In the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s, being an unwed mother carried a significant stigma in America. It’s now called the “baby scoop” era and during this time young women -- usually in their teens -- were either hidden at home, sent to live with distant relatives or quietly dispatched to maternity homes to give birth.P.S. A must-read from Amanda at Declassified Adoptee: Adopted or Abducted? Things to Keep in Mind Before Getting Upset at Dan Rather's Report.
Estimates are as many as 1.5 million young mothers who say they were forced -- some just minutes after delivery -- to hand over their babies for adoption during this period. It was a decision that they seldom made on their own. Mostly, it was preordained by the young woman’s church or her parents. Often too, it was a decision that was dictated by the social customs of the time because having a baby out of wedlock was seen as a disgrace to a family.
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And then there is Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy. She claims at age 19, she experienced a much more subtle form of coercion that led her to hand over her son for adoption in 1987.
As an unwed teen, D’Arcy says the social stigma against keeping your baby was not much better than it was in 1965.
D’Arcy told me, “If you were stupid enough to get pregnant, and then to keep your baby there was something wrong with you. Smart girls didn't do that.” She added, “I was a smart girl.”
During an in-depth interview in New York City at the beginning of April, D’Arcy told me how she was sent from the comfort and familiar surroundings of her Long Island home to the Boston area during her last month of pregnancy.
D’Arcy says she didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back feels that the adoption agency was actually a place where helpfulness and support masked a hidden agenda.
“Leaving my home, leaving my family, leaving the people around me, going amongst strangers. It was a very supportive environment because everybody had a vested interest in my relinquishment once I was in the agency.”
I asked her if she considered her experience with the agency in Massachusetts coercive. “At the time, no,” she said. “ With the knowledge that I have now, yes.”
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“Adoption was supposed to be this one thing that happened that was going to allow me to continue on my life as if I did not have a baby. And yet, 25 years later, I'm sitting here talking to you because this has been the single most life altering thing that has ever happened to me and has changed the course of my entire life,” she told me. “And not just for me, but for my other children, for my husband, for family members. The ripples and the effect on everybody, and yet they don't tell you that.”
Back in March, I posted about the Dan Rather Reports episode about birth mothers around the globe being coerced into relinquishing children for adoption. The episode is going to air tomorrow (check schedules here, and at the same page, click the button at the top that says "Subscribe" to see if your cable or satellite network carries HDNet), and includes more about the experience of birth mothers in America, including Claudia D'Arcy, who blogs at Musings of the Lame. Check out a video preview of the episode here, or read below: