Live From Boston….

Friday, April 30, 2010

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


40 Year Secret – The Passionate Eye

Friday, March 26, 2010

This is an excellent documentary that appeared on the program, The Passionate Eye, on the CBC News Network not so long ago

It is about high school sweethearts who got pregnant and whose parents strongly pushed them toward adoption. They meet at a high school reunion and go on a quest to find their daughter.

I like it because it includes the girl’s mother talking about her actions when her daughter got pregnant and the social workers talking about their attitudes back then.

You can watch it on-line if you follow the link.

40 Year Secret – The Passionate Eye | CBC News Network.

Who’s Your Daddy II

Sunday, December 20, 2009

There are two parts to this post. The first is this item from the Family Preservation Blog. The second is a reaction to this news story that I read on a local newspaper’s website.

First, Part One from the Family Preservation Blog on Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ontario Disallowed Father’s Names

An issue of great concern for my colleagues at the Canadian Council of Natural Mothers (CCNM) is that when mothers relinquished, and gave the father’s name, wrote it in on the forms for the birth certificate – it was deleted, whited out, expunged.

Now that the records have been opened, adoptees are finding their mothers but not [their] fathers.

Karen Lynn of CCNM says they went to great extent with photo copying secions of the forms that were whited out so that the dotted line she KNOWS she wrot eon appears to be in tact!

Apparently, the law, up until 1986, forbade listing the father’s name on birth registries or adoption papers for children of unmarried mothers unless both mother and father demanded it. So only some 10% of those documents identify a father.

Part Two:

I originally read the report of this story on the on-line version of the local newspaper. Because it is on-line there is the opportunity to comment. The first comment tells adoptees not to worry about finding their fathers because children who are given up for adoption are rarely the products of long and loving relationships. (This person needs to watch the first episode of Find My Family or check out my post, The 40 year Secret.)

Excuse me?

All you mothers out there – How long had you been going out with your child’s father?

For me – it was 4 years when I got pregnant.

These old myths about us die a hard death?

And what makes me saddest of all is some people don’t even know how much they have been brainwashed into believing what people would like them to believe.



Hello God, It’s Me UM

Saturday, December 19, 2009

I have been turning to prayer lately. This is not like me.

I am more of the “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” school. And I am not big on organized religion. Did I ever do a post about how I believe the Catholic Church had a big influence on what happened to me and my son and has a lot to answer for? Remind me to do one some day.

I do, however, believe there is a power greater than we know, whether that is God or the universe, I am not sure. Part of the reason I feel this way is the number of things that happened when I was looking for my son. There were forces at work.

But I am not appealing to these forces, I am appealing to God. I do it whenever I have a quiet moment or when I’m waiting in a line or just before I fall asleep.

I would like God to help my son find peace.

And I am not defining peace as meaning he has a relationship with me.

I just want him to find personal peace. I think he needs it desperately and he cannot seem to achieve it.

I believe it is adoption, or maybe just the particular version of it to which he was subjected, that has robbed him of this peace.

He needs to believe in himself, he needs to love himself, he needs to be able to accept love from other people. Right now I don’t think he can do any of those things. Time is passing. He is not in his teens, or twenties or even thirties. I believe he would like to have a wife and a family. Nuclear and extended.

It worries and pains me. I want better for him – I want the best for him – whether it is with me or without me.

Wasn’t that the whole idea in the first place?



Fake-Walkin’ the Dog

Thursday, December 17, 2009

When I found my son, he had been thrown out by his adoptive parents and they had gone to Europe.

I discovered where he lived because, for a very short time, he had a telephone. One day , for some reason, I cut through the telephone company’s building in the city where I live. There was a bank of phone books on the wall. Since I was searching for him, I decided to stop and take a look. Why not?

Among the phone books was a slim, interim telephone book for the city where he lived. His name was in it and his address. His name never appeared in the large regular telephone book, before or after. I checked. Finding that book was extreme good luck. Or the hand of God. Or something.

I knew from my research where his adoptive parents lived. I knew their part of the city well because their house was half a block from my grandmother’s house. The address in the little phone book wasn’t the same one. This other address was, you might say, in a poorer part of town.

I wrote him a letter.

Well that’s not exactly true. I drove to the city with my dog in tow, parked down the street from the house, fake-walked my dog and waited until I saw him come out. Then I followed him to school and took his picture courtesy of my husband’s telephoto lens.* Then I felt it wasn’t fair. I knew who he was but he didn’t know who I was so then….

I wrote him a letter.

He later told me that when he called his adoptive father and left a message that I had contacted him, his adoptive father didn’t call him back for three days.

The first time I talked to him on the phone, the first time I spoke the simple words with a history behind them as large as the universe, “How are you?” he said, I had some trouble but I am alright now. He had fallen in with a band of thieving juveniles and had gotten into trouble with the law. At one point he was living in a group home. It was located in a large co-operative apartment building that had been built in the late sixties as kind of a hippie experiment.

You know who else used to live in that building?


It was the location of my first apartment after graduation from university. I moved out because the hippie experiment was nice in theory but not too good for practical things like building maintenance. But I digress.

I find this happens a lot with adoptees and birth parents. Their lives seem to interconnect. Pure coincidence? I doubt it.

I believe that there are bonds between a mother and child that cannot be cut.

If you are still looking or waiting to be acknowledged, don’t give up.



* Somewhat disconcerting I know but desperate times call for desperate measures. I’d fake-walk that dog again in a minute if I had to.