Burden of Proof

“For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” – Stuart Chase

It’s a concept I hear about often. Maybe concept is the wrong word. Perhaps requirement, or condition or term of agreement might be better.

Proof. Proving. Prove.

In legal venues, the burden of proof is the requirement or obligation for a person or persons to prove allegations that are presented as part of a legal action. For example, if a District Attorney wants to charge someone with a crime, the burden of proof is on DA to prove that individual is guilty of said crime.

In the case of adoption reunion is it often the case that the burden of proof rests with the mothers. In our cases, we must prove that we love our children and always have.

I must say I find this somewhat disturbing.

How can one possibly prove love to a child we surrendered? To add to the conundrum, is the fact that we allegedly (according to the "experts" that counseled or coerced us) were doing just that at time of surrender. By abandoning our children to the hands of strangers we were proving how much we love them.


It seems ridiculous to write. It is even more so to read. Yet that is what mothers are told and in many cases truly believe. "If you love your child you will give them away. You will give them a better chance at life than the one they could have with you. Here, love your child NOW and sign this paper. If you don’t love your child, you would keep them. You want to love your child, RIGHT?".

If you are a mother who really believed that, what can you possibly do in reunion when an adult adoptee wants you to "prove" to them that you love them.

I know some mothers who believe the way you prove your love to someone is to buy them material objects. Contrast that against the adoptees I know who view themselves as purchased objects and DESPISE being "bought" again. They were purchased by their adoptive parents and then later their adoptive parents slathered them with material goods to show them what a good parents they were. Gifts don’t work for those types of adoptees. What would?

I know other mothers who believe the way you prove your love to your child is to let the child abuse you and ignore you and hurt you forever.

I personally have a problem with that approach as well. As that implies we deserve that treatment and we did something we should be punished for. First we are punished by our families, our churches, the agencies and then our children? Does it ever stop? And do the adoptees and mothers who choose punish and reward approach really learn to love each other? Maybe they do. I know husbands and wives who abuse each other terribly yet remain together. I don’t think it would work for me (for if that approach worked I suspect I would have stayed married).

Making up for lost time is another approach I have been mothers take. They buy presents and cards for every missed birthday. They smother their child with hugs and kisses and too many phone calls and text messages. They try to give back all the mothering that was lost over a number of years in a very short time frame. Does that prove love to our children? Or does that annoy the fuck out of them? (It would me).

The "prove it" mentality disturbs me largely because I don’t think it is healthy nor do I think it is possible. The very idea that my daughter may demand I prove something I simply cannot terrifies me. Once again, I am not a good enough mother. I cannot "prove" my love. To me it is like being asked to prove the existence of God. You either believe or you don’t.

My ex husband once told me the way I could prove my love for him would be to stop my adoption work, stop being in contact with my daughters father, and to do a laundry list of other things. I refused nearly all of them.

If loving you, means losing me, I find that not love but sheer misery.

I actually googled the question "how do you prove your love". Interestingly, there was a yahoo question along the same lines and one of the respondents indicated that you don’t "prove" love but rather you demonstrate it.

That I can agree with.

That I think I can do.

I can demonstrate my love for my daughter by being understanding, compassionate, kind, open, respectful, aware, not expecting her to fix me, and most importantly realizing (as hard as it is) that when she is hurtful to me it is adoption she is lashing out at – not me – for she doesn’t even know me.

I can demonstrate my love by being there for her – now or twenty years from now – if she wants me to be. I can demonstrate my love by allowing her to feel her pain and not make it my own or move to fix it or hide it or diminish it or tell her to get over it. I can demonstrate my love to her by encouraging her, laughing with her, and allowing her to cry when she needs to.  I can demonstrate my love by setting boundaries – and allowing her to do same – that are safe and secure.

I can just be me.

Me I can prove. Me I understand. Me I can demonstrate and Her I can love.

Its her choice to accept that love or not.

6 Thoughts.

  1. Important post for me, being that I’m considering ending my reunion.
    Key words of yours: “… what can you possibly do in reunion when an adult adoptee wants you to “prove” to them that you love them.”
    I can’t do it, can’t prove it enough to make my son happy.
    Or his necessary proof is irrational.
    So many moms, still waiting for response, to meet, to have a relationship with their daughter/son, have envied me my reunion. Waiting, wondering when/what will happen.
    I hope you get better than I have, even though you’ve had to wait.

  2. GOOD post! Loving is demonstration. I’ve had to learn to love myself first. Letting my cup overflow is the only way I can be true to her.
    “most importantly realizing (as hard as it is) that when she is hurtful to me it is adoption she is lashing out at – not me – ” I’d like that tatooed inside my head. Thank you.

  3. I think that many of these unhealthy approaches to reunion (smothering our children with love or presents, acting like a doormat, letting the adoptee “make all the decisions,” having a double-standard that we will put up with being treated badly) are based on guilt.
    If a mother is to want a healthy reunion, then she has to first work on the guilt part. As long as she has no idea about the dynamics of coercion, why she feels guilty, and why she is blaming herself, she will always have this ball-and-chain that will damage any chance of a healthy reunion.
    That is a whole huge issue — why do mothers blame themselves? WHY are they taking this burden on their shoulders instead of placing it firmly at the feet of the baby brokers. And if you surrendered a baby for adoption post-1955, you should really look into what systemic methods were used on you to “persuade” you to surrender your baby. A coerced/influenced decision is not a decision at all.
    And as long as we continue to feel guilt and take the blame for having “given away” our babies, we cannot expect those rejected children to believe that we love them. People do NOT give away those they love. The fact is that 99% of us did not “give away” our children — but they will not believe that as long as we feel guilt or show thru our actions that we do.
    Read this at http://www.originscanada.org/adoption_coercion.html and remember that a coerced decision is not a decision at all.
    We need not feel guilt.
    We need not take the blame.
    We loved our children and wanted to keep them.
    We had no choice.
    The blame is with the baby brokers, not with us.

  4. Cedar – I agree with you and I know that Origins reference well. I have used it many many times to illustrate points.

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