Birthmoms

Cedartrees4
Adoption Trauma: - 30 yrs of research on damage to mothers
May 17, 2010 at 6:28 PM

Adoption Trauma: The Damage to Relinquishing Mothers:
What They Knew and Didn't Tell Us

These are studies detailing the long-term consequences to natural mothers (”birthmothers”) of surrendering a baby for adoption. This is information that is in standard and widely-known social work and psychology articles and research reports. Adoption “professionals” are familiar with these studies — the findings are common knowledge.

To give informed consent to adoption, mothers need to be informed of these risks. Adoption “professionals” have an obligation to provide mothers with this information. Often they only provide information from studies that show short-term positive educational and financial “outcomes” from surrender (and these “positive outcomes” are debatable in the long-term*).

If you are a mother who surrendered your baby since 1978 and you were not informed of these risks (below), then you did not give informed consent to the adoption, as this information was deliberately withheld from you.

Pannor, R., Baran, A., & Sorosky, A. (1978)

  • Half of mothers surveyed said they have continued to feel loss, pain, and mourning over the child they lost to adoption (even many years later — this included mothers who had surrendered up to 33 years prior).
  • Only 30% expressed “comfort” about the adoption (thus 70% were not comfortable with the adoption and/or felt it was not the outcome they wanted)

Rynearson, E. K. (1982)

  • Eight of the 20 mothers were so traumatized by signing the papers that they were amnesiac of it.
  • All reported recurring dreams of the loss of the baby, with contrasting themes of traumatic separation and joyful reunion.
  • All had unresolved grief, continuing to experience symptoms of mourning at the anniversary of the relinquishment.

Winkler, Dr. R.; and Van Keppel, M. (1984)

  • 45% of mothers surveyed stated that their sense of loss had intensified over the period since surrender and 6.4% stated it had remained the same. For the sample as a whole, this loss remains constant for up to 30 years.
  • Compared to a carefully-matched control group, mothers who had lost a child to adoption had significantly greater psychological impairment afterwards.
  • 53% of the Western Australia respondents and 58.8% of the National Survey respondents stated the surrender of their babies was the most stressful thing they had ever experienced.

Condon, Dr. J. T.(1986)

  • “over half of these women are suffering from severe and disabling grief reactions which are not resolving with the passage of time and which manifest predominantly as depression and psychosomatic symptoms” (p. 118)
  • Over half had used alcohol or sedative medication to help them cope after relinquishment. (p. 118)
  • Feelings of sadness and depression at the time of the surrender were rated on average as between “intense” and “the moist intense ever experienced.”
  • For 67%, these feelings either stayed the same or intensified in the years since surrender, they did not diminish.

Blanton, T., & Deschner, J. (1990)

  • Natural mothers registered significantly stronger symptoms than mothers whose babies had died in 8 of the 14 bereavement subscales.
  • Comparing natural mothers in both open and closed adoptions with parents whose babies had died shows that natural mothers suffer more denial, atypical responses, despair, anger, depersonalization, sleep disturbance, somaticizing, physical symptoms, optimism vs despair, dependency,and vigor. (pp. 532-533)
  • “Relinquishing mothers have more grief symptoms than women who have lost a child to death, including more denial; despair, atypical responses; and disturbances in sleep, appetite, and vigor.”

Weinreb, M. (1991)

  • Mothers’ scores averaged in the mild to moderate range of depression at the time of the study, which was done a number of years post-surrender, significantly higher than the population average.. Indicates that surrender can lead to long-lasting depression.
  • 40% were still experiencing at least moderate acute grief.

Wells, Sue (1993a and b)

  • 136 out of 262 mothers (52%) found that thoughts about their children increased rather than decreased over the years. Unlike a normal loss or bereavement the child is living elsewhere. Many liken it to a “living death.”
  • Half stated that the trauma has affected their physical health.
  • Many experience symptoms of PTSD.
  • 207 out of 262 (79%) indicated that depression and anxiety, as well as difficulties with relationships and trust, as prolonged and profound consequences of surrender.

Edwards, D. S. (1995)

  • … found a range of poor psychological outcomes. The women studied frequently described the experience of placing their children for adoption as the most traumatic event of their lives; and related multiple symptoms of posttraumatic stress

Logan, J. (1996)

  • 21% of mothers had made attempts on their lives
  • 82% reported significant depression as a result of surrender
  • 68% described themselves as having a significant mental health problem.
  • 32% had been referred to specialized psychiatric treatment on an out-patient or in-patient basis and 18% had received treatment for a continuous period of 5 years or longer. This compares to a normative statistic of 3% of all women in the U.K. who were referred in 1993 to the same treatment service.

Kelly, J. (1999)

  • 89% of mothers answered “Extremely true” to the statement “Relinquishing my child was a traumatic experience. 96% answered either “Extremely true” or “Very true.”
  • 95% selected the “most frequent” or “most severe” response to one or more items measuring unresolved grief.
  • In response to items concerning depression, 51% reported experiencing severe depression since the relinquishment, with 97% reporting some degree of depression (mild, moderate, or severe).
  • 63% have had thoughts about killing themselves.
  • 85% stated it was extremely true that “I was either misled or not informed of the effects that relinquishment would have on me”

Askren, H., & Bloom, K. (1999)

  • “A grief reaction unique to the relinquishing mother was identified. Although this reaction consists of features characteristic of the normal grief reaction, these features persist and often lead to chronic, unresolved grief. CONCLUSIONS: The relinquishing mother is at risk for long-term physical, psychologic, and social repercussions. Although interventions have been proposed, little is known about their effectiveness in preventing or alleviating these repercussions.” (p. 395)
  • “comparable to losing an infant through death, it is a very stressful event for the relinquishing mother. This stress, combined with a powerful grief reaction, can predisopose these women to a number of long-term adverse effects” (p. 395)
  • “A woman who goes through the birth process and then relinquishes her child is a risk for the additional emotional stress of lifelong grief” (p. 395)
  • “The reaction of relinquishing mothers to the loss of their children have profound effects that can last for the lifetime of each woman.” (p. 396)

Carr, M. J. (2000)

  • “all were traumatized by the act of relinquishing their child for adoption” (p. 341).

Crowell (2007)

  • 82% of mothers suffered depression after the surrender
  • 80% had feelings of inadequacy
  • 68% trust issues
  • 57% anger

*The outcome of a longitudinal comparison study of mothers who surrendered vs. those who kept their children, thus putting into doubt the common adoption agency promise to expectant mothers that they will ‘benefit’ (socially, financially, and educationally) if they surrender their children:
“The results from our 5 year follow-up lead us to the conclusion that … relinquishment is not a panacea for the problems of adolescent childbearing. Although parenters give birth sooner than relinquishers, almost half of the relinquishers continue to bear children. therefore, many relinquishers assumed the same parental responsibilities as the parenters in this study. “The educational difference between the two groups is small, and few from either group attend college. Earnings for both groups remain depressed.” — Winges, Barnes, Rader, Grady, and Manninen: “Long-Term Consequences for Adolescent Mothers Who Decide to Either Parent or Relinquish their Firstborn Child” (June 30, 1998). Downloadable for free from SSRN: (http://ssrn.com) or DOI: 10.2139/ssrn.104348

References:

  • Askren, H., & Bloom, K. (1999) Post-adoptive reactions of the relinquishing mother: A review. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological and Neonatal Nursing, 1999 Jul-Aug; 28(4):395-400
  • Blanton, T., & Deschner, J. (1990). Biological mothers’ grief: The postadoptive experience in open versus confidential adoption. Child Welfare, 69, 525-35.
  • Carr, M. J. (2000). Birthmothers and subsequent children: The role of personality traits and attachment history. Journal of Social Distress and the Homeless, 9, 339-348.
  • Condon, J. (1986). Psychological disability in women who relinquish a baby for adoption. The Medical Journal of Australia, 144, 117-119.
  • Crowell, G. (2007). Sisters from the society of secrets and lies: Why Women Chose Adoption between 1950 and 1979. Honors Thesis, University of Texas at Arlington.
  • Edwards, D. S. (1995). Transformation of motherhood in adoption: The experiences of relinquishing mothers. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of North Florida, Jacksonville.
  • Kelly, J. (1999). The trauma of relinquishment: The long-term impact of relinquishment on birthmothers who lost their infants to adoption during the years 1965-1972. (Master’s thesis, Goddard College, 1999). http://home.att.net/~judy.kelly/thesis.htm
  • Logan, J. (1996). Birth mothers and their mental health: Uncharted territory. British Journal of Social Work, 26(5), 609-625.
  • Rynearson, E. (1982). Relinquishment and its maternal complications: A preliminary study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 139(3), 338–340.
  • Weinreb, M.; The psychological experience of women who surrender babies for adoption. Dissertation Abstracts International, 52(6-A), Dec 1991.
  • Wells, S. (1993a). Post-traumatic stress disorder in birthmothers, Adoption and Fostering, 17(2), 30-32.
  • Wells, S. (1993b). What do birthmothers want? Adoption and Fostering, 17(4), 22-26.
  • Winkler, R. & van Keppel, M. (1984). Relinquishing mothers in adoption: Their long-term adjustment. Institute of Family Studies Monograph No. 3. Melbourne, Australia.

Replies

  • GinaPocan
    January 12, 2012 at 10:18 PM


    Quoting Vikki77:

    I am so sorry to hear that. My oldest son is being fed bad information about me right now. Luckily, he isn't listening. I can't imagine what you are going through to have your own sister do this to you. Hugs.

    Quoting GinaPocan:


    Quoting Vikki77:

    Sorry Gina. :( I'm just wondering, since it is your sister that did this, do you get to see your daughter? Does your niece get to see her baby? And do they know who their natural mothers are? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't want to make you uncomfortable.

    Quoting GinaPocan:


    Quoting meme0907:

    OMG...WOW! i never knew or heard of these stats....sad to say i fall into these  categories...been since '92 & '93 & i still suffer w/ mixed emotions....

    You never heard of these stats because society sweeps us under the rug. We don't matter. You will always have those mixed emotions. They won't go away. You will in time learn to master the Pretending not to feel game. 

    Evertime I hear my daughters name even if it belongs to another girl, a rush of feelings and mental pictures flood my mind, and the whole in my heart is tender.

    I hate so much to admit, and ashamed to claim, that deep down I have an element of hatered for my sister, but at the same time pity. The pity comes from the reasons she took my daughter. I know why she did it. It wasn't to save me from grief, although this is what she claims. I honestly don't think she even knows why she did it. I was able to figure it out by putting the peices of several lives together, and knowing as much about psychology as I do, I was able to pin point how this all happened. But it took years of theorey. I only know so much about psychology do to my constant seach for answers and being active in therapy for many many years. 

    When I seen those stats I believe Susie posted some time ago, it hit me that this has to be the root of my issues all along. I never looked at it, because I had nothing to go by. I never even knew anyone studied it.

    My sister did this twice. First me, then her own daughter. I am trying to get my Niece in here. I think she needs to meet people like us, though her situation is a littel different, but the bottom line is she lost a daughter to my sisters power trips. 



    Both my niece and I's daughters are grown today. My daughter is 29, her's is now 23 I believe. She's in College. My daughter is a mamma for the second time.

    Niether of us got to have liberal visits, and yes they both knew who we are, they just were fed bad information and have formed negitive images about the both of us. Neither girls seeks us out. My daughter chooses to believe what others tell her. Her daughter just has a sucky additude. My niece raised her daughter up until she was about 9. I never got to even hold mine. My nieces is very complicated. She was raped by the father of her daughter, and one day he chose to go after his daughter obviously because he didn't care to be paying child support anymore, so because my niece wouldn't surrender her daughter to my sister, she went against her and helped the father gain custody.


    My Mother and my sister, but she did the majority of it. The sadest part is she is so lost in herself that she can't even see she has a problem. She will go to her grave never facing her demons. She is that stubborn. I have so much supressed anger towards her. I need to forgive her. I know i have to. But its so hard when I can't reach my daughter.

  • Vikki77
    by Vikki77
    January 12, 2012 at 10:51 PM
    I bet it is hard. Hugs to you.

    Quoting GinaPocan:



    Quoting Vikki77:

    I am so sorry to hear that. My oldest son is being fed bad information about me right now. Luckily, he isn't listening. I can't imagine what you are going through to have your own sister do this to you. Hugs.

    Quoting GinaPocan:



    Quoting Vikki77:

    Sorry Gina. :( I'm just wondering, since it is your sister that did this, do you get to see your daughter? Does your niece get to see her baby? And do they know who their natural mothers are? You don't have to answer if you don't want to. I don't want to make you uncomfortable.

    Quoting GinaPocan:



    Quoting meme0907:

    OMG...WOW! i never knew or heard of these stats....sad to say i fall into these  categories...been since '92 & '93 & i still suffer w/ mixed emotions....

    You never heard of these stats because society sweeps us under the rug. We don't matter. You will always have those mixed emotions. They won't go away. You will in time learn to master the Pretending not to feel game. 

    Evertime I hear my daughters name even if it belongs to another girl, a rush of feelings and mental pictures flood my mind, and the whole in my heart is tender.

    I hate so much to admit, and ashamed to claim, that deep down I have an element of hatered for my sister, but at the same time pity. The pity comes from the reasons she took my daughter. I know why she did it. It wasn't to save me from grief, although this is what she claims. I honestly don't think she even knows why she did it. I was able to figure it out by putting the peices of several lives together, and knowing as much about psychology as I do, I was able to pin point how this all happened. But it took years of theorey. I only know so much about psychology do to my constant seach for answers and being active in therapy for many many years. 

    When I seen those stats I believe Susie posted some time ago, it hit me that this has to be the root of my issues all along. I never looked at it, because I had nothing to go by. I never even knew anyone studied it.

    My sister did this twice. First me, then her own daughter. I am trying to get my Niece in here. I think she needs to meet people like us, though her situation is a littel different, but the bottom line is she lost a daughter to my sisters power trips. 



    Both my niece and I's daughters are grown today. My daughter is 29, her's is now 23 I believe. She's in College. My daughter is a mamma for the second time.

    Niether of us got to have liberal visits, and yes they both knew who we are, they just were fed bad information and have formed negitive images about the both of us. Neither girls seeks us out. My daughter chooses to believe what others tell her. Her daughter just has a sucky additude. My niece raised her daughter up until she was about 9. I never got to even hold mine. My nieces is very complicated. She was raped by the father of her daughter, and one day he chose to go after his daughter obviously because he didn't care to be paying child support anymore, so because my niece wouldn't surrender her daughter to my sister, she went against her and helped the father gain custody.


    My Mother and my sister, but she did the majority of it. The sadest part is she is so lost in herself that she can't even see she has a problem. She will go to her grave never facing her demons. She is that stubborn. I have so much supressed anger towards her. I need to forgive her. I know i have to. But its so hard when I can't reach my daughter.

  • susie703
    January 12, 2012 at 11:09 PM
    Gina, I can't imagine. The adoption loss alone is so much. Then add your families roles in the loss...

    I hope that your daughter opens her heart to you one day soon.
  • GinaPocan
    January 12, 2012 at 11:47 PM

    People tell me she has a close relationship with my sister, but it appears she has become very dependant on her. She has allowed my sister to basically raise her eldest son Dustin. He's autistic, so it was hard to place in in a day care so she can work. My sister is so entertwined in her life that she even has her bank accounts opened to her, so she can see in her bank accounts, even withdrawl any amount she sees fit, with the assumption the money is going to the care of Dustin. Now she's a new mom again. Chances are, little Chase will be raised by her as well.

    I'm wondering how long will it be before she (my sister) gets tired. She's 59 years old, raising everybodies kids. She has mine, and 2 of her sons kids, so she is on her second generation already.

    There has to be a name for what she does. I called it baby hoarding, but I looked that up and thats something else.  It has to be some sort of mental disorder of some kind.

  • onethentwins
    January 13, 2012 at 8:21 PM


    Quoting GinaPocan:

    There has to be a name for what she does. I called it baby hoarding, but I looked that up and thats something else.  It has to be some sort of mental disorder of some kind.

    It sounds like she wants to be some kind of martyr - Look at all these children I'm saving from their incompetant parents.

  • GinaPocan
    January 14, 2012 at 6:07 AM


    Quoting onethentwins:


    Quoting GinaPocan:

    There has to be a name for what she does. I called it baby hoarding, but I looked that up and thats something else.  It has to be some sort of mental disorder of some kind.

    It sounds like she wants to be some kind of martyr - Look at all these children I'm saving from their incompetant parents.

    That's probably a very good observation. She does try to come off like that. What's more is the family has all played into it as well. All I have heard since she took Angie, from my Dad, and my siblings is was an angel she is. My mom didn't say that, only because my mom deep down hated my sister, which is partly why my sister is the way she is today. My mom really messed her up bad psychologically. My Mom had a jealous streak with all her daughters really. My middle sister just knew how to fade into the wood work and not be too noticed by her (there were 3 girls all together). Me and my eldest sister were her targets. Insomuch, my eldest sister passed my mothers rage onto me and her own daughter. I know it will never come to be, but I pray she comes to realize an admit, not to just us, but to herself mostly, what she has done was so wrong on so many levels, I can't express truly how dispairing it is to watch my sister deteriorate in her own despair. 

  • vampporcupine
    January 22, 2012 at 12:25 PM
    Bump
  • Cedartrees4
    January 24, 2013 at 2:56 PM
    bump
  • 2jeffsmom
    January 25, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    Gina, I really get it! My own family can only listen to so much, and I get shut down and have to suffer in silence. This site has been the only place I can go and feel comforted. The grief is so difficult to deal with alone. I hear you going through all the things I felt right after reunion and about 6 years. I still have days, moments of grief, but they are getting fewer an further between., thanks to all the support I've had here, and time to adjust. I know it will be a life time  of this reality. I hope we can help you when you need us.

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