Saturday, January 19, 2008



©2008 Celeste Billhartz

 People often ask what I want to accomplish with The Mothers Project. I tell them I want to tell the truth about our mothers, the truth about adoption coercion, and I want adopted adults to get a backbone.

 Adoptees grow up thinking we were “given” up, or “given” away, so our mothers could finish school or keep their jobs or some other self-serving goal … or, they “gave” us up so we could have a better life than the poverty or misery they lived in. Summed up: we get the message, over and over, year after year, talk after talk, that we are better off with our adoptive mothers than with our natural mothers.

 Nobody ever tells adoptees the truth: Your mother was young, she wanted you, begged to keep you, and not one adult in her life … especially her own mother … would allow her to keep you, and certainly would not allow her to bring you home – to your family, in your town. 

Adoption is a middle-class issue. Middle-class kids are taught to please their parents, not to argue with them or defy them. If your unmarried, teen-mother had paraded around town with a big belly, what would all of polite society  have thought about her? If your teen mother had brought you home, what would that say about HER mother, her family?

Most likely, your mother was in love with a very special boy and they did what most girl in love do with boys … they had sex. Most likely, she was not a “loose” woman, and didn’t have a clue about how not to get pregnant. Even if she had heard about condoms, she surely didn’t know how to get them. Most girls trusted their boyfriends to “know what to do” … if they thought at all. 

Not all girls, but most. And, some were raped. I have met them, too. They would have kept their babies if they had any way to support them. Most mothers  were terrified and utterly abandoned during their pregnancies. They wanted their babies, but were not allowed to keep them. 

Single mothers were not tolerated in middle-class society, families, or churches. Unless there was a quickie marriage and a baby the family could pass off as a “preemie,”  the times demanded that  a pregnant teen be sent away to a maternity home, have her baby and sign it over to a social worker, agency or lawyer who had a married couple waiting to adopt him or her. … for a hefty fee. Adoption is a billion-dollar a year industry in North America.

In generations past, the upper-class had secret abortions, via their upper-class  physician-friends, the middle-class forced their daughters to surrender their babies for adoption, and  working-class girl/mothers sometimes got to keep their babies by fighting long and hard to convince their parents that they could handle being mothers at a young age. And, their parents respected their gutsy attitude, their refusal to take “No!” for an answer. Again, as one astute activist told me, “Adoption is very much a middle-class issue.”

In middle-class families, the only acceptable outcome was for the young mother to surrender her child for adoption. Your mother had no choice, no voice … and, certainly, no emotional support or money to keep you, feed you, educate you, etc. In fact, unmarried pregnant women were still fired from their jobs as recently as the late 1970’s.

The sad fact is, had your natural families – your mother’s and your father’s -- stepped up to help your mother she would not have lost you.

Know this: Your mother never got over losing you. She was warned never to look for you, and was assured that you will look for her, if and when you are ready to meet her. Of course, sealed adoption records and false birth certificates make that very difficult for any adopted adult.

And, here’s another fact to wrap your heart around: sealed records and false birth certificates and all the secrecy around adoption was NEVER put in place to protect the identity of the natural mother, as has been touted by the adoption industry. It was done to guarantee the adoptive mothers that the natural mothers would never find their children.

Hopefully, your adoptive mother is emotionally secure, fair-minded and will do the right thing  -- give you your original birth certificate and all the information that will help you find your natural family and get vital information re health issues, family history, traits, etc. 

Your  first  mother is no longer that helpless, terrified girl/mother of  decades ago. She is a grown, courageous woman. She, likely, will never allow anyone to hoodwink and manipulate and take advantage of her, ever again. She might be tough or tender, or both. No matter who she is and how she is today, she is owed something that was denied her for many years – the truth about what happened to her child, her son or daughter. She needs to know who you are and where you are. She needs to see you, again.

Now, to the backbone issue …J

You owe her reunion and at least one face-to-face meeting. If that can happen easily, fine. If not, you need to get a backbone and make it happen – away from your adoptive mother, despite your adoptive mother’s insecurities and whatever consequences you might have to deal with for defying her wishes. 

Get a backbone, please. If you are an adult, you have every right to find and spend time with your mother. It would be great if your adoptive mother and father stepped back and gave you total support as you and your mother work through your relationship, through the ups and downs of reunion -- and there can be many.

If they don’t, you need to be brave and risk their displeasure … even risk their overt or covert threats to not support you, financially. You must get a backbone and decide what you are willing to do to spend time with your mother and natural family, if you want to. 

Face it, there’s only so much gratitude and loyalty we can show our adoptive parents. There comes a time when they  must step back, be gracious, and support us in our efforts to reunite with our mothers and first families. We were never “gifts.”

 I support open records for adoptees. 

Yes, that can be sticky for a few mothers who have never told anyone that they had a baby 20, 30, 40 years ago.

Yes, a few adoptees and a few mothers are screwed up, mean, and are best left out of each other’s lives. 

Yes, a few reunions turn out to be nightmare experiences.  Not every mother or child  is  a sane, kind, honorable person. I have met the rejected moms, the rejected sons and daughters who tried to reunite and were turned away, some actually had the doors slammed in their faces. It breaks my heart.

This message, however, is for the other 99% of mothers and adoptees who are sane, kind and honorable, and  should never have been separated in the first place. I say, go for it! Find your mother, find your son or daughter. Start out slowly, with emails and phone calls and get to know each other, feel you  can trust each other to behave respectfully.

Then, meet! Meet!

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