The bald statement of fact--with a thank you!--does cut to the core of one's existence, but in the immediacy of the moment, the statement surely puts a reuniting first mother off guard. I'm afraid I would be temporarily stunned and not say anything, but feel more overwrought (and possibly waiting for attack) than I would otherwise.
|Second summer of reunion, 1982|
As I have written elsewhere, I did try to have an abortion. My daughter was 15 when I found her, and soon after not only did she read my first memoir, Birthmark, immediately--she wrote a book report on it for her high school English class. In the book I write about how she went "it" from a blob to a baby that I was carrying as the weeks moved toward her birth. I wrote about how I came to love and want to keep my baby, and any thoughts I had about abortion fled in the process. I was sad, depressed, and hoped her father would be free to claim us, and we could keep her. But that was not happening. I thought about suicide a lot in those last months, but time went forward and she was born. When she came out of me I howled in pain and grief, knowing how much I would miss my baby for the whole of my life. Love was not questioned; it was instinctive, automatic, complete. I was a homo sapiens female who understood my job was to love and protect my offspring.
So having read what happened, my daughter Jane knew all that, and I didn't have to explain anything. If we talked about my not keeping her, she said she understood, adding that her adoptive father's excellent medical insurance had been useful due to her epilepsy, and I surely wouldn't have had that. She was right.
|Truth: I never liked the cover.|
But a big name designer did it
and I was reluctant to say so.
While it would seem as if there is no way she could have found out--her father was not ready to meet her then, or later, but I probably would have told my husband, and he would know...and then everybody would always have to be on guard to not let it slip. My god, just writing about it like that makes it clear how hard it is to keep such a major secret and then, actually lie about it. No, I wouldn't have been able to do that. It would have bothered me too much to hide behind this lie.
ALL IN DUE TIME
My advice to all first mothers when confronted with this statement would be to take a deep breath, and say either--Let's talk about that later; or, I did try, but once I had you my feelings changed completely and I am so glad you are here today, with me. Let's go from there. I'll tell you the rest of the story some other time. And then: Do it. Don't be someone who never brings it up, just as some adoptive parents never bring up one's adoption. Then the adoptee gets the message that all discussion about adoption is off limits, when in reality the adoptee is dying to have that talk. Dealt with honestly, the abortion issue should not be a pall over a relationship; lying would be the relationship killer.
But I wonder, is the statement itself--thank you for not aborting me--a kind of accusation? It seems to be, no matter how it is said, it comes across as somehow aggressive and confrontational, for the statement begs the question: Did you try to abort me? Come on--tell me the truth! Maybe in someone raised in a faith that condemns abortion, the speaker might not think of it that way, but that is what I hear in the statement. Don't ask about abortion in the beginning. Let it emerge slowly. If you must ask, do so after a relationship has been established. Don't let it be one of the first things out of your mouth.
And I'd suggest no mention of "thanking" your mother for giving you up. You may not mean it, but many of us hear: Thank god you gave me up so I was raised by other, more well-off people, for heaven's sake! A thank you for letting you be adopted is full of that inane "positive adoption language" malarkey that agencies like to use, diluting what giving up a child means to the child--and the mother. Please don't thank your mother for giving you up! Even if that is how you feel.
Some adoptees talk about abortion in the Sixties as if it were illegal but readily available, like marijuana in most states today. Not true! Unless you know the right people--abortions were scarce, secretive, hard to obtain, and doctors were prosecuted for doing them. Women attempted various at-home methods, which often led to a perforated uterus. Many were left sterile due to complications, others died. Women who admitted they were seeking hospital help after something went wrong in a doctor's office were hounded by police to give up the name of the doctor. It was not easy to get a hospital abortion. You had to have two shrinks sign off on your mental condition, and even then, that guaranteed nothing. A furtive hysteria surrounded the mere mention of abortion, at least in the world I operated in. So please, no thanks here.--lorraine
AND IN NEW YORK...
In other news today, we in New York are waiting to find out if a cockamamie bill is going to pass the Senate. We've heard that it might be voted on, then that it won't, then that it has been referred to some committee, and maybe it still will come up for a vote. It's a bad bill, full of regulations, but it will allow some adoptees to get their original birth certificates after going through various hoops. I gave up reading all the fine print and amendments tacked onto a once-clean bill. However, the legislators feel that this is at least a first step.
Florence Fisher refused to compromise back in the late Seventies when a prospective bill was offered--people born from a certain day forward would get their OBCs at the age of majority--but she said, No, took the battle to the courts, and lost. Today, that action haunts her still. What if she had said Yes? She wonders--would we still be at this stalemate three decades later? Or would the lack of trouble and unequal status of earlier-born adoptees have torn down the wall that keeps OBCs from their rightful owners? She has no answer.
From the rear cover: "Birthmark'explodes the myth of the natural mother who would condemn her child to a lifetime of anonymity to protect her own privacy. It is a courageous statement of a mother who acknowledges that her responsibility to her child begins with birth and does not end with adoption. Lorraine Dusky is a mother who honors her child's right to the truth." Florence Anna Fisher, president of Adoptees' Liberty Movement Association