Give and Take
March 2, 2012 4:59 PM   Subscribe

Given or Taken – an ABC television documentary by the usually excellent 4 Corners looks at a period in the nation’s history when unwed mothers were forced, coerced or tricked into giving up their babies- often without holding or even seeing their newborn. Writer Kim Berry describes a little of what it was like to be relinquished by her teen mum.
posted by mattoxic (7 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I can't even imagine how deep the heartache is after having had to give up your baby against your wishes. That's so incredibly cruel.
posted by dabitch at 5:37 PM on March 2, 2012

This happened for decades in the US as well. Our house is a few blocks from a facility where "fallen girls" used to live as near-prisoners, and where their children were farmed out for adoption, the Episcopal Diocese of Washington's House of Mercy (now, ironically, a preschool).

There are several stories in the Washington Post from the 1910s-1940s of girls escaping from the HoM, and I think about them often when I go by there on a walk with my (born out-of-wedlock) son.
posted by ryanshepard at 6:37 PM on March 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

Australia has such a long history of utter bastardry to young mothers. We had previously allowed ourselves to believe that only evil rascists could commit something like The Stolen Generation atrocity. Looks like lots of people were capable of terrible and systemic behaviour
posted by taff at 7:36 PM on March 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

God, that 4 Corners report was heartbreaking. The things we did in the "best interests" of women.
posted by Georgina at 3:44 AM on March 3, 2012

USA unwed mother here, "class" of 1968. It happened here too, to many, many women and girls. My son was place with a mother with mental illness, unknown to me. The "better life" he was supposed to have as an adopted person, and the "better life" I was supposed to have as a secret mother who forgot she had a child, never happened.

Australia is able to issue an apology because adoption practices were more monolithic there than here in the USA where it was and is more or less a free market, with private agencies, religious agencies, state agencies, and individual lawyers and entrepreneurs (private adoption) each setting their own agendas and practices within very minimal guidelines. So there is no one government or other agency to offer an apology, but that does not mean one is not due to myself and the countless other mothers who were coerced, duped, lied to and bullied into surrendering our children.
posted by mermayd at 6:06 AM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if I can watch this doco - I'm a child who was adopted out in the late 70s. Not necessarily because of this systematic program, but because attitudes to an unwed, pregnant 16 year old girl were still so prevalent and persistent in a small town in central Queensland. I'm fortunate enough to be one of those lucky ones, I suppose - my adoptive parents encouraged me to make contact, which I have, and I am close to my birth father, and despite this, even reading about this doco touches a raw nerve that I never knew I had. I talk pretty openly about my adoption to anyone who asks (I even discussed it with my kids at school today), but I think I will have to gird my loins (and heart) to watch this.

My contact with my birth parents has helped to heal some wounds (particularly on my mother's side: her mother told me she said she felt guilt long after forcing her daughter to give me up. She had also forced her eldest daughter to give up her child before her sister got pregnant with me; she was forced to live in a Brisbane nunnery until after her adoption). But I am also very cognizant of the fact that contact with my birth mother is far more emotionally draining on her than it is on me.

As an addendum, I always thought it was a little sad that my adoptive mother never had children of her own. At least, until she told me 4 years ago that she'd adopted out a daughter when she was young. She wasn't coerced into that adoption (indeed, she was married to dad at that point), but it made it clear to me that issues of adoption - and the way that women are more subtly coerced into life-changing decisions about their fertility and childbirth - are more far-reaching and personal than I ever imagined.
posted by chronic sublime at 1:29 AM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you for sharing chronic sublime and mermayd. I tried watching but couldn't make it through. I'm not adopted, I know more than a handful of people who are. One of my friends in particular walks around still to this day like an open wound, after learning that he was adopted in his late teens. "My own mother rejected me" he says, and goes on about having issues with rejection. I know as many facts about his birth mother as he does, she was only 16 and this was the mid sixties in Scotland. I don't think she rejected him as much as she was left with no other choice. His adoptive mother was already 35 and married ten years when he arrived in their home, he was such a wanted addition to that couples life, yet he can't shake this feeling of rejection. It's quite sad the damage its done.
posted by dabitch at 4:49 AM on March 9, 2012

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