Love Child: The Stigma Of Bastardy Is Alive And Well

[Mea culpa. I originally said the “love child” stories concerned John McCain, not John Edwards. Chalk it up to blogging too early in the morning. I’ve corrected this post.]

Unless you’ve been living underground of late – and given what passes for “news” today I wouldn’t blame you – you’ve undoubtedly heard all the gossip about gasp John Edwards’ possible illegitimate love child. For those of us who are, ourselves, “love children,” such incidents make it painfully obvious that our society has made very few strides when it comes to truly eradicating the stigma surrounding illegitimacy and its kissin’ cousin, adoption.

Why so few strides forward? Is it because illegitimacy is really that shameful? Is it because our society needs the glamour of love children, the soap opera titillation made flesh? Or is it because the adoption industry benefits when bastards are born because it increases their stock of marketable infants?

I will tell you one thing. No one who is actually a love child finds it entertaining. Seeing the words LOVE CHILD emblazoned across every newspaper only reminds us of our own fates. By turning this non-issue into a scandal, the media once again does a grave disservice. Why not a headline like this:


    (Whenever I use the word slander, I think of J. Jonah Jameson in the first Spiderman movie: “It’s not slander! In print, it’s libel.”)

How about this:


Or, better yet:


    (Didn’t these reporters mothers’ teach them, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all?)

Is it any wonder that there are birth mothers in this world who would rather deny the very existence of their own child than be forced to face their own painful memories? When our society chooses entertainment over empathy, maybe it’s time for the human race to move over and let a worthier species evolve. I’m betting on Haemovores, or maybe Weeping Angels.

Granted, the information is coming from the National Enquirer… But the person at the center of this is the one who will suffer most, a person that in most news coverage is simply termed “the child” – something many adoptees know all too well.

Francis Quinn Hunter, I’m sorry. I’m sorry the legacy of us “love children” is being dumped on you without your having a chance to speak for yourself. And I’m sorry you’re going to have to grow up knowing that your entry into this world was marked by malicious people out to make headlines at your expense.

It’s not the love children, or the mothers who bear them, who should be ashamed.


  1. One of the excuses for closing records was to protect “the child” from the illegitimacy stigma? But yet decades later it still exists. I do believe that it always will because society thrives on hearing about someone’s “love child”. The famous can’t hardly go to the restroom without the news media finding fault. But even those who are not famous never live down having an illegitimate child. I personally don’t feel that any woman or man should be condemned for bringing a child into the world when they were not married. But the “love child” lives with the illegitimate label forever because society is too ignorant to focus on more meaningful things in life.

  2. Triona, you know I love you and your writing and your opinions BUT what the heck is the link to the rain garden thing all about? [Call me clueless, what do I care? I’m a bastard for pete’s sake.]

    I am pretty amazed at how many other adoption related blogs reference yours. [Not that you don’t deserve each and every mention.]

    While I’m running my mouth, did you put McCain’s name in this entry to through people off? [As a Dem, I don’t mind a bit.]

    And as long as I’m talking about McCain, how many of your dear readers are aware of FL Gov. Charlie Crist’s “love child” who he refuses to acknowledge paternity of, even after he’s been found out? His “dirty little secret” was written up in the March 11, 2007, edition of the Miami Herald.
    I’m a FL resident and I never heard about this until well after his election as Governor of the great closed State of Florida. [Government in the Sunshine, my @ss.] Somebody did an exquisite job of quashing this story.

    It’s a great read, but you can’t access it on the internet without logging in on a public library site, or paying for it.

    Just rambling on,
    Lisa Kay
    FL Adoptee born Jan 1963 – Gainesville, FL
    Fathered by – of all people – a LAWYER/POLITICIAN [and a damned Democrat to boot.]

  3. I have come out to a fairly large number of people about having had a child out of wedlock – could there be a more old fashioned phrase than that one – pretty much anybody I think will be more than a nodding acquaintance.

    I have had very few negative reactions – one was from a religious friend (whatever) and the others, usually they come from people who might have wanted to adopt at a time when they feared they were infertile or from people who are close to someone who has adopted. This last group aren’t negative toward me per se but you can tell on the issue of reunion and birth mothers there sympathies lie elsewhere.

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  5. LisaKay – The rain garden thing was me trying to say that there are more positive things in the world these reporters could be writing about, rather than ripping apart the reputation of a newborn baby and her mother. Guess I was too obtuse!

    Referencing McCain wasn’t supposed to be a political statement. It could easily have been Obama or any other public figure. The point is, the media loves to jump after any hint of illegitimacy because it’s such an entertaining scandal, never mind the feelings of those involved. Look at how many soap opera storylines have to do with illegitimacy and who fathered whose baby. The public eats it up.

    How about some storylines about adoption agencies that prey on prospective adopters, social workers who mark mothers as too poor or undeserving to raise their own children, or adult adoptees whose records are impounded by the state. Guess it’s not titillating enough.

    UM – I have had people get very defensive when they realize my stance on adoption has nothing to do with the perspective of adopters and prospective adopters. It’s like birth mothers and adoptees are not even supposed to exist as individuals in our own right.

    Improper – I’ve discussed with others the difficulty of getting traditional publishers to touch anything about adoption that isn’t warm-happy-fuzzy. Taboo! Yet the mainstream media has no problem vilifying mothers who get pregnant out of wedlock, and ignoring adoptees altogether. It’s all about the almighty dollar and which spin on the truth makes the most money.

  6. “Improper – I’ve discussed with others the difficulty of getting traditional publishers to touch anything about adoption that isn’t warm-happy-fuzzy. Taboo! Yet the mainstream media has no problem vilifying mothers who get pregnant out of wedlock, and ignoring adoptees altogether. It’s all about the almighty dollar and which spin on the truth makes the most money”.

    Sad, isn’t it, because I was told once upon a time in high school that the purpose of the news is to report the truth to the people. Yeah, right huh?…