Birth Mother Syndrom

Posted by destiny on March 12, 2008 in 2008 Entries |

I read this article today (a small clip from this was posted on the birth mothers forum sometime last year) and I really found it interesting.

There are an estimated 6,000,000 birthmothers in the United States – biological mothers who have surrendered their children to adoption (Jones, 1993). I am one of the 6,000,000 – together with a multitude of sisters, mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, aunts, nieces, cousins, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. We are educators, students, physicians, office clerks, salespersons, lawyers, accountants, tellers, beauticians – from all walks of life, all income levels, all ages. Although we may be standing side-by-side, we are unseen by each other and unseen by society. Traditionally, birthmothers have constituted an invisible, marginalized group of women whose cloak of invisibility was woven by secrets, lies and shame. The Internet, however, has opened a pathway enabling many birthmothers to receive support from and provide support to other birthmothers. Over the Internet lines, birthmothers are liberating themselves from their prisons of silence and have begun to share their stories with other birthmothers. As a member of one online birthmother support group, I became aware of: (1) the marginalized status of birthmothers, (2) the social construction of relinquishment, adoption, and motherhood, and (3) the large-scale discrepancies between the actual experience of relinquishment and what was told would be experienced by parents, clergy, social workers, therapists, physicians, etc. It became increasingly apparent to me that my personal experience of relinquishment was shared by many others. Common themes emerged as we communicated our experiences and feelings to each other: annual rituals performed on the child’s birthday, descriptions of a deep pain in one’s heart and hole in one’s soul, aching arms, the desire to take in the scent of one’s child after reunion, avoidance patterns, intrusive thoughts, histories of post-relinquishment depression, suicide ideation, substance abuse, and abusive relationships, etc. Comments such as “Not one day has passed when I have not thought about her/him. Not one day has passed when I have not ached to hold her/him in my arms once more.” appeared repetitively in the postings. Hundreds of previously silenced voices were carried across the Internet daily.

The thousands of birthmother stories that I have witnessed suggests that birthmothers as a group have been victimized, oppressed, and traumatized by their relinquishment experience. This topic begs us to probe into the marginalization and traumatization of birthmothers. My working definition of marginalization is one of exploitation, social injustice, and inequality. I approached the concept of trauma from both a physical and emotional perspective: (1) a serious injury or shock to the body or (2) an emotional shock causing lasting psychological damage.The existence of a birthmother syndrome has been proposed by researcher Merry Bloch Jones. Jones has developed the following profile for this syndrome:

1. Signs of unresolved grief, such as lingering denial, anger, or depression2. Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, avoidance, or phobic reactions

3. Diminished self-esteem, passivity, abandonment of previous goals, or feelings of powerlessness, worthlessness, and victimization

4. Dual identities, divided into outer pretenses of ‘perfection’ or ‘normalcy’ and secret inner feelings of shame, self-condemnation, and isolation

5. Arrested emotional development, typified by the sense of being ‘stuck’ where they were when they relinquished

6. Self-punishment, often inflicted through participation in abusive relationships, abuse of drugs or alcohol, eating disorders, or other self-destructive behaviors

7. Unexplained secondary infertility

8. Living at, or vacillating between, various extremes” (1993, p. 272)

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