Another birthday has come and gone.
Each year, it feels like that baby, MY baby, becomes more of a stranger. I dreamed of her my entire childhood. I carried her for 41 weeks, labored with her for 36 hours, and held her tightly against my chest in our remaining 32 hours together.
What does “Open” Adoption feel like for a mother, or more frequently what we’re referred to, a birth mother? I would gladly shed some light on the matter, but only as a warning to others.
Its an important question to answer in this day and time. Especially for anyone who feels the need to present it as an option, yet has no firsthand experience. The promotion of Open Adoption frightens me. It is a subculture fraught with corruption, deceit, trauma, and delusions of mass proportion.
Of course, with 2 decades of experience, its impossible to chronicle all of the psychological acrobatics one must perform to navigate Open Adoption in a healthy manner. But, I can assure the reader that “healthy” is subjective when it comes to Open Adoption. After nearly 20 years, I consider it healthy that I haven’t killed myself. Does suicide frequent my thoughts? On occasion, especially during “anniversary” days. The fact that a birth mother hasn’t killed herself should be no indication of health. The fact that most birth moms I encounter admit to having thought about suicide on at least one or more occasion pertaining directly to her Open Adoption experience, should be a guidepost to those who consider traveling this road. It is a suffering that cannot be expressed, but worn. And once the Birth Mother cloak has been wrapped around you, any illusions that you will ever be healthy again vanish. From that point forward, its all about survival.
Survival. That is what we “birth” moms know how to do best in Open Adoption. We survive a pregnancy that either began in crisis or was made into a crisis. We survive our child being removed from our arms. We survive the first year, we are erroneously told by professionals that it will be the hardest. We survive the following years, finding anywhere in our subconscious to stuff all the trauma of losing our child. We survive from that point forward either denying, bargaining, or raging. There are no 5 stages of grief when it comes to Open Adoption. There are only 4 that play on random for years on end.
If I had a Unicorn, her name would be Acceptance. I would feed her Rainbows.
There are some really good deniers. We veterans can spot them quickly. They’re usually the newbies. They’re the moms who are fresh off the Agency boat. They still live in a theoretical world where they’ll get to watch their child grow up. They may get pictures, perhaps even an occasional visit with their child. They will happily promote Open Adoption on an agency’s behalf through a Birth Mom Testimonial. All the while, not realizing they have lost their child. That is not their child. They are watching another child grow up.
In a few years, the denial wears off. My denial took 16 years to wear off. Denial is an important survival mechanism in Open Adoption. I would never tell a new mother that she is in denial. I know that unveiling it could be a life or death matter. Denial can serve as protection from self-harm. I must admit, I do get angry with these new moms. But my anger should be directed at the agencies who exploit their loss and use it to sell Open Adoption to the next unsuspecting victim. I know it may seem counterintuitive to say, but don’t listen to a new Birth Mom. Ever. She has suffered the greatest trauma of her life. She lost her child. If she is mouthing off agency speak; let her. She is surviving. But don’t take her words as a testament to the “beauty” or the “virtue” of Open Adoption. Take it for what it is; a mother in incredible pain from losing her child and she is simply surviving.
If you want to know Open Adoption, speak to a veteran mom. A mom who has more than her fair share of war scars. Speak to the moms who have their Open Adoptions close nearly as soon as they were opened. Speak to the moms who were promised one form of Open Adoption, but have experienced something entirely lacking. Speak to the moms who come to realize one day that the love for their child was used against them as a carrot on a stick. Speak to the moms, like myself, that come to realize one day that their child “died” nearly 2 decades ago.
That’s what our denial is protecting us from. Psychological death. Open Adoption is psychological death. We are not created by God, as mothers or children, to cope with the psychological death of each other. Open Adoption is a man-made answer hiding behind the pretenses of Christianity. It grieves me that the Church seems to be the biggest proponent today of this institution based on faulty psychiatry, not scripture. It is unnatural and Biblically unprecedented for a mother and child to live in an Open Adoption arrangement.
ie- This is your mother, but she’s not your mother. This is your child, but she’s not your child. Now, have a healthy relationship.
Most of us have experience with physical death. I lost my second daughter to physical death. It was terrible grief. Leaving your child in a cold grave is a pain that I can’t communicate. Even so, my mourning for my daughter was done in a healthy way. She died and was buried. It took me quite some time to grieve. But I’ve accepted that she is gone. Physical death, as ugly as it can be, offers mercy in the form of closure.
In Open Adoption, there is never closure. It is complicated, unresolved grief for years on end. You survive because it simply becomes a part of your makeup. It took me nearly 18 years to realize that the child I gave birth to no longer existed. She died the day she was taken from me. I can only relate it to “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”. As crass as that may seem. Forgive me for my lack of better references.
My point is that she would have been an entirely different person had I been given the opportunity to raise her. She would have had a different culture, religion, upbringing, experiences, etc. Literally, everything about her would have been different. So that makes her a different person altogether. She grew up with another family’s idiosyncrasies, not mine. Open Adoption with its pictures, phone calls, emails, letters, and visitation; she still became a stranger.
The same goes for me. I died the day she was taken from me. I became a stranger not only to her but to myself. For years, I tried to find my way back to normal not realizing that I was living my new normal. Parts of my personality died that day. There were open wounds that would be protected by sarcasm, cynicism, and denial for many years. My life became the cliché trauma experience of before and after.
No one at the agency felt the need to warn me much less offer me counseling. Thanks for the baby, now have a nice life. I was a hot mess for years to come. Looking back, I’m astounded by my resilience. I thank Denial for most of that. It protected me for as long as it could.
Open Adoption has become a way for Christians to play God. Many Christians see a problem of an infertile couple and a problem of a pregnant woman in crisis and believe themselves wise to put the two together. Throw in a few out of context biblical references about Moses or Esther and voila a catchphrase is born “Adoption Saves Lives”.
They aren’t there for the fallout though. They aren’t there when the mother grieves the loss of her child for years to come. Loving the child that she is watching grow up, but also missing the child that would have been. It is an exercise in psychological maneuverings that the strongest of us couldn’t surmount.
There is a story in the book of Kings about Solomon judging the rightful mother of an infant. He decides to cut the child in half and give a portion to each woman. The rightful mother is taken aback and relinquishes her child to the imposter. Her actions assist Solomon in making the correct judgment.
What would it look like if Solomon had gone forth with cutting the child in half and giving a portion to each mother?
“One that would give you up – that’s all she could do.
The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.”
A “Legacy” if you will.
I would argue that would look like Open Adoption. Every time I hear a Christian promote Open Adoption, Solomon’s judgment comes to mind. Solomon knew that even a prostitute was worthy of being with her child. There is no scripture encouraging a poor and/or young woman to give away her child then adorning her with a crown of “brave” and “selfless” as a consolation prize. It is a perversion of scripture, not a fulfillment of it. I wonder how long this can go on.
How much longer are we going to play God?
How many more children have to be cut in half?
If you ever witnessed a mother in that moment of “giving away” her child. It would certainly feel like someone or something was being cut in half.