Article: “A Girl Like Her” movie
[Disclaimer: I just watched this video. Below is some of the information in the movie. However, there was the same stereotype that I see all over the internet — that virtually all birthmothers regret their decisions to release their babies. This is definitely not true for all birthmothers, as it is not true for me. Many of us went on with our lives, and do not look back. But we need support. I have yet to find an online forum that supports birthmothers with no regrets, which is why I started this website.]
from the link in this section:
Between 1945 and 1973, an unprecedented 1.5 million women in the United States surrendered children for adoption due to enormous social pressure. They were expelled from high schools and colleges and forced to leave jobs as teachers and nurses because they were pregnant. They were sent away to distant relatives or to maternity homes to make the “problem” disappear. These women gave birth to their first child, left it behind and returned home, where they were expected to keep their secret, move on and forget.
Many of these women have remained silent and as a result their collective story has remained untold. The space created by this absence has been filled with myths and stereotypes that continue to affect them, their adopted out children (now adults), and current adoption policy. A GIRL LIKE HER brings this hidden history to light as the women’s stories collide with the authoritative voice-overs and images from films that purported to represent them.
Most people equate the 1960s with a time of “free love”—yet few understand the actual lived experiences of women from that era who became pregnant. For women of the baby-boom generation, sex before marriage was rapidly becoming the norm, yet sex education still meant watching a scratchy movie with egg and sperm meeting in some mysterious place. Oral contraceptives were not widely available to single women until the late 1960s and in some states it was illegal for single women or man to acquire contraceptives until the 1972 Eisenstadt v. Baird Supreme Court decision. Adults thought it best not educate young people about sex, thinking it would encourage sexual activity. Predictably, millions of women became pregnant. Abortion was illegal and responsible for 30% of maternal deaths. Thus, if a young woman became pregnant, it was likely that she would give birth.
Never-married women with children were stigmatized, ostracized, and discriminated against in the workplace. An unmarried teacher or nurse could not return to her job if she kept her child. Before the Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972, if a young woman became pregnant while in high school or college, she was immediately expelled. If she kept her child she could not return. Yet despite these conditions, adoption was seen as a choice, a personal decision made by a woman who had weighed all of her options and ultimately chose placement over parenting.
What the surrendering mothers from this time period have to say is not easy to hear, but the lack of knowledge about this history has resulted in misinformation and stereotypes about these mothers that persist today–stereotypes that are not only painful the mothers, but to millions of adoptees. The lack of information about adoption and surrender during this time period continues to shape adoption policy and fuels attitudes that negatively impact all parties in adoption, including adoptive parents.
adoption and surrender during this time period continues to shape adoption policy and fuels attitudes that negatively impact all parties in adoption, including adoptive parents.
I just finished watching A Girl Like Her, with a friend. We talked about the movie, and “in those times” after the movie.
My appreciation goes to the filmmakers about the very good information discussed by the women, in the early part of the film. Much of the things they went through were also my experience, particularly the loss of respect from others, and for myself; the feelings of failure; the very real threats of getting kicked out of high school or college; the threat of loss of employment.
Much of the film, however, was disappointing to me. Here are my points, with the most important one as Number 1. I’m hoping Women Make Movies will put out a second film about birthmothers’ experiences that take some of these things into consideration. I anticipate a telephone conversation from a representative there, and will post more here after the call.
1. The stereotype in the movie, and on almost all online birthmothers’ support groups, is that we birthmothers, one and all, regret the loss of our babies. That we were pressured, and or had our babies “taken from us.” While many scenes in this part of the movie were indeed heartrending, not all of us are the same.
2. The movie failed to mention that many women gave up their children for very good reasons, and do NOT regret releasing their baby. One women did touch on the issue of how she was afraid if the kept her baby, she would treat it exactly as her own parents treated her. I knew this would have been true in my own case: I would have hit my child (called “spanking” — see the website projectnospank for more information). I knew no other parenting methods or skills. I had no support, no resources to learn parenting skills. I was unable to support the child. Nobody told me about welfare and other benefits.
3. I have met several women who, like myself, had undiagnosed mental illnesses. I had severe depression. Another women has schizophrenia. Another, bipolar disorder. The woman with bipolar disorder wishes her mother had not pressured her TO HAVE CHILDREN. She was absent a lot from raising her two children because of being hospitalized. A cousin of mine had to give up her kids when the were teenagers, because she herself had mental illness, had done all she could to raise them, but could no longer take care of them. Her parents tried to raise them, and then disinherited my cousin.
4. Not all of us were treated badly. I was at a Salvation Army home and hospital. They found me a job as a nanny, and I supported myself for 5 months, till my 8th month. They Salvation Army had a program where families were happy to house, pay and feed nannies who were pregnant girls to work part time. All the people at the Salvation Army were wonderful. The nurses who cared for me when I was in labor gave me a lot of information and loving attention. We had crafts classes, too.
5. I had previously bought a book called Childbirth Without Pain by Grantly Dick-Reed. I used the exercises in the book every day. I knew what to do when the birth time came. Other girls were not so fortunate. Nobody asked me how to do these exercises, nor taught them at the home/hospital. We were expected to have natural childbirth with no training, and no anesthetics. This was very bad.
6. The movie barely touched on post-partum depression. While I was very happy when I was pregnant, after the birth, which was relatively easy although I was in labor for many hours but that was okay, I went into such severe depression that I had to sleep in a single room, instead of in the dormitory with the other post-birth mothers.
7. The problem of suicide. One friend tried to commit suicide, so she was not allowed to work as a nannie, but had to stay at the home/hospital to full term.
8. I was not pressured to give up my baby. In fact, the opposite was true. The county social worker gave me a lot of counseling, and said I had the option of not releasing the baby. I was not told there was a 30 day period that I could change my mind, if this was the case in California in 1963-64.
9. My parents were very supportive and kind in every way possible, from 2000 miles away. My mother came out to see me once, and in those days it was rare to travel that far.
10. I was told, as were most birth mothers then, that once I released the child, I was “no longer a parent. You have no child. The only way that your daughter can ever contact you is through a court order.
11. My daughter found me when she was 24 years old. Her father, in his profession, had access to the county archives where the paperwork was. By then, I was living in another state. She was very, very inconsiderate, a pathological liar, and divided my family into two camps — the ones on “her side” and the ones on “my side.” The knowledge of her very existence (i.e that I’d been an unwed mother) was instrumental in the breakup of my marriage because my husband’s mother turned against me and started putting pressure on him against me.
12. I was able to have no regrets. I went on with my life. I have a masters’ degree, which I earned at the age of 49. I am a performing musican, and an amateur artist. I married 3 abusive men, now I have a man companion who is very good to me, finally. At the age of 54 I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Due to exhaustion and depression, I had always had trouble working a job. I finally had started and run two successful service businesses, but could only work part time for those reasons. One, I was able to sell when it grew so big I could not handle all the work. The other, I worked at for 20 years. I was only able to work part time, even as an entrepreneur.
13. Your film did not discuss birth fathers who were dishonest, deceitful, mentally ill, or criminals. Nor did it discuss women who were raped, and what they did about their situation.
14. The film did not mention women who had illegal abortions. In those days, young women depended on each other, word of mouth, about which clinics in Mexico were “safe” for getting an abortion. Plenty did go to Mexico, taking their chances, all alone, including one who was very close to me.
15. Another factor is — what about the babies who were born with a disability? At first, the adoption people thought my daughter had a seizure disorder. It turned out that she did not. But she spent 2 months where nobody knew where she was, being observed by medical people. After 2 months, I was told she could be adopted. While she was under observation, I was told that, if she indeed had a seizure disorder, she would be my own “responsibility.” What would I have done???? I had depression and poverty, and hard time keeping a job.