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"Why BIRTHMOTHER Means BREEDER" by Diane Turski
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dear birthmother letters


Note: The terms

"unwed" mother, "birthmothers", "biological" parents

make a parent appear to be less than the mother or father they are. These terms dehumanize and limit the parent's role to that of an incubator.

"Dear Birthmother" letters and "Dear Birthparent" letters soliciting living people for their children are despicable.

Using the honest terms "mother", "single mother" or "natural mother" help the public to understand that real family members are being separated to obtain babies for adoption.


The CCNM Policy on "Birthmothers Day"

Dear Friends, I would like to introduce the Canadian Council of Natural Mothers. We are a group of anyone touched by adoption who seek to support each other, particularly first mothers, and who seek political change in Canada. Here is our policy on Birthmothers Day. I would welcome any comments... Also, we are starting a new e-mail list for members this week. Please check out our web site. Many thanks, and happy Mothers Day to all. - Karen Lynn

The Canadian Council of Natural Mothers (CCNM) does NOT support the celebration of Birthmothers Day. Birthmothers Day is predicated upon the idea of choice. It assumes that first mothers were offered the choice to keep or relinquish their newborns.

First mothers or natural mothers represent a diversity of individuals, a few of whom were given real choice to keep or not to keep their babies, but the vast majority were either not presented with real options or were offered untenable alternatives. Therefore, in the context of no-choice or unviable choice, they did not "give" their babies away. 

Social Context

To understand this context, one must review the powerful social dynamics operating during the time of a relinquishment, whether they occurred during the dark ages of the 1920s - 1960s, or later during the great lifting of the veil of secrecy and shame which slowly began in recent decades, albeit with great difficulty and irregularity. It used to be assumed that adoption was a win-win situation for the first mother, baby and adoptive parents. There were two prevailing opinions of the social context, the "enlightened" opinion held by the professionals - social workers, doctors, clergy etc. and the "unenlightened" opinion which operated generally throughout society, that, putting it mildly, first mothers were wanton individuals of low moral fibre and hence deserved no choice at all. First mothers were deeply influenced by both opinions, a situation which framed their "choices". Both positions, the professional and the lay, effectively presented only one option for a young unmarried pregnant woman - adoption. From the point of view of the enlightened, this was a win-win-win situation for everybody: the first mother was given an opportunity to get on with her life, put the past behind her and start her own family. 

There was never any recognition that this "illegitimate" child actually was part of a family prior to adoption. The babies would be raised in their adoptive families "as if born to" and would never question their biological roots and would certainly never have any identity issues arising from their their adoption and lack of knowledge about their first families. If they did, it was assumed that either they were deviant or their adoptive parents had failed in raising them properly. And importantly, the adoptive parents "won" because they got to raise the baby. It can't be overlooked that the profession of social work won too because a source of employment for many adoption workers was established. Therefore, two dynamics preceded relinquishment:  the social context of shame and the solution offered by professionals. That the system worked effectively to preserve itself is evidenced by the fact that millions of women in the world which had descended from European culture relinquished their babies born "out of wedlock".

Secrecy and Shame

Post relinquishment, the dominant idea that relinquished babies were abandoned, serves to maintain the shame of first mothers. The prevalent social logic would be that, since first mothers didn't choose to keep their babies, they abandoned them (as opposed to losing them in a psychological context of fear, trauma and diminished self-worth). Hence the overwhelming impact of shame promotes secrecy, which, by no mean coincidence, also serves the interests of the professionals and the adoptive parents, many of whom are still invested in concealing their own shame of infertility. 

This brief history was intended to describe the social and psychological context of first mothers during their pregnancies and long after relinquishment. It is an artificial construct to imagine that most first mothers "gave" their children away having been offered proper alternatives: financial support, social acceptance, legal, spiritual and psychological counseling. Surely some must have received this, but the great majority of us received none of it. Relinquishment for most of us was effected in a milieu of guilt, shame and coercion. This is nothing to celebrate. 

Real Mothers

Birthmothers Day perpetuates our marginalization as second-class mothers. To understand how first mothers feel, imagine the furor which would ensue if the adoption community were to imagine an "Adoptive Mothers Day"? The motherhood celebrated on Birthmothers Day is marked for difference, and that difference is lesser than the motherhood attributed to a "real" mother. Birthmothers Day testifies to the continuing self-image that we are "not our child’s real mother"

The fact is that the adoptee has two mothers, both equally real. As such, both first mothers and adoptive mothers are equally entitled to claim the real Mothers Day as their own. To relinquish that day as belonging more rightfully the adoptive mother, instead of claiming it as our own too, does nothing to promote our rights. It merely makes us look still "shamed".

We want to promote pride in our membership, not because we did something noble by surrendering our children to adoption as we have seen above, but because we are survivors who looked horror and grief squarely in the face and have reclaimed our lives and, with varying degrees of success, our children.

The Canadian Council of Natural Mothers therefore calls for a boycott of Birthmothers Day.

Canadian Council of Natural Mothers  May 1, 2000

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