forced

What did you give us? Fears over drug given to young Scots mothers forced into adoption

https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/forced-adoption-drug/

What did you give us? Fears over drug given to young Scots mothers forced into adoption

By Marion Scott
July 25, 2021, 2:05 pm

Unmarried mothers who were forced to give up their babies were given a controversial drug now linked to cancers and life-changing conditions passed on to future generations.  A synthetic hormone, developed to mimic oestrogen, was given to young mothers to dry up their breast milk after their babies were taken for adoption, leaving them at increased risk of developing rare cancers of the reproductive system.  Even now, few know the powerful drug Diethylstilbestrol (DES) has been linked to a number of breast and vaginal cancers. And it has been shown to cause gynaecological abnormalities and infertility in the children and grandchildren of women given the pills.  A major US study found that the daughters of women who took the drug were 40 times more at risk of the rare vaginal cancer adenocarcinoma, eight times more likely to suffer neonatal death, and almost five times more likely to have a premature baby. The study also highlighted increased risks with early menopause, infertility and ectopic pregnancies.  The sons of mothers who had taken the drug, which was marketed under the names Stilbestrol, Stilboestrol and Desplex, were also at increased risk of infertility and testicular cancer.  The drug, often referred to as just DES, was widely used and marketed throughout the world for a variety of uses, including preventing miscarriage, until 1971 when a Boston scientist first confirmed the deadly links after finding a cluster of young women developing rare vaginal cancers.  The drug was sold by a number of manufacturers who have since settled US litigation cases for billions of dollars but little or nothing has been done to highlight concerns across the UK.

Calls for inquiry

Forced adoption campaigners are now demanding a public inquiry and investigation into the health of women given the drug as well as their children exposed to its wide-ranging effects while still in the womb.  Marion McMillan, 73, from Paisley, who was forced to give up her baby boy in 1966 simply because she was unmarried, said she was ordered to take 16 tablets a day for almost a week after she gave birth in a mother and baby home.  Now dying with cancer, she said: “I’ve met many forced adoption victims over the years who were all given the same drug to dry up their breast milk as quickly as possible after they’d given birth.  It was seen as an inconvenience once we’d given birth so we were told to take the tablets, which were handed out like sweets.  I was given four, four times a day until my breast milk dried up and I was sent home. Looking back, I fear I was given an overdose of very powerful hormones. Nobody ever explained what they were or whether there were any side effects.  I was just ordered to take them, and as a very vulnerable, frightened teenager on my own and disowned by my horrified parents, I had nobody to ask and nobody to protect my best interests.  Like the thousands of other forced adoption victims, I simply did what I was told.”

McMillan claims like many other victims she was denied painkillers, there was no stitching after the traumatic birth of her son, and she says she has been plagued by gynaecological problems ever since. More than two years ago she was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, which has spread from her lungs to her liver.   She has so far defied the terminal diagnosis she was given following aggressive chemotherapy.  It took 40 years before she was eventually reunited with the son taken from her, unaware that as she searched for him, he was looking for her. She met husband George after returning from the mother and baby home, and the couple went on to have a family together.  The campaigner, whose heartbreaking story brought tears to politicians in the Scottish Parliament last month, has spent decades terrified that the drugs given to her had affected any of her three children.  She said: “I was horrified to learn those drugs can cause increased risks of cancer and a number of other serious health issues in the children I had after my firstborn, and I’ve agonised over that and warned them to be vigilant.  But it terrifies me that so little has been made public about this medical scandal, and I fear most of the women given this drug will have no inkling of the consequences.  I was diagnosed with terminal cancer just over two years ago and I’d like to know whether the drugs I was given played any part in what’s happened to me, and the very least all those other mums and their children deserve is to know the truth about the risks they were exposed to and a check done to see how their health is.”

McMillan, who is due to meet Children’s Minister Clare Haughey along with other campaigners, is calling for a public inquiry so all the health risks and human rights abuses they suffered can no longer be “swept under the carpet”.  She said: “For almost 60 years the 60,000 women who were forced adoption victims have been treated as if we are Scotland’s dirty little secret when our only ‘crime’ was that we were not married when we became pregnant.  But this is no longer just about challenging the morality of society at that time. There are extremely serious health implications that must be addressed for the women who were given this drug and the generations of their children who may be suffering the lasting effects.  The health time bomb is ticking and the government cannot continue ignoring what was a truly dreadful part of Scotland’s history.  Very few women given those drugs will even know the danger we were exposed to, or the effect on our children and grandchildren.”

Civil law expert George Clark of Quantum Claims said the government had a duty to investigate: “The government must find a way to fully assess just how widely these drugs were administered, and health authorities must be able to follow-up with health checks.  Everyone affected must be given the full information available on all the known side effects so they can be vigilant and seek treatment if necessary.”

MSP Monica Lennon, who has led Holyrood’s Cross Party Committee on Women’s Health said: “It’s bad enough that SNP ministers have tried to sweep the mental health impact of forced adoption under the carpet.  The physical impacts must be brought into the light too, including the potential link between cancer and drugs women were made to take to stop their breast milk.  A formal apology from the Scottish Government would finally acknowledge all of the damage inflicted on the mothers and their babies, and unlock a full investigation into these cruel and sinister practices.”

The drug

DES was developed by British biochemist Edward Charles Dodds in 1938.  Dodds never intended it to be used as a drug and didn’t patent it, allowing more than 200 drug companies around the world to manufacture DES.  Increasingly concerned over the many uses DES was being prescribed for, Dodds spoke out fiercely about the use of synthetic hormones due to the unknown effect they can have on the body and future generations.  Diethylstilbestrol, known as Stilbestrol in the UK, was initially thought to prevent miscarriage and help with period pain. It was also used for a number of other issues, including preventing women growing too tall.  It was even used as chemical castration, administered to Enigma hero Alan Turing to “treat” his homosexuality as an alternative to prison. The side effects were awful and Turing would later take his own life.  In 1970, a Boston doctor identified links between the drug and rare vaginal cancers in young women and after a Food & Drug Administration alert, it was gradually withdrawn except for small doses used to treat prostate cancer in men.  Despite huge settlements in the US to victims, very little is publicly available in the UK. Australia’s forced adoption victims asked their government to act during the country’s official apology in 2013, but are still waiting.

The film

Hollywood writer Caitlin McCarthy is about to cast her film Wonder Drug which will tell the story of how DES was given to millions of unsuspecting women with devastating consequences for generations of children.

McCarthy, 50, said: “I only discovered when I was 35 that I was a victim of this drug. It was given to my mother before I was born and of course she, like so many other women around the world, had no idea she’d been given it or what the consequences would be.  I’m what is known as a DES Daughter, although the effect of the drug continues down through generations, too. I have structural differences in my cervix, and need regular check-ups as I’m at increased risk of breast and vaginal cancers.  I was extremely lucky to be diagnosed when I was, during a routine operation, simply because the doctor I had was experienced in recognising the effects of the drug. It was devastating, not just for me but also for my poor mother Ann who immediately felt terribly guilty even though she had no idea she had even been given DES in a prenatal vitamin treatment.  After the shock of what I’d been exposed to subsided, I began researching how this happened and discovered DES was given to millions around the world. My film exposes the fortunes made by the drug companies, and those who turned a blind eye and did little to warn victims even when the cancer links became clear in 1971.  For over 40 years this scandal has been shrouded in silence even though so many people and at least three generations are affected. Everybody has heard about Thalidomide. But hardly anyone has heard about DES. I aim to change that.”

McCarthy is calling on governments around the world to alert women who were given the drug and for health checks for them and any children they have since had.

She said: “It’s desperately sad DES was given to victims of forced adoption who not only suffered by losing their babies, but their health and the health of their other children has been put at dreadful risk because of this drug.  It’s a tragedy that this happened at all. But the resounding silence that surrounds it is one of the biggest medical scandals of all time.  The silence cannot be allowed to continue. People deserve the truth. They need help and support. Governments cannot continue ignoring this issue.  It saddens me and angers me that in all these years there has been no proper apology from either the drug companies or the watchdogs who were supposed to prevent any of this happening.  When the first links with cancer were first identified in 1971, the Food & Drug Administration could have issued a ban and taken action so the rest of the world would sit up and react.  Instead all it did was issue an alert and little notice was taken. That was shameful. In 2011, the FDA finally admitted DES was a ‘tragedy’. But they still did not apologise.”

Oscar-nominated director Matia Karrell aims to premiere Wonder Drug next year.  McCarthy said: “I hope the film will get people talking. The silence has already damaged millions of lives. It has to end.”

Ministers urged to apologise to victims

Clare Haughey

Marion McMillan will urge the Scottish Government to give a formal apology to the victims of Scotland’s forced adoption scandal when she meets a minister this week.  She will see Clare Haughey on Thursday when she will ask the minister for children and young people to encourage the Scottish Government to apologise.  First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she felt “deep sadness” over the issue and would consider an apology after Labour MSP Neil Bibby raised the cases of Marion and 60,000 other Scottish mothers.  Meanwhile, MP Lisa Cameron, who sits on Westminster’s all-party Health Committee, said the revelations about the drugs given to victims were deeply concerning: “This is yet another disturbing, hidden aspect to the forced adoption scandal. I’m raising questions in the House of Commons and have written to the Scottish health secretary.”

The Scottish Government said: “We have enormous sympathy for the women and families who have been harmed by Stilbestrol.”

It will “highlight this issue” with UK drug watchdog the Medicines Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, which said in 1973 the Committee on Safety of Medicines wrote to doctors to advise against using the drug to treat pregnant women.  In 2002, the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology reported 14 cases of cancer linked to the drug. It said: “Women who believe they may have been exposed to DES in utero and are concerned about the risks of vaginal and cervical cancer should be offered careful monitoring by annual colposcopic examinations.”

Why is abortion illegal???

“Why is abortion illegal??? In my opinion all birth mothers who gave up children WILLINGLY belong in jail. I would rather have been aborted. This existence of not being apart of two families and being unable to have children of my own is unbearable.”

This is a post on one of the adoption related groups I belong too on Facebook which really got my back up.  I have been a member of various adoption groups and forums since late 2004 and am saddened that education is still as bad now as it was 16 years ago.  The problem is this person knows exactly what they are getting at but from the point of view of a mother, I’m not the only one, that ‘willingly’ gave up my son as that’s how the adoption industry portrays.  I do know there are mothers who really didn’t want their children and haven’t wanted reunion but they are a minority.  My point is that I’m still willing to speak out that willing surrendering of a child isn’t that common and people should educate themselves.  From my son’s point of view he knows what it’s like to be rejected by his father and to a certain extent by a family member.

The reality is we didn’t willingly give our children up, they were taken away / stolen because of the greed of adoption agencies and our mothers didn’t want us to be single mothers / it was shameful to have a baby out of wedlock.

Of course these days there is a big difference between the UK and the US these days as private adoption stopped in the UK.  With mothers having access to benefits saw the decline of infant adoption in the UK although forced adoption still continues – forced adoptions are illegal but extremely difficult for parents to stop.

I shouldn’t have responded to the post as I still get attacked for telling the truth because people accuse me of not reading properly, in denial that I ‘chose’ adoption, I regret the ‘decision’ and so on,  My response was because of the amount of people who haven’t believed the truth over the years and they will never understand the pain they cause.

“….. …. I am one of those mothers who you reduce to the act of giving birth. I, like many other mothers, chose life for my son, I wanted to raise him but he was stolen from me because my mother didn’t want a daughter to be a single mother. It was harder to adopt babies by the time my son was born as mothers knew their rights. I lost my son because my mother and the adoption agency lied to me and it was 23 years later I found out the truth. I don’t even know who signed the Consent to Surrender when he was 6 weeks old as it was very conveniently lost yet I was able to have all the other relevant paperwork post reunion which should have been given to me 23 years previously. None of the information was given by me and the only truth was a description of me and his father. It was that bad that there was two completely different jobs down for his father but he had never done either of them. Instead of spewing out your ignorance try educating yourself.”

Maybe I should have made myself crystal clear that to the world I ‘willingly’ gave my son up and been more polite at the end but I’m tired of being polite.  I’m tired of people coming across as ignorant, not educating or show that they have educated themselves.  I’m tired of mothers are made out to willingly getting rid of their children.  On the other hand he could have been more specific – how do I know if he knows that not all adoptions will done willingly.

The response I got back was from a female:

” …..   I re-read the original post. No where does it say that all mothers gave their babies up willingly, only those that did should go to jail. Adoptees have the right to their feelings on this.”

That just got my back up as I never said adoptees don’t have a right to their feelings on anything let alone this one thing.  She didn’t get my point that people assume mothers choose adoption then think it’s okay to attack a mother for telling her truth for the reasons already given.  So my response back I thought she would accept even if she didn’t agree with me:
“…. I completely agree you and I have had many conversations with my son which have been painful. However, mothers also have a right to our opinions and I found the op hurtful as it comes across as all mothers. I have also got to know many adoptees over the years which includes ones that have been rejected by mothers and/ or fathers. They have been left devastated and I haven’t had the words to explain why a mother will do this because I don’t understand why a mother will reject her child. I may have misunderstood the post but at the same time you have no right to put me down.”
Second mistake and got back this response which left me even more frustrated:
I didn’t put you down, just pointed out you misread the post. Telling an adoptee to “educate themselves” on adoption is the height of arrogance. We lived it every day of our lives.
I didn’t actually say that and she made an assumption – what I meant was educate themselves on why mothers ‘surrender’ and it’s not always what adoptees or anyone else believes.  No social worker will write in the paperwork that the mother wants to raise her child because that means they can’t force the adoption through unless it’s in the best interests of the child.   Obviously, if a parent not just the mother is a real threat to their child they shouldn’t be allowed to parent.  Must have touched a nerve for her to accuse me of arrogance.  I have opinions and if someone doesn’t like it that just makes them human and they can agree to disagree with me.  I have spent too many years of being a people pleaser, allowed myself to be put down, walked over and made to feel worthless.  I have a right to my opinion and I will give it so again if people don’t like it they can ignore me.
My final response was this:
“…. you don’t know me so you have no right to call me arrogant, you don’t know how evil my mother – she told my son I didn’t want to be found amongst other things, and, one day a couple of months before he moved in with us she didn’t understand why he wanted to know me as I was nothing to him and his only family was his adoptive family – she was extremely cruel. I don’t know your situation so how would you like to be told that you are nothing to a natural family member? Would you be happy with that? There are some adoptees that I have known over the years who have continually come out with hurtful comments towards mothers but I took the time to get to know them and why they said the things they did and yes they have the right to do so based on their experiences. Guess what? I learned to respect them and have explained to other non adoptees why I haven’t said anything, can you think why? They got to know me as well and have said their comments aren’t aimed at me personally. Yes adoptees live adoption every day, I haven’t said they don’t. What I’m saying is adoptees should accept that mothers have a right to say how they feel. I spent 23 years living in shame, then, being constantly being put down by adoptees and adopters who didn’t have a clue what I or others have been through.  We, mothers, have as much right to tell our truths as adoptees. If you don’t want to know ignore every mother who wants to tell the truth. Oh and you’re the one who is being arrogant but if you want a civilised conversation with me stop putting me down. One good lesson I learned is if you want respect give it. Unless you want to be civilised I will listen like I have with every adoptee I’ve known which includes two adoptees who are legally 2nd cousins of mine. If you think your life has been tough think about adoptees (international adoption) who are very unlikely to find their natural families.” …. “…  I forgot to add that my son believed I chose adoption so technically I had every right to post my response.”

Wearing my mask

Not talking about a baby being lost to adoption is a bad idea but it was my way of coping for too many years.  When a mother loses her baby to miscarriage, stillborn, or genetic condition people can be supportive even though they don’t understand the (personal) loss.  Of course today there are different charities that offer support which is priceless.  One of our nieces and nephew-in-law lost their second child to Trisomy 18 (Edward’s Syndrome) when she was a day old.  They were well looked after by their midwife and ARC but it doesn’t make the loss any easier.  They were given a card with their daughter’s hands and feet imprints on it.   They also received a teddy bear with the name of another baby’s name on it and one day parents will receive a teddy bear with their daughter’s name on it.

When it comes to adoption people think it’s wonderful, farting unicorns and in the child’s best interests.   In reality, it isn’t and unless the child is at real risk of any type of abuse it’s better to keep the child with his or her mother/father.  If the parents die then special guardianship with the child’s family member is the next best thing otherwise with another guardian. I am not completely anti-adoption as there are other ways a child can be raised in safety and retain their name.

What people don’t understand is that when a mother is forced to let her baby be adopted it is loss and the mother suffers for the rest of her life.  Her baby is still alive but she will never raise her child.  It is a different type of loss to mothers whose babies have died but the result is the same both types of mothers never get over it and just learn to live with the loss.

I lived too many years hiding my pain as I was never offered any counselling so I put on an act.  Eventually, I did find my son without actively searching for him when he had just turned 23 years old on Genes Reunited.  The rage and pain I actively controlled came out finally but I still mourn the loss of my baby, I will never get him back.   My son was shocked I found him without actively searching and had been searching for 5 years.  He found my family but at that time my family didn’t know where I was due to a massive argument I’d had with my sister and by this time we had moved.  My son was hurt that my parents hadn’t told me they had contact with him for two years when I got back in touch with them.  There was absolutely no good reason why they didn’t tell me and the poor excuse was they didn’t know if my husband knew about him.  My sister told me they didn’t know where I was so I don’t know what they were telling her – I didn’t have contact with her for 12 years.  I didn’t want to fall out with her again as we have got on better since our dad died.

My son and I don’t talk now.  We both made mistakes but he won’t accept he was just as much to blame as me when we had disagreements.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

s

Women urged to speak out in Victorian historical forced adoptions inquiry

https://www.thesenior.com.au/story/6779595/ill-never-forget-living-with-the-scars-of-forced-adoption/?cs=6776

Women urged to speak out in Victorian historical forced adoptions inquiry

Geraldine Cardozo

Geraldine Cardozo

Barbara Pendrey with her dog Ella. She hopes sharing her story of forced adoption will encourage other women to speak out.

Barbara Pendrey with her dog Ella. She hopes sharing her story of forced adoption will encourage other women to speak out.

Drugged, with her arms and legs restrained, Tasmanian Barbara Pendrey will never forget the day her newborn son was taken from her.  It was January 1966. Alone and frightened, the 16-year-old lay on the bed in labour for hours in Melbourne’s Jessie McPherson Hospital before giving birth to a child she would not get to raise.  “I was drugged to the point I did not deliver my baby in a natural way,” Mrs. Pendrey told The Senior. “He was taken from my body.”

Mrs Pendrey was just 15 when she found out she was six months’ pregnant. In December 1965 her family sent her away to the Presbyterian Babies Home for unmarried mothers in east Melbourne more than 400kms from her home in Lower Barrington for the last weeks of her pregnancy.  She is one of the thousands of women across Australia who were young or unmarried whose babies were taken for adoption by force or through coercion – a practice common throughout the 1950s and 60s and up until to 1980s.

Barbara Pendrey, photographed here as a bridesmaid in July 1966, was 15 years old and unknowingly three months pregnant. Photo: Supplied

Barbara Pendrey, photographed here as a bridesmaid in July 1966, was 15 years old and unknowingly three months pregnant. Photo: Supplied

Now Mrs. Pendrey is one of several women sharing her experience as part of a Victorian inquiry into responses to historically forced adoptions in the state.  The inquiry is a chance to give people affected by forced adoption the opportunity to tell their stories and consider the best way to respond to harm caused by forced adoption.  In her submission to the inquiry, Mrs. Pendrey details how she was bound during the birth. “We were treated like animals, there for them to take our babies and give them to someone else,” she said.

“When I heard the baby cry, I twisted to look at a clock and couldn’t move”. It is this, she said, which damaged her wrist and has left her with permanent pains in her arms and legs. “I have been told the body doesn’t forget.  I remember feeling so out of control it was like people who didn’t know me or care, were making huge demands on me. Just being told what to do, like I wasn’t even human or didn’t have feelings. I so wanted to take my baby home with me.”

Instead, they took him off her. “Something so precious. They didn’t treat me as a person with emotions and feelings. This little baby grew inside me. He was my baby, my beautiful baby boy who I never saw.”

More than five decades on, the horrific ordeal has left Mrs. Pendrey with enduring physical and emotional scars including post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic fatigue syndrome and medical bills running into the thousands.  And for Mrs. Pendrey, like many other women, getting hold of hospital records from that time has been difficult.

Barbara Pendrey hopes in sharing her story, it will encourage other women to come forward and help bury the shame associated with forced adoption.

Barbara Pendrey hopes in sharing her story, it will encourage other women to come forward and help bury the shame associated with forced adoption. She is calling for hospital records to be made available so she can understand what happened, and what drugs she was given and for how long. Despite writing to many places, Mrs. Pendrey is yet to get hold of her files and said she can’t move forward until this happens. “If the Government knows where they are, they should be released.”

The Victorian inquiry comes after various state governments, including Tasmania and Victoria, issued formal apologies to the victims of forced adoption in 2012. This followed a recommendation from a 2012 Commonwealth Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs report on the Commonwealth Contribution to Former Forced Adoption Policies and PracticesThe resulting senate inquiry in 2012 documented forced adoption policies and practices across Australia drawing on the personal accounts and professional perspectives from 418 written submissions and community hearings in every capital city except Darwin.  Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard then delivered a national apology in 2013.  Mrs. Pendrey was one of the women who gave a submission to the senate inquiry. She hopes that in sharing her story again, it will encourage other women to come forward and help bury the shame associated with forced adoption.  “I’ll never forget when the church minister arrived to give me ‘counselling’. He said: ‘Now you’ve been a naughty girl – don’t do it again’.  The shame of this ‘counselling’ has left me with so many issues.  I want these women to know: you didn’t do anything wrong. Don’t allow the people who did this leave you with guilt and a lack of self-esteem. Write into the inquiry put the words in writing, cry a little or a lot, make a statement. Be brave, it will make you feel strong.”

‘The last opportunity’

In its submission to the inquiry, not-for-profit post-adoption search and support services organisation VANISH said as mothers and adopted people from the forced adoption era steadily age, the inquiry may be the “last real opportunity to provide meaningful redress for past adoption practices”.

VANISH manager Charlotte Smith said many of the 2012 senate inquiry recommendations have not been implemented, including a redress scheme and the provision of counselling services.  VANISH is calling for a “sensitive” redress scheme which includes the removal of the statute of limitations so the responsible institutions can be taken to court.  “The separation of a mother and her infant is a traumatic loss for both and can be for the father too. Yet this trauma often went untreated and the grief and loss unrecognised and unmourned,” said Ms. Smith.  She said in many cases, mothers whose babies were adopted without their informed consent have not spoken to anyone about their son or daughter who was adopted. “They might feel nobody would understand, or that they cannot bear to revisit the distress they experienced,” she said.

“This traumatic event and loss completely changed the trajectory of some mothers, and fathers’ lives. Their relationships were broken up, their education halted, their self-esteem crushed. Their plans to marry, have a career, have children were shattered, and some now have few social or family connections, struggle financially, and suffer from anxiety, depression, or other issues.”

She said adopted people also experience grief about the loss of their mother and father, their loss of identity, of belonging, and of being around people like them.   “This loss is often overlooked and they are expected to be happy and grateful about their adoption. It can be very distressing for adopted people to find out that their adoption was forced and that they were wanted.”

It is her hope that through the inquiry, mothers and fathers who were separated from their babies and adopted adults will find out that they are not alone and that there is specialist support available.  VANISH hopes that this inquiry will establish the truth of what happened and the devastating lifelong impacts on those who suffered such cruelty at the hands of people they should have been able to trust.  We hope that the victims and survivors of these unethical and sometimes criminal practices will be told ‘we believe you, it was wrong, it was not your fault, we are truly sorry’ and the institutions involved take full responsibility and focus on restoration.”

Final call for submissions

Individuals and organisations have until June 26 to make submissions to Victoria’s Legislative Assembly’s Legal and Social Issues Committee on responses to historically forced adoptions in Victoria.  Committee chair Natalie Suleyman said she wants to ensure anyone who has been affected by forced adoptions can have their say.  The inquiry is exploring support services and responses provided to the people in our community who endured the past policies and practices of forced adoption going back several decades.  With all that has happened over the past few months, we wanted to give community members a final opportunity to share their experiences and views with the Committee before we move to public hearings in the second half of this year,” Ms. Suleyman said.

“The terms of reference for this inquiry are broad, so the Committee will consider all issues raised by community members who make submissions and present at public hearings.”

The terms of reference for the inquiry and details on how to make a submission are available from the Committee’s website.

  • VANISH 1300-826-474 or visit vanish.org.au
  • Forced Adoption Support Services (Relationships Australia) 1800 210-313

Disliked adoption phrases Part One

I am giving credit back to this post https://medium.com/@Flip.Side/phrases-from-adoption-ideology-ad3caf09c6a2 for giving me the material to write about.

After spending so many years of hiding my feelings of loss and not dealing with my son’s adoption my eyes were finally opened up.  The support has been great and I wish I had known about it years earlier ago.  On the other hand I also found out people can be very cruel and hurtful by their words and actions.   I was shocked in the early years how judgemental people can be towards other sides of adoption. After 16 years I am much more ‘hardened’ to the unkind side of adoption and naivety of people who think surrendering a baby is ‘the right thing to do/mother to young to parent.’

One of the early comments that made me laugh as it is stupid.  It’s when adoptees are asked if they know their real parents.  Even if I didn’t have an adoption connection I would still think it’s a ridiculous question.  A real parent to me is the one raising the child whether they are the mother, father, adoptive parent, foster carer, family member to the best of their ability.  All parents make mistakes and not all parents are decent.

My son’s adoptive parents are real parents and so am I.

In the early days of the reunion I got sick to death of the ‘you were chosen’ lines given to adoptees.  Adoption in the UK has evolved since the 1940s but even so, adoptees haven’t been ‘chosen’ they’ve just been the next available baby.  Over the years changes have been an end to private adoptions, the number of babies adopted has dropped, and, open and semi adoptions have been introduced.  Since the contraceptive pill, abortion easier to have, changes in benefits and social housing has made it easier for mothers to either raise their children or not to have a child.

Telling an adoptee they were wanted is terrible because the person asking doesn’t know the circumstances behind their adoption.  The mother could have died in childbirth, the mother (or father) may not have been given the chance to prove they could be a good parent.  Not all adopters should have adopted in the first place.  Just because a single person or couple has been approved to adopt (in the UK) doesn’t mean they will be good parents.  There are cases where adopters have killed their adopted children or abused them, it’s not just natural parents who abuse their children.

Telling an adoptee their mother loved them enough to give them up is cruel as far as I’m concerned.  I loved my son so much I didn’t abort him but neither did I plan for him to be adopted.  His adopters believed the adoption agency when they were told I wanted him adopted.  It took a reunion for them to find out I never agreed to the adoption.  In fact they found out the three letters I supposedly wrote to them were written by someone else and I only received one of the letters they wrote.  That was bad enough as they thanked me for allowing them to adopt my son.  It was devastating to read that as they didn’t know the truth. Yes there are mothers who choose adoption but I’m not one of them.

Adoption isn’t a selfless sacrifice generally – I get back to my comment that some mothers do choose adoption.  I felt worthless when my son was adopted, that I didn’t matter and it reinforced what a family member said to me that I wasn’t capable of raising a child.  It has been a lifelong feeling of worthlessness.  Nobody knows what kind of a mother I would have been because I wasn’t given a chance.  There are other reasons why I didn’t have other children but that is going off-topic.`  I was a victim of forced (illegal) adoption and had I known my rights I would have raised my son.

I don’t like the ‘adoption is in the bible’ argument either.  Yes I know Joseph wasn’t the biological father of Jesus but Mary was his natural mother.  Oh and Joseph didn’t pay a huge wedge of money to buy Jesus he stepped up as a father figure as he was commanded to do.  For Jesus to fulfill a prophecy he had to be born into this life and God wouldn’t have been in the physical world as nobody could look at his face and live.

Moses isn’t, like Jesus, an example of adoption as we understand it.  His mother placed him in a basket and put in water to save his life.  He was raised by a pharaoh’s daughter and his mother was part of his life, in other words he wasn’t officially adopted.  Later on, in life, he killed an Egyptian, returned to his family, and led the chosen people to the promised life.

Telling adoptees they were given up is quite commonly used alongside placed.  I didn’t ‘give up or place’ my son he was in effect stolen from me.  I never agreed to him being adopted and as far as I know I didn’t sign the Consent to Relinquish form.  If I did I didn’t know what I was signing and very conveniently nobody can find the form so I can’t prove anything.

The blood/DNA doesn’t matter argument is open to debate but they do matter.  If they didn’t then parents wouldn’t care what baby they had as long as they were raising one.  Apart from that people have a right to know who their family is with medical information high on the list for being important.  I have had mother figures in my life but they’re not the mother who carried me for nine-months then raised me.  They have been important in my life but can’t be compared to my mother.  Some people should never have children but that doesn’t mean any child of theirs who has been adopted doesn’t have a right to know who they are.

I hate adopters referring to the mother of their adopted child as their birth mother as she didn’t give birth to either of them and it’s a type of entitlement.  When these people feel offended when they are pulled up about it they should then educate themselves.  I am not my son’s birth mother, I am his mother the same as his adoptive mother is also his mother.  Parents can love more than one child so why can’t a child love more than one mother?

I shall continue with this another day.

Flawed

My life ended the day I was told I couldn’t stop my son’s adoption.  Unless you have been a victim of forced (illegal) adoption you cannot begin to understand the profound feelings of loss.  It is heart-wrenching and for me, I emotionally broke down and from that day forward I mask.  I also lost my trust due to what my mother and the adoption agency did to me.  To the outside world, I was fine but inside I was an emotional wreck.  My friends used to joke I was an ice maiden towards men and kept them at arm’s length.  I vowed I would never get married or have any more children as I was so scared that I would be forced to surrender again.

I became very lonely as I was too scared to tell anybody how I was feeling nor did I understand I was severely depressed.  For too many years I was accused of being a drama queen, moody and that there were people who were far more in need of support.  In the early days, the closest my mother came to showing she cared was when I received a letter from my son’s adopters.  I broke down in tears and my mother hugged me tightly until I stopped crying.  Even then I couldn’t talk and suffered in silence.  Adoption is like an invisible amputation and every part of my body ached for and missed my son.  It was another 23 years before I could start talking about my son’s adoption.

It wasn’t until more recent years that I realised that I suffer from P.T.S.D. although I have never been formally diagnosed with suffering from it.  Doctors don’t seem to understand the trauma of forced adoption or make a connection.  My son will be 39 years old this year and I still suffer from the trauma of losing him, sadly it will be with me for the rest of my life.  I also have a history of self-harming as it was the only way to release emotional pain and I have tried overdosing over the years.

Since opening up about forced adoption I started educating people about the effect of forced adoption on mothers.  It really was tough going for the first couple of years particularly when I got the courage to state that the term birth mother is offensive.  I had never heard of the term until 2004 having joined up with adoption forums and groups.  It is a stupid term because mothers don’t just give birth they go through nine months of pregnancy.  Fathers don’t go through pregnancy or giving birth so it’s a ridiculous term to give them.  It’s also stupid to give the extended family the ‘birth’ title as they can’t collectively go through pregnancy and childbirth.  The real truth is it’s a term invented in America to make adopters feel better about themselves and came over to the U.K.  A couple of years ago I had a disagreement with a friend at bible study as she referred to herself as a birth mother.  I asked her not to as it’s offensive to mothers who have surrendered a child and why the term was created.  She really didn’t ‘get it’ and used the argument that as she had had children that made her a birth mother.  I explained why the term was invented but if all mothers had always been referred to as birth mothers it wouldn’t have bothered me.  In the end, I got so annoyed I had to walk away from the situation.  We have never talked about it since.

I am still friendly with other mothers who have surrendered babies. adoptive parents and adoptees although these days we keep in touch on Facebook.  We all still learn from each other for all sorts of reasons.

September 2021
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930