Tomorrow May 12th is Birthmother’s Day. Birthmothers are those women who chose to give their child life through adoption.
Created by a group of birthmothers in Seattle,Washington, Birthmother’s Day invites us to reflect on the choice birthmothers made and the life they gave. While there is joy in knowing that life goes on for both birthmother and child, most birthmothers note a pain associated with Mother’s Day – Birthmother’s Day honors their birthmotherhood.
For nearly two decades, Feminists for Life has worked to ensure that birthmothers are remembered and included in pro-woman legislation and campus solutions, legislation and solutions which support the choice of adoption in face of an unplanned pregnancy. To fashion real support, we must raise and truly listen to the voices of birthmothers – like former FFL board member Jessica O’Connor-Petts who knows firsthand that “Adoption is an empowering choice for women.”
FFL has listened and heard the voice of birthmothers. For a woman to choose to make an adoption plan, with or without the participation of the child’s father, she needs practical assistance as well as emotional support and counseling before and after the adoption.
She needs unconditional support for her choice.
Unconditional support must come from parents, family and friends, counselors and adoption agencies, schools and workplaces, and prospective adoptive parents. Every woman making an adoption plan for her child should feel that she is fully informed, and is not coerced by individuals or by circumstances or lack of support. She must know that her personal and individual choices are honored from the beginning of her pregnancy and throughout the rest of her life.
Unconditional support means offering a complete range of services and resources to meet all of the needs of each birthmother.
1. Birthmothers often need practical support to help meet living expenses, including housing, food, phone, and legal fees.
2. Available resources must include understanding and flexibility from educators throughout her pregnancy.
3. Employers must support a birthmother’s choice to give life. Birthmothers are entitled to the same pregnancy leave granted to other pregnant employees under the Family and Medical Leave Act. A birthmother needs postpartum care for both her physical and emotional well-being, and she should have access to the same leave benefits, paid or unpaid, as those extended for recovery after any employee gives birth.
4. All birthmothers should receive a full range of quality medical care, including pre- and post-natal care, counseling, and education regarding birth and, if she chooses, breastfeeding.
5. A birthmother needs to know her options once the baby is born. She may want time with the baby once born, a chance to introduce the child to family and friends. As Jessica said, “I had to say hello before I could say goodbye.” There should be transition options such as an “entrustment ceremony.” The birthmother needs to decide what sort of contact she would like to have with the adoptive family, including visits, cards, photos, etc., depending on the level of openness both birthparents and adoptive parents are comfortable with. And she also deserves privacy and respect, and to have control over who is told about the adoption, what they are told, by whom, and when.
6. Counseling both before and after the adoption takes place is a critical service. Responsible, ethical adoption policy requires that birthparents are fully informed and supported before, throughout and after the adoption process and that they receive complete information regarding their legal rights and responsibilities. Unconditional support means every birthmother needs and deserves ongoing support and respect from each one of us, and access to counseling and birthmother support groups.
It can be tempting to romanticize the choice of adoption and the birthmother, viewing her as selfless and overlooking her actual feelings, needs and experiences. This is why FFL advocates for birthparents, and why we listen to their stories. We honor birthmothers by acknowledging that their experiences are unique, characterized by mixed emotions. Their feelings may change over time. For most who have made the thoughtful, loving decision that adoption was the best choice for them and their children, we must recognize that they often experience a sense of loss and their need for support and affirmation is ours to fulfill.
There is no “one size fits all” solution for every woman facing unplanned pregnancy or every birthparent who makes an adoption plan for her child. With your support for FFL, we can provide them with the full array of choices, educational resources, and emotional support they deserve.
FFL President Serrin M. Foster has led Feminists for Life since 1994, and is the creator of the Women Deserve Better® than Abortion campaign. This post is an excerpt from Foster’s article in the upcoming issue of The American Feminist® published by Feminists for Life of America. Before Roe, FFL said “no” to abortion–and yes to life. FFL’s 40th anniversary issue will also focus upon the needs of other at-risk populations that FFL serves including poor and working poor pregnant women, victims of coercion and violence (abortion, sex trafficking, domestic violence and sexual assault), pregnant and parenting students in college, and those in the workplace. To join FFL in advance of publication, please go to http://feministsforlife.org/support/index.htm. Tell them you heard about FFL on NewFeminism.co! Thank you.