What can you do with the unwanted babies?

In Adoptee Experience, Complicated Roots by Louisa Leontiades

It’s a tough call. As an adoptee I instinctively want to ban all adoption. That a mother and child should be torn apart seems to me to horrific. That societies should encourage adoption without deeper examination into the very real suffering that occurs as a result, is a crime.

I know many adoptees who feel the same way. The forced adoption scandal in the 60s in Ireland where babies were taken from unwed mothers and ‘sold’ in return for a cash donation to the convent where mothers were working in what was basically slave labour. That not so many years ago in the UK the government set up a adoption targets for social workers who were rewarded for taking children from their mothers for the slightest of reasons, with funds running into millions a year.

That mothers even today are coerced by shame and society to believe that their babies would be better off because just by having sex outside of marriage they are unfit mothers. And that’s in what we call the developed world. I can’t even begin to imagine the indescribable horror of children suffering neglect, maltreatment and abandonment because they were born the ‘wrong’ sex, or into poverty. I am not one of those children.

I was relinquished after an extra marital affair, to well off middle class parents who wanted a child to complete their family. My adoption was rather commonplace, lacking in drama and on the surface of things, a success. But the pain. The pain is still real.

That I was an outsider. That I was special, chosen or any of the words which were used didn’t disguise the fact that I wasn’t with the person I needed most in the world. That I was wanted even loved by my adoptive parents, doesn’t mean anything to me. As a child I was cold in the face of their love. And today I’m angry at the society which tells me to be grateful.

When I look at my children, I cannot imagine what it must be like to give up your child. Worse, that you have to become a person who can cope with giving up your child. You have to live with that all your life. All your life. Those mothers, they must have to lie an awful lot to themselves… just to avoid the pain every single day.

My mother was lied to. By her doctor who refused to attend her. By society who told her that sex outside of marriage was a sin. By the adoption agency who told her ‘ you’re doing the right thing’. But she had to believe it because surely, surely, it was the only possible way she could have given me up. She was told that relinquishing me was a heroic thing to do. That her sacrifice, her pain meant a better life for three people. My pain was irrelevant and unknown.

It’s been pointed out to me (mainly by non-adoptees) that my adoption experience is not representative of the majority. But research is biased towards making adoption a success. Statistics of what is and what is not a successful adoption depend on asking the right questions, taking a big enough sample, and correct interpretation of the data.

It’s also been pointed out to me that even if I am correct in my many assertions regarding the primal wound, maternal narcissism, genealogical bewilderment, difficulties in attaching and all the other mental challenges which might occur as a consequence… what is the alternative?

What can you do with the unwanted babies?

There are babies in abusive situations. There are children for whom the alternative is neglect, maltreatment, foster care. Or even worse. Children who badly need care, love and a roof over their heads. It makes me want to scream. Rocks pounds in my ears when I face the reality that adoption is the best alternative we have. How have we arrived at such a point that for some mothers their own survival means abandoning their children? Or for some children their best chance of survival is to be taken from their mothers?

There is only one answer of course in the short term. Adoption. As much as my gut twists to write these words, I must accept that adoption is necessary. But it is still, to my mind an evil. It is borne out of tragedy and loss. It is borne out of abandonment and abuse. It is not the happy ever after. It is the first painful step. It is a patchy, piecemeal solution which gives rise to many other problems. But it appears that right now it is the only one we have. The lost children need homes. They need love.

So whilst I work to eradicate the shame that surrounds our sex-negative societies, to encourage women to take charge of their bodies, to help us develop a culture of consent and to drive change towards kinship care and guardianship more akin to the practices of the Nordic countries, I am also driven to help those like me who have to pick up the pieces of their shattered selves and find a way to make their lives work.

But there’s so many of us. So many of us. You can recite percentages until you’re blue in the face but it still means that even if we are a small minority, we are millions of people. Millions of lost children. There’s so much work to do. And before I get on with what I have to do, I take the time to stop, hug my broken heart and weep.