' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Neither a rape, nor time, erases this first mother's love

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Neither a rape, nor time, erases this first mother's love

Many of you have privately sent me a link to the story about the 94-year-old birth mother, Minka Disbrow, who was contacted by her 77-year-old daughter and their six-year-reunion since then. Though it is old news by now, I keep finding links to it in my mailbox. Even my husband, who rarely forwards adoption stories to me, got into the act. Minka Disbrow, the mother, is celebrating her hundredth birthday, the Associated Press did a story about the reunion and relationship with her relinquished daughter who reached her six years ago. The ages of the women involved make people sit up and take notice. I love Minka Disbrow because she is a brave women indeed. 

Part of the story that is almost overlooked is that the child, now named Ruth Lee and the mother of a retired astronaut, was the product of what could have only been a brutal rape.
In 1928 two teenage girls, one of them Minka Disbrow, were walking in the woods when three men jumped out and raped them. Disbrow was sixteen at the time, and didn't even know where babies came from yet
Though the daughter she gave birth to was adopted, Minka Disbrow did not blame the child, or forget about her, or think of herself as anything but the girl's mother. For years she wrote letters to the agency though which her daughter had been adopted, and until the agency changed hands, received updates on her daughter's welfare. The girl's childhood was apparently a good one, and  it wasn't until she was in her seventies when she developed heart problems that she began looking into her past, and wanted to find her true family. She petitioned the court in South Dakota, and eventually got a huge stack of papers that led to 94-year-old Minka Disbrow, mother of two other children. Dianna Huhn, 65, Disbrow's raised daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon told the Oregonian "'I have never seen my mother as happy.'"

Rape is an issue in adoption, and is often used as one of the bugaboo reasons that legislators insist there must be a "contact veto" in any legislation unsealing birth certificates, allowing women whose children were the product of a rape to continue to push this terrible secret down. But don't they see how that continues to punish the children for the sins of their elders? For the brutality of their fathers? Sitting before a legislator who has his mind made up against opening records, or who is on the fence about what to do, it is often hard to counteract their statements. What about the woman who was raped? I've been asked more than once when lobbying.

Brave women like Minka Disbrow are the example we need to tell them about. Not only did she not turn away from her child, she continued to keep her memory alive through the years. When Ruth Lee's family got the documents pertaining to her birth and adoption, the file contained 270 pages, including all the letters Minka Disbrow had written to the adoption agency. That's clearly proof of a mother who is more than a "birth mother." 

Minka Disbrow is not the only one. Roberta MacDonald in Maine who led the fight there to unseal birth records gave up the child who was born after a rape. Artist and filmmaker Shelia Ganz is another. I know there are many more. We can only hope that the widespread dissemination of Minka Disbrows's story, and her life-affirming reunion with her daughter after more than three-quarters of a century, will encourage others who had a similar experience to emerge and not be ashamed. Silence hurts us all. Silence keeps original birth records sealed. Silence is our enemy. --lorraine
Source: Minka Disbrow, at 94, Reunited With Biological Child 77 Years Later


  1. Another mother whose surrendered child was the result of a rape is artist and filmmaker Sheila Ganz. Sheila has been working hard for adoption reform for many years, and her documentary, "Unlocking The Heart of Adoption" is wonderful. She deserves our support to get her work out there.


  2. This story is new to me. I am so touched by Minka's love for her daughter and her courage, and so glad that she was still around to be found. I too hope more women will speak up. Thank you for posting this.

  3. I just discovered this story yesterday and have already shared it with several of my friends. It was so moving and it reminded me of a friend of mine whose son was conceived as a result of rape and surrendered to adoption. He contacted her when he was 18 and she was thrilled beyond belief. Their resulting reunion relationship was a happy, positive one.

  4. Maryanne, I either forgot or didn't recall Shelia's story. I will add her name to the blog proper. thanks.

  5. I've never known a first/birth mother to love her child any less just because that child was conceived because of a rape. Never. Not once.

  6. "Dianna Huhn, 65, Disbrow's raised daughter who lives in Portland, Oregon told the Oregonian "'I have never seen my mother as happy.'"

    I bet Ruth Lee felt the same. Our first mothers do matter so, so much to adoptees. There is a hole in our hearts when you leave just as letting us go leaves a hole in your heart. I know the pain in my heart did not start to heal until the first time I spoke with my n-mother. It was as if someone had lifted a two hundred pound weight off of me.

  7. to M* -- I wish this was true, but it's not. Mine calls me a 'late term abortion' publicly. Her kept daughters are honored -- I am trash to her. She claimed very publicly that she even beat me in-utero. There are a lot of adoptees that who were not loved at all by their bio's. This is a sad reality to too many of us.

  8. Several of the reunions I assisted with (over 100+ for individuals separated by the Kurtz network) involved mothers who were raped. Every single one of them welcomed their child. Mothers would often tell me their brutal stories, through tears, and end them with "can I talk to her? will she call me? can you please tell him to call me?"

    While there is no guarantee all mothers who were raped will welcome reunion, it should never be assumed that all would not

  9. Elaine, I was thinking about you and Her when I wrote the post. There are both kinds of course; the legislators often think every woman who had a child after she was raped and then gave the child up is more like your mother than not.

    as always, mental hugs...

  10. Elaine,

    I said I've never known one. Now I know one, and I'm so sorry. That's a horrible thing to have to live with. I ditto Lorraine's hugs.

  11. Adoptee Brian Stanton's autobiographical one man show "Blank" deals with the subject of an adoptee conceived in rape.


    He has presented at several adoption conferences and done his play all over the country. He is very professional and the play is moving.

  12. I too just heard of this story.
    Beyond courage was my thought.

    I have a scrap of paper that I have held onto, it is a thought I had written down many years ago. "They took her away not knowing I had sent with her the key to open that space in my heart that was filled with love meant only her her. Someday she will return and use that key".
    She has returned and while my heart and body missed her there never was a hole, it was always filled with her.

    Elaine, I have been known to hug alot and share them with you today.

  13. It is dangerous to generalize about something as traumatic as rape. I know a man who was conceived by rape and his mother has shunned him terribly. Her parents agreed to raise him so he was kept in the family. His mother had two other children by her (now ex) husband and she is incredibly close to them while she has barely any relationship at all with the son conceived by rape. As an adoptee it is very painful for me to see the family interactions.

    @Elaine P,

  14. I think one of the reasons conservative legislators are against OBC is because it is inextricably tied to the abortion debate. The thinking is that adoption has to be made as attractive as possible to the pregnant woman. Although some women who find themselves pregnant after a rape would have no problem with unsealed records, and still others would even keep the child, surely there are those who would choose to terminate if they can not be assured sealed records. It's not a best interest of the child, it's focusing on a whole different political fight.

    On another note, you should check out the show Once Upon a Time (you can catch whole season on Hulu.com). I've never seen anything so pro n-mom. It's about this adopted 10-yr-old who finds his birth mom and lures her back to his town to break the evil curse set by his a-mom. The adoptive mom is literally the evil queen, and the n-mom is the zenith of goodness and honor. In the most recent ep., a character tells the a-mom that n-mom would do anything for her child. A-mom says "he's not her child - legally." The other character says "that's just a technicality." Wow.

  15. Well, Siriz, (Dutch pro-life, pro-family preservation) has an article on its site, from a roman-catholic publication a couple of months back, comparing two women, one terminated her motherhood by rape with an insufficiently thought-over pretty late abortion, the other combined pregnancy by rape with "I didn't know I was pregnant", and was well on her way to have her child adopted away, she only saw her son twice, in the first three weeks of his life, changed her mind, though a bit late, and they reunited "forever" six weeks after birth. Siriz helped her with making that decision, but still, I have the impression that a site describing taking one's rape AND surprise baby back as "choosing life", as the Siriz one does, is rather unlike its U.S. counterparts.

  16. @Nasrin, "Although some women who find themselves pregnant after a rape would have no problem with unsealed records, and still others would even keep the child, surely there are those who would choose to terminate if they can not be assured sealed records."

    Nasrin, have you ever met a rape victim, who relinquished, but would have her pregnancy aborted if she was not assured sealed records? If the child would be a way for the rapist to get to her, sure, but in that case we would want secret pregnancy care, parturation in private, by preference some Joseph..., not protection of a "you-know" from her own child, at least not for rape-specific reasons.



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