“The Other Side of Adoption” appeared in the June 7th Akron Beacon Journal. It is about Celeste Billhartz, who was adopted as an infant and is now collecting stories from “women who didn’t have any say in surrendering their newborns.” Travelling a path blazed by Ann Fessler, author of the 2007 book The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade, Celeste is in the process of creating a coffee table book and a theatrical production from the stories and poems of the mothers she interviewed.
Celeste is shining a light on the adoption process to end coercion. She is placing an honoring spotlight on birthmothers. On her website, The Mother’s Project, she is also asking that we end adoption. She urges ”women-of-conscience to not adopt”. She even accuses those who adopt – termed “adopters” – of participating in abuse and “behaving like greedy, selfish pigs.” The light feels quite a bit dimmer.
Instead, let’s shine a light for strong adoption laws that honor birthparents and adopting parents. Let’s shine a light on our past by permitting access to original birth certificates. People who were adopted, and I am one of them, deserve to know their biological history.
Let’s recognize the truth of adoption. As one reader posted “While I do feel for the women who were coerced and tricked into signing adoption papers, I ask them to remember that their story is not every woman’s story. I know first hand that adoption can be a very positive choice for a birth mother.” Choice is the keyword. The truth is in choice.
Viewing the adoption process as an immoral system driven by infertile white women bent on spending thousands of dollars to buy babies does nothing to end coercion. More important than the fact that this is not true, blame does nothing to empower birthmothers. In fact it has the opposite effect – it is self-victimizing. It turns off the light to the magnificence of who birthmothers really are – who all mothers really are.
Let’s turn on the light. We are all in this together. We are all on the same side.