01 February 2010

Responsibility

Responsibility. It is a word that is tossed around a lot in adoption. “Take responsibility”.

I am very much in favour of people taking responsibility for their actions in life. Whatever they are. I feel if you choose to do something then you wear the consequences of that choice. It isn’t really rocket science, it is just logic.

However, there are also choices made in life that are not made by you but affect you in either profoundly negative or positive ways. Choices made by individuals for whatever reasons which carry consequences that can change the path of someone’s whole life journey.

For example, child abuse (physical, sexual or neglectful), the act of war, murder, rape, being given a large sum of money/inheritance, abduction and adoption to name a few.

All these examples are the result of one or many persons making a choice and that choice altering someone’s life substantially.

Given this blog is about adoption, I want to talk about responsibility in adoption.

Over the past few years and indeed in very recent days, I have often had the odd person tell me to take responsibility for my actions in regards to my daughter’s adoption. And there are things within this experience I do take responsibility for such as being naive, trusting those who could not be trusted, wanting to do what was right, being worn down etc.

But that is not what they mean. I have been told to take responsibility for getting pregnant. But how can I when I was raped? When I said no and tried to stop my daughter’s biological father from hurting me, I took responsibility. I. SAID. NO. After this, it was not MY choice and therefore NOT my responsibility. So no, I do not take responsibility for being raped and becoming pregnant and neither should any other woman.

When I discovered I was pregnant, in a state of shock, I had to make a choice as to what I would do with my child. For me, abortion was not an option. It was not something I personally felt or feel comfortable with. Adoption was offered to me next and I immediately said “No way, I am not giving my child away”. And then I opted to parent. It was the logical choice. I was pregnant and at the end of that pregnancy I would be a mother. What do mothers do with their children? They raise them. It was fairly simple to me.

However, what I was unaware of then, is that apparently, this wasn’t my choice to make. Raising my own child somehow became everyone else’s business but mine and what I had to say didn’t matter. I had no idea that my community, my whole support network would turn on me this way and that their choice was more important.

Yes, I made the choice to listen to these people who were supposed to be my elders, protectors and people who cared about me. Yes, I chose to trust them... why wouldn’t I? Yes, I chose to look into the choice (adoption) they presented to me to get them off my back. Hardly a crime.

What I was unprepared for is the choices each individual would make in relation to my child and I. Their choices, which in most cases I believe were made not out of malice but out of ignorance, had dire consequences for us.

On to the adoption part. I am told that regardless of what anyone else said to me, it was still my signature on those consent papers. No one held a gun (well at least not physically) to my head, no one forged my signature. This is true and again, I accept this. I did sign those papers however much I didn’t want to.

But here is where I stop taking responsibility and I don’t care who disagrees with me because, and let me make this clear to you, I WAS THERE, I WAS THE ONE THIS HAPPENED TO. Not you. So unless you have walked a mile in MY shoes, have experienced what I went through then you have no say in this and your opinion counts for nought.

Adoption was NOT MY choice. I chose to parent so I do not take responsibility for “making” that choice. I didn’t then and I will not today or any other day. My story has not changed. I was never in the fog about adoption being “the best for my child” because I never believed it was. You just have to ask those who were there and knew me well to know that.

Signing that consent? Yes, biggest regret of my life and I have beaten myself up about it over and over for trusting and believing the lies. But although there was no physical gun, there was an emotional one. I was wrongly informed if I DIDN’T sign, the consent could be signed by someone else, our “Chief executive” (formerly Director-General) and I would lose her anyway. Where was the choice in that? Sign or have her taken away regardless. No choice, therefore nothing to take responsibility FOR.

But even if I didn’t make the choice to place her, I definitely made the choice to parent her clear. And I definitely took responsibility for that. How? I FOUGHT for MY child. I went to court and I fought for her. And, my first court battle, I won. Yes, I won. So, how did my daughter end up where she is? BECAUSE OF THE CHOICES OF OTHERS. Her adopters. They decided to fight to take her away from me and the rest of her family so yes, I lay that choice, the responsibility for the end result SQUARELY on their shoulders because that is where it belongs.

Often, I see mothers told to take responsibility for the actions of others. No one wants to believe our stories because we threaten and challenge the incorrect view the general public holds on adoption. Validating our experiences means others have to face THEIR responsibilities for the choices THEY made and that is just too much for most. So we get told we have to take responsibility for the choices OTHERS made. We are told to apologise to our children for abandoning them despite the fact many of us never had a choice and some of us did what we could to keep our children. Who apologises for something they didn’t do? Why is it expected for mothers to do this when others are not expected to?

I have seen mothers from the Baby Scoop Era denied their stories as being true, that they created and invented their experience just to make excuses for losing their child. This is preposterous. For one, most of these mothers had no idea how wide spread this issue was given the secrecy of the era and their own MEDICAL RECORDS prove their stories not to mention the testimonies of those who worked in the hospitals and saw this occur with their own eyes.

Even Nancy Verrier in her book Primal Wound expects mothers to apologise to their adult children for placing them. As an adoptive parent, that is easy for her to say. It excuses her from being part of the demand that continues the growth of the adoption industry. It is her and other adoptive parents who used their thousands of dollars in so-called fees to obtain an infant who should be apologising to their child for not using that money more wisely and helping them stay within their family. It would have been cheaper!

I am all for telling my daughter I am sorry she FELT abandoned and the pain that caused her but I will not take responsibility for what her adopters and others did to me to ensure my child and I were separated. Why should I? Just to make you sleep easier at night? Take a hike.

What I can take responsibility for is getting my story out there. I can be responsible for ensuring stories like mine do not keep being repeated. I can take responsibility for how this tragic event impacts my life and I do. I have. Take this blog for instance, it is where I can share my pain, my anguish in a healthy way that doesn't impact my family. If I DIDN'T blog, DIDN'T speak up, I would be guilty of NOT taking responsibility and the pain would swallow me so much I would be of no use to my family. In venting, sharing my pain and feelings here, I free myself of these emotions so I am available for my other two precious children. To ignore the need for me to blog, would be an injustice to my family.

Responsibility. Its a big word. Maybe before you judge me and talk to me about responsibility perhaps you should learn what it means and either walk a mile in my shoes or take responsibility for your own actions in life.

12 comments:

  1. "Even Nancy Verrier in her book Primal Wound expects mothers to apologise to their adult children for placing them. As an adoptive parent, that is easy for her to say. It excuses her from being part of the demand that continues the growth of the adoption industry."

    I was surprised to read this as I thought the same but felt that I - a birth mother of the BSE - was trampling on the sacred ground of accepted adoption lore.

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  2. "Even Nancy Verrier in her book Primal Wound expects mothers to apologise to their adult children for placing them. As an adoptive parent, that is easy for her to say."

    As an adult adoptee, I'd like an apology from my mother. I wouldn't demand it of her, of course not, because I know it wasn't her choice.

    But still... to the infant who perceives it as abandonment... an apology would validate and acknowledge the pain of separation.

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  3. Hi Mei-Ling,

    Without trying to sound insensitive, I was wondering if you could tell me exactly what it is your mother should apologise for? I have seen this a lot and I understand from some discussions I have had with other adoptees what it is they want acknowledged but for you, how do you want her to acknowledge it?

    People say sorry for a number of things. eg in sympathy for losing a loved one, in empathy, in recognition of wrong doing etc so which one of those is needed in this situation?

    I am for apologising when I have done something I am wholly accountable for but I admit I struggle with the notion that I or any other mother (or person for that matter) should accept fault/blame for the actions of others.

    So I guess what I'm asking is what is enough? And if she acknowledged the pain and abandonment you feel, would it be enough? I guess I am seeing things that make me feel that no matter what a mother does, she will never be good enough... which in effect is only furthering the messsage and damage done by those who took our children. Hope that makes sense.

    Again, just trying to understand, not dismissing your experience at all (and if it comes across that way, I do apologise as it is not my intention). Of course, I will say to my daughter I am sorry for what she has been through, sorry she felt I just "gave her away". Is that the sort of thing you mean? I am sorry this has caused her pain, I am sorry she feels abandoned, believe me I am. But I don't feel responsible because I know I am not. That lies with her adopters. And I will be telling her that when the time is right.

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  4. I've heard some mothers say they are sorry about the adoption occurring, as in "I'm sorry you had to grow up adopted," or "I'm sorry I didn't get to watch you grow up," or other statements along those lines. I think these types of apologies can be helpful; they are really more a statement of empathy.

    However, I agree that most mothers have no reason to apologize in a way that makes them appear to be the guilty party. They/we are not guilty of deliberately seeking to hurt our children, as an apology seems to imply.

    Wouldn't it be nice to see Nancy Verrier and APs in general apologize for participating in the act of adoption? They could apologize for not supporting the mother in keeping her child, or keeping an adoption closed, or changing the child's name, etc. Will we ever see this from APs?

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  5. For acknowledging the pain.

    Of course, I'm sure even if I had the Mandarin words to speak of the pain, I don't know if I could do that without making her feel like crap.

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  6. "Often, I see mothers told to take responsibility for the actions of others. No one wants to believe our stories because we threaten and challenge the incorrect view the general public holds on adoption. Validating our experiences means others have to face THEIR responsibilities for the choices THEY made and that is just too much for most. So we get told we have to take responsibility for the choices OTHERS made. We are told to apologise to our children for abandoning them despite the fact many of us never had a choice and some of us did what we could to keep our children. Who apologises for something they didn’t do? Why is it expected for mothers to do this when others are not expected to?"

    So true! Mothers who were forced to surrender their child were threatened with having their child placed in foster care in order for the sw to state they were 'abandoned'. Sign - or don't -we will take your baby whether you consent or not. No, this was not our "choice".

    We were screamed at and told how selfish we were for loving and wanting our baby. Once our baby was in another woman's arms, we were then accused of "heartlessly abandoning our child". WTF?! Never mind what actions we were subjected to in order for the baby brokers to get our child away from us.

    No one wants to listen to us because it's inconvenient. Our pain and anger are an inconvenience to those who don't want to acknowledge their own guilt in separating us and our children. People who want us to keep our silence now are no different from the individuals who wanted us to keep our mouths shut back then.

    We are told to take responsibility for our actions. I wish the baby brokers had listened to me when I told them endlessly I would be caring for and raising my daughter. That I wanted to take responsibility. That I wanted to be allowed to enjoy my pregnancy and be afforded the same respect and support any other expectant mother received. That I loved my beautiful girl. That there was no way I was going to consent to an adoption. They ignored me. In fact, they did everything they could to shut me up. They didn't want to acknowledge I was perfectly capable of raising my daughter. Mothers were left to rot. Not allowed to mourn their loss, not allowed to even admit they were pregnant! That is crazy-making.

    Then we learn the baby brokers lied in documents and told our children they were 'abandoned'. How can we protect our children from this? BY TELLING THE TRUTH. Our stories are out there. No one can ignore what was done to us any longer.

    I am always astounded by the ignorance and hateful attacks on mothers who won't change their story to suit others' idea of themselves. I note, too, the same people who attack mothers are also attacking the people who were taken from their families. Their feelings are also ignored and dismissed. Worse, they are accused of being 'ungrateful' or 'angry'.

    It's ironic - mothers who lost their children only care how their child is and want to protect them -aps want only to protect their selfish wishes and feel absolutely entitled to do so:(

    Mothers and their lost children have suffered more than enough. We are owed a huge apology.

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  7. Hi Maybe,

    "I've heard some mothers say they are sorry about the adoption occurring, as in "I'm sorry you had to grow up adopted," or "I'm sorry I didn't get to watch you grow up," or other statements along those lines. I think these types of apologies can be helpful; they are really more a statement of empathy."

    Yes, that is more along the lines of what I think is okay... saying sorry (not really an apology) in a sympathetic/empathetic way. Validating the experience but not taking the blame.

    I do feel validation is important BUT I also see a fine line of expecting a mother to give validation and accepting blame for something she could never have even prevented had she wanted to.

    I know if my daughter turned around and blamed me for everything, for me it would feel like a continuation of the abuse from her adopters and the rest of the persons who were so involved in separating us. It would destroy me.

    Myst xxx

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  8. Thank-you Mei-Ling. That makes more sense. And yes, I agree... an acknowledgement of pain, a validation of the experience is naturally what anyone would want.

    Myst xxx

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  9. Hi Lissa,

    Yes, it is inconvenient for them to know of our pain because they are trying to make more money out of separating mothers and babies and we don't help that end so they try to discredit us.

    Meanwhile they blissfully choose ignorance and hang onto their lies (which they know are lies now) and shun their own responsibilities.

    We make many feel uncomfortable. We are the evidence of how human kind can be just revolting and cruel and those who inflicted this pain on us (or those in similar positions) do not want to hear because it calls them to account and they don't like that. So they try to shut us up and if we don't shut up, they put us down and try to pin the actions of others on us, telling us to accept liability for what others did. Well they can take that notion and jump because I am not putting up with the hypocrisy, cruelty, chosen ignorance and just crap the adoption world keeps spewing forth.

    Its funny, they don't see that all of us standing up and finally finding our voices is actually us taking responsibility in a different way. The responsibility of speaking the truth of our stories and situations so we can prevent this from it happening over and over.

    There is a saying I love and that is "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (or women) to do nothing"

    It is our resposnibility to stand up for ourselves and speak out. And so we are.

    Myst xxx

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  10. Myst,
    I had to give a foster child back to an abusive environment. I had no choice but I felt terrible guilt and grief over what I couldn't do to protect her. I felt responsible for causing her pain and I did cause her pain. I have since been asked by her why I allowed her to go back and I imagine that this issue and that question will be asked of me throughout her life. I've apologised once already and no doubt I will again because at a fundamental level I feel that my job as a mother was to protect her and I did not, I could not (mothers whose baby dies often feel the same way). And I think that children (even as adults) can feel (at a deep level) that their mother should protect them and this is EVEN WHEN THERE WAS NOTHING THE MOTHER COULD DO. That's where I see the saying sorry can come in. Maybe it's "I'm so sorry that I couldn't do more, I'm so sorry that I couldn't protect you. I'm so sorry that others took you from me for I did not ever want to lose you"
    Dawn
    Dawn

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  11. Hi Dawn,

    Yes, I agree... that is more of what I am trying to get across... just not doing it well.

    Did this happen recently? Or another time? It is heartbreaking and I am sure you must feel absolutely gutted over it :( That is so sad. And wrong.

    Myst xxx

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  12. "No one held a gun (well at least not physically) to my head, no one forged my signature."

    The figurative gun that was pointed at your head was as threatening as the cold hard piece of steel in this analogy.

    When a woman without the means to financially control her future is told that she will shame her family, harm her child, ruin her future, etc., a gun is at her head. The fact that you were raped makes it all the more egregious, but even when that is not the case, the threats are powerful, and very difficult, often impossible, to withstand.

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