Ah, come on, you’ve heard it or thought it. All birth mothers are young. All birth parents regret the decision. All birth fathers are irresponsible. Those of you who are regular followers of this blog can probably sense a rant coming on—and you would be right. Making generalized assumptions about any group of people is disrespectful and lazy, and it drives me nuts.
I’ve been pretty vocal about the tendency to stereotype adoptees, but the other group in the adoption triad (adoptees, adoptive parents, and first parents) that often falls victim to stereotyping is the birth parents. And in some ways, it’s all the worse because they seem to be less vocal.
The common stereotype of a birth mother is that she is an unmarried teen who was pressured into adoption and lives a life full of regret. The common stereotype of a birth father is a no good, shiftless guy who ran when his girlfriend got pregnant. For the record, most first moms are in their 20s and are already parenting at least one child. Some in fact do regret their decision for life believing that it was a permanent solution to a temporary problem, but plenty of others regret that they were in the position to have to place a child for adoption, but continue to believe it was a good decision for all concerned. Many go on to lead fulfilled lives and stay involved in their child’s life if allowed and encouraged by the adoptive parents. The same can be said for birth fathers.
I ran across some evidence of this in a Dear Abby column, of all places!?! In no way do I think these letter-writers represents all birth parents, any more than I think those who are overwhelmed with regrets represent the diverse universe of people who decide it is in their child’s best interest to be raised by another family, but they do represent a view that is not often shared.
DEAR ABBY: I placed my son for adoption. My family wanted me to keep him, but I knew they would be raising him instead of me. There are times I wonder what became of him. I hope he’s happy and that he has grown up to be a fine man. But I don’t beat myself up about it. I have no other children, but that was my decision. No regrets. Women who have made this decision for the most part wish others would not judge us for it, because people rarely know the circumstances that led to the decision. — NO REGRETS IN MICHIGAN
DEAR ABBY: I was glad to see the letter you printed from “Fine With My Decision” (April 22). I placed a baby boy for adoption when I was 16. My parents were bitterly disappointed and sent me out of state. But despite my somewhat immature and rebellious nature, I was — and remain — glad my parents made me do the right thing.
In the years since, there has been a trend toward “open adoptions” and emotional reunions between birth mothers and adoptees who were separated under the “closed system.” I think open adoption is probably healthier for everyone except in cases of rape, incest or abuse/neglect.
If the child I gave birth to were to come looking for me, I feel that’s his right and I wouldn’t turn him away. But I have never felt a desire to look for him. His birth was not a happy event in my life, and I don’t care to revisit that chapter. I don’t regard him as my son. The people who raised him are his parents, not the green kid who got herself in trouble.
I’m somewhat younger than the girls who gave up babies from the 1940s to 1960s, so I didn’t get the “keep it a deep dark secret” advice. I also don’t feel I was unfairly coerced. I was 16 and couldn’t support a child. When I think of how my life would have been if I’d kept him, I’m sure I did the right thing.
Thanks for writing, “Fine With My Decision.” You’ve got company in me, and I’m sure there are plenty more of us out there. — FINE WITH MY DECISION, TOO
DEAR ABBY: I gave up my daughter when I was 20. I have thought about her many times, but have no other feelings than hoping she’s OK. I gave her up because I knew I wasn’t ready for motherhood. I never married and have no other children.
I have enjoyed my life. I wish my daughter, wherever she is, the best, and I hope her life has been great. I’d love to meet her someday, to be sure she’s all right, but if it never happens, that’s OK, too.
Some people are born without that “mother” instinct, and it’s best they not have children they really don’t want. Too many people become parents because they think it’s the thing to do, and the children suffer. — SINGLE AND HAPPY
Stereotyping is the easy way out. The only way to understand any group of people is to “get to know” quite a few in order to see the diversity. This takes time, but this is time well spent for those of us who care about adoption. Each year we do a Creating a Family show with a panel of first parents, and this is a terrific place to start. (Listen or download: Birth Mother Panel Tells Adoptive Parents What They Want Us to Understand and Birth Mother Panel Answers Questions from Adoptive Parents.) You might also want to read a few blogs by first mothers and fathers who write about their experience.
- Open Adoption Bloggers: Great resource for bloggers from birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees.
- BirthMom Buds: This great organization and website provides peer counseling, support, encouragement, and friendship They have a great list of birth mom blogs.
- Amstel Life
- Therapy is Expensive…but Blogging is Free
- A Birth Mother Voice
- Monika’s Musings
- A Birth Mother’s Love
- Birth Mother Baskets
- Musings of the Lame
- Birth Mother/ First Mother Forum
- From Another Mother
- Not Quite Juno
- Writing My Wrongs
Birth Father (since there are so few, I gave a brief description)
- Statistically Impossible (Thoughtful. Provocative. I love it.)
- Baby Darling; Thoughts of a Birth Father. (Birth father blogs during the pregnancy and shortly after placement. Although he no longer blogs, his perspective during the process is invaluable.)
- Murphy’s Law. (Blog started by a man in his 30s when he found out he has a son that was placed for adoption when he was younger. Interesting perspective that we seldom hear about.)
- Northern Lights. (Blog by man, now married and the father of 3, who is in reunion with his young adult daughter that he placed for adoption when he was 19. He doesn’t blog about adoption all the time, but when he does, he offers a unique perspective on how reunion affects the whole family.)
Have I missed any great (and active) birth parent blogs?
Image credit: gak
Add Your Comment
Monika, I loved the part: ” I don’t like boxes. No one fits any boxes ever. Whoever set those boxes in place might have fit that box, but no one else is going to fit precisely in that same box, even if they might fit similarly.” I’ve been noodling around with a blog in my head on that theme. I guess since I got all preachy with this post, I’d better wait a while before I actually write it, but I so agree with you!
Thanks for the correction to the link to your blog. We’ll correct it on our blog roll and our Adoption Blog page.
I am a birth mother who placed my daught with her adoptive family when I was 15. This November, she will be 16. I recently wrote a post about this very topic and it was syndicated through BlogHer. I am so happy about that because for everyone reading, it means one more person may realize that birth a parents are not an archetype. The simplest story or stereotype always becomes the unwanted definition.
On my blog I do not always write about adoption because I don’t think about it everyday. I write when I feel the need to, say something when I must or when it strikes. Adoption was the best decision for me and my daugher and I wish we could hear more women speak about their experience. While I gave birth in 1997, my experience does mirror the ’60’s in many ways. Thank you for writing this. Here are my comments about the same topic:
OK, everyone, right now stop what you are doing and go read Liz’s post at . She says: “I am not going to sugar coat anything. The adoptive parents are not gods and the birth parents are not messed up assholes who couldn’t get it together. It’s more complicated than that, but you can’t put “adoption is a spectrum of good, bad, ugly and indifferent” on an 8 x 11 family profile or within a scrapbook or sell it to whoever is buying.”
Yes, adoption is complicated. Life is complicated. Adoption doesn’t lend itself to being tied up in a nice package with a bright red bow on top. Nothing in life does.
Thank you Liz for your post and I guess it goes without saying that I’ve added you to our blogroll.
I agree about not all birthmothers/birthfathers are the same. My kids were removed at an older age (2 of them weren’t babies)from older parents (bio parents on average were only 2 or 3 years younger than us and had the kids in their 30s.) There is very little on birthparents who didn’t “make a plan” but instead lost their rights to their kids. I wish I could read things on how those parents feel/process the loss. Or do the factors that caused the children to be removed, make it such that they don’t ever write about it or think about it?
I haven’t been able to find much either. I would assume it would depend on why the children were removed, and where the birth parents are in the recovery process if any form of addiction was involved. The women I’ve talked to who have had their children removed, and it hasn’t been many, were mostly resentful, and felt they were the victims of “the system”.
Good one, Dawn! Thanks!