Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Oprah's show

Just like millions of others, I had to watch Oprah yesterday to see what the big secret was.  Surprisingly, it was to share that she had a sister she had only recently found out about.  This again throws the idea of adoption, search, secrets and society's view of unwed motherhood so many years ago.  While we cannot change how society viewed and treated our birth mothers so many years ago, we can provide them the support and compassion they did not receive then. 

As Oprah discussed her "epiphany" I smiled.  This is the same thing I have been saying for years.  Many birth mothers are still living with the shame of being an unwed mother society placed on them so long ago.  Birth mothers who were not allowed to ever speak of it or acknowledge that they experienced the trauma of having a child were never given the opportunity to mentally work through it.  If someone experiences a trauma, they are encouraged to talk about it and receive support from those around them.  This did not happen in many cases.  So when we contact a birth mother in the course of a search, this opens up the wound as if the event happened yesterday.  They are still dealing with the trauma in the mental state of society 40, 50 or 60 years ago.  There is shame and even denial that this happened at all.  One way to deal with it is the internalize it as "an event that happened to them" many years ago.  The idea that this involves more then just themselves doesn't even occur to them.  The birth mother also often thinks in terms of a "baby" not a person all grown up.

There are many women who have never told anyone about their pregnancy or the adoptee's existence yet when contacted, they reach deep inside and, with great courage, take the step to tell those around them about the adoptee.  Their desire to know and make a connection outweigh the fear of what others will say.  In most cases, their fears are unfounded and the news does not generate the retribution they feared but empathy for the secret they have carried on their heart all alone all these years.  They are to be commended for the enormous courage it must take to let this go after so many years.  To those women  Thank You.