Karen Wilson-Buterbaugh has written an article on the post traumatic effects of losing a child to adoption.
The 21 page article details how unwed motherhood came to be viewed as a neurotic problem by social workers, saying "Exiled mothers began their journey as pregnant, unmarried women in America" and then discusses "incarceration" and brainwashing, and coercive practices as well as legal and civil rights violations.
"Before WWII," Butterbaugh points out, "an unmarried expectant girl would likely have been sent to a maternity home where evangelical Christian married women would have helped her keep and raise her baby" citing maternity homes stating that was their goal - as agencies and adoption crisis centers claim to do do today.
Unfortunately, as far as I am concerned, she limits these ill-effects to those who lost their children between 1945 and 1973 -- as if it's just been a JOY for those who experienced the same loss before or after that select time period, or as if the entire issue magically ceased to exist at the stroke of midnight December 31, 1973 and all mothers got to keep their babies and live happily ever after.
The well documented article is a valuable contribution as it contains a wealth of information on PTSD and the lifelong effects of loss of a child to adoption with 4 pages of references.
However, it saddens me that some find it necessary to time-limit this issue as if it occurred ONLY during specific years which, seems to throw other mothers under the bus. Every point about "BSE Mothers" not making an informed choice can too easily be read as if other mothers ARE able to do so!
Every statement such as: "Legal protections afforded every other United States citizen were ignored or denied to unmarried American mothers by adoption workers, adoption agencies, and lawyers (often in revenue inducing business partnerships with agencies and maternity homes) who obtained the mothers' so-called 'adoption consent'" [emphasis added] makes it appear to the reader that this no longer applies to mothers today. That all the problem of the past, are past history and have been resolved now that single parenthood is no longer stigmatized.
In fact, I am in the process of investigating the issue of medical histories taken on and about mothers (and fathers) prior to relinquishment that are shared with adoptive parents and given to returning adoptees upon request labeled "non-identifying" because 20 page histories do not include the mother or father's names. While these detailed forms produced by the Dept of Licensing - those who license adoption agencies - contain a waiver of the adoptive parents as RECIPIENTS of the information, obviously to protect the agency from a wrongful adoption law suit...what they do not include is a release for the information to be shared, in violation of the mothers right to privacy and confidentiality. And right now, today, legislators in the state of NJ are considering adding more onus on mothers to produce yet more medical history, treating mothers who relinquish with far less rights than any other citizens.
Butterbaugh's article is well worth reading and keeping for reference, however, it hurts me to my core that many who read it will be grossly mislead into beleiving these issues no longer exist. It is, for me, analogous to writing about cancer as if it ONLY effected millions of people during the period of time when cigarette smoking was far more prevalent than it is today and not including one single word to say that people today still suffer and die from many forms of cancer - whether they smoked and quit, or never even lit one up ever. It's a poor analogy, however, because the general public is well aware that cancer is still a very real threat. Not so adoption, making it a far more harmful omission.
The total lack of hint of any currently existing issue is not an oversight either. it is quite intentional. Butterbaugh, in conversations we have had, expresses an unwavering belief that those who lost children during select specific years, were treated far worse than mothers are today. She has steadfastly rejected the cries of mothers from the late 70's, 80's 90's and today who tell of harrowing treatment and who were every bit as victimized because of being minors with no rights, their parents' religious beliefs, or any number of other conditions that effect one's disempowerment. According to Butterbaugh, even if you were drugged and forced to sign papers but it occurred subsequent to her arbitrary 1973 cutoff...then you and your loss don't count. You had "options", she believes, that she didn't and thus her pain is greater than yours.
For me, that's like a mother whose child dies at birth arguing with a mother whose teen is killed which loss is worse.
For me, loss is loss is loss.
I feel the pain of those who truly voluntarily without any pressure made chose to place their child and later felt the impact of that decision. I know that many such mothers are suffering every bit as much as someone who had no options. In fact, in many ways the pain is greater when there is no one to blame but yourself.
The reality is that the pressures may be different and less direct, but to believe they are not there today is to believe in the tooth fairy.
This is why, my upcoming presentation at New England's Adoption Conference,
"Identity in Adoption: Glimpses Beneath the Masks" Saturday, April 17, 2010 Bellingham High School, Bellingham, MA. is on Lifelong and Universal Grief of Mothers Who Lose Children to Adoption. If you are planning to go, please let me know. My presentation shows how loss of a child to adoption universally effects mothers in all parts of the world TODAY regardless of their age, religious, social pressures etc. I believe this is a message that is vital to creating change, especially today as distance adds to the ability to dissociate from and dehumanize mothers in crisis as "other."
As long as demand for babies and falsified birth certificates exist - there are still battles to be fought.