Many voices purport to speak for birth mothers to explain to the world what we want and need in regards to open records. Some say we did not want our children to begin with and, therefore, we want/need to be protected from our children coming back into our lives. Unfortunately, many of those who claim to know how we felt about our children and how we feel about them now, actually know nothing about our true feelings. Yet, they do not hesitate to speak on our behalves.
Like many other birth mothers, I have finally found my voice and can now speak for myself. I will be silent no longer and will challenge those who claim to know my wishes and desires. To begin with, I did not relinquish my child because I did not want or love him, nor did any mother I know.
Our pregnancies were unplanned, and most of us were young, unmarried and with limited financial resources. We were led to believe that it was "better" for our children to be raised by a two parent family that "wanted" to parent and was wealthier, more mature, better prepared and more deserving than we were. All the authority figures that swarmed around us (priests, parents, social workers) had little faith in our ability to raise our own children and gave us no encouragement to do so. Their lack of faith in us, coupled with our own insecurities, made adoption seem a reasonable option for our unplanned pregnancies. Little did we know. We expected it would hurt us, at least for awhile, but had no idea the pain of losing our children would last a lifetime. No one hinted our children might be affected in the least - that is the cruelest deception of all.
Two main scenarios prevailed: 1) We were brainwashed into thinking adoption was a nearly perfect solution to an unplanned pregnancy, and, therefore, made a choice based on flawed and inaccurate information; or 2) We were minors and therefore at the mercy of parents and given no choice at all. Our trusted "advisors" made it appear that if we loved our children, and had their best interests at heart, we would let them be adopted by those better suited to parent them. If you check out adoption sites on the Internet even today, most still highly praise those "brave" young women willing to "put the best interests" of their children first, i.e. relinquishing them. They still insinuate it is selfish for a young woman to keep her child if she is not as well-equipped as adoptive parents waiting in the wings that are older, wealthier, more "deserving" and prepared to be parents.
We needed to be "protected" when we were young, pregnant, unwed and profoundly vulnerable. However, instead of protecting and nurturing us, helping us develop the skills to become good parents, providing some temporary financial and psychological support, our "advisers" took advantage of our vulnerability. They convinced us we were incapable and unworthy to be parents to our own children and snatched our babies away into the waiting arms of adoptive parents deemed more deserving than we were to parent.
Some of us did have some say in the decision to relinquish, but, a choice based on flawed information and typical adoption propaganda is hardly a legitimate choice. Society did not protect us when we needed some protection and support. Now that we are older and wiser, we can make decisions for ourselves. We can and should decide if we want to reconnect with our children without being "shielded" by archaic laws to protect our anonymity. Giving birth to a child is not an event that should be shrouded in lies and secrecy - our children deserve better. Few mothers want or need to remain anonymous, most especially from their own children.
Closed records were part of the system, definitely not an option or choice. The policy was "Give up your baby and then vanish into thin air - don't stick around and ask questions, don't come back later and 'bother' your child or his/her parents - just give us your baby and then go quietly into the night as if you never really existed." Those opposing open records preach about our obligation to uphold the confidentiality and privacy promised to birth mothers at the time of relinquishment as though we asked to be "protected" and secreted from the world. Most of us deny ever being promised "confidentiality" in the first place. We never wanted or asked to be secreted away like criminals and excluded forever from any contact or knowledge of our children. The majority of us never wanted to be separated from our children in the first place, so, why would we want or need lifelong assurances that our children would never be able to locate us? The birth parents I know are either reunited or would LOVE to be in touch with their relinquished children. The concept of needing to be "protected" from your own child is a particularly alien one to me. Why would one need "protection" from their own child?
I was "found." I had never searched or registered, nor did I ever tell anyone I had relinquished a child. My biggest fear was that my "secret" (the relinquishment, not my son) would be revealed. My fear of discovery was not a fear of my son, but, was prompted by concerns about how people I cared about would react to me when they found out I had once relinquished a child. Nevertheless, I was also overjoyed at the thought of getting to finally know my son. I signed consent for contact as soon as I could and told everyone who mattered to me about my son. The fact that I did not search, nor tell anyone that I had a son that I had relinquished does not mean I love my son any less - denial was my survival mode - by finding me, he pulled me into reality and into his life. Finding me was his gift to me - one of the best presents I have ever received.
Until my son found me, I had no idea how much I wanted/needed to have him in my life. I was too mired in denial to know how right and important it was for us to reconnect - how good it would be - how healthy, healing and joyous having a relationship with him would be. I tell my story because I do not want records to remain sealed to "protect" people like me. The people who are trying to maintain sealed records are the very same people who counseled so many of us years ago that it was "for the best" to relinquish our children. They were wrong then - and they are still are.
Jan Baker - email@example.com