Hye was adopted because she was a girl. When she became a mother herself, an old trauma washed over her

3 March 2022

Is it really in the child's best interest that we send him to an institution so early? Or could we arrange our lives differently while we have small children? Hye Secher Marcussen believes that feminists should take the lead and secure better rights for children.

Hye Secher Marcussen's biological mother knew that she would not be allowed to keep her child if she gave birth to another girl.

Hye's biological father had decided that. The parents already had two girls, and he didn't want any more. He wanted a boy.

So when the mother gave birth to Hye and they saw she was a girl, they immediately adopted her.

Instead, they adopted a boy and made him theirs. They let the outside world understand that it was him with whom Hye's mother had been pregnant.

They never told anyone about Hye. They also did not tell the boy that they were not his biological parents. It became a family secret, and it still is today.

Hye ended up in an orphanage, and when she was four months old, she was adopted from Korea to Denmark by her Danish parents.

They named her Helle.

- I have been in therapy for 20 years to try to heal myself, because I have a bleeding wound inside, says Hye today.

- I have carried around my biological mother's stress and anxiety all my life.

From the pregnancy, when the mother was nervous about not being able to keep her own daughter.


32 years later, Hye became pregnant herself.

- When I became a mother, I actually thought I had cleaned things up. And then it was just like being run over with a steamroller.

Hye only just managed to get her newborn daughter onto her stomach before she was taken to the operating room, where the doctors had to stop a profuse bleeding.

She was now a mother and was separated from her daughter, just as she herself had been separated from her own biological mother. Short-lived but powerful.

A few hours later she got her daughter up to her, but most of the time the daughter had to lie in a plastic cradle, because it is not recommended for the child to sleep in her parents' arms if the parent is not awake.

- That was the problem for us: She didn't want to sleep in the cradle, only in my arms, and that's why I didn't close an eye for several days, says Hye.

On behalf of the children

That's where it started.

Hye's experience that the way we separate the child from its parents is not in the child's best interest. She calls it the culture of separation.

- I don't think it's healthy for the children's self-esteem and their core, she says.

In the three years that have passed since, and in which she has been a parent, she has only been confirmed in that feeling.

Today she describes herself as a care activist, and in an article in Information earlier this year she called for feminists to speak up for the children.

She asks us to consider whether we as a society could assign a completely different value to the care of and time with our children.

She questions whether it is in the best interest of the child that we send him to an institution so early, or whether it is in the best interest of the labor market and the economy.


I am a human who has been exchanged for a boy. Literally. So no one can ever come and tell me that feminism doesn't run in my blood.

But when she has done so, she has been met with "a noisy silence" in the feminist circles she has always been in and identified with.

- I am a person who has been exchanged for a boy. Literally. So no one can ever come and tell me that feminism doesn't run in my blood, she says.

Some feminists see it as reactionary, as if Hye wants to turn back time several decades and send women back to the meat pots.

But that's not what she wants.

She wants to show that exactly feminism is an obvious arena to fight for children's rights and for a new and better appreciation of care.

- Feminists fight for all sorts of other marginalizing groups that have not been considered equal. Why don't we fight for the children too? She asks.

As Hye says, you can't ask a 10-month-old child if it's bad for their self-esteem to be sent to an institution.

Therefore, feminists must ask and answer on behalf of the children.


The body remembers

At home, at night, Hye kept waking up and sitting up.

The daughter was lying in a bed right next to it, crying instead of sleeping.

Hye followed the recommendations she was given.

- They were all about separation, she says.

You should preferably not breastfeed more than every three hours. The child should preferably learn to sleep in the pram, the child should preferably learn to sleep in his own bed. Even if the child is screaming.

According to the Danish Health Authority, the safest place for an infant to sleep is in its own bed.

They do not recommend that the child sleeps between its parents at night to prevent cot death.

If the child has to share a bed with his parents, the child must sleep next to one of them and have plenty of space.

- It was always this thing with away from the embrace, says Hye with her arms outstretched in front of her, as if she were holding a child.

- When my daughter finally fell asleep, I lay like this next to her, says Hye and stretches her arms down along her body, while she asks with wide, worried eyes: When will she wake up again? When will she wake up again?


I didn't eat, I didn't sleep, I didn't pee. I just sat rocking the cradle and obsessing over her going to sleep. My daughter cried all the time.

- I didn't eat, I didn't sleep, I didn't pee. I just sat rocking the cradle and obsessing over her going to sleep. My daughter cried all the time. I can see now that she was stressed because I was stressed.


When the daughter was nine weeks old, they both fell asleep by accident while Hye was lying with her in his arms.

- I woke up completely confused by the fact that we had actually slept - and slept well. I hadn't been awake the whole time.

When Hye told her friends, they said to Hye's surprise that they did it all the time - slept with their child in their arms.

- I think it shows how strong the culture of separation is - that you can be a relatively resourceful new mother and not have been told that it can be soothing for an infant's nervous system to lie skin to skin.

- I started to think about it: Why have I been told that she has to lie in that bed and I have to go back and forth 100 times in one night, if she sleeps well here?


A noisy set of rules

Later, Hye went to see a psychologist with what the doctors diagnosed as a postpartum reaction.

She herself experienced it as post-traumatic stress.

The psychologist explained to Hye that when you become a mother, you draw on the pre-linguistic experiences you have from your own biological mother. To be held, to be nursed and comforted.

- The body remembers, says Hye.

But Hye's body had no experiences from her biological mother.

- That's why I stood there as a new mother and had no intuition. I remember thinking, What am I going to do with this baby? She asks.

- I didn't know, because I had nothing to draw on. I had no sense of contact with it.


Hye doesn't think you need to be adopted to have felt powerless with your own child.

- It is also the noisy setting of rules about what you should and shouldn't do, which drowns out the intuition we all have suffered. It's drowning.

A tribute to feminism

Next to Hye is a book about raising children. She explains its message: If you succeeded in making the child's first three years of life good and present, you can hardly destroy it from there.

But the way the system is set up today, Hye's child care does not have particularly good conditions. The system is set up for us to separate ourselves from our children.


Why does it become an artificial setup that either we do the status quo or we go back? How about going ahead and finding some brand new ways to do it?

As I said, it's not because Hye wants the mothers back to the meat pots.

- Why does it become an artificial setup that either we do the status quo or we go back? How about going ahead and finding some brand new ways to do it? She asks.

Do parents need to work as much during the years they have young children? Can you create working communities where small children can be brought along?

What about extending the parental leave period? Can we start considering children as equal persons with rights?

Among other things, these are the questions that feminists should take the lead and raise on behalf of the children, according to Hye.

- This is a tribute to feminism, which has called out so many norms and fixed cultural constructions. They have made so many groundbreaking changes. Why shouldn't we make this one too?

Leaving your life in someone else's hands

Hye and her husband have themselves chosen to do things in a different way. Push to the established norms.

For example, they looked after their daughter at home until she was three years old.

- Institutions are not for the sake of the children. It's a coincidence that it should be good for them. We leave them at 10-12 months old with someone they have not chosen themselves and whom they do not know themselves, says Hye and rejects that a week's introduction is enough to create familiarity and security.

- For a child, it is the same as leaving your life in that person's hands. Children are very adaptable, but I don't think we realize how much it costs them to adapt to such an environment at such an early age. It has a great price for the development of their self and self-esteem, says Hye.

Hye is extremely aware that it can quickly sound like a criticism of the parents who send their children to institutions.

That is why she has also hesitated for a long time to speak her thoughts out loud.

- It is vulnerable to say something about people's children, but I do not want to shame anyone. It is the culture that I criticize. Not the parents, she says.