It was the early 1990s. As a result of some changes in my personal life, I became interested in learning more about adoption and about my hidden past. So I decided to go to the library and do some research when I came across an amazing book called Birthmark, written by a biological mother (as they were called then) named Lorraine Dusky. Although the book had been published over ten years earlier, it still had a timely message. And to say that I devoured that book in record time is an understatement. Prior to that, everything about adoption seemed to have been written from the adoptive parents’ point of view, or by professionals who worked in the field, and they all gave the same ‘adoption is wonderful’ message. But here was a real live natural mother who had given up a child up for adoption, yet the way she described her experience was nothing like what I had assumed biological mothers went through. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. I kept thinking, “Could it be? Could it really be true that natural mothers didn’t just give their babies away because they were unwanted?”
I assumed my mother had given me up of her own free will because she just didn’t want a child at that time in her life. She was young, well, not as young as the adoption attorney had said, but still, I assumed she just didn’t want to be burdened by a child as an unmarried mother. I could never understand how I could have a mother who could so easily give me up and go on with her life with no regrets and no looking back. I felt that I could never do such a thing. It all seemed so foreign to me.
But this newly discovered author was showing me a different perspective on women who relinquished children for adoption. And then I discovered another memoir titled The Other Mother, written by a first mother named Carol Schaefer, which basically delivered the same message. After reading these two memoirs, it really got me thinking, “Maybe all of those women in the ‘50s and ‘60s weren’t so freely giving up their babies after all.” Hmm…Perhaps it was wishful thinking, and it may very well have been foolhardy, but I didn’t just assume my first mother might feel the way Lorraine and Carol did, I immediately jumped to the conclusion that…of course she did! And that’s when I knew I had to find her.
Lorraine Dusky’s willingness to share her personal story, warts and all, was the impetus that propelled me to search for my natural mother. Her willingness to stand up to the slings and arrows she knew would be directed at her gave me courage that I never would have had otherwise. But, unfortunately, despite all that is known today about the negative effects of adoption on both mother and child, those slings and arrows continue to this day. In a recent article about her new memoir in her local paper, a commenter had the audacity to suggest that Lorraine was ‘selfish’ for searching and contacting her relinquished daughter, and was most likely responsible for her suicide.
Now, while we’re on the subject, let me take a moment and tackle this whole convoluted issue of ‘selfishness’. I am even going to let you in on a little secret; a secret that the adoption industry doesn’t want you to know. Being called selfish cannot hurt you. It will not affect your life in almost any way. It’s a myth. Oh, it might strain your relationships with those who think you are being selfish, but it won’t cause you any real damage.
Have you ever noticed that being considered a pariah for being selfish is only directed at women? Men aren’t called selfish anywhere near as frequently as women are. Yet, are plenty of men selfish? Absolutely! But men don’t seem as inclined as women to let their personal decisions be affected just because someone thinks they’re being selfish. Females of all ages need to stop running and cowering and changing the direction of their lives just because someone calls them selfish. Now I’m not saying that everyone should just go hog wild and never think of anyone but themselves. But remember, selfish is just a word, and just become someone thinks you’re selfish doesn’t mean you’re doing the wrong thing. And while being told your ‘selfish’ won’t cause you any real harm, I would certainly be remiss if I didn’t warn you that if you succumb to the pressure and give your baby to others to raise that will most definitely affect you, and most likely negatively, for the rest of your life.
But this commenter was not content with just trying to shame Lorraine by calling her selfish. As I mentioned previously, she also had the gall to suggest that Lorraine was responsible for her daughter’s suicide. Her reasoning was that Lorraine contacted her daughter without warning when she was still a minor. Lorraine is by no means responsible for her daughter’s suicide; although adoption very likely played a part–the overwhelming feeling of rejection, of being a ‘mistake’, the soul damage some adoptees feel. But not only are Lorraine’s actions not the reason for her daughter’s tragic death, in my opinion, it is actually better if the mother is the one who searches. It is logical to come to the conclusion that having been given up for adoption you were an unwanted child. So it takes enormous courage to search for someone (your own mother!) when you feel she has already made it clear that she doesn’t want you. By showing she cares enough to find her lost daughter or son, a first mother initiating the search can take some of the sting out of the initial rejection. After all, it was the first mother who, for whatever reason, gave the child up in the first place.
So let me just say, “Thank you, Lorraine. You changed my life for the better. Without your courage and bravery, I would more than likely never have found the strength to search for my natural mother.”
I also want to make readers aware that Lorraine has recently published her second memoir; a continuation of the story she first introduced us to in Birthmark. To learn more about this latest offering from one of the most important voices in adoption reform, simply click on the Hole in my Heart link on the right-hand side of the blog under the subscribe box.
May Ms. Dusky’s willingness to share her story and bare her soul change your life and my life once again.