Because of You: A response to Bethany Christian Services

Bethany Christian Services released a series of three videos for what they refer to as “birthmothers day.” Contrary to the opinions of many others, I’m not upset that they decided to label it birthmothers day as opposed to mothers day because it helps distinguish and spread awareness that yes, adoptees have (at least) two mothers. Many people, if they are not adopted themselves, tend to forget that an adoptees’ adoptive mother is not his/her biological mother. This is not a fault of their own, nor is it careless. If anything, its a sign that the adoptee has assimilated quite successfully into whichever context they were placed.

All of that said, what does upset me are the nature of the videos that were released and encouraged by the organization to be sent to individuals’ birth mothers. Aside from the lack of authenticity, the videos are further propaganda (yes, propaganda) to be used by the organization, at the expense of birth mothers and their children.

The beginnings of Holt International are rooted in this same propaganda, propaganda where the real message is ‘your child can only have a good life away from you.’ The founders of Holt have often been accused as baby stealerssnatchers and other similar names, as many of the early adoptions were haphazardly explained to birth mothers. Many birth mothers were under the impression that they would still be able to communicate with their child throughout the years and when they realized that this was incorrect, they were overcome with grief.

The acquisition of children was usually done by talking about Christianity, asking if they (birth mothers) had ever considered sending their child to America, and then proceeding to show pictures of their country’s (in this case, South Korea’s) children, happy and smiling in America. Can you imagine what impact this must have on an already vulnerable, single woman?

I can.
It manipulates their view of themselves and their ability to raise their child.
It provides even more guilt for something that a woman already feels embarrassed about, covertly saying ‘you were selfish, now be selfless.’
It demeans her by saying ‘you’re not adequate to provide for your child.’

With these messages being sent, is it really any wonder why adoption agencies were, and are, so “successful?”

Unfortunately, this model of adoption has had a lasting impact. Agencies all over the world are using the same ‘look at this happy child!’ form of propaganda. (Some may argue that this is transparency, but transparency gives both sides of the story, not one.) Bethany’s most recent “birthmothers day” videos are just further proof.

Here is the transcript from the adoptees’ video:

Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family.
I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou.
Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence.
Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all.
Because of you I feel protected and I’m home.
Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future.
Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you.

Can you figure out what being said says, what really is being said here?

Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family. Something that I would’ve never had with you. I certainly wouldn’t have lived?
I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou. Thanks for making your choice. I’m so thankful that I can call them my parents, and not you.
Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence. (Um…wait, this isn’t a good thing…)
Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all. Again, thanks! You never could have been a great mom.
Because of you I feel protected and I’m home. Something else you couldn’t provide.
Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future. Or, you at least listened to what the agency fed you.
Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you. I never would have been a strong person if I grew up with you. 

No one would ever want to send such messages to someone, yet these are exactly what the birth mothers are being told. (I’m really interested in the parts that weren’t included in the video. By the emotion of some of the individuals, you know there was more to it. Do you think Bethany will ever release the outtakes?)

This time next week I’ll be on my way to Korea. One part of the trip is a visit to an unwed mothers home, where we adoptees will be paraded in front of unwed mothers as living propaganda. I really hope there are others there who realize the impact our words can have on these vulnerable women.

We need to be advocating for birth mothers to keep their children, not give them away.
We need a gentle way to say no one can replace you.
We need to show them how much their children will love and need them.

If I were to create my own video it would say the following:

I wish you would have kept me.
Regardless of how difficult things could have been, at least we would have been together.
Because of you, I’ll always be searching for home, a place filled with love and belonging.
Because of you I have never experienced more pain, pain that I’ll never be able to move beyond.
A lot of people say that you gave me life, but you may also be the reason it ends.
I want you so much.

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19 thoughts on “Because of You: A response to Bethany Christian Services

  1. I love this part:
    “We need to be advocating for birth mothers to keep their children, not give them away.
    We need a gentle way to say no one can replace you.
    We need to show them how much their children will love and need them.”

    I know that it’s hard to see past the trip right now, but this can be a part of your mission in the future, either actively or indirectly (say through monetary donations) you can work to help birth mothers keep their children, so that others don’t feel the pain of separation that you felt. No mother should have to give up a child for monetary or social stigma reasons. I wish that someone had been there to help your mother keep you. Of course, that would have meant that you wouldn’t be a part of our lives. Since you are such a special, admirable, kind, compassionate, bright, energetic, positive person, that would have been a loss for us. We wish you could experience your mother’s love and still be a part of our lives. Please remember how much you are loved, how much you mean to our family and to your friends.

  2. This is beautiful.

    As a Bethany adult adoptee, I found this video offensive. Not just because it wasn’t inclusive of how a wide variety of original moms may feel and instead crams them into one box of how Bethany views original mothers but because of how the adult adoptee voices were used, especially as you said, for propaganda/advertising.

    On one hand, they are adults, they are adoptees, they are entitled to their opinions. I am trying to respect that.

    On the other hand, I find what at least one of these adoptees said concerning. That she feels all these things even though she hasn’t met her mother. Her opinions and endorsement of Bethany are based off of her Bethany agency narrative if she is a Bethany adoptee. My agency narrative from Bethany, that my parents and I grew up knowing and believing and forming opinions on was found to be full of holes and mistruth when I reunited. A reunion Bethany drug their feet on (this was two years ago, mind you, not 20) helping me with until my adoptive parents got involved, called a lawyer, and threw their weight around.

    A Bethany worker once asked me if she could use my narrative at conferences as a testimony. It was a comment derrived out of fear that she would judge me for seeking to reunite. I was afraid she would think I was a “bad adoptee” for seeking reunion and wouldn’t help me locate my mother. I gave her a glowing report of adoption and Bethany said told her yes. Had I known my whole, true story, I never would have said yes. I feel used. I was used.

    Bethany is one of the leading opponents of adoptee access to original information. I guess it bothers me they’d use adoptees for what is more or less adoption advertisement when at least one of those adoptees doesn’t have access to their whole story. It doesn’t seem fair or at all ethical. Come advertise for us while we lobby against your equality and right to know right in front of your face. There is something screwed up about that.

    • Thank you for your comment. Can you explain more about what the agency narrative was and what the holes and mistruths were? I’m really interested in learning more. Was your adoption domestic or international?

  3. I loathed the videos. I have a lot of first mom friends who do not like “birthmother’s day”, and some who were hurt by these videos specifically.

  4. I actually find it incredibly offensive that you make assumptions about my character, the character of my adoptive parents, and the “lack of authenticity” in what I had to say in the video. While I have not had a reunification with my biological parents, that has been my choice. Just because I have not met them, it doesn’t meant that I don’t know their story. My bio mom wrote me several letters during her pregnancy that were included with my adoption packet. They were married. They had 3 other children. They could not afford a 4th child, and they made the LOVING decision to place me in an adoptive home. My biological mother’s words to me were “Know that we love you, know that we will NEVER stop loving you, and know that we made this decision not out of convenience, but because we wanted you to have a life that we were not able to provide”.

    I am thankful that I had two parents who had prayed for years for a child, adopted me, and raised me in a family filed love, faith, and opportunity. I am thankful that I had two biological parents who loved me enough to make a life-affirming decision and give me something they couldn’t. I am strong BECAUSE of their sacrifice, their faith, and their love. I can only speak to what DID happen, not what MIGHT have happened. Would I have been the person I am today had my biological family raised me? Who knows. Would I have become the person I am today had another couple adopted me? Who knows. All I know is that because Pam and Lou became my mom and dad, I am who I am. There have never been secrets, they have answered every question I asked about my adoption as fully as I am able. I am strong because of the culmination of the last 24 years of my life- every decision, every day, every lesson learned. Many of those lessons were based in the loving decision my biological parents made.

    I could sit here and wallow in self-pity, sad that they “gave me up”. I could be bitter that I was “pawned off” on another family. But honestly, it’s all in perspective. I am THANKFUL for the choice she made- 1.2 million pregnancies end in abortion every year. She could have just as easily made that choice, but she didn’t, because she WANTED ME TO HAVE A CHANCE AT LIFE.

    And I will NEVER stop loving her for the decisions she made regarding my life

    • Hi Becky,

      First of all, I am very sorry that I offended you, as that was not my intention. Nor was I ever making any assumptions about your character or your family’s. I definitely never meant to make it seem like what you said was inauthentic, and I apologize for your perceiving it as such.

      What I believe to be inauthentic is the whole notion of generic videos that individuals are encouraged to email to their birth mothers. This is only exacerbated by the fact that the videos only represent one side of these stories, the side that has the potential to strongly impact already vulnerable women. We, as humans, have the tendency to compare ourselves to others. As such, when someone sees a video like this, it is very possible that their thoughts will quickly become misconstrued because they begin to construct a new and erroneous reality, one that tells them “I could never provide that,” whatever *that* may be (a family, opportunities, basic needs/shelter, love, etc).

      It would’ve been quite a different video if they would have been telling both sides of an adoptees’ story: the side of the happy adoptee and the one who experiences heart wrenching pain and *desperately* longs to meet his/her biological parents. Constructed in this way, the video would have at least conveyed that many adoptees aren’t as fortunate as you; many are really struggling with coming to peace with their relinquishment and consequent adoption.

      All of that said, I’m really happy (and envious) for you– that you were adopted by such a loving family who always told you the truth, that you have something from your biological mom and know your beginnings, that it’s up to *you* if you want to ever reunite. These are things that I (and I’m sure others) haven’t been as lucky to have, so I hope that you can try to see my (our) perspective as well.

      Again, I apologize for offending you, but please take time to imagine what it would be like if your situation were different.

  5. It seems that still we forget that the adopted life is a journey that takes a lifetime.There are many stages and changes, discoveries and challenges for us all. What we say and see today is not how it will be in a decade or two.

  6. Pingback: “I Like Adoption.” | The Search for Identity, Recognition and Other Abstractions

  7. Good way of describing, and nice post to obtain information about my presentation subject, which i am going to deliver in
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  8. Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    “Because of you I’m alive. I’m blessed and I have an awesome family.
    I am thankful for you because if you didn’t make the choices that you did, the people that I call mom and dad, would have just been known as Pam and Lou.
    Because of you I have been able to share a lot with others, about my faith and god’s providence.
    Because of you I have a great mom and dad and brother and I love them all.
    Because of you I feel protected and I’m home.
    Out of all of the things that you could’ve done, you thought about me and what would be best for my future.
    Because of you I know what it means to be a strong Christian woman and even though I’ve never met you I will never stop loving you.

    Can you figure out what being said says, what really is being said here?”
    Shocking to think adoptees have been so misinformed and/or the subjects of Holt propoganda that they espouse this sort of statement. While it may be true for them it’s impossible not to think about the message this gives mothers unless they too have been subject to the propoganda, the brainwashing and the misinformation about the real effects of adoption.If any other industry used this sort of advertising they would be brought to book, fined, banned, closed down or whatever legislation allowed and demanded. Have you no shame Holt International?

  9. Glad I stumbled upon this post–so very true. Every time I hear these sort of sentiments, they are like a sharp knife. ‘Thanks for giving me up, cause I’m better off without you’ Do they really believe this? I can’t help but think of Stockholm syndrome…what can be done to break our children of this? The worst is adopted children being brought up in extreme Christian homes–the ultimate form of brain washing. Sigh.

    I wish you all the best on your journey to Korea

  10. If you have two mothers, why in the world isn’t Mother’s Day good enough for your original mother? Why any need for the separate holiday? It’s just a calendar ghetto, designed to be insulting.

    Then again I’m kind of over the contingent of adoptees who feels the need to slam ALL first mothers for the actions of a few… we’re just the useless uterus you popped out of… it’s not like you wanted to be alive or anything. I get it, really. It’s OK.

    • Dana: I’m confused on who this is a reply to. Certainly, the original post was in support of birth mothers, so your message should not be a reply to it. Any adoptee’s reaction to his/her birth mother is highly individual and needs to be respected. The author of the original post deeply longs to be reconnected with her birth mother, and doesn’t view her as a “useless uterus” but is heartbroken about the mother’s unwillingness to connect. The point of the entire post is to support birth mothers–to say that Holt International promotes a view which denegrates birth mothers and the experience they might have been able to provide for the children that they gave up–and to express a longing for a life in which the author was not “given a better life” with adopted parents (since in the author’s experience, her adoptive experience was negative.)

      Perhaps you weren’t directing your comment towards the original post. It’s just unclear. And since your reply has a hostile tone, it feels upsetting to me to see this and not understand just who you are directing it at.

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