' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Why I wrote Hole in my Heart

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Why I wrote Hole in my Heart

no retouching!
One writes a book for a lot of reasons--memoirs often because you feel you must, and that is what I felt more than three decades ago when I wrote Birthmark, the first memoir about relinquishing a child to adoption. 

needed to write about the god-awful experience of giving up my child to understand, accept and assuage my guilt--and because I knew I was strong enough to handle the criticism (that's not the word that comes to mind, but you can imagine another) that would come my way. It did. In shovelfuls.
Yet I knew that I was speaking for a great many--the majority, I was sure--of women who gave up their children to adoption, and who needed a voice, who needed someone to help them come out of the closet alongside me. I felt it was my calling to step up to a job that seemed to be mine, and the only choice was whether or not to take it. 

Birthmark was published in 1979 before I found my daughter. I had hoped that the clues (when and where) included in the book would unearth her--that someone who knew someone who had a daughter who was adopted in Rochester, New York in April, 1966 would tell them, and they would read the book and contact me. That did not happen. Her adoptive mother--a voracious reader--had been told about about the book by a relative, but she chose not to seek it out, and so that possibility died. I do not know if she also knew about the "coincidence" of the date and place, or just that there was this book....

Two years later I was feeling stronger--perhaps standing up to the angry nay-sayers had put more steel in my backbone--and I had the courage to hire the amazing-but-anonymous searcher who could find anyone. For $1,200 in 1981 I learned that he or she had previously located my daughter from the birth data I'd included in the book. 

Our relationship was good and bad, tender and troubled, sweet and sour. My daughter should never have been given up for adoption. She was one of the sensitive souls who was not resilient and she never overcame the trauma of feeling abandoned. Her epilepsy on top of being relinquished by her natural mother were too great a cross to bear. It has taken me a long time to accept that truth, but it is my reality.

My daughter's birthday, in the late Eighties
I always knew I would write another book, and began and stopped many times over the years. There was much to tell about what a relationship between a relinquished child and a reunited mother was like. People going into reunion need to know that the course of this connection never doth run smoothly. Adoptive parents, partners and friends of adoptees need to know that the best thing they can do for anyone adopted is to support them if they decide to search. All need to make it clear they they are open to listening to adoptees talk freely about any feelings of abandonment and about adoption without guilt. Adoptive parents and others need to know they must speak of the natural mother with utmost respect, because that reflects directly unto the child, whatever the age. Natural mothers need to feel they can talk about what happened to them without censure, even if they have been keeping the secret of their past a terribly long time, even if their other grown children, or spouse, are unaware of missing child. They should try to understand the intense shame being an "unwed mother" generated.  

My daughter knew I would write another memoir too, and I interviewed her over the course of a couple of days in the late nineties. And although sometimes she was neurotic and told a lot of fantastic stories, she was also intelligent and had a good grasp on her feelings, even if that did not make living with them easy for her, or me. 

Hole in my Heart is that book. I hope to have it out sometime in April. I just got the copy-edited version back--the footnotes are apparently still in need of TLC--yes, it has footnotes, because I include research that puts my story in a larger framework. My daughter and I are only two people out of millions. At least one reader thinks parts of it should be cut; others disagree. I'll make the final decisions myself. 

The Kickstarter project is going well. I met my initial goal early on, and now hope to get enough money to launch the book with a small PR campaign on the internet. Word of mouth, emails, tweets, etc. will be the way word gets out. To change hearts and minds, you have to reach people first. 

While I mentioned the people who contributed earlier at a previous blog,* I'd like to thank those who have generously added to the Kickstarter or sent a check privately: Julia Emily, Colleen Labman, Patty Collings, Theresa Reynolds, Karen Dawber, Rebecca Rexius, Barbara Thavis, Julie Gaglione, Betsie Norris, Marty Frumkin, Bill Fader, Elaine Ciccaroni, Faith Ireland, Daryl Royal, Richard and Phyllis Dusky, Jill Auerbach, Janet Fawcett, Cheryl Pantelone, Cyn Bird, Lynn Langway, Tania Wieking, James Lane, Barbara Gladfelter, Marcie Keithly-Roth, Patty Bybee and some who prefer to be anonymous. Some have contributed directly to me, rather than use Kickstarter, which will shut down the project in six days, March 16.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. After working on this so long, it is wonderful to know there are supporters out there. I would also like to thank the additional people who have contributed to making this book come to life, and given their professional time and expertise for that endeavor. 

For the back of the book, some have written terrific quotes: 
Delores Teller, natural mother, post adoption therapist, past president of the American Adoption Congress: 
"...a tour de force you won't be able to stop reading till the final page. From the first paragraph Dusky pulls you in to her story which is both modern and retro, tough and tender, romantic, and profoundly honest.You are there when she falls for the father of her child, discovers her untimely pregnancy, surrenders her daughter for adoption, and then finds her again. She illuminates the power of transgenerational  longings and enduring genetic attributes. All richly enhanced by historical details about adoption laws and practice. Another masterpiece by a gifted writer.
From Jean Strauss, adoptee, author of Birthright and filmmaker, A Simple Piece of Paper, and Adopted: For the Life of Me
"Birthmark changed my life. Dusky's words gave me the courage to search for the mother who lost me to adoption. Now Lorraine has done it again. I read Hole in My Heart cover to cover in one sitting. It is high drama--and a riveting case for adoption reform. Dusky shines a spotlight on the harmful outcome of closed adoption, and the lasting impact of secrecy upon relationships." 
From Elizabeth Jurenovich, director of Abrazo Adoption Services, San Antonio:
"Lorraine Dusky's latest memoir is an intricately-crafted, tender and painfully honest reminder of the collateral damages suffered by parents and children amidst even the best-intentioned of adoption decisions. I hadn't intended to read this entire book in one sitting, but once started, Dusky's story was too compelling to stop reading until I finished. Hole In My Heart should be required reading for all parents who are contemplating placing a child or adopting for this precautionary tale offers poignant lessons about the importance of adoption being an option of last resort; about the inadequacy of openness and/or reunion as a salve for lifelong adoption losses; and about the ongoing need for adoption reform and adoptee rights legislation in America."

* Other supporters who gave initially are listed at previous blog:
Hole in my Heart on its way


  1. I have not commented here in a while. But I must say I cannot wait to read this. Adoption has ruined my life.... I look forward to reading how Lorainne and Jane managed this. Because I can't manage it.

  2. "I felt it was my calling to step up to a job that seemed to be mine, and the only choice was whether or not to take it."

    This Lorraine, is why I laud your courage and determination, and in many ways, selflessness to go into the fray to teach, to educate. Thank you.

  3. I am looking forward to it! I never grow tired of your words.

  4. As a 57 year old mother who has, in recent years, come to fully understand the life changing (negative) impact of the decision to relinquish my daughter to adoption - I say THANK YOU.

  5. I'm so looking forward to your book. I hope to send copies to my natural family. I'm sure that will go over like a lead balloon! They never seem to like anything i send them....

  6. You only have to be a human being to understand the universal need to know your own identity, and to see the profound injustice of keeping that identity from a person. And identity is never complete without knowing where you came from. None of us emerges in a vacuum. I have always been behind Lorraine in her long and passionate campaign to rewrite the laws to make them conform to this obvious, unarguable natural law. I've lived with her and her book now most of our married lives. All her followers can imagine how I feel now that this new book is about to come out. I've watched it evolve and get better and better written over the years. Am I proud of her? Are you kidding? We have our arguments and differences, as any married couple does, and I have my own work, but on this we are completely of one mind. She is a warrior. I am happy, in my own small way, to serve with her.

    1. great endorsement ! it doesn't get any better than that ! :)

    2. How lucky is Lorraine to have you a a life partner on this very important mission she has undertaken.

  7. I know I've said it a thousand times, so now I'll say it a thousand and one. Your first memoir changed my life. You are a courageous lady, Lorraine. I look forward to reading the rest of your story. Who knows? Maybe your second memoir will change my life for the better as well. Best of luck!

  8. Lorraine, you know I cannot wait to read this book! In addition to supporting your crusade for adoption reform, I believe this book will honor your daughter, Jane. Hugs,


  9. Yes, finally!! I will definitely read your new book, as I have the first one! What a great man you are married to, Lorraine!

  10. Lorraine,
    Can't wait for the book to be available.
    You are so lucky to have Anthony for a husband love his post what a man.

  11. I was fortunate enough to find a copy of Birthmark on Ebay several years ago. What a moving book it was to say the very least! Your words illustrated your experience so very well that at times I could picture myself in your shoes. I look forward to buying and reading Hole in My Heart. Count me among the many who will help it go viral on Facebook!

  12. Wow, thank you all for the comments!
    Let me finish going over the copy-editing ASAP.

  13. This is the first birthmother blog I can relate to. I relinquished my daughter 32 years ago - and thank you for the terminology. I was just turned 17, raised in a dysfunctional family that didn't even recognize my pregnancy until the day my daughter was born and two weeks following that I had one hour of counselling and encouraged to sign papers. I finally could not stand the 'not knowing' and the guilt and wrote away for the identifying information offered in Ontario Canada and received a letter 2 weeks ago with a name. It took me 24 hours to locate my daughter on facebook with her whole life laid out. Married, one child, looking incredibly happy, lots of friends etc. I have no idea what to do with this information and have been on an emotional roller coaster (such an over used term but describes my situation to a tee) that I have decided the first step is to just use this blog to vent - as indicated in the description above. I am as well adjusted as birth mom's get I guess, I have a loving partner in my life for the last 23 years, he and I have a daughter together and two other children from his previous marriage, but there is a part of me was broken all those years ago and it will never be fixed. I will return to this blog - I am sure obsessively - to read the material and comments and will definitely go digging around for your original text.



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