“Choice” and The Proverbial Loaded Gun

Dear Ms. Feverfew –

As many natural mothers can attest, one of the common arguments used against us in our effort to process and heal from adoption loss is, “No one held a gun to your head and made you sign the papers. You did that all by yourself.” This line is usually delivered dripping in disdain and with a sneer curling up around the corners of the mouth of the person speaking it.

As many natural mothers can also attest, they are technically correct. For most of us, no one was standing beside us in the judge’s chambers or in the hospital or wherever it is we signed the paperwork. We were all alone. There wasn’t someone with a .45 cocked and pointed at our temple.

Or was there?

I came across this quote over Christmas and have been ruminating about it ever since.

“An overwhelming preponderance of evidence on either side would make our choice as meaningless as would a loaded gun pointed at our heads.” ~ Terryl Givens, 2012 (The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life, p. 7)

An overwhelming preponderance of evidence. A loaded gun. A choice rendered meaningless (but with lasting consequences, I might add), as if a gun was pointed at my head.

Sound familiar? This is EXACTLY what Latter-Day Saints Family Services (AKA LDSFS), the NCFA, Bethany, and all of those other adoption “advocates” do when presenting the adoption “option.” They present a preponderance of evidence of why adoption is such a “gift,” why “it’s all about love,” yet they rarely discuss – and certainly not with any great form or substance – the potential for horrific side effects to a mother’s and her relinquished child’s psyche.

Do they ever give the expectant mother the research articles about how adoption will affect her? Her child? Her future children? Her future relationships? Her ability to trust others? Her ability to trust herself? Do they ever give her statistics about neonates and how they respond to their mother’s voice, scent, movement? How they recognize and prefer their mother’s breast milk and body odor? How their heart rate and blood pressure normalizes when they hear their natural mother’s voice? How their brain lights up to the sound of her talking to them? (This research is out there, BTW. It has been for decades and simply because adoption agencies or social workers don’t acknowledge it or talk about it doesn’t render the studies invalid.)

It is true, some agencies do give a head nod to negative outcomes in the form of offering FREE LIFETIME COUNSELING for relinquishing mothers, but it is highly unusual for a social worker to go into any great detail why that mother might actually need counseling services until she is old and wrinkled. Frankly, many expectant mothers who are in a position to be considering adoption are not in the frame of mind to ask the question, “Why would this agency be offering me FREE LIFETIME COUNSELING if I give my baby away to someone they’ve have decided is more qualified than me?” Most expectant mothers considering adoption never consider the reality that agencies offer FREE LIFETIME COUNSELING to relinquishing mothers because agencies and the people who work in them know the mother will need counseling for the rest of her life.

Let me repeat that again, just to make sure I am clear: adoption agencies and the social workers in their employ, such as the ones at LDSFS, know, and have known for decades, adoption will damage a mother so badly she will need to utilize mental health services for the rest of her life. They know, and have known for decades, she will not get over her lost child. They know, and have known for decades, she will not move on, at least not in the clean and sanitized way they would like her too and tell her she must – within a year. They know these things yet they do not tell her this explicitly. They simply tell her “if she needs them” the services are there. In doing so, agencies do not provide balanced, truthful information to the expectant mother about the long-term outcome of adoption.

Agencies such as LDSFS and organizations like NCFA present information and have single expectant mothers engage in exercises that research has shown will be most likely to convince a woman to give her baby to strangers. They shove information at her on a weekly basis to remind her of what she lacks, of her deficits and shortcomings as a human being and a mother. If this doesn’t work, they call her on the phone and they keep in constant contact with her via text or email. They encourage her to meet the people who will be de-mothering her, to build a relationship with them so she will feel guilty if she backs out because she doesn’t want to hurt this perfect, qualified couple who so desperately wants her baby. The information and tactics used by LDSFS and NCFA supports their best interests, financial, sociological, or otherwise (i.e., securing a commodity to be traded to the “qualified” couple willing to pony up the money at the appropriate time).

In total, the practices and actions of LDSFS, the social workers in its employ, church leaders, and the LDS adoption culture leads to the preponderance of evidence Givens spoke of in his book. If he is correct in saying that presenting an overwhelming preponderance of evidence on only one side is no different than holding a loaded gun to a person’s head when they are trying to make a choice, then I guess I did have a loaded gun pointed at my head.

Like I have said before when quoting Woodie Gurthrie, “Some people rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.” It just so happened to be the fountain pen was in the hands of church leaders and my culture at large.

Take care –


16 thoughts on ““Choice” and The Proverbial Loaded Gun

  1. YES. Through therapy I have come to better realize that I didn’t really have a choice but to surrender. Wave the white flag. Give up. I hate myself for it but I’m finding more forgiveness for that 17 year old girl.

  2. Context exists. Coercion exists. No woman makes this decision in a vacuum: she makes it in a patriarchal society wherein she’s considered less human than the embryo developing inside her. By the time a woman or girl gets to the point of approaching an adoption agency of any kind, she’s already very, very vulnerable….and that’s the only reason I know of that infant adoption still exists in the USA. If we supported women fully (economically, socially, in ANY WAY AT ALL) and told the truth about adoption, some women might still choose to endure a pregnancy with all its risks for the sole purpose of giving away their children…but not many would. Not many at all.

  3. Two birthmothers shared with me what happened to them and one of them had been at the same Catholic Infant Home as my own mother, though 10 years later. One told me she was unable to have another child. Both are in reunion now and admit the harm to them and their children is lifelong. Thanks Melynda for this post. It confirms so much.

    • It’s amazing to me how many natural mothers end up having issues with secondary infertility (waving my hand madly!) or simply choose not to have another child. There have been no definitive studies, but some numbers put it between 40-60% of relinquishing mothers. 😦

  4. ah, yes. no one put a gun to your head. so unfair.

    and oh, free therapy! that must be an attempt to be ethical or something. the agency i went through was a joke. once they got what they wanted from me, it was basically “buh-bye, try not to kill yourself!” after i got out of the hospital they only contacted me once after that (via text message).

    • Your story is unfortunately too familiar and too commonplace. And on top of that, would any of us REALLY go back into the den of thieves that convinced us we were big fat piles of crap and that our babies would be better off without us? Why on earth would we go back THERE to get counseling??????? That would make us TRULY crazy!

      I have to say my favorite is when I have called LDSFS offices and asked for long term stats about mothers who have relinquished children for adoption through their system. Want to know their response? They don’t follow up with them. (The researcher in me wants to holler, “Then how in the heck do you know your programs are effective????!!!!) One rep even went so far as to claim most birth mothers are doing “well” because so few of them ever utilize the free counseling services offered to them. I just about dropped the phone laughing over that one. (See the above comment if you are wondering why. 😉 ).

      • Me too, originally. I’m living elsewhere now, though I do get home to visit a few times a year. If you are still in UT, maybe the next time I am there, we can meet up for lunch.

      • that would be really fun! and as much as i love my parents and friends in utah, getting out of here is in my 5-year plan so i can’t say i blame you. we lived in washington until i was 11, and i really want to get back to the pacific northwest.

  5. FABULOUS post!! Meant to leave a comment when I read it a few days back however mu iPad doesn’t seem to like certain forms, grrr.

    I guess it depends a lot on perception of what a proverbial loaded gun is and for each and everyone of us, that will be different. We are all individual and things people say will affect us in different ways.

    What I always find fascinating is that a woman signs a consent believing x,y,z and is expected to take responsibility for those actions (which is fine) BUT NO ONE ELSE involved is expected to be responsible for THEIR actions and hey, THEY stuck their noses in and gave their opinions freely – no duress or coercion there. Where is their accountability? Why are they getting away with it scot free?

    People need to take responsbility for what they say and do and if those actions takes the perception of another person’s choice away then they need to own up to that. Choice is such a fickle word because it too is based on a person’s perception of what to have a choice actually means.


    Anyway, thank you for this post. It is brilliant as usual.

    Much love xxx

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s