Live From Boston….

In some ways I cannot believe it is only 24 hours since I got here.  There has been a lot of information pass by my eyes and into my brain in that short time. 

As I tweeted, last night I attended the screening of Ann Fessler’s new film, A Girl Like Her.  She explained that it was an attempt to put the lives of the women she depicted in the Girls Who Went Away in the context of the times in which that happened.  

Some of the womenwhose stories are depicted in the film were there.  The movie contained a lot of archival footage.  You know about “becoming a women” or what nice girls do and do not do. There is a young woman confessing to her mother (in what universe did that happen?) that she had “very strong feelings” for a boy. There are funny pictures of condoms being made.  The sad story of someone’s mother giving her a lysol douche to try and end her pregnancy.

There was confirmation of the litany of affirmations social workers used to convince girls that they were doing the right thing.  Didn’t matter where you were from, the script was the same.

Before the movie started I was talking to the woman in the row ahead of me about writing and StephenKing’s book On Writing.  After the movie I got up to make a comment, to my surprise she got up and stood behind me at the microphone.  She was a birth mother too.  There was lots of discussion and the hall was full.

On the way back to the hotel there was  a serious fire in the subway.  Tunnel starting to fill with smoke just before we got off.  That was a little disconcerting.

Had a hard time sleeping last night – thinking everything over.  Happy to be here. Great to meet everyone.  A little angry about what happened way back then to so many people.

First session today:  A Love Diverted: A Birth Mother Speaks presented by Lynn Barber whose daughter is white and AfricanAmerican. Raised in a Polish family. Mother and daughter talked about their reunion.    UM sat and looked at their profiles one white, one African-American but still so much the same.  Why does that still continue to amaze and delight me?  Of course they look a like: they are mother and child.

The second session today was called Birthmothers Speak.  Three very powerful presentations. Karen McElmurray read froman essay about her reunion with her son “The Second Surrender”  about the realities that set in inadoption reunion.  Her story was rivetting, her writing incredible.   Her premise that relinquishment is on-going in reunion is accurate, I think.

The second woman to speak was young and involved as a birth mother in an open adoption.  After giving birth nine years ago, she and the baby’s father decided that open adoption might be the way to resolve their alleged inability to care for their child (the message hasn’t changed much all these years later) and the desire to be involved in their child’s life.  They soon came to realize their role was very unclear.  In one meeting with the adotive parents when the child was one year old, she drew a diagram of her vision of the child-birthparents-adoptive parent relationship.  She and the boy’s father saw  three overlapping circles.   The adoptive mother saw a large circle that was she and her husband with a smaller circle inside – the child.  There was another circle off to the side – that was the presenter and the baby’s father.  The adoptive parents did not tell the child he was adopted until he was five.  

The third presenter was Meredith Hall who read a chapter from her book, Without A Map entitled Chimeras: Birth Mother nad Child.  She said that mothers carry fetal cells within their bodies long after they have given birth.  This has a name – human micro chimerism.   Her writing to0 was beautiful and when she read “I just wanted to say to my son – come home,” I had to pull out the kleenex. Very moving.  Her son’s adoptive father abused him horribly.

Lest you think it was all birthmothers all the time – not so.  Will report when I come back on the rest of today and some of Saturday’s events.  That includes Secrecy, sealed records, reproductive technology, complications of search and reunion adoption and mental health.  Whose mental health you might ask?

I am exceedingly glad I came.  Boston looking beautiful but so far all I’ve done is ride the subway and hang out at MIT.


UM from Cambridge/Boston USA


8 Responses to Live From Boston….

  1. Connie says:

    would love to hear more of your thoughts/experience on adoption

  2. Connie says:

    I also attended Ann’s presentation and the next morning’s forum. Thank you for summarizing so well.

  3. maryanne says:

    I really enjoyed Ann Fessler’s film and am also eager to see it in full. She got some really great old footage showing how it was back in the day.

    I too was a little uncomfortable with the birthmother of the biracial daughter, but her daughter seemed cool with her and that is what counts.

    Agreeing on Karen and Meridith Hall….wow! Yes, they are amazing writers, and Karen whom I have met before is a lovely person. Do read her earlier book, “Surrendered Child”. Her life story is horrific and it is amazing she survived to be who she is today.

    Don’t know who got to my session, but I thought it went well. I did meet Rick Boaz…what a great man…and there was also a Korean woman who presented on a website where Korean birthmothers can post about their feelings. The many presentations by international and transracial adoptees were very moving and sometimes raw, like the biracial adopted woman who did a one-woman excerpt from her play about being raised by white folks.Her name is Lisa Marie Rollins and her play is called “Ungrateful Daughter”.
    I would love to see the whole thing.

  4. Margie says:

    I really wish I could have gone, but college has our budget totally out of whack.

    I also wish I had known that my friend Rick Boas, who founded an organization in Korea to support unmarried Korean mothers, was there! I got an email from him today, and if I’d known he was going I would have made sure you met him. He’s a good person doing good work.

    I can bet your head has been swimming with everything you’re hearing. Although I’m sure it’s interesting, I also know it had to be hard. Be extra gentle with yourself!!

  5. susanito says:

    I can’t wait to see the Ann Fessler film in full. I am sorry I missed the whole first day AND all of today! Bummer!!!

    I thought the birthmother panel was riveting (of course) and also unsettling, and sad. Karen McElmurray and Meredith Hall are both amazing writers.

    The white birthmom with the biracial daughter made so many of my biracial adoptee friends (not to mention me) so profoundly uncomfortable. That book of “Negro genotypes?” Mulatto mulatto mulatto? UGH saying these things in a public forum – so ignorant and hurtful, and with her daughter sitting RIGHT THERE? Out of all the speakers she was clearly the most unexamined. Exotifying race of the bfather as well as her daughter. Ugh.

  6. KarenWB says:

    As one of the first seven natural mothers interviewed by Ann for her “Everlasting” exhibition and a chapter in her book as “Karen I, Virgina,” I would just like to ask that the “birth” prefix be removed when speaking about exiled mothers like me.

    I also would like to inform your readers about the adoption conference this September in New York City. Her documentary film “A Girl Like Her” will also be shown there. I can’t wait to see and hear it.

    THANK YOU, Ann Fessler for being such an incredible advocate for natural mothers of adoption loss… for giving us a voice and sharing The Truth of our experiences in such a respectful and caring manner.

  7. Liz says:

    This sounds like an amazing, learning, and very emotional experience. I found you through Suz, glad I did. I enjoy your writings.

    I would love to read “The Second Surrender” by Karen Mcelmurray,are the materials for this session available for purchase or viewing somewhere?

    I’ve only been to one adoption conference so far; it was the Annual CUB Conference which happened to be held in Virginia Beach, VA last year, which is 30 minutes from me. It was enlightening and overwhelming but I learned a great deal from that conference. I felt like a peice of overcooked spaghetti for a few days after as I recovered from the emotional impact of realizing that I would never have my children back in my life, as least not in the capacity of “Mother.” That realization was very bracing indeed, but so necessary to my own healing process. I continue to heal by occasional massive doses of reunion reality, though I can only handle these reality doses in small chunks.

  8. Suz says:

    ugh. this made me cry and had my heart hurting. as many conferences as i have gone to and spoken at it always evokes the same feelings of doom for me. kinda glad I did not go after all. too much drama in my life right now and stirring this pot would have slayed me.

    i am glad you went though. sorry i missed you.

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