Monday, October 13, 2008

Requiem From A Private Hell

On The Occasion Of A Death

The Mozart Requiem is one of those pieces of deathless art that sustained me through the years after the loss of my baby to adoption. It speaks to me today still.

Confutatis maledictis
Flammis acribus addictis,
Voca me cum benedictis.

Liber scriptus proferetur,
in quo totum continetur,
unde mundus judicetur.

Today I learned of the recent death of my tormentor, a 66 year old psychiatric social worker. She died from a ravaging disease that tears mind from body and leaves an echoing hollow where once there was a human, being. An illnesses such as this can devastate family members: My complete sympathy and condolences to these innocent people.

Losing your Mother is one of life's most difficult passages.

Judex ergo cum sedebit,
quidquid latet, apparebit,
nil inultum remanebit.

I was, however, struck by the repeated emphasis given in her obituary to the assertion that this woman "spoke for those who had no voice." It is this thought I wish to explore.

"Speaking for those who have no voice" is a necessary - indeed, a central - part of the Big Lie of The BSE. It's a sham, a con, an indispensable part of the shell game they played. A game of Take Away, Keep Away. The game, broadly:

Step One: Take away a woman's personal power.

Lock her up Behind The Fence, take away her clothes, money, and access to the outside world. Subject her to random psychological assaults from your staff. Demoralize and debase her. Question her most basic biological and instinctive ability, ie, her ability to mother. Question her worth... even her sanity. Arrange for her to labor alone under punitive circumstances. For the grand finale...strip her of her newborn child.

Step Two: Take away her voice.

If she objects, threaten her with everything from being a permanent societal outcast to the removal of any of their subsequent children. How else to explain the threats, the closed records, the coercion, the lies, the thought reform that went on in those maternity "homes?"

Step Three : Once you have silenced your victim, step up and claim to speak for her. Keep Away.

That's the game being played here.

Silencing the victims was utterly necessary in order to spin and maintain the societal fictions -the narrative- that characterized adoption practice during the BSE. For those practices to work and to sustain themselves, the victims must be silenced and must be kept silent for life.

Such silencing is and was the unashamed and naked thievery of two principles that are supposed to be sacred to care givers - the autonomy and self determination of an individual.

The obituary makes clear that this woman worked with single mothers for a good part of her life after she left her convent, married and had kids of her own. I was her client in 1968, before all of that happened. I was her client while she was still a nun.

As a social worker, her job was supposed to be to practice by the principle of client self determination. My determination, my choice, my will, my voice, was to keep and raise my own dearly wanted child. It was her job to help me find a job or job training, housing, shelter and transportation.

She did not work with me.

Instead she worked against me, to her own ends.

She intentionally, systematically and deliberately robbed me of my voice. She used the radical, untested theory of neuroses and sex delinquency in single mothers that held sway in the psychiatric social work practice of the time, to rob me of my voice, and thereby to justify substituting her own beliefs for my clearly expressed will.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis,

The method this woman - and other social workers like her - used to systematically deny me - and roughly a million women like me - our voices, was, essentially, an architectural one. Theirs was a three step approach that relied upon structuring our situations to favor the outcomes they desired, ie, the surrender of our newborns for adoption. Structure, structure, structure - these social architects engineered the peak in newborn surrenders known as the Baby Scoop Era.


Step One: Physical isolation of pregnant unmarried women in a physical environment constructed by social workers, ie, maternity homes. Social isolation of pregnant unmarried white wome in a social environment ie, a narrative, about pregnant unmarried white women, also constructed by social workers using Leontine Young's blueprints. They constructed not only brick and mortar houses to isolate and sequester us, but also a virtual big house, a prison made of ideas and words which was then disseminated broadly across society. This virtual big house - this fiction, this narrative - was used to label and socially isolate us from the rest of society. While we all eventually walked away from the brink and mortar home, how many have been able to fully, finally leave the virtual prison they constructed for us?

These social architects designed our environments inside maternity homes to force the outcomes they wanted, as well as structuring society's perceptions of single mothers as "neurotic." Their three step approach also relied heavily on using the well documented, structural, social inequalities of the time (that put all women at a disadvantage,) to bludgeon single mothers.

Step Two: That these environments were designed to coercively change behavior, manufacturing consent to adoptions that never should have been.

Step Three : Systematic and long term silencing of the victims with substitution of the instutional voice for their own.

Structure, structure, structure. The cards were stacked against single mothers in a way we couldn't even see, much less talk about, at the time. One day, we were just young pregnant women going about our lives. The next....locked away inside their structure, with no voice and only one exit.

The purpose of the structure was also threefold.

Purpose 1: To perpetuate itself.

Purpose 2: To provide paychecks to those who created and sustained it.

Purpose 3: To meet the psychological needs of those who created and sustained it. I assess these psychological motivations as 1) a need to feel morally superior to other people 2) a need to feel psychologically superior to other people and 3) a raw will to power. People with needs such as these should obviously never be given any power whatsoever. They should instead be made to clean toilets. The reason should be clear; just look at the results of the BSE.

Confutatis maledictis,
flammis acribus addictis.

These words are a curse evoked. That curse is : "Consigned to flames of woe." These words represents spiritual and literal judgement against an individual soul, not unlike burning witches at the stake. Everytime, everytime! I hear that passage, I hear the malicious righteousness of the church, the institution of adoption and society condemning us to a lifetime of flame....set against the struggling protest of an individual soul, asserting its innocence.

Voca me, Voca me, Voca me cum benedictus.

Barb, speaking only for myself.
Painting "Adam And Eve Mourning The Fate Of The Human Race ( Homage to La Vie)" by Barbara Franks-Morra, copyright 1996.


Anonymous said...

Thank You for saying so well what my tears have no words for!
You have given voice from those who refused to listen.

Robin said...

Well said, Barb. Methinks the fires of Perdition just got hotter because of additional fuel.

The thing that gets me is that these God-players go without ever realizing the human wreckage they left behind.

MaryOGrady said...

This is fantastic, Barb. I am so glad that you wrote it. It really communicates what was done to us.
The only point I disagree with is the idea that the death of a mother is always a loss to her children. My mother, or as I normally refer to her, my husband's mother-in-law, is an inveterate emotional abuser, a manipulator, and a phenomenally destructive person. Her lifelong habit has been to try to build herself up by putting others down. I have cut off contact with her, and I am glad I did-- every day that I do not have to deal with her is a gift.
One example: my father died seventeen years ago yesterday. While I was still speaking to my husband's mother-in-law, she would call me up long-distance, at first several times a week, tapering off to four or five times a year, to recite her story about his miserable death in great detail. My siblings all had spouses that were protective of them, so I was her only target. I listened every rotten time only because I felt guilty about what a bad daughter I had always been. It never occurred to her that listening to her recitation might be painful for me. If the thought did strike ever her, she obviouly did not give a damn.
Last evening she called up the answering machine here at home, and announced that it was the anniversary of my father's death, as though I could ever forget the date. She was launching into the old story when I made it over to the phone and cut her off.
I am not her target any more. If, after she is dead, I ever feel tempted to miss her, which I think would be highly unlikely, I have saved an old answering machine tape of her at her most manipulative and ugly.

....for BSERI said...

Thanks to each of you for the kind words.

mommal: I have read your writing in various places around the web. When you speak, mountains tremble and the seas want to run away and hide. Your tears speak, but your voice is also crystal clear.

Robin: I feel a chorus of Burn Baby, Burn coming on. :DDD

Mary: Do you know what is SO ODD? My mother died on November 22,28 years ago. Another thing that connects us.

I do hear you about mothers (and fathers,) and have something similar in my life. While I would not have wanted to be the child of the Wrecker Who Stole My Christmas Baby, I don't assume she was a terrible mother herself.

I could be wrong about that. :D

Just want to say that I apologize for getting this finished and posted so late. News of her death threw me back "there" emotionally. My blood pressure spiked and it seems like it made my arthritis worse, too. I have been mentally foggy due to the medication adjustments, along with bouts of dizziness and drowsiness, since I learned of her death in September. It took a month before I could pull muself together enough to begin to organize my thoughts, and another couple of weeks to actually finish it. I would have preferred for this to me published in a more timely manner, but I simply did not have the mental resources needed to fight off the memories, heal my body, and write a short essay.

Good news is that I am feeling better.

Bad news is my daughter's birthday is in about three weeks.

It just never seems to end, does it?