Monthly Archives: March 2014

Why are There So Many Adoption Secrets?

As most adoptees, I wanted to know how I came to be. “We chose you,” did not answer any of my questions. I wanted a story. My birth story. Hell, I never even knew what time of day I was born so I could do an astrological chart. Why did my adoptive parents keep the story of my birth a secret? Why are there so many secrets associated with adoption?

Times have changed. Mila Kunis is pregnant with Ashton Kutcher’s baby. They are not married. Olivia Wilde is pregnant with Jason Sudeikis’ baby. Not married. Jessica Simpson, Snookie, and the famous Kardashians had children without ever getting married. Savannah Guthrie announced at her wedding that she was pregnant. Women have always gotten pregnant with or without benefit of marriage. However, in the old days, shotgun weddings were common. Not so much today.

In the olden days, and, unfortunately, for many families today, getting pregnant without being married was considered a sin. It confirmed sex took place. And that was bad. Of course, the only difference between girls and unmarried women who get pregnant and those who don’t, are those who don’t are better at using birth control. So why is there such secrecy in adoption? Why are there so many birthmothers searching for the babies they gave up and why are so many adoptees searching for their birth parents? Why has the system made it so difficult to find each other? To find an answer, we need to understand why babies are put up for adoption. Why are so many girls coerced into relinquishing a child. Is it shame? Greed? Love? I’m trying to understand how a child can be taken from its mother against her will. Here are some possible scenarios.

I get it. A sixteen-year-old girl gets pregnant. She doesn’t want anyone to know. She’s embarrassed. Maybe she was fooling around with a boy. Any boy. Maybe it was a one night stand. Maybe they were at a party. Maybe she had too much to drink. Maybe it was her boyfriend. She’s afraid he won’t like her anymore if he finds out she’s pregnant. Maybe he is planning on going to college, and if he figures out that she’s going to have a baby, he’ll want to do the right thing and stay home and get a job. But that would ruin his life. He’d never get a chance to become that doctor, lawyer, president that he could have been if he didn’t have to cut his schooling short to stay home and help raise a child. Maybe she puts her baby up for adoption to protect him. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him. She tries to move on with her life. Can she?

Or, this sixteen-year-old girl can’t tell her mom. Her mom goes to church each week. Her mom goes to confession, attends pot-luck dinners. She sells her cupcakes at the church fundraisers. What would her mom say if she knew her daughter got knocked-up? Her mom would be embarrassed.

Okay, this sixteen-year-old girl, when she can no longer hide her growing belly under her oversized sweatshirts, even in the summer, finally gets the nerve to tell her mom the secret she’s been hiding, gets whisked away to her aunt’s house in Iowa to have the baby in secret, so no one will know and ruin her reputation. I mean, ruin her mother’s reputation. Her family’s reputation. This girl doesn’t want to give away her baby. She is coerced into doing it so she won’t bring shame on the family.

What world is this? This might have been reality thirty, forty, fifty years ago. But today? Now that sixteen-year-old girl is a mom, maybe a grandmother. No one could possibly blame her for anything she could have done as a child. As a teen. She desperately wants to find the baby she gave up for adoption. But she can’t. It’s a secret. That birth certificate, with her name on it, and possibly the father’s name on it, has been sealed for many years. She doesn’t know who adopted her baby. And she doesn’t know where to start looking. She’s hoping, praying that someday, the child she was forced to give up, is looking for her. She posts to Facebook every day, using the same last name she had when she put the baby up for adoption, hoping to be found. Praying for a reunion. Maybe this child was lucky enough to have adoptive parents who will show her her adoption papers. Will help her find the birth mother who let her go. Maybe not because she wanted to, but because she felt she had no other choice. She couldn’t bring shame to her family.

Or, there was another sixteen-year-old girl who got pregnant. She too couldn’t tell her mom fearing her mom might want to make her have an abortion, or might make her have the baby and give it away. She keeps the pregnancy hidden. Too long. By the time her mom finds out, it’s too late for choices. She has to keep the baby. Her baby. She grows to love her baby. Doesn’t want to give it up even though that would bring shame to the family. What does she do? Her mom takes the choice away from her. Her mom decides to raise the baby as her own. The sixteen-year-old girl becomes a “sister.” How can she ever tell anyone later? Besides, who’s going to ask? The baby does look like a family member.

Another sixteen-year-old girl. She finds out she’s pregnant and can’t tell her mom because she was adopted. That meant her mom couldn’t get pregnant. She couldn’t imagine how her mom would possibly react knowing that, more than anything, her mom wanted to have a child, and couldn’t. She can’t tell her mom she got knocked-up when her mom tried for years to get pregnant. She secretly gets an abortion, a choice easier than confronting her mom.

Another sixteen-year-old girl. She finds out she’s pregnant and can’t tell her mom because her mom’s new husband is the father. Rape. The girl runs away. If the police find her they will just try to bring her back home. No. That house is no longer her home. She keeps the baby, but refuses to tell her who the father is. Anyone would understand why this should be a secret. She just tells her child, she doesn’t know who the father is.

An eighteen-year-old girl finds out she’s pregnant. She talks to her mom. She tells her mom she wants to have this baby. The mom goes off the deep end. They just spent $25,000 on her first year of college. This is no time to have a baby, the mom insists. Don’t be a fool. You have plenty of time to have a baby. Now’s the time for you to get your degree. Finish your education. Then, when you have graduated, are married, settled down, then you can start thinking about a baby. Don’t ruin your life. This college freshman, no longer having the courage to ask for her mom’s help, gives in. She gives the baby up for adoption. For a piece of paper. She never stops thinking about that baby. Missing her. Asking herself, was this degree, this piece of paper, worth it? Her answer is always the same. No. She wants to find her baby. Or at least know that her baby is safe. Healthy. Happy. She starts looking. Even after she has more children, each one reminds her of the one she can’t hold in her arms.

A forty-year-old woman finds out she is pregnant. Miracle? Maybe. Surprise? Definitely. Unfortunately, this woman is married. And her husband has been away for months. Many months. She doesn’t know when or if he is coming back. But he’s the father of her other children. They are a family. Should this fling break up her home? She gets the news. Her husband is returning home. Can they try to work things out? He’ll be better. He promises. She tries her best to hide her pregnancy from her children. When the baby is born, she puts the baby up for adoption. Who gets the baby? The baby-daddy. Now, we’ve got the birthmom keeping her pregnancy hidden from her husband, who is returning from God-knows-where. And we’ve got the baby being raised (adopted) by the wife of the man who cheated on her. Obviously, this adoptive mom can’t tell the baby how she came to be since that would be admitting that her husband cheated on her. It would mean divulging a secret that has been buried down deep. All the while, the adoptive mom sees the “other woman” in her baby’s face each and every day. The adoptive daughter truly understands the Cinderella story. She lives it every day.

And this is just the start. Shame. Shame. Shame. Secrets destroy families.

Call Me Ella - An Adoption Memoir

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