Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Adoption Induced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in Mothers of the Baby Scoop Era

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.


Anonymous said...

If you could record your presentation and be willing to mail it to me for a small fee, I'd love to donate it to my local public access channel here in California.


maryanne said...

Ah yes, the so called badly named "Baby Scoop Era" rears its ugly and self righteous head again with the cry "my pain is bigger than yours." Just another attempt to simplify and quantify an experience that cannot be confined to a certain era or to a uniform amount of coercion or suffering,

Some mothers who surrendered prior to 1973 had options, others did not. Same for those who surrendered later, right up to this very minute. You are right about that, and Butterbaugh is wrong.

I would also question the benevolence she assigns to pre WWII maternity homes and agencies, having met many older adoptees whose mothers were treated terribly in the 20s, 30s, and early 40s. For those who did keep their babies in earlier times, the stigma of illegitimacy and unwed motherhood were not just empty words then, and for some holier than thou types, raising a bastard child alone was seen as the woman's punishment, not as a benevolent helping gesture.

Ms. Butterbaugh evidently like neat little boxes and tries to cram a lot of things into them whether they fit or not. That surrenders dropped off in the 70s due to contraception, abortion, and more opportunities for some singly mothers, does not mean that those surrenders that have occurred ever since were all free of coercion or corruption.

What I sense in her work and those of others who want to see us who surrendered in the postwar era to the early 70s as "special" is really a "you made your bed, now lie in it" attitude towards younger surrendering mothers. Rather than rejoicing that things did get better with more options for some, they seem resentful and jealous of unwed mothers who came later, and unwilling to see the same pain and loss beyond an arbitrary and artificial boundary.

Articles such as that one do a great deal of harm in relegating us to the dustbin of history, old relics that something unfortunate happened too that cannot happen to mothers any more because they have "options". That is false, mean-spirited and wrong.

Thanks for pointing out the obvious about the "Baby Scoop Era" and its apologists.

Mirah Riben said...

Resentful? Jealous? I cannot denote motivation.

I just feel that pitting against one another is divisive and detracts from our overall goal rather than adds it. But the, I am one of the rare mothers who sees the issues beyond the borders of the U.S, Canada and Australia's white middle class.

Mara, I post all my presentations on my website after they are presented. Contact me and I will be sure to notify you and get you a link, or a cd of you need that.

maryanne said...

It is quite easy to "denote motivation" from any discussion with Ms. Butterbaugh or others who share her beliefs. They feel they had no choice at all, are utterly innocent victims with zero responsibility for surrender and therefor no guilt, while mothers who surrendered later had options and choices and made the wrong choice by surrendering, therefor are "guilty" and less worthy of sympathy. I did not pull this out of the air, it is right there in their own words, which if you have talked to Butterbaugh at length, you know. I am not pitting anyone against each other, they are. I am just stating what I have observed, heard, and read from them.

I do not think all or even most mothers suffer from PTSD either, but that is a whole other issue. Lifelong problems of various sorts do not have to be as dramatic as PTSD to have a negative impact on mothers who have surrendered.

Anonymous said...

I am with Maryann on this one. It angers me greatly that Mrs. Butterbaugh deems her pain and those of "another era", worse and deserves more empathy than those of more recent years. This argument defeats the ENTIRE purpose of the Family Preservation and adoption reform movement, as far as I am concerned. We were/ are ALL young, scared, vulnerable, easily manipulated young women who were faced with unplanned pregnancies. How is SHE any different?

Does it make it easier on her to assume the adoption and loss of her child with was less like an abandoment or relinguishment, since she and others of another "era" were FORCED to relinguish her child?

I was lied to and promised things that noone had any intention of honoring. That practice is just as coercive as any is. I was conned out of my child with the promise of an open adoption. I was brainwashed to believe that being young and unmarried would make me the less worthy of being a parent to my own child, just like thousands of other women have been, of all eras...

Mirah Riben said...

To limit adoption loss to a time period, or to a nation, would be analogous to limiting PTSD to soldiers of the Vietnam war and not recognizing the same ailment affecting those in Afghanistan and Iraq today.

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