Canadian Council of Natural Mothers' Library

Fast Track Adoption

Susan Burns

 

The author of "Fast Track Adoption", Susan Burns, is the adoptive mother of Cindy Jordan's daughter. Cindy took her own life on April 8, 2004 after a long bout of depression over the unilateral closing of her daughter's adoption by Susan Burns and is said to have been devastated after reading this book.

Before going into specifics, and regardless of whatever else may or may not be objectionable in this book, some major irritants must be noted:

1. Throughout the book, and despite her own statement to the effect that until a woman has signed relinquishment papers, she is not a "birth mother" and that calling her so is inappropriate, Susan Burns cheerfully goes on to do just that. Aside from the fact that the term "birth mother" is belittling since it reduces the mother's role and significance to those of a live incubator whose only purpose is to give birth, applying it to a woman before she has signed any adoption papers is coercive. It attempts to induce her to think of herself not as her child's mother but as simply carrying her baby for someone else. It creates the mindset that the child is not hers.

2. The author keeps referring to her children's natural mothers as "our birthmother", and so do most adopters who are quoted in the book. This objectifies the natural mother right along with her child, as commodities that have been acquired by the adopters. She is turned, in effect, into a possession. She is not a person, she is the incubator whose body was used to provide the sought-after product: the baby.

Reading this book affords a fascinating (albeit repulsive) insight into the mental processes of people with a large sense of entitlement who believe that the world should function for their personal benefit. The basic tenet of Ms.Burns' philosophy is that everyone who wants a baby should be able to get one. There is no sense that it may or may not happen and that the smart thing to do is, first and foremost, to adjust to being childless.

The book provides, in essence, a step-by-step plan to follow to adopt a child independently, and to do so as rapidly as possible. It goes over the nuts and bolts of home studies, the selection of adoption attorneys and facilitators, and various other relevant issues. It describes how to write an appropriately coercive "Dear Birthmother" letter and how to advertise for candidates in the most cost-effective manner. It coaches the reader on how to field calls, detect potential fraud and select the best candidate ("best" meaning the one who appears most committed to "the plan", is nearest her due date, has the fewest needs for support and whose requirements for future openness match most closely what the adopter feels able to tolerate). So far, nothing truly objectionable. After all, distasteful though they may be in their single-minded pursuit of their self-interest, no pregnant woman is forced to get in touch with them.

However, the advice provided in the next-to-last chapter, which tells adopters what to do when "their birthmother" enters the hospital to give birth, falls just a hair short of criminal harassment. What they want, at this point, is to make sure that they do not drop the ball at this late and most crucial stage of the "adoption plan". Basically, the adopters are coached on how to watch for and forestall any changes of heart on the part of the mother. To do that, they are advised to hover incessantly around the mother, under the guise of providing emotional support. They are told to try and be present in the delivery room. During the entire duration of the hospital stay, they are advised to introduce themselves to the mother's and the baby's caregivers, the hospital social worker, even visiting friends and family. They are told, basically, to behave as if they were the mother's parents or partner, i.e. always be around, have flowers delivered, buy gifts, anticipate the mother's every need. Unless the mother actually orders them out of her room, they will not let her have this time alone with her baby for fear that she may bond too much and back out of the adoption.

That being said, in all honesty, there is nothing at all in this book that, taken at face value, is either reprehensible, disrespectful or dishonest. Why, then, does it leave the reader with such a sense of uneasiness and a feeling that something is wrong with this picture? Why, even, would it possibly drive someone to suicide? As I read the book and only found it filled with practical advice about negotiating the process of independent adoption, I began to feel that perhaps the mere concrete proof of such self-interested behaviour filled Cindy with despair. I wondered if maybe Cindy could not handle the fact that her daughter's adoptive mother was so calculating and cynical, and that Susan Burns' show of friendship and concern had only been in self-interest.

I realized that what Cindy Jordan may have found so disturbing is:

1. That some people, including Susan Burns, are approaching adoption in such a pragmatic, business-like, step-by-step fashion. For the natural mother, the process was highly emotionally charged and painful while it seems that for the adoptive parents, it was simply a business transaction to be conducted as efficiently as possible.

2. That instead of following her own advice regarding the respect and honesty that natural mothers deserve, and the importance of following through on the commitments and promises made, Susan Burns herself reneged on her own promises and unilaterally closed her daughter's adoption.

When one considers this latter point, one begins to see the book, despite its innocuous appearance, as the kind of cynical action plan that unscrupulous would-be adopters are using to get what they want. It becomes more obvious that the book simply provides a description of what it takes to emerge a winner. Not said but understood nevertheless is that whatever the adoptive parents want to do after finalization is up to them. Susan Burns, like so many adoptive parents, chose to befriend an expectant mother investigating adoption for her baby knowing fully well that she would use the mother, then throw her away like yesterday's garbage once she had achieved her purpose.

If you are a pregnant woman who has made contact with prospective adopters, please remain at all times aware that the only reason these people are befriending you is that they want your baby. It seems obvious, but it is easy to lose sight of this point when you have these people surrounding you with attention at this difficult time in your life and being so nice to you. The development of a close friendship with you is part of a plan to further their personal agenda. They do this for two reasons:

  • They want to keep close tabs on you to monitor your ongoing commitment to go through with the planned adoption and, if they perceive some wavering, to step in with further enticements and/or reassurances.

  • They count on the fact that the closer you feel to them, the harder it will be for you to ultimately disappoint them.

    Please do not make the mistake of believing that they like you for yourself, that they truly care about your well-being and what you want, and that they have your best interests in mind. They do not. They are doing this because they want your baby. Remember: it's YOUR child and you do NOT owe them your baby, no matter how much support they provided to you during your pregnancy.

 

Reviewer: Josée Larose
May 2004

© The Canadian Council of Natural Mothers