family be ripped apart by these written implications, and untruths – at a time when they are already in great despair. I spent the morning picking my wife up off the floor to console her over this very article after digging an even deeper wound. Your role as an advocate is integral for so many people. Please do not take this lightly of all its effects when you put pen to paper. Because the words we write last forever.

    Once again, thank you for sharing Gwen’s story. I hope this message, through your words, helps to make an impact. I hope you understand and sympathize with us as a family, that some of the things you wrote were untrue and insensitive. I welcome your constructive thoughts and open the door to have a conversation and learn more about your cause, your story, and the Gwen you know.

    Brant Keefer


    1. Hi Brant,
      I apologize if anything written here had caused any further pain to your family. As you can imagine, we only knew Gwen for a few short years and only knew what she had divulged to us in her personal life. What I’ve written was not to exclude anyone that may have been important to Gwen, but rather just sharing what we already knew. I know that Gwen was a private person and she always spoke lovingly of her brother so I relayed that here. I probably should have chosen better words in doing so and for that I am sorry. To clarify, Gwen never spoke ill of any family members, but rather communicated that she strived to not rely on other people or to let her disability define her. Please communicate to your wife that this was not intended to hurt anyone, I was just going on what I knew from what Gwen had communicated. Also, to clarify, I did not say her memorial wouldn’t be “improper” but that it sounded like it may be non-traditional as it was indicated there would be a bike run in her honor, which I think is very proper and a beautiful way to honor her memory. I understand you’re all grieving, and like I said before, this post was not to cause further pain but rather to shine light on the dark side of the world of adoption as I felt Gwen would want us to do. She was actively involved in family preservation efforts as well as adoption reform. Her life in the adoption community was very separate from her life in the real world, but we loved her just the same and wanted to honor the Gwen we knew.

      Thank you for taking the time to reach out and give us more insight into her life and relationships.

      We’re grieving with you and if you ever need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.


  3. It is outrageous that women like Gwendolyn go through this kind of misery. Rather than being pressured to give up their babies, they should be celebrated and helped. What she went through is simply w-r-o-n-g!


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