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