birthmother travesty

Okay, I’m probably going to seriously step on some toes here, but it’s something I feel very strongly about.  Another adoption reform measure that I feel should be put in place is a requirement for women relinquishing to provide information on family history, family medical history, and other vital information, and children who grew up adopted should be the ones to help pen the form’s questions that should be filled out by the relinquishing parent as completely as possible: an essay test that must be passed by a specific percentage for completeness before relinquishment through a reputable agency will be allowed.

Whenever I hear of a birthmother who refuses contact from a child she relinquished, something in me rises up at the injustice of that.  To me, this is the one of the biggest human rights violations.  The infant who was passed on to strangers was innocent, and the questions she or he will carry throughout his or her life are valid questions, and the history of where he or she came from is hers/his.  It is a history he or she was born with, and it is his, it is hers, as much as it is yours, dear birth mother.  You, dear birthmother, like everyone else, will die.  And if the desired natural order of things prevails, your child will outlive you.  You are a product of your ancestors before you, and whatever you know about them contributes to who you are.  To deprive your child of whatever knowledge you possess – be it good, bad, ugly, or otherwise – is to leave a black hole of questions that will haunt your child and the generations that will follow.  You did not die and leave this child an orphan.  You lived.  And you lived with the information that your child desires to have at precisely this moment.  If you die with that information, not passing it on to your posterity, that, my dear sister, is a travesty.  Life is not fair, but to be the biggest contributor of what is not fair about your child’s life is completely unacceptable.  If you cannot face your child, at least write some things down – including names of other relatives (if they are safe to know) – who were also denied access to their own relative (your child) who might wish to know this person.

A woman who gives birth assumes risks – not the other way around.  You had a choice, dear birthmother; your child did not.  You brought a human being into this world, and, therefore, you are the one who assumes those risks – not the innocent who came into this world having done nothing wrong, nothing deserving of punishment.  To deny your child access to their family history is a form of unjust – and I will add cruel and unusual – punishment.  Disagree, but the strong feelings I have about this will not change – and, chances are, neither will the feelings of your child.


9 thoughts on “birthmother travesty

  1. within each of us lies the need for knowledge of who we are and why we are who we are… and I do not disagree with you and what you have said… however, having worked in the system for more than 20 years I feel compelled to share a thought or two with you…

    Birth parents should not be the basis for how you mold your life… in any situation.. be it adoption, traditionally families, foster children etc…. you are a very unique creature that was created for a purpose… and if you allow the hunger for a knowledge that may never surface in your lifetime, to control a part of your development that allows you to be all you can be, then you are cheating yourself out of a life that is precious in its own right.

    By thirsting for a knowledge that is not available to you, you risk forming ideas or false innuendos that could change the course or your life. Medical records and genetic make up are important factors for each of us… however, many people whom are NOT adopted face those same hurdles. Sometimes what we learn , though it gives us a sense of power over who we are, it can become an easy excuse or rationalization for choices we fail to make on our own accord.

    There are many children born to unwed mothers that have no way of ever tracing their paternal backgrounds… yet they don’t even realize this … some do… statistics say that the sheer knowledge that a knowledge exists but isn’t presented can hamper ones ability to achieve their greatest potential.

    My point would be… sometimes we have to deal with really painful facts about our lives… be it disease… disability… genetics… etc… but by allowing ourselves to deal with things being what they are, it allows us to become whom we choose to be…. without a basis for hesitation based on what we do not know… for the unknown can haunt us in ways we never imagined but only if we let it… at the same time… the knowledge we gain about past existence can haunt us worse when given a dose of information that truly has no basis for our ability to be who we truly are… each of us has in us the ability to be someone of greatness… someone whom can make a difference in the world… some of us loose a parent to death or separation … we can not change that… some of us loose a parent by a choice and some live making excuses for the parents that we deal with day to day as if it were our ability to change them or control them…. this is not fair to ones heart to take on such a challenge as this …. you are who you are.. and only you can control that unless you allow outside interferences to take over the driver seat…

    May God bless you with an inner peace wherever you are in your walk of life…

    • Kim,

      I understand your point-of-view regarding finding peace with whatever situation we have in life. I think that the issue of medical history and records is a different one,

      There is no “peace and understanding” to be derived from withholding knowledge, for example, that breast cancer killed the adoptee’s biological grandmother at age thirty, along with two other close relatives. This is *actionable information* that can give the adoptee a chance at saving her own life.

      Just as a pregnant woman (one who relinquishes or not) takes care of her health for the sake of her unborn baby, she much also assure her child’s *future* health by providing as much information as she possibly can. This also includes ethnic background and lifestyle choices (e.g. alchoholism or drug addiction) — to help the adoptive parents better guide their child into the future. An adoptee should not be asked to “let go of” the desire to have this information; it should be a part of adoption reform.


  2. Pingback: birthmother travesty « Flawed and Fucked Up

  3. Adult adoptees are forced to honor a contract written and executed on their behalf without ever agreeing to it. Even God requires us to come to Him in full knowledge of who He is. I agree that adoption does not make an adoptee but it does help in the definition of an adoption once they become an adult. I do not define myself as an adoptee but it is part of who I am. Adoption does not change who I am biologically. Just as my adoptive family has access to that information, I would like access to that information for myself. So far the DNA testing that I have done, my information thus far has been a lie.

  4. As a 62-year-old adoptee, I agree with this post completely. As adoptees, we should not accept archaic adoption laws that are unjust and that are often driven by the supply and demand needs of an industry. All human beings should have a right to their own personal history, and taking that right away from a defenseless and innocent baby is completely unfair. A few children may need to be protected from original parents who could be harmful to their welfare, but the practice of denying full-grown adults access to their original birth certificates simply cannot be defended.

  5. I think there is a big difference between wanting/needing something and having that want/need consume you to the point of keeping you stuck in one place and not “becoming all you can be”. If someone fights for their rights, are they stuck? Why does “moving on” have to mean ignoring something that is very important to you? I am fully capable of living my life AND advocating for my rights and the rights of those impacted by adoption and adoption laws.

    Saying “other people don’t have this information either” is a straw man argument. “Other people” are prevented from getting that information by the actions of individuals or by the fact that no one knows the answer. In the case of an adoptee, it is the OPERATION OF LAW that prevents the adoptee from accessing the desired information. Under HIPAA, no one has an unrestricted right to another person’s medical information. Non-adoptees have the right to ASK their relatives. Adoptees do not have this right because sealed records prevent them from knowing who those relatives are. That is the difference.

    My “family medical history” said that my great-grandfather died of TB in Russia in the 1920s and “everyone else was healthy”.

  6. While I agree with the main idea of this post, and have a very difficult time understanding women who refuse contact, or refuse to provide, verbally, needed medical information to an adopted person when they come looking for information, there are a few things about this post that stood out to me.

    Gaye said, “Under HIPAA, no one has an unrestricted right to another person’s medical information. Non-adoptees have the right to ASK their relatives. Adoptees do not have this right because sealed records prevent them from knowing who those relatives are. That is the difference.”

    And, the difference is asking and being told family medical history by the family members themselves and filling out a Medical Form, no matter WHO put it together, and submitting it to the state for them to use as they choose, is a huge! Everyone has the right to ask a question and receive an answer, even if the answer is not one they choose to hear. NO is an answer. I
    don’t understand the women who would give that as an answer, but it is still their right.

    The other point I would like to make is that the total concentration is on the mothers and their failure to give medical information. However, there is another parent who contributed DNA and whose family medical information is just as important, but there is NEVER a mention of him…the fathers. Is the mother also to provide his family medical information, or is only her family medical information important? I find this constant holding mothers accountable disturbing, since the fathers, still, are being totally dismissed.

    Finally, the flow of medical information is something that should and must flow in both directions. The medical information of the adopted person can also be valuable and lifesaving to the natural family. I have a Mother friend whose reunited son died very suddenly and young of a rare and hereditary form of leukemia. The information of his death,however, allowed several other family members, natural cousins of the adopted person, to discover that they had the same hereditary disease and were able to receive treatment which saved their lives.

    • Sandy, I agree with you: NO, when it comes to this kind of information definitely does not suffice as an answer.

      I have some things to say that I have not yet said about birth fathers too, as their lack of participation, interest, or whatever the case may be is probably a very large contributor to the birth mother’s decision to relinquish a child to adoption. As a birth mother, for me personally, dealing with my true feelings about adoption (as opposed to parroting the socially acceptable ideal) is something new. I did the socially acceptable dance for many years as a way of surviving the trauma. I don’t know the reasons birth fathers are not part of the conversation more, to be honest. My sense is that the onus tends to fall on the birth mother more because of what takes place in pregnancy. A woman doesn’t have the luxury of walking away from it. A man can walk away from the pregnancy because the baby is not inside of him. He can go on about his life and pretend it doesn’t exist – quite easily, apparently, as my own experience has taught me..

      Some women never get the chance to include the birth father in the conversation because he completely disappeared. I can only speak from my own experience, but the birth father of my child excluded himself from the conversation, by choice, and, therefore, left me no choice but to exclude him. It eventually just became a habit to exclude him because there was nothing else for me to do. Everything, apparently, that he was interested in contributing had been contributed, and that is, namely, the sperm. He had moved to another town and moved in with his mom to try and finish getting his college degree, and I wrote him several lengthy letters during my pregnancy in an attempt to reach out to him in hopes of initiating some kind of conversation about what would become of our child. His mom told me after I gave birth and relinquished that as soon as he would get a letter in his hand he would throw it in the trash without even opening the envelope. And, so, I did the only thing I could do, and that was stop trying to include him and figure it out on my own. I reached out to him again after our son was almost grown, and he has come around somewhat since and provided some medical history. But, again, the onus and subsequent effort fell on me. He didn’t initiate it; I did. So perhaps the reason birth fathers are not mentioned because they have indicated by their silence that they do not wish to be mentioned.

      And I have been a beneficiary of the kind of two-way communication you mention. My son was given a diagnosis that has helped me in my own life as well as explained some baffling family history.

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