Our Mother’s Day Mosaic

How can one be a mother yet not a mother at the same time? How can one be a daughter yet an orphan all at once at never at all?  How can we walk that line of in-between and straddle both worlds of decadent joy and pure loss?

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Mother’s Day is complicated and almost every single person, on this day, can both celebrate while also grieve. For some the loss is more than others, and for some there is nothing to grieve at all – but one day there will be. That is what is eventual. One day there will be. For we are all born into this world from our mothers. Every last one of us has one. Some lost her before our first breaths could be inhaled and others not until their skin had grown wrinkled and worn themselves. Some of us have had more than one mother in our lives and others have had only one. What is unending, undying, and ever true is this one fact – we all exist because we have a mother. It matters not if she is present today, yesterday, or in the future.

Once a year we partake in a celebration, appreciation, and honor of our mothers and foremothers. For many of us we feel ostracized during this national celebration, while thinking of what was or what could have been. It is for these mothers, these daughters, and these sons that I write for today.

I ask you to remember them.

I ask you to be aware of them.

I ask you to take a moment of silence for them.

You may not even realize you know one of them. It may be something they’ve never mentioned. But, chances are, you do. We are everywhere. The world is broken, it is full of broken people and broken pieces of broken lives. For some that brokenness wins. It eats them alive with its insatiable hunger. But if we’re lucky we come together, especially on days like Mother’s Day, and we take all of our broken pieces of our broken selves, and our uplifting words to each other become the glue that puts us back together. The pieces don’t match, there’s some from this person glued to that person, but somehow it makes our mosaic that much more vivid, that much more eye-catching.  It makes us stronger, even in our brokenness. We may be orphaned or  lost, we may be grieving, we may have empty arms with a mother’s heart, but we are intertwined with each other and we do not have to be alone.

It’s Mother’s Day weekend and I have no doubt that many are grieving and thinking of mothers lost, children lost, motherhood lost. I stand in remembrance of us. In honor of us, in silence for us.

This will be the first Mother’s Day I get to spend with my relinquished daughter and I am so thankful for that but, at the same time, I am mourning all the days lost. Reunion doesn’t fix it. It brings it to the forefront and demands attention.

 

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The Cult of Birthmother’s Day – A Mother’s Day Celebration For First Moms – #Not a BraveLove

It’s almost electric, the emotions flying around social media this time of year. Like a storm brewing or a dam waiting to explode from too much pent-up pressure in the tidal wave of water, Mother’s Day elicits an almost primal, and strong, response from those of us in the adoption community. Especially us first/birth/natural mothers.  If the tension on the Internet is only a fraction of what is really going on inside of our hearts this time of year, I can’t imagine what our real lives, as opposed to online lives, may look like.

* Not a BraveLove * *Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove * *Not a BraveLove *

Some of us have other children that we parent and I know, at least for me, that helps to soften the blow. We will be getting “Happy Mother’s Day!” cards whether they are handmade or store-bought. We will be recognized on this day as a mother. It doesn’t make the hurt of having one of our children missing any softer, but at least we have recognition of who we are. For those who do not have other children that they parent, Mother’s Day can be one of the cruelest of days of the year. Walking that line between “mother” and “not-the-mother” can prove painfully ironic and many times friends and family members aren’t sure what to say. They worry if they buy a card or acknowledge the day they may be ripping open wounds best left stitched up. I’d say a good majority of the family members and friends of the first mom community are probably left with no recognition at all unless they are parenting other children.

* Not a BraveLove * *Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove * *Not a BraveLove *

To add insult to injury, there is this thing the adoption industry came up with, years ago the adoption industry hijacked (although it is only the past 5 years or so that it has really taken off), a holiday dedicated just to “birthmothers.” It is “Birthmother’s Day” and it is celebrated the Saturday before Mother’s Day. As if not being recognized as a mother on the very day created to celebrate mothers isn’t bad enough, you aren’t even allowed to consider being a participant in Mother’s Day now because you now have a day dedicated for the sole purpose of recognizing that all you are is an instrument of birth. Birthmother’s Day was created by Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh in 1990. It was intended to be a day of solidarity, reflection and grieving for mothers of adoption loss. It was never intended to be celebratory.

From research:

“Mary Jean Wolch-Marsh first conceived the idea as a result of her own adoption experience. She knew she was a mother, but didn’t feel recognized as such, either by those around her or by her daughter’s parents. Remembering the feelings she’d experienced at her daughter’s birth – feelings of triumph and euphoria; she used them to help in her own healing. May Birth Mother’s Day bring acknowledgment and recognition to every birth mother who ever loved a child lost to adoption. May it honor and celebrate every mother who became childless after birthing a child, and was forgotten on Mother’s Day. For birthmothers, the observance can be a time to affirm joys and acknowledge the sorrow, grief, and pain that are a part of many experiences. It can also be a time to break the silence and release years of anguish, worry, shame, or guilt. The purpose of Marsh’s Birth Mother’s Day ceremony is insight, affirmation, growth, and wisdom.”

From Brenda Romanchik’s insightful article on Birthmother’s Day:

“Birth Mother’s Day was created in 1990 by a group of Seattle Washington birth mothers who met each other at a birth parent support group. It grew out of the shared recognition that Mother’s Day is one of the most painful days of the year- second only to the birthday of our missing children. Yet birth mothers have been shut out of the traditional celebration and remembrances of the holiday. Most birth mothers are neither named nor recognized among the mothers in our midst. For most birth mothers there are no cards or flowers. Society treats the motherhood of the birth mother as a momentary event that fades quickly from the collective memory. It often seems we are even forgotten by those who received the gift and the privilege of parenthood through the birth mother’s loss.” (1)

Why should first/birth/natural mothers have to have a separate day, other than mother’s day, to be celebrated and recognized? If the “creators” of Birthmother’s Day truly wanted to do something for first moms so they didn’t feel left out on Mother’s Day, why didn’t they encourage others to recognize them on that Sunday instead of making up their own “holiday” just for them? Having we been singled out enough already?

* Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love *

What Birthmother’s Day Does For the Adoption Industry

There was a time, not so long ago, where the cultural norms of our American society equated having a baby out-of-wedlock to that of, say, murder. It was not accepted. You may as well have walked around with a big scarlet letter on your chest. You would be shunned by society. This worked to the benefit of the adoption industry. To acquire a woman’s baby for purposes of adoption all one had to do was work the “shame-angle.” With time, however, this cultural stigma in American society is, for the most part, non-existent. Women were no longer relinquishing babies simply because it was too shameful to keep them. To combat this, and to continue procuring babies to meet the demand (and fatten their pocket books – even non-profit agencies are making huge profits) the adoption industry had to reevaluate their methods. These methods were a complete 180 from the predecessors.

Instead of shaming young women into relinquishing their children, they instead made them heroes. For someone facing a crisis pregnancy it’s probably suffice to say they are already facing some serious self-esteem issues and their self-worth is probably considerably low. Giving first mother’s “Birthmother’s Day” is a way to make them feel special, like a hero. It’s almost like the same rush of having 5 seconds of fame. “Look how great I am! I did this great thing for my kid and for this great couple! I’m so awesome! Yeah, it hurts, but look at how much attention I’m getting! I’m brave! I’m selfless! I’m a hero!” Immediate self-esteem boost and the rush that comes with that. For someone who has lacked that for a long time it can become almost addicting. So, for the adoption industry, Birthmother’s Day first serves this purpose. Another purpose is to prevent first moms from “taking away” from the glory of the adoptive mom on actual Mother’s Day. Couldn’t have that, could we? No sharing of the motherhood here. You are not really the mom and you are not worthy of the complete recognition on Mother’s Day itself. There is one more purpose, however.

* Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love *

The other night I was watching a television show about people who had lived in a cult. People that are missing something in their lives and don’t have a positive view of their self-worth are often the most susceptible to being drawn into a cult. It fascinated me to see how these cults could influence people to do things that were so obviously not right or okay. I decided to look up how a cult goes about brainwashing someone. Almost always, in a cult, people are sucked in by believing they are doing things for the greater good of their eternal soul. In other words, to get into Heaven. They are willing to accept a lifetime of abuse and pain to secure their spot in Heaven. Similarly, in adoption industry coercion, a mother is willing to do whatever it takes, endure a lifetime of pain and grief, to secure a “better” life for her child.  That “better life” is the equivalent of the cult’s “ticket to heaven.”

* Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove *

Recruiting is very important in a cult. Using “brother and sisters” of the cult to get new recruits is the most common path taken. You have people who are already in the cult and participating telling you how great it is. Similarly, in the “birthmom world,” those first moms who have already been taken a hold of by the “adoption cult,” as I will call it, are active, all the time, in recruiting more members. It ensures that the rush they feel about being a hero, brave, selfless, IMPORTANT, continues on and on. They will go out of their way to help recruit more women to join the club of “birthmom” because it is just so awesome, right? What they are really doing is helping to procure more babies for the industry of adoption and the profits that follow (did you click on the link earlier in the article? Would you like to see the profits that domestic infant adoption brings in? Click here). The adoption industry is the leadership of the adoption cult. Like any leadership in a cult, they are in it for self-serving purposes. Profits. And they don’t care who they hurt along the way to get it. As long as they get what they are after. So the last reason that Birthmother’s Day is so pervasive and useful to the adoption industry is because it continues to give their cult members and new recruits the fantasy that they are important.

* Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove * * Not a BraveLove *

The Reality of Birthmother’s Day

The reality of Birthmother’s day is that it ostracizes first moms. It tells them they are not good enough (unless you’re a cult member then you think you’re better than) to celebrate themselves on Mother’s Day. Nothing could be further from the truth. I always see these memes going around on Facebook. They usually start with “A real mother…” or “A real father…” and go on to talk about bedtime stories, sleepless nights, etc. And that is not entirely untrue. That is definitely part of what makes someone a mother or father. The unconditional love that first moms feel for their children and the lengths they will go to protect their children (even if being brainwashed that their only ticket to Heaven – providing a good life for their child) is the very definition of a mother’s love. And, for many, there was no choice or brainwashing at all. They were literally forced. They were tied down to a table to give birth and had their children taken from them despite their useless protests. Does the mother whose child was kidnapped have less of a right to celebrate Mother’s Day than the kidnapper who is reading that child bedtime stories every night?

Why do we have to single ourselves out as “birth” mothers? We don’t hear people going around calling themselves “adoptive” mothers. Unless you are speaking about the two and you need to distinguish which mother is being talked about I see no need for qualifiers. Why should there be qualifiers? Are we not both mothers? And why do we have a Birthmother’s Day and not an Adoptive Mother’s Day? Puts things into perspective a bit.

* Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love * * Not a Brave Love *

Finally, if you are reading this and you have a first mom in your life and aren’t sure how to approach the topic of Mother’s Day, let me tell you this. Celebrate her. Recognize her motherhood. On Mother’s Day. There may be tears, but it is nothing compared to the isolating and lonely feeling of pretending you aren’t a mother, of being a ghost in the crowd, of straddling that thin line between “mother” and “non mother.” She is worthy of being celebrated.

No matter where you are in your lifetime journey of “birthmother,” I’d like to say to you –

Happy Mother’s Day my sisters.

* For those wondering about the little inserts, there is currently a huge billboard campaign, nationwide, by members of the adoption cult that is being used to procure more infants by the industry. They are using first moms to encourage others facing a pregnancy, in less than ideal situations, to surrender their children. The terms, strewn about my blog, will help this blog come up in search results when anyone googles it. This is the only way I could think of to combat this hideous campaign.

#notabravelove

(1) http://www.firstmotherforum.com/2010/05/why-dont-we-have-national-adoptive.html – comments section

The Modern Day Maternity Home

Most people believe the most distinguishing characteristic between the Baby Scoop Era (BSE) and today is the absence of those maternity homes where women were sent to discreetly give birth and have their babies taken from them against their will. However, this is not the defining end of the BSE. “Why?” you may ask. For many reasons but, to stay on the subject of this post, we want to focus on this falsehood. If the BSE ended with the dying out of maternity homes, we would still be in the BSE.

You’ve all heard the horror stories. All the time I hear, “I’m so glad adoptions are not done that way anymore” or “I know that horrible things were done to you but it isn’t like that anymore.” It saddens me that so many people in the world (most maybe?) are so ignorant to how things really work in this day and age. Even the ones who had fallen victim to it cannot see it for what it is. For the most part, like anything else, I think it is laziness in being willing to connect the dots. Or maybe some people just don’t have the intellectual capability to put those dots together, even if they can find them separately. Another issue is not wanting to believe that they, or someone they know, may have actually been used or have fallen victim to the practices of modern day adoption. Whatever the reasons, it truly and deeply saddens me.

We never really got rid of maternity homes. Sure, most of the ones that were operating in the 50’s and 60’s eventually shut down but with something so effective as separating a vulnerable pregnant woman from her family and any potential support system she may have, they never disappeared. They have just been transforming, morphing, through the years to fit the culture and be socially acceptable. They never went away. Ever.

Okay, so maybe I’m being too hard on the public in general. I, myself, had no idea maternity homes still existed until about a year ago. I lived in this happy little bubble and just believed what I was shown in the movies, on TV, in commercials, on the news. No one ever talked about women being sent to maternity homes to give birth and give up their babies. The only time I had ever heard about this was in reference to the BSE and most likely in the form of a heart-wrenching Lifetime movie of the week. Tissues by my bed I would watch the dramatized story unfold of the young unwed mother whose parents sent her away to a maternity home. She would give birth and say she wanted the baby but her parents would forbid her to come home with it. The social worker would come in with the papers and tell her she could sign the paper and give her child a happy life or she could walk out and be on the streets and they would call social services and have the baby taken away anyway for not being able to properly care for it. The tears would flow, I would go through a whole box of tissues and think to myself, “I’m so glad that never happened to me.” Yet, while I was watching that very movie, something similar, or maybe even identical, was happening to another young mother somewhere out there. And while you are reading this it is happening to someone else.

The demand for babies was very high during the BSE. Because of the social stigma, during that time period, of being pregnant out of wedlock, it was socially acceptable to hide these young mothers away to secretly have their babies. Most times no one even knew of the existence of the pregnancy or birth of a child. They had little choice, many being provided for by their parents while their parents were being advised of how horrible the illegitimacy of this child was and the shame it would bring to the family. These parents of unwed mothers were promised that with adoption the child would no longer be a bastard but, instead, become legitimate. Original birth records were then sealed, to “protect” the adoptee from being a little bastard, and people were expected to forget and move on. Because an illegitimate pregnancy was such a shameful thing in the culture back then, this method of practice was accepted.

Other Consequences of the Maternity Home

In addition to being forced into one of these homes, the separation of the young pregnant mother served another purpose. For one, it made it almost impossible for her to get help with her situation. The only support system she had was the one telling her adoption was the “best” thing for her and her baby. There were no other opinions to be had. That was it. Second, the parents of these women were not confronted with the very real pain and anguish their daughter would be going through. Out of sight, out of mind. It would be difficult for many of these parents to deny their child the right to keep hers after watching her anguish for 9 months because she did not want to give her baby up. It would be difficult to deny their child if they were with her while she labored, if they held their grand baby. The will to fight was broken in these women. They truly had no choice. And no one cared how they were treated because they were going to get their baby either way.

Women’s Rights

Along came a little thing called the women’s rights movement. Women were burning bras, having sex, getting pregnant outside of marriage, getting jobs – O.M.G. No way.  The culture shifted. It was a slow but gradual shift. It was suddenly not unacceptable to be pregnant outside of marriage. There were still some groups of people who were appalled by it (and there continues to be those today) but the majority of people were okay with it. Suddenly an illegitimate child was not such a big deal. We don’t even use the word “illegitimate” to describe a person born out of wedlock anymore. Shoot, I’m only using it to get a feel for the context of that era. If I hear the phrase “illegitimate baby” today I think of babies who were taken from their natural parent(s) through coercion, manipulation or unethical practices. Maybe one of the totally able-bodied fathers whose rights were terminated when the expectant mom was sent to another state to live in a maternity home until she delivered, maybe someone who had a social worker sit on there lap (practically) and tell them to sign their rights away. This is what I think of when I think of illegitimate babies. Illegitimately gained by the adoption industry. So, what do you do if your job is in the adoption industry and all of a sudden it’s totally acceptable for women to just go ahead and have babies when they aren’t married? You aren’t allowed to use any of the tactics that worked before to get the goods. You have to do a TOTAL 180 in this field. Since the expectant mother now has all of the control you need to seduce* her and make her believe that you really care about her and her child. You need to make her think that adoption is the best thing she can possibly do for her child. You need to put the proverbial gun to her unborn baby’s head.

You do know one thing, though. It is still a good thing to separate a vulnerable young woman from any potential support system she may have that would enable her to keep her baby. The fact that she is in a crisis pregnancy will mean that she is, most likely, facing a difficult financial situation. What’s the best way to lure or seduce her into the world of adoption? Offer her free housing. On site. Make it a real sweet deal.

Modern Day Maternity Homes

Before writing this article, I knew where I wanted to go with it. I had heard all the stories. I have a pretty good idea of what goes on. I had to do some research, however, if I wanted to lend any kind of credibility to what I was saying. I could tell you all day long that this birthmom told me this and that first mom told me that. I have to back it up with real facts. Well, since I’m not pregnant and in a crisis situation the facts that I have to work with is what these agencies advertise. I hope that will suffice since they aren’t talking about it any time soon.

The first thing you should know is that if you Google “maternity homes” or “unwed mothers homes” on Google you will come up with a mixed bag of results. Some will be articles about the BSE and some will be actual maternity homes that are operating today. This was actually quite shocking to me. I looked up “maternity homes” about 10 years ago and there was very little to go on in regards to modern-day ones. Only Bethany and Gladney (agencies) showed up as real maternity homes. Here are the Google results for the time period 2000-2005 when you search for “unwed mothers homes.”

I have seriously wondered why there would be more maternity homes in existence today than there was 10 years ago. However, I could not make the assumption that just because they were not being advertised on the internet did not mean they didn’t exist. Most likely they, like the ones before them, were just not talked about unless you were “that girl” or “that family” who had a use for one. I digress.

Today a search for either of those phrases brings a great variety of results. Even a search for “pregnant free housing” will give you results of modern-day maternity homes. These specific search words bring up the “posh” maternity homes. They have really done well in the seduction part. Let’s take, for instance, Adoption Network Law Center in California. Their free housing is advertised as, “a safe, secure and supervised environment for women in need of living assistance.” They also boast “a spacious living area, large swimming pool and an extensive exercise facility with the latest equipment available.” Now this line really got me. From their website: “These facilities allow Birthmothers to be discreet and avoid conflict with family and friends about their decision.” 1) An expectant mother is NOT a birthmother until she has terminated her parental rights. Calling her a birthmother before then, in my opinion, is a form of coercion. It puts her mind in the place that she has to relinquish her child. After all, she is already a birthmother. She has already made this decision. WRONG. My agency told me that while I had already made an adoption decision, I would have to reevaluate that decision again once my baby was born because my feelings may change and that was okay. THAT is ethical and honest. 2) Supposedly, under the guise of protecting the expectant mother from her family (privacy), they are removing her from the only support system she may have that actually gives a hoot whether she gives up that baby. In other words, “We don’t want anyone to talk you out of handing over this baby to us.”  You all should seriously check out their “birthmother” digs. Beverly Hills style apartments – supervised of course.

I cannot confirm, like I said – I’ve never lived in one of these homes, but have been told stories of mother’s changing their minds while living at the maternity home. They were told to sign their rights over or be sued for the tens of thousands of dollars for the living expenses that were paid for on their behalf. I have more than just “heard” these stories. A few weeks back we had one of these women come to our group for help. She didn’t know what to do because she was living there and had changed her mind. If these places really wanted to help you make an informed choice, the “best” choice for you and your baby they wouldn’t hold a lawsuit over your head for changing your mind.

I won’t go into detail of each one of these homes I have found but I will offer some links if you care to check them out yourselves. Basically they all say the same thing, in my opinion.

The Adoption Foundation

Family to Family Adoptions

Courageous Choice (note the coercion even in the name!)

Hannah House

Gladney Center for Adoption

Bethany Christian Services – Notice they are VERY happy that their maternity home, Bethany House, is at full capacity (of course they are)!

And some of these homes claim to just help women facing unplanned pregnancies. They say they support you no matter what your decision. Yet, they offer adoption services. I feel that this is even more coercive and unethical as it lures (seduces*) women into the environment only to be bombarded with how great adoption is as an option. They can even reel in women who were never even contemplating adoption and plant that seed. Here are some of those.

Annunciation Maternity Home

Solve Maternity Homes

Highland Maternity Home

Perry Center

And this article boasts about the 400 maternity homes nationwide!!

It is so pervasive, to me, to offer women help with their crisis pregnancy when you know full well that the moment she walks through that door that all you will do is plant the seed of adoption and water it subtly with what you know she needs to hear to have the best chance at gaining that infant to give to someone else who wants it. That is SO SO wrong. When the intentions of your “help” come with strings attached then it no longer becomes a gesture of true kindness. It becomes a perverted version of what kindness and generosity really means.

And then, on rare occasions, you find gems. Diamonds in the rough. An example of one of these is Kathy DiFore’s place called Several Sources Shelter. Not run by an agency. Not perverted by the adoption industry. Kathy has absolutely no stake in any of these girls lives and whether their baby is given up. You may have seen the movie, “Gimme Shelter” and already know the dramatized version of Kathy’s story. Her place offers pregnancy shelters, monthly care packages, daytime shelter, a sonogram center and an education center. She started this program in her OWN home with her OWN money. She does have religion in her program, but doesn’t push it and certainly doesn’t use it to convince these young, pregnant mothers that adoption is their “best” choice. Through her program young, pregnant women are given the chance they need (and help) to parent their babies and give themselves and their child a good life. So why is it that for every one of Kathy’s places that I find there are 200 maternity homes that are adoption-centered? Why aren’t these good “christian” agencies/people doing what Kathy has done? Why aren’t they providing shelter to pregnant women so they can parent their babies? Why? Why are places like this almost non-existent. Why are women being fooled into moving into a place that they think is like Kathy’s place when, in reality, the goal is for adoption? How can all these good “christian” services do this? It’s an atrocity. Follow the money…the root of all evil. No matter how “christian” you think you may be.

My friends, it seems that for a while the rights of the expectant mother considering adoption had begun to come into a clearer picture. The adoption industry knew well to stay aligned with the women’s rights movement. But, as we have seen, it was all for show. I am afraid that more and more of these homes are popping up and we are, again, reverting back to the dark days of the BSE. Not in the way that we know it. In a more pervasive way. Instead of physically keeping women from parenting their children, we are now using psychological mind games. And don’t for a second believe that this industry has not consorted with the best of the best to understand the human mind and the best way to put it in the mind-set of “I’m not good for my baby. Other people will be better.” Do not believe the rhetoric. Do not believe the propaganda set forth before your eyes. It is all a show. It is smoke and mirrors. Behind the curtain lies the truth. The truth lies within the ones who are now old enough to speak for themselves about the challenges they have faced going through life as an adoptee. The truth lies within the women who live it, everyday. Even the ones who are not yet ready to admit it to themselves because it would break them so much it would be unbearable. While you have read this article, a mother has given birth at a maternity home….

*Seduce – I would like to thank a fellow first mom friend for the use of this word. I had never thought about how appropriate it really is for how the agencies “woo” expectant mothers.