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“Birthmother’s Day” and a Day without Adoption

The Saturday in May prior to Mother’s Day on Sunday has been designated “Birthmother’s Day,” apparently begun in 1990 by a group of Seattle self described Birthmothers who felt it was important to cleave a day of their own off from “(normal) Mother’s day” in recognition of how that second Sunday in May tends to be a painful day for many Original Mothers.

Much of the language surrounding the day deals in stoic and mythic terms such as ‘honoring their “ultimate sacrifice.” Which to my ears says more about the lifetimes of loss and trying to cope with those realities than anything wonderful.

Does anyone really think reading bad adoption poetry and inviting Adoptive Mothers to share their experiences is really a particularly healthy way of dealing with the year in and year out realities that so many womyn locked behind a sealed records system, never to see their child (again, if they even did in the first place) have to deal with? A lifetime’s worth of not knowing whether the child you gave birth to is alive or dead hardly strikes me as something ‘celebrate.’

Far as I’m concerned, Original mothers are still Mothers; just Mothers who whether by consent or force were unable, unwilling or outright prevented from raising their children. They deserve Mother’s day just as much, if not more than most Mothers.

After all, your typical Mother thinks, “oh isn’t that nice, a day for me; maybe I get breakfast in bed, some nice flowers, taken out to dinner by my husband and kids, oh look, a Hallmark card.” Original Mothers on the other hand, get to spend not only their average day in and day out wondering but then get a special day of anguish.

For those for whom the birth and adoption is a secret buried even after all these years, their Mother’s day secret sounds more like their own private hell. Even years later, even after going on to have other kids, the ’secret’ haunts each Mother’s day.

Sealed records Mothers get no flowers, no Hallmark cards, no (adopted) kid. Even Original Mothers in reunion often run headlong into the language obstacle of whether they’ll ever hear the child they lost to adoption call them “Mom.” Mother’s Day even for those in reunion can be a day of divided loyalties on the part of their children, and feeling like a third wheel or ‘the other womyn’ for Original Mothers.

Which is not to say Adoptive Mothers and the non-consensually non-Mothered, are off the hook either. Mother’s day for couples dealing with infertility, or miscarriage, or simply not having a child but desperately wanting one are no picnic either. Even for those who were able to adopt Mother’s Day can be painful as they may feel like second class Mothers, or it can be a difficult annual reminder of their own inability to birth a child, leading to feelings of being a ‘failed womyn’ as in American culture “womyn” and “sooner or later giving birth” are viewed as synonymous. Inability, or even refusal to do so, results in many assumptions about the very core of one’s ‘womynhood’ or ‘womynly nature.’

Linguistically, I feel most comfortable when using the “Mother” terminology with “Mothers” and “Adoptive Mothers,” just as you would “Mother” and “Step-Mother.” The first is the default setting, the only/basic way by which people join the living, by way of biology, by way of Mothers. The modifier then goes on the social structure that deviates from that baseline. (Which is why it irks me to no end when people insist upon using terminology like “Mothers and BirthMothers” thus making the Adoptive appear the norm and the biological reality appear the ’special situation.’)

Let it NEVER be assumed that just because a child exists a womyn wanted to bear that child, further, let it NEVER be assumed that just because a child was placed for adoption that the Original Parents necessarily consented to that action.

People use terminology like ‘her choice” to cover over many things from lack of access to affordable birth control to lack of access to the financial resources necessary to raise a child. Adoption does not directly correlate 1:1 to consent.

In a world where adoption is so often a product of dire poverty, particularly internationally, the assumption that everything must have been fine, that consent MUST have been there, is simply denial of reality.

Does that mean no adoption is ever the outcome based on consent of Original Parents? Certainly not.

But that consent must be examined with an eye towards what consent means in relation to many factors, not just is there a signature on a piece of paper. Then there are good solid questions relating to just what exactly it was the Mother or Parents thought they were consenting to at the time, perhaps an “open adoption” without any force of law behind it, that went on to evaporate before their very eyes?

So all that said, by way of honouring those who had the opportunity to raise their children stolen from them, particularly so many Original mothers internationally, those who often have the least voice in all this, I share the following by way of personal commentary, because sometimes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

(I know it’s a few days after Children’s Day, please bear with me)

Photo by Kim Bong-gyu/The Hankyoreh

A Day Without Adoption

Members of Adoptee Solidarity Korea, an adoptee-led organization based in Seoul, place coins around an airplane displayed at the Han River Park in western Seoul on Children’s Day, May 5.

ASK, which aims to raise awareness to issues related to intercountry adoption and advocate for change in South Korea’s social welfare system, celebrated Children’s Day by calling for A Day Without Adoption, a day on which no children are sent abroad for adoption. Instead, the group advocates for providing single mothers and underprivileged families with the opportunity to stay together.

The campaign featured the construction of an approximately 4-by-4-meter airplane, around the edges of which were placed 2,000 100-won coins symbolizing the exchange of young Korean children for various currencies both tangible and intangible.

Each 100-won coin was representative of 100 children adopted abroad since the mid-1950s to the present day, a total of over 200,000 by some accounts.

Here’s a link to Adoptee Solidarity Korea (ASK) (Korean and English languages.) I’ll be adding them to my blogroll as well.

The ASK press release pertaining to the Day without Adoption is poinent and worth the read as well.
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Oh, and as for Mother’s Day proper? Hah! Have I ever got a blog entry for you. Stay tuned same bat time, same bat channel.

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