Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Given Up", "Abandoned", "Relinquished", or "Placed"? Thoughts?

Quite some time ago I posted my thoughts regarding the terms "birth mother", "biological mother", "first mother", and "natural mother". However discussion over proper semantics and language when referring to adoption does not stop there.

Just recently I found myself considering how best to describe the Natural Parent's role in an adoption. Do they give their child up for adoption? Do they abandon their child? Is it an act of relinquishment? Or do they simply place their child for adoption? I think depending on the person and their state of mind at the time, each of these terms might be appropriate. I've heard arguments from all sides explaining their use of one or more of these terms.

AP's seem to lean toward the term "placed". I think for AP's this term has a nice ring to it and it sounds neater and prettier when thinking about the Natural Parent. It makes it more of a willing choice on the NP's part. It takes away the fear and discomfort of thinking that the Natural Parents were coerced. "Why, of course 'our birthmother' wasn't coerced. She made the decision to 'PLACE' _____ on her own"

Adoptees tend to choose the word "abandoned" because that is what they feel most accurately describes what happened to THEM. Even if they learn that their Natural Parents were coerced they still feel it was an act of abandonment, betrayal. This person who was supposed to love them unconditionally turned around and walked away leaving them to be raised by mere strangers. Unfortunately for many that's just how it feels and quite honestly, NOTHING can change those feelings of grief, loss, and abandonment.

Now, Natural Parents, I recently learned, tend to prefer the term "gave up". Similar to the reasons why adoptees say they were "abandoned", many Natural Parents feel the term "gave up" most appropriately describes what happened....they gave their child up for adoption. When looking at the definition, it fits. The term suits for situations that either involve or do not involve coercion. It certainly makes more sense than "placed" which devalues the grief and pain experienced by the Natural Parent. It certainly makes more sense than "abandoned" as many Natural Parents mourn the loss of their child and hope in their hearts their child NEVER feels abandoned as a result of their decision. "Relinquished" sort of makes sense. After all, it's a synonym for the word "give up". I think for some it just sounds too sterile and more like actually GIVING up, resisting the fight, walking away.

Despite understanding the Natural Parent's explanations for using the term "give up" I recently discovered that I HATE that term. To me, being given up for adoption doesn't just mean handed means that my Mom GAVE UP! It means she stopped fighting. It means she truly DID turn her back on me and walk away. In truth, being "given up" means I was "abandoned".

Only, at this point in my life I need to believe something else. I need to believe she DID fight. I need to believe she WANTED me with all her heart and soul, but just "lost me". I need to believe that she lost as much as I lost when she lost ME. I need to believe that I mattered enough and was worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears she lost in the fight to keep me even though she still lost. I need to believe that I was NOT "placed", that I was NOT "abandoned", "relinquished" or "given up". I NEED to believe that I was merely "lost" and that someday, when we find our way back to each other, that we will both be made whole once again.

1 comment:

tk said...

Bam!! Your raw, naked, brutal honesty about adoption is what America needs!! (in my opinion)

Thank-you! Your statement "I need to believe that she lost as much as I lost when she lost ME." resonates for I know I have lost endless precious moments/memories with my daughter (that I personally believe I will be grieving for the remainder of my life). Though I may believe it is the same possibly for my daughter, I really cannot speak for her.

As far as my part...I can't say that I "lost" a would not be owning up to the truth. I did "walk away" (with pats on the back from the adoption agency and various family and friends) FROM MY RESPONSIBILITY AND MY DESIRE (stuffed deep down inside) TO PARENT MY CHILD. I betrayed not only my daughter, but my very heart and soul, by convincing myself that I was doing the "right thing for my daughter". Now I know that my motivation to sign "relinquishment" papers, to hand responsibility for raising my daughter to "strangers" was not motivated by love, but by fear and pride. It took me almost 18 years to get to the truth...and honestly I'm still digging for more.

I believe that if my daughter's mother were to read this response and possibly this post she would be repulsed, but I have to be honest with myself and those who will listen FINALLY! These words are not motivated by anything my daughter's parents have ever done or not done, but instead are motivated by my desire to unravel the endless emotional pain, anguish, and rage that have mounted over the last 18 years and have almost choked the life out of me.

I plan to put a link to this post on my tk91 blog...I am on a mission to help my family understand the impact of adoption on all those involved...thanks again for being so real!