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