After my son's birth, I closed down, lost myself, and entered a prolonged state of numb denial. I suffered a terrible grief I was never allowed to express and felt split in two. I felt alone in the universe and have suffered from depression for most of my adult life. There are many other birth mothers like me, with experiences very similar to mine, and we understand each other like no one else can. At least a million and a half of us from the BSE (Baby Scoop Era--1940s to1972) were told we could not keep our babies because we were (take your pick): too young, too poorly educated, too poor, and, biggest of all, too unmarried. We wanted desperately to mother our children but were convinced by people we trusted--parents, social workers, doctors--that if we loved our babies we would give them to strangers to raise. We went against our deepest instincts because we trusted "the authorities" more than our own hearts, and we have paid a bitter price for that trust.I was assured that my son would go to a "good family," with educated parents and financial stability. And he did. His adoptive father was a surgeon, his adoptive mother a nurse (in the very hospital where my baby was born!), and my son grew up with all the material advantages you can imagine. But he was missing one important ingredient for a happy childhood: me. He longed for me his whole life, and he has suffered from depression, addiction, and PTSD as a result of adoption trauma. He endured, was a good student, and started two successful businesses but was never happy or at peace. He lived his childhood in a state of dread and his adulthood in a state of resignation. That all changed when I found him. Both of our lives were transformed, and we've spent the past two and a half years facing the truth and rebuilding what had been broken for so very long.Today my son is sober. He has a happy marriage with a supportive wife and is starting a new business. We have a close and loving relationship, for which I am beyond grateful. I have found purpose and passion in my work as an adoption-reform activist. We are each making progress, but we're nowhere near the end of this journey. As reunions go, ours is still very new. My son gets support from AA and his church; I see a therapist. And we are both coming along, which is all good.It's been very difficult for me to deal with my anger, especially anger toward my mother. I could give chapter and verse about the reasons why, but suffice it to say, the primary reason I relinquished my son was for her sake. I didn't want to hurt her. I thought I could bear any amount of pain better than she could, so I cut my heart out and went on with my life. No one ever asked me how I felt or what I wanted to do. No one offered any support or alternatives. Like so many of her generation, my mother chose social respectability over her own child and grandchild. I understand it, but I'm having a devil of a time forgiving it. The most important thing that ever happened to me, and no one in my family so much as mentioned it ever again--except finally for my brother, when he congratulated me for not having an abortion.
I want to say to anyone who questions the wisdom of reunion that unless you have experienced the loss of a child to adoption, you have no idea about the depth of grief and the lasting harm done to a birth mother. Unless you are an adoptee, you have no idea what it's like to feel that part of your very self is missing. I have other children whom I love beyond words, but no child can be a substitute for another. Many, perhaps most, adoptees love their adoptive parents, but that does not obviate the loss of their biological families. With ancestry.com the popular website that it is, it should be no surprise that genetics do matter, feeling connected does matter, seeing yourself in your relatives does matter. Babies belong with their mothers. If you are considering adopting a newborn, remember what I have said here. There are those who claim to be "adoption experts" who will tell you that adoption is a beautiful way to build a family. Do not believe them. If you are faced with a crisis pregnancy, do not assume that placing your baby with different, "better" parents will solve your problem. Sure, in some rare cases adoption is the best option for a child, but, absent those exceptional circumstances, the best person to care for a baby is his mother, and everything should be done to make that possible. America prides itself on its family values. Surely family preservation should be our first consideration.