the real myths about birth mothers

November 30, 2014 § 10 Comments

Just in case consulting a real birth mother is too hard or too scary, adoptive father Lawrence Morton wrote this piece of fiction about what birth mothers are like. He attempts to contrast myth with reality, although there is nothing new or fascinating here. It’s the same sticky-sweet birth mother tale that adoptive parents and adoption agencies have been telling for ages. In calling out myths about birth mothers, the author only perpetuates a different set of adoption myths, except this time they are myths used to acquire more babies for adoption. Being called “selfless and loving” or “brave” is more insidious, but not any different, than simply being called a slut.

Since Morton is an adoptive father, not a birth mother, I figured I would do a better job picking apart birth mother myths.

Myth: Birth mothers are selfless and loving.

This is the most pervasive birth mother myth I know of, based on the number of terrible ads that blare, “Adoption is a selfless, loving choice!” Those words were said to me, over and over and over again when I was pregnant, and I believed it. Try to stop and comprehend the true meaning of that slogan for a minute. Isn’t parenting selfless and loving? I don’t know how other people are raised, but I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that parenting is tough shit. My mom and dad never let me forget it. We all hear about the troubled teenager who selfishly gets pregnant so she has a baby to love, but I have never met anyone like that. And yet, every expectant mother considering adoption is implicitly told that raising her child is selfish. Pretty sure most women are not fulfilling their own selfish desires when they parent alone and without much money. They are simply doing the work that every parent does, no matter the joy or the exhaustion. Undoubtedly, parenting is loving. There is nothing shameful about that.

It’s not always possible for mothers to raise their children, but adoption shouldn’t be higher on the pedestal than parenting. It shouldn’t be made out to be the best possible solution for mother and child, in all circumstances. If adoption is “selfless and loving,” then whatever obstacle the mother is facing in parenting her child, no matter how temporary–safety, money, marital status–is BEST solved by relinquishing her child forever. All other solutions are implied to be selfish and less loving. Apparently, it’s not even worth a conversation about how, in the future, choosing adoption may seem incredibly selfish to the one who was adopted. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t seek out any adoptee voices when I was pregnant. I was told that adopted people are always happy and grateful, and that was that.

I came across a discussion of my blog on an adoptee forum, about the part where I wrote my cringe-worthy reasons for choosing adoption, and some of the adoptees who commented said, “At least she realizes how selfish she is.” Just because the adoption agency calls you “selfless” doesn’t mean you are, nor does it mean your child will feel that way. And if you choose adoption for a murky reason like not being married or not having a college degree, like I did, you will probably be called selfish at some point. I’ll admit that there are birth parents who are entirely deserving of the negative “myths” that Morton tries to debunk. The truth is that giving up your child doesn’t make anyone loving or selfless automatically.

This myth assigns the mother such worthlessness, that the best way she can show her love is by leaving her child’s life. It assumes that the adoptive parents will be better than the birth parents in every possible way, that the child will prefer being raised by the adoptive parents, and that the mother has nothing to offer her own child. If she keeps her baby, it is for no other reason than to satisfy her own needs and desires. There is no way to show her love and care except by relinquishing. And of course all adoptive parents are perfect–they are never abusive or flawed or any of the things birth moms are.

Moreover, the cheer of “b-moms are selfless, rah rah” takes on a different meaning when it comes from APs or PAPs. I’m sure my son’s parents were more than happy to rescue me from the horrible fate of Parenthood that so many will pay thousands of dollars for, and yet I was expected to just throw it all away. But in adoption, everything is opposite and backwards. “Adoption is a loving choice” makes as much sense to me as WAR IS PEACE, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY, and IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

Myth: Completing someone else’s family (while destroying our own) is a birth mom’s job.

Consider the common phrase “our birthmom” used by adoptive parents. I always hear that flung about, online and in real life: “our birthmom.” Really? Did she birth you and your spouse as well? Is she a human being with a name, or is her only purpose in life that you care about to give birth for your benefit? When adoptive parents call their child’s birth mom “our,” it makes me realize she is yet another lower class person in their lives who performs a service for them–our birthmom, our pool cleaner. Like she was a handmaiden assigned to serve them.

A lot of women buy into this. We’re told to feel happy and proud that we are building a family for people who can’t. But that’s not our job. No one should be made to feel that their baby is for someone else, which brings me to…

Myth: Birth mothers were destined to get unexpectedly pregnant for the benefit of infertile couples who “need” babies.

I’m not religious, and yet this myth plagued me for a long time. The ladies at the agency fed me the idea that by looking through parent profiles, I would find the perfect couple who was just MEANT for my son, thereby setting me up to choose people with hopes of parenthood so I would feel obligated to go through with the adoption, rather than chill out and think more about my options as my pregnancy progressed. After I picked C and L, they told me over and over that I found my son’s perfect parents by “fate” and everything happened for a reason. After I told C and L that I chose them, the agency encouraged me to sit back and relax with the knowledge that everything was as it should be. This marginalized the guilt I felt and made me feel content for the time being. After all, you don’t mess with destiny.

The idea of things happening for a reason can be comforting, I suppose, but it’s made-up bullshit. People love to tell you “everything happens for a reason,” especially at funerals. It’s difficult to face the fact that life and death are chaotic, senseless, and unfair. As infinitesimal specks in the universe, it’s comforting to believe in an underhanded arrangement out there, but it’s for this same reason that we shouldn’t presume to know what is meant to be or not meant to be. We are just too small and too stupid. When I look back on my pregnancy, I see now that there were signs everywhere that I shouldn’t give up my baby and that I was being used. I just didn’t pay attention. It was too stressful to deal with any cognitive dissonance, so I buried it.

It’s usually self-entitled adoptive parents who believe that adoption is God’s plan for them. They probably don’t realize that for God to plan an adoption, God planned for a mother to lose her child. If so, God is a real asshole. They also don’t understand the vast improbability that “THEIR child” is waiting in another pregnant woman’s belly. The principle of Occam’s Razor suggests there are more likely possibilities that involve fewer assumptions. And if an adoptive parent doesn’t realize that the biggest difference between them and birth parents is money, they are probably assholes as well.

Myth: Birth mothers did the right thing in giving their child up.

Like the “loving/selfless” myth, this one does not allow for any complexity to be present in the situation. Adoption is ALWAYS “the right thing.” It is as black and white as right and wrong. This implies that choosing adoption is taking the moral high ground. It’s as simple as saying no to drugs in your sixth grade DARE program. For adoption to be the right thing, it has to be the right thing for everybody. My son is not living a better life with his adoptive family, just a different one. And if adoption were the right thing for me, I wouldn’t be crawling out of my skin wishing I could be with him.

This reminds me. I always get a kick out of adoptees who don’t know anything about their birth families, but they wish they could thank them for doing the right thing. How do you know your adoptive family is better, or that your birth family didn’t relinquish you for adoption because it was “right” but because of sad, difficult reasons? Anywho.

There are times when adoption is wonderful and necessary. My son’s adoption wasn’t one of those times. Giving him up was not even close to the “right” thing to do, and don’t tell me I should find peace, either.

Myth: That everyone thinks birth mothers are selfish in the first place.

Dear Lawrence Morton, we’ve been bashed in the head with this propaganda long enough. 90% of the comments read, “I never thought birthmothers were selfish! They are so brave!” True, plenty of people think birth moms are selfish whores who discard their children. But we’ve all heard the “selfless and loving” narrative for so long, that’s what people believe now. There is something seriously wrong when adoption, which should be avoided if at all possible, has become widely known as the MOST loving option POSSIBLE, even for women who could realistically parent. In this day and age, young single women parent successfully all the time, and that’s what the adoption industry is afraid of.

Let’s be real, being a birth mother is not a source of pride or a badge of selflessness–it’s just the only way for adoptive parents like Mr. Morton to acquire healthy babies.


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§ 10 Responses to the real myths about birth mothers

  • It’s so true, and it doesn’t get any better over time. I’m 52 now, and the loss of my mother is a burden I bear everyday. I found my family 4 years age, and my parents don’t want anything to do with me or my 4 children. It’s too painful for them. Too painful for them to have the daughter they gave away in their lives. I guess my pain doesn’t matter. I guess it never did. It seems selfish to me, and it hurts so much. I’m sorry that you figured out the truth too late to save your son.

  • CSherm says:

    God, I love your balls out, tell it like it really is way of telling it like it really is! Thanks so much for this.

  • I was bothered by the fact that a man, (an adoptive father) wrote that piece for “us” too. It would have been bad enough if it was written by a women who never gave birth but that fact that it was written by a man…well that’s just ridiculous. I get what you are saying. And parenting your child is a good and responsible choice (I have done both) But if we choose to parent our child, than we must commit totally, focusing on our child and their needs.

    No matter who is speaking, the part that really gets me every time is how we keep focusing on the woman, her body, her womb, her temple when in fact she did not get pregnant by herself. Truth is, if men took on more active parenting roles and if the parents (or proposed grandparents) supported their sons and daughters more, then adoption wouldn’t be a consideration for so many women and their contributing partner. Women have been carrying the load and weight for far too long.

    I’ve gotten confused if I am heartless or selfless and actually wrote a piece on it a while back after an encounter at church. It does seem like the selfless title is used for a marketing tool. I mean, what woman is going to consider relinquishing her parental rights if she is told she is heartless and selfish for doing so. However, it doesn’t seem to bother many deadbeat dads so maybe honesty is best.

  • gooddaytotry says:

    if adoption were only that kind. it is a constant do this do this do this when women finally say no. it is not just the church the sellers, the hospital and the family the pj workers that willingly say then they have to take the baby from a bad person. the first time you hear it from your flesh and blood the cut is worst pain in the world.

  • […] Mother Myths and Facts – America Adopts The Myth of Birth Mothers as a Hot Mess: Debunked The Real Myths about Birth Mothers (Totally different perspective from a birth […]

  • laradu says:

    Wonderfully written and so true! As a birth mother, I have no regrets because there was no other choice. However, even with this certainty,
    this in no way assuages the pure pain of this decision. Being a birth mother is a painful decision and one that remains a scar on the soul.

  • brigitte says:

    Fact is the person you were then had the option not to be lumbered with the extra effort of dealing with a kid when wanting to study.
    No adoption agency put a gun to your head. They did provide you with means to follow your then current desires as your baby would be well cared for. You just happen to be one of the types that end up dissatisfied by relinquishing.

    There are women who don’t regret relinquishing to adoption at all. Some of these still may feel an initial transitory loss due to the hormones post birth, but are relieved by not being forced to parent when the pregnancy wasn’t intended, especially in adverse circumstaces.

    Most of the time women relinquish because they know they can’t or won’t in their “present circumstances” parent as comfortabley or effectively as they should and there are adoptive parents who can. Either because an infant would deprive them by requiring unpalatable personal sacrifices.
    Or realistically aware their capacity to parent is substantialy impaired wether its a rape conception, mental health issues,substance abuse, likewise with significantly insufficient rescources.

    People are unconsciously selfish when it comes to procreation and keeping their spawn “when the desire to have children” surfaces. Nothing much then can dissuade people from having or keeping offspring then, regardless how shonky the situation can be for any new infant.Transmittable genetic diseases, personal morbidity,dysfunctional family dynamics, extreme poverty etc., can’t and won’t detter once driven by desires to have to have children. With many just getting pregnant switches this desire on and the mere fact of it only being an unplanned problematic situation means that there won’t be any considration of relinquishing, adoption etc..
    In fact that’s the most common outcome where an abortion wasn’t obtained with unplanned conceptions, giving birth and attemting to raise their issue.

    It’s when the conception occurs ouside of desired reproducing periods, where the personal costs will be high, is when there is potentially enough objectivity to weigh up a situation more realistically in regard to all parties. It can be a “realistic”and hence ethical decision to relinquish to others who are ready to parent fully, psychologically,socially and materialy. I’d dispute the likeihood of the writer with certainty to have provided an equally good developmental nurturing environment for herchild’s earliest years re her personal life readiness and competing ambitions. Her child if kept would’ve been adequately cared for, but most likely has been made better off through adoption.

    The writer is the only one who is suffering by realising relinquishing has been for her a great loss. Yet nothing forced her to do this. Likewise with most other women. The fact is that adoption is an excellent outcome for both unplanned children where parents aren’t able or ready to care for them and family ready infertile couples.

    I agree with the writer disparaging the excessive sentimental platitudes around adoption. Though because of her personal pain she goes too far in denigrating it.

    Relinquishing a baby concieved unplanned, under rescourced in adverse circumstances can include with some women high concern for their baby’s needs. Adoption is an effective way to meet those. Seems fairer than letting themselves succumbing to the gamble of winging it.

    • LOL

      I can see that you never relinquished a child. Easy to judge from the outside, not as easy in reality.

      Such logical (to you) arguments, all for the benefit of the child! But so coldhearted, so no real benefit to anyone.

      Real life does not always fall into neatly constructed boxes, that’s why there is pain in relinquishment. We are not robots, but mere humans, with fragile hearts.

    • laradu says:

      Cold hearted comments by Brigitte. Obvious lack of empathy-sounds like an adoption lawyer.

    • Billie Tealeaf says:

      Drivel. Sans heart.

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