Monday, June 12, 2006

Post-adoption trauma

The Girls Who Went Away is a new, nonfiction book by Ann Fessler. She collected more than 100 stories of women who gave up their babies for adoption. Kathryn Harrison reviews Fessler's book about those girls:
...the babies they bore were still considered illegitimate, and pregnancy outside of marriage was still a disgrace. A girl who found herself "in trouble" had virtually no means of resisting the forces that conspired either to push her into a speedy marriage or to hustle her out of town to have her baby far from the sight of all who would condemn her. "In one of the strictest forms of banishment," Fessler writes, "high schools and most colleges required a pregnant girl to withdraw immediately." And this was only an institutionalized form of the rejection she encountered wherever she turned....

Between the end of World War II and the legalization of abortion nationwide in 1973, 1.5 million babies were given up for adoption in the United States.
Those girls — pregnant, frightened and coerced into surrendering their babies for adoption — never came back from the experience, not really. None of the women who agreed to be interviewed by Fessler were able to follow the advice of parents, pastors and social workers who told them to put their "mistakes" behind them and move on, pick up their lives at the point at which they'd hurriedly exited them to wait out their confinement in a maternity home.

The mothers speak:
"I think of my life as before and after, sort of like B.C. and A.D.," one woman says of the impact of losing her baby. "Guilt was always such a pervasive part for me. Not that I was sexual, or not that I was pregnant, but that I let somebody take my child," confesses another. It's not possible to overstate the despair, rage, loneliness and unrelieved anguish represented here. "I associated death and pain and loss with sex." "It's as if I was the unwilling accomplice to the kidnapping of my own child." ..."a horrible, horrible, horrible loss."

In spite of the anti-choice rhetoric about "post-abortion trauma," a malady that doesn't seem to occur until a woman has been worked over by anti-choice zealots, many women prefer a relatively simple abortion to bearing a child and then wondering for the rest of their lives where it is.

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