Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

Esperanza and the Swan – An Adoption Fable by Laura Orsini

Have you ever had that dream where you went to class all semester and then forgot to take your final exam? Or you realized on the day of the final exam that you hadn’t attended class once all semester? I had versions of that dream for years. Other similar dreams, too. Missing the bus. Catching the bus, but being unable to get off at the right stop. Missing my plane. Arriving at my destination, only to realize my luggage had been misdirected. Again and again and again, I had these kinds of dreams. I began to call them my Dreams of Incompletion, but I was puzzled by their meaning.

Then, about 8 or 9 years ago, I took a storytelling class with my friends Steve and Resa Ferreira. One of the assignments for the class was to write and tell a fable. There weren’t really any rules, except to craft and share a simple story that had special meaning to us. Those crazy dreams had ceased, but they suddenly came back to me and, more importantly, I finally understood what they’d meant. And so I wrote the fable, Esperanza and the Swan.

I’d been thinking for a while that I’d like to share Esperanza with Eric someday, as the fable tells the story of a mother losing her infant son, only to find him later. I imagined putting the story into print somehow. I pictured line drawings on translucent paper. Though I thought about it and thought about it – it never came to pass. But I saved the story, moving it from laptop to laptop. Then, Eric’s college graduation loomed large, and I knew this was the right time to gift him with this simple but important story. However, my visions of putting it into print no longer seemed the proper vehicle for the story.

So I approached my friend Rita Goldner, award-winning children’s picture book author and illustrator, and asked her if I could commission her to create a single painting that would encapsulate the whole story. That was a stroke of genius – as she created the most wonderful painting. I was still a bit concerned it would seem an odd gift to Eric. I was certain he would appreciate it one day, but I wasn’t sure he’d appreciate it now. Silly birthmom. I needn’t have worried. I waited until after his party and all the guests had gone to share it with him, his girlfriend, and his immediate family. He couldn’t have been more touched – and all of them loved the painting.

The text of the story is below.

Esperanza gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby boy whom she named Marco. Shortly after Marco’s birth, a wicked wizard cursed her husband, turning the boy’s father into a stone sculpture. Grief stricken, Esperanza decided to journey to her homeland to visit her native people. She wanted her son to meet his ancestors, and desired for the elders to bestow ritual blessings on the new man-child in their lineage.

As Esperanza lived along a busy seaport, she believed the easiest way to reach her homeland would be to seek passage on one of the many merchant ships that docked in her port town. She arranged travel for herself and Marco on a ship that would depart in three days’ time. To prepare for the journey, she washed clothes, packed dried fruits and nuts, gathered necessary medicinal herbs, and made ready her cottage for her extended time away.

Esperanza awoke early the day of departure and arrived at the pier several hours before her ship was due to set sail. As she stepped across the gangplank, she realized she had forgotten to bring along the leather pouch containing her identification documents. The journey would require travel across several countries, and Esperanza knew she would more than likely be asked to show her identity papers at some point along the way. Not wishing to disturb her sleeping infant, she touched his head softly and left him in his cradle on the ship while she ran home to retrieve the vital papers.

As Esperanza approached her cottage, she saw, to her horror, an enormous lizard lying across her doorway. Lizard was ugly, with many spiny protrusions running along the length of his long back. He switched his tail back and forth, lazily. Esperanza approached. Lizard hissed and spat at her. She was running short of time to return to the ship before it sailed, so she pleaded and bargained with Lizard to allow her into her cottage, promising him the modest home and all its contents in exchange. Satisfied, Lizard allowed her passage through the front doorway. Esperanza grabbed the leather pouch and was on her way in a matter of minutes.

To save time returning to the ship, Esperanza followed a shortcut that took her across a rickety bridge over a narrow tributary of the river where her merchant ship was moored. With great trepidation, she took a huge breath and began to make her way across the shoddy bridge — when suddenly, her foot went out from under her and she slipped, dropping the leather pouch into the rapidly moving stream. As it happened, a swan was passing under the bridge, just as the pouch dropped. The pouch’s leather strap caught on the swan’s bill. Swan paddled to the edge of the stream. “Majestic Swan, thank you for rescuing my leather pouch. But now I beg you, please, oh please, beautiful Swan — what will it take for you to return the pouch to me?”

“I’m not sure,” Swan replied. “What exactly does the precious leather pouch contain?”

“My identity papers. Oh, please, Mr. Swan. May I have them back? It’s urgent that I have them now if I’m to catch a ride on the merchant ship that will depart shortly.” Just at that moment, the ship’s horn blew loudly, indicating its imminent departure. Esperanza sat down with her hands over her face, and cried.

“What troubles you so, fair maiden?” Swan inquired. “Of course you may have your pouch back.”

“The horn! Did you not hear the horn? The ship is departing, and I shall never make it in time.”

“There will be other ships,” Swan said, matter-of-factly.

“No, there won’t! My son is on that ship. I’ve missed it now, and I have no way of getting back to my baby. What am I going to do?” Esperanza wailed.

“Well, what are your options,” the wise swan asked gently. Esperanza looked up at him. She shook her head back and forth. “Options? I…I…I don’t know.”

“Well, what if you had to know? What if ever seeing your son again depended on your knowing?”

Wow! Esperanza thought. What are my options? “I need to find a way to catch up with the ship. If only I had a boat or a ship of my own. How can I quickly secure a boat and a pilot who will help me catch up with the merchant ship?”

Swan slowly moved his long neck from side to side. “Does it have to be a boat?” he asked after a thoughtful moment.

“How do you mean?” Esperanza was confused.

“Does it have to be a boat that carries you?” Swan asked.

“No. I suppose not. It does have to be something that floats, and that can support my weight, and that has a means to navigate its way back to the ship, though…”

“Like what? Do you mean a raft?” Swan asked.

Esperanza looked carefully at Swan, a smile spreading across her face. “Like a bird with a sturdy back and a good wingspan!” Esperanza clapped her hands and jumped to her feet. Esperanza reached out to remove the leather strap from Swan’s bill. Then she climbed on his back and they quickly set sail after the now long-departed merchant ship.

It took 11 days, but Esperanza and the Swan eventually caught up with the ship. Esperanza and Marco were reunited, and they continued their journey to meet the ancestors where they were welcomed like royalty.

LO, Eric, & Esperanza

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Life – Are You Lovin’ Every Minute of It?

Life – Are You Lovin’ Every Minute of It or Counting Off the Days as Another One Bites the Dust?

I remember precisely the moment it happened. It felt like such a grown-up awareness: you get a lot more out of life if you live in the present moment than if you’re constantly looking forward to the next exciting – or not necessarily all that exciting – thing. I was about 12, on vacation with my family to visit my dad’s brother in Toronto. We were four or five days into a week-long trip, and I thought to myself, Only two more days of vacation. The vacation wasn’t even over yet, and there I was, mourning the end of it instead of enjoying the remaining days to their fullest.

That epiphany was one of those life-altering wake-up calls. I decided in that moment that I was never again going to fritter away my present by spending time focused on my imagined future – or pining for a fantasy past. It wasn’t long before I started noticing how many people cross off the days on their calendars; this seemed strangely macabre to me, as if they were crossing off each day of their lives. “And another one gone, and another one gone. Another one bites the dust.”

Sometime in the last year, my friend and mentor Blaine Oelkers introduced me to a concept pioneered by Jerry Seinfeld. Early in his comedy career, Seinfeld set a goal for himself to write a joke a day – and marked each day’s joke on his calendar with a big red X. He saw the chain of X’s grow, and it became a mission: “Don’t break the chain!” Before he knew it, he’d written a joke a day for an entire year. In Seinfeld’s case, the X’s were denoting progress. Even so, when I’ve attempted to implement the Don’t Break the Chain process, I used happy face stickers or some incentive other than making X’s on the calendar. Just a personal preference, I suppose.

The night before last, I went out to dinner with some friends, even though I was leaving for New Jersey the next morning (yesterday) at 6 a.m. It wasn’t until I was driving home from dinner that it hit me that the trip to celebrate my son’s college graduation – this day I’d been imagining on and off for years – was finally here. And then I began to get excited for the trip. This is coming from a gal who once upon a time could not even get to sleep on Christmas Eve night because she was too excited anticipating Santa’s visit. I used to get so amped up for upcoming events, and then the letdown after they’d passed would be equally enormous.

People still ask me, “Are you excited about __________________?”

“Not yet,” is my standard reply, unless the thing they’re asking about is less than a day or two away. Yesterday I went through the lovely TSA experience, incident free, bought and ate a bagel, boarded the plane. The plane had taken off and we were in that steep incline as we climbed to cruising altitude before I realized, Wow! I’ll be there in a few hours. This time tomorrow I’ll be waking up in New Jersey! It was just one more life event – not a momentous occasion. This is not to say I’m opposed to having big emotions in proportion to the celebration or occasion. I’m just noticing that the more I focus on the present moment, I the more time I seem to spend in the joyful emotional middle ground, the pendulum swinging neither to breathtaking highs nor cataclysmic lows.

This is a combined trip for me – both business and pleasure. While I’ve got some concrete plans, I’m also remaining flexible. Things change. Plans sometimes go sideways. I’m on my own this trip, and I was surprised to feel my stomach clench up yesterday at the thought of riding the NYC subway by myself. I used to work there, take the subway regularly, and ride the PATH train (between NY and NJ) every weekday! But I’ve become a Phoenix girl again – now quite used to the slower pace and decreased intensity of day-to-day life. Rather than steel myself for the onslaught that New York can be, I’ve decided to go the opposite direction and slow down even more. Breathe deeply. Take time to meditate and get in my planks for the 30-Day Plank Challenge. Walk slowly. Observe. Notice things I’ve never noticed about the City and northern New Jersey. Relish every moment of this trip, whether it’s the graduation party, a meal with my son, or time wandering on my own.

I like to think of it as living even more in the moment. My goal is to carry this renewed commitment back into my regular life when I get home. Only time will tell how successful I am…

pooh's favorite day

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Will You Party with the Grief or Choose to Be Happy?

Will You Party with the Grief or Choose to Be Happy?

I get that I’ve had a near-fairytale experience, as far as my son’s adoption has gone. Kathy wished me Happy MOTHER’s Day on Facebook – emphasizing the word “mother,” which I am blessed to receive as her acceptance of me simply as Eric’s Other Mother. None of the competition, aggression, anger, resentment, antagonism, or other low-vibration feelings that unfortunately so often seem to be a part of the birthmom/adoptive mom relationship – whether they are acknowledged or not.

I get that I don’t have the anger, angst, overwhelming sadness, guilt, anguish, or so many other negative emotions tied up in my feelings about Eric or any aspect of the adoption. OK – I was a little irritated not to hear from him for my birthday (a little over a week ago), but I did get a Happy Mother’s Day text from him that made me smile. Once upon a time, such a text would have made my week. Now, perhaps I’ve become complacent, because while I was grateful for it, it didn’t stop me in my tracks, make my eyes well up, or even really give me pause. Cool. He remembered. And then I moved on with my day. Or maybe it’s because I know I’ll be seeing him in just a few days, as I fly back to New Jersey for the party to celebrate his graduation from Northeastern University. Funny how when I lived out there, so many of my vacations seemed to be coming back here, to Arizona. This will be my second trip back to New Jersey in five months – so we’re in Opposite Land now. Point is – maybe it’s easy for me to be so preachy about the perils of holding on to all of those negative emotions because things have gone so well for me within the adoption space.

That said, I’m also generally not an overly emotional person. My sister’s death hit me harder than anything in my life – including the adoption. But it didn’t cause me to curl up in a ball or want to stop living. When we’ve lost pets, my husband’s grieved for many days. I tend to be OK a bit sooner than he does. We’re all made differently – and what I know about grief is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Everyone’s timeline is different. But I’ve been reading a few posts from birthmothers on this Facebook support group, and most of them are so disheartening. I have a difficult time relating to these women who are so beside themselves about Mother’s Day. I empathize, but I cannot relate to their feelings of inadequacy or anger or isolation because of a holiday made up by the greeting card, candy, and flower industries.

The description for the group reads, in part:

This is meant to be an UPLIFTING and SUPPORT group. Any down talking, hate, or trying to project your guilt onto others will not be tolerated.

But what it seems to be is a place to seek collaborators in misery. Or so I was thinking, perched ever so haughtily on my high horse as I considered removing myself from the group. And then I read two posts that broke my heart. One was from a birthmom who’s had regular contact with her daughter, now 6, since the little girl was placed at birth. However, the daughter is having trouble in school, and all evidence points to emotional upset about the adoption, as it seems difficult for her to process her birthmom’s place in her life. So the adoptive parents have decided to sever the contact … “for the time being.” Yeah – that one knocked me soundly off my lofty perch of self-righteousness, because I have no idea what I’d do or how I would feel in her position. I’m not a terribly emotional person, but I welled up as I read my poem “The Birthmother You Know” for our virtual get-together on Birthmothers Day this past Saturday. I couldn’t even tell you why I was emotional – given the generally positive experience I mentioned above. Somewhere, deep inside I suppose, I was still acknowledging the loss. So if Kathy and Bruce had decided, when Eric was 6, to stop sending photos and letters, that probably would have been torturous.

The other gut-wrenching post was from a woman whose daughter is now 12. The woman’s uncle was the girl’s adoptive father – and he passed away from cancer yesterday. The little girl came home from school and could not wake him up. Oh my god! That birthmom is in anguish, not only to have lost her uncle, but to know what a terrible loss her daughter is experiencing – complicated by the fact that she was the one who discovered his lifeless body. So sometimes there’s just loss – and the only answer is grief and tears and sadness. And this group offers these ladies a virtual hug whenever they need it. A place to come and vent. To cry. And, I very much hope, to laugh and share the good moments, too.

I was wondering, as I pondered writing this post, how many of those overwhelming negative feelings – the anger, guilt, shame, blame, and unending grief – come out of a sense of unworthiness. How many of those negative, super-disempowering emotions do we hold onto because we’ve simply convinced ourselves that we don’t deserve to be happy, that we don’t deserve to laugh and experience joy? Those are lies we tell ourselves, though. And birthmoms have a special reason to lie to themselves about their worthiness that most other people don’t have. They can opt for joy and celebrate the fact that they chose life for their children – or they can lay down and party with the grief every day and every night.

Every birthmom – every human – deserves laughter and joy and love and the free feeling of simply being at peace in the world. But those feelings – even for that birthmom who’s temporarily lost contact with her daughter and the one whose uncle just died – are, by and large, a choice. We’ve got to believe that regardless of where we are in this moment, happiness is ours for the taking, or it will be, one day, soon enough. And then we have to do whatever it takes to grab onto that positive emotion and hold it close.

David R. Hawkins wrote a well-discussed book a number of years ago called Power vs. Power v force emotionsForce. In it, he explained this concept of lower- and higher-vibration emotions. The low ones are the negative ones I’ve been naming here, like anger and sadness. The higher ones are things like love and gratitude. You can think about it in terms of how you feel in any given moment. For example, do you have that person in your life who is so high-strung that his or her stress rubs off on everyone they meet? The second they leave the room, the air seems to lighten and everyone else breathes a collective sigh of relief? That’s a person who may be stuck in a low vibration. We’re all made up of energy – the question is whether it’s positive, negative, or neutral energy.

So, yes. These women – and birthmothers everywhere – are entitled to their opinions, feelings, and beliefs. And that means feeling them and expressing them and discussing them and receiving condolences for them for as long as they wish to do so. It is my opinion, however, that the longer they allow themselves to stay mired in the emotional muck related to their adoptions, the less likely they are to have more good days than bad ones. There’s no magic wand to whoosh away the pain. But there is owning it, blessing the people who’ve wronged you, loving your child – and loving yourself enough to move on and find reasons to celebrate again. Every birthmom deserves to be happy, regardless of her past.

deide-to-be-happy

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Are You Living with a Serial Killer?

Are You Living with a Serial Killer?

Iris and Isis

Perhaps you can relate. She was so cute when we brought her home – a twin actually. Her sister, Iris, the REALLY pretty one, went missing at about 18 months. We figure someone scooped her up because she was so exotic looking. Isis rebounded, though, and became one of the friendliest cats I’ve ever known. She walks with us when we take the dogs out – and even though we’ve been in our new house for going on four months now, it’s not unusual for someone in the neighborhood to comment on how remarkable it is for the cat to walk with us, “just like a dog.”

One way she’s not “just like a dog” is that the dogs have never gifted us with dead animals they bring in through the dog door. Or worse, living animals that she massacres on MY side of the bedroom. In our old house, her killing room was the guest bathroom. Gross enough, but I would have John clean up the seeds and bird gut gifts left behind after Isis’ occasional morning feast. Now, though, I have to go to bed with a flashlight to make sure I’m not stepping into a gruesome pile of slimy innards. Some people who live in the desert deal with scorpions in their shoes. We deal with dead birds. I’m pretty sure I’d opt for the scorpions, if given the choice.

Our pretty little menace started slow here, killing one bird on the other side of our back fence within the first two or three days of our living here. Then, we didn’t see any evidence of bird assassinations for another couple months. Now, though, she’s got the taste again. And so she brings them in with some regularity. It’s not like the experts try to tell you – a gift for her people – because all that’s usually left when she’s completely done, literally, are a few seeds from the bird’s gullet and a little pile of feathers. Oh, and the occasional blood smear. The problem is that she’s not always completely done – perhaps she gets interrupted, mid-feast?

The gifts she actually does leave are usually a lot less disgusting, albeit kind of annoying Isis trash collection after a while. When she’s not killing birds, our cat is apparently the self-appointed trash monitor for the Gila Springs Neighborhood Association. She brings in every kind of trash you can imagine. The best was a Guns ’N Roses iron-on patch, but she’s brought us everything from multiple seed packets (I can just see that neighbor thinking he’s going nuts – “I KNOW I left those seeds here on that table last night…”) to Doritos wrappers to homework assignments (“No, really, the cat ate my homework!”) to unpaid bills.

Once in a while, she’ll bring a bird in live. If they make it that far intact, we can almost always rescue the birds. The other day, she brought in a baby pigeon who lived to tell. After I surprised Isis into dropping the bird from her mouth, I scooped her up, hurtled her out the bedroom door, and slammed it shut. Meanwhile, the bird took flight and alighted on the built in shelf that edges the upper walls in our bedroom. Usually when the birds find themselves inside, if I can get them away from the cat, I toss a towel over them and take them back outside. This bird wasn’t in the mood to be draped. Just as I was getting ready to climb a ladder and try again, John picked up a pair of boxers from his laundry basket, wadded them up, and threw them at the bird. I didn’t think it would work, as I had already tossed two flipflops at it, and it had remained unflappable. Must have been the flow of the fabric as the boxers unballed themselves, because the bird panicked and began flying around the room, eventually finding its way out the open glass patio door.

First rescue in the new house. Isis’ record for bringing them in was three in one night at our old house.

To be fair, some of the birds gang up on her when we walk, dive-bombing her like a WWII pilot going after an enemy ship. If they knew they were going to be tomorrow night’s dinner, I’m betting they’d leave well enough alone. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and they’re paying her back for taking out Grandpa Tweety last week. Sometimes, I just can’t defend my feline’s actions, though.

But I'm innocent

I was walking the dogs the other night, Isis following dutifully behind me, when I saw a hobbled little bird a couple yards ahead of us. It was trying unsuccessfully to fly, and I knew it would be a goner if Isis got hold of it. I distracted the dogs and turned to head in the opposite direction – thought I had convinced Isis to come with us, too, when out of the corner of her eye, she saw the bird. And that was that. But you’ve never seen anyone run as fast as I did to get back home to shut the dog doors and block her personal cat door so Isis couldn’t bring her fresh kill into the house. I was just grateful this all unfolded pretty late at night.

One morning when Isis followed the dogs and me on our walk, a mom from the neighborhood was pushing her 2-year-old in his stroller. He saw the dogs and pointed and giggled – but when he saw the cat, his face lit up. I could see Isis choosing just that moment to attack a bird, and us getting sued for permanently traumatizing this child who was simply out for a stroll with Mommy. Thankfully, she got into her hunting crouch within the boy’s line of sight, but those birds were on their game that day and took off before Isis had a chance to pounce.

Mean kitty

Turns out, my cat is pretty typical, however heinous you may find her crimes. According to a 2013 article in The New York Times, “…scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimate that domestic cats in the United States … kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year… . More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills, and other so-called anthropogenic causes.” Good to know Isis is not carrying the weight of all this massacring alone.

In something of the “turnabout is fair play” nature of things, the dogs sometimes get feisty and chase poor Isis as she tries to come in one of the dog doors. Poor Isis, my sweet little bird-torturing cat. I was at the grocery store the other day buying cat food when the clerk commented on the delicious feast our cat was going to have. “Yeah, when she’s not murdering birds, she likes her cod pâté,” was my toss-off reply.

“Good luck with your mass murderer,” the clerk offered, as she handed me my canvas bag laden with canned cat food.

Oh my god, I thought, she’s right. We share our home with a serial killer.

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

What if Your Mom Was More Like Peg Bundy than June Cleaver?

What if Your Mom Was More Like Peg Bundy than June Cleaver?

Love him or hate him, Bill Maher has a pretty funny recurring segment on his show with made-up greeting cards you’ll never find in a store, but wish you could.

bad mom

Mothers Day seems ripe for such a set of cards. Even as the greeting card, flower, candy, and TV advertising industries badger us with all the reasons we love and cherish our moms and how buying that really expensive gift will prove the extent of such love and cherishment, not every kid has a mom they want to celebrate. And I’m not talking about birthmothers here – just moms in general.

My personal experience was nothing close to Carol Brady, Clair Hustable, or Maggie Seaver. No one on TV really comes close to my relationship with my mom, but I suppose Toni Collette’s portrayal of a mom with multiple personalities (United States of Tara) at least mimics the weird because of a mom who wasn’t always fully in her right mind. My mother’s issues stemmed from years of undiagnosed strokes that caused increasing degrees of brain decay and malfunction. She was never really a mom to us in any of the conventional ways, from being our confidant about romances and heartbreaks to teaching us hygiene things like shaving our legs and using tampons. I remember watching the NBC drama Sisters and longingly wondering what it might have been like to have had a mother who would go to bat for me, no matter what. I don’t blame my mother – anymore. But I hated her with a white hot passion for many years, until I finally understood that it was an illness and not a choice to be an absent mother, even though it would be many more years before the precise nature of the illness came to light.

My husband’s mother was an abusive alcoholic. He said it wasn’t until he was well into his 20s that it finally dawned on him that her behavior hadn’t been his fault. She still calls every once in a while, but he finds it difficult to sustain any lasting contact because she’s still an addict and she has never quite been able to forgive herself for the traumatic childhood she caused him and his sister. All he wants to do is move on, but she is still living in regret for the past. I’m pretty sure he didn’t send a Mothers Day card this year – although he always remembers the date of her birthday, even if he doesn’t call to wish her a happy one.

The mother of a friend of mine committed suicide, leaving her and her two sisters to fend for themselves through their teens while their distraught father drank himself into oblivion.

Another friend had a mother who did nothing but constantly point out her flaws and faults. My friend eventually wised up and walked away from this damaged person who was biologically her mother, but an emotional enemy. They didn’t speak for the last 10 years of her mother’s life.

My goal here is not to focus on the negative, but to acknowledge that not everyone has had a rosy relationship with dear ol’ Mom. Nor should they be made to feel guilty for finding Mothers Day an obnoxious holiday they’d rather skip over completely.

Not every woman is cut out to be a mother. Sometimes, they are discerning enough to know their limits and opt out, whether via adoption, abortion, or never getting pregnant in the first place. Other women, whether because of societal, religious, or peer pressure, have children they probably have no business raising. Some women are born to be mothers – crafting costumes with aplomb, happily whipping up treats for homeroom, and cheering on their little athletes or thespians with raucous applause.

Most women – most mothers – fall somewhere in between. Sometimes a little flaky, forgetting permission slips and lunches. Sometimes irritable because they just found out their best friend’s husband passed away. Sometimes overprotective, wishing they could keep their kid from ever getting hurt. Sometimes irrationally irate because they’re angry at someone else just as their youngest daughter asks to get her bellybutton pierced for the 37th time. And sometimes – maybe only once in a while – in perfect harmony with their kiddos.

It’s disingenuous for merchandisers to sell us the fairytale that all moms are June Cleaversending_you_love when, in fact, the average mom is probably closer to Rosanne or Peg Bundy. Yes – really. Think about it. So if you happened to have a less than stellar relationship with your mom, give yourself a break. Love her as much as you are able – even if that means from a VERRRRRRRRRRY long distance. Send up a prayer or good thought, and move on. Release the guilt for not wanting to gush over her. Stop sending cards or making calls that make your skin crawl. Quit apologizing to your kids for their grandmother.

And, if you can, send love. A very good friend of mine offered some sage advice when I was first working on releasing my anger toward my niece. She said, “Even if you can’t send your own love because you just don’t feel love for that person, try sending the love of the Universe (or God). It doesn’t have to be your own love in order for you to shower that person in love.” Wow – what a relief that was. I could stop being angry and instead send love – even if I didn’t personally feel love. You could try this with your mom today (or any day) – or any other person with whom you have a challenging relationship.

Wishing you, at minimum, an OK Mothers Day!

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Laura Orsini is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make and market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who is finishing college in Boston this summer. Their adoption has been open for the better part of Eric’s life. She continues to toy with the idea that these posts will one day become a book. In the meantime, you can learn about her novel in progress, Stan Finds Himself on the Other Side of the World.

Birthmothers Day 2018

Birthmothers Day 2018

So we had a little event this evening. And when I say  little, I mean little. We had 4 birthmoms in attendance – 3 of us who spoke, and one who was there but didn’t say anything or contribute. Glad you showed up, Ana’s birthmom!

If you’d like to see the video, please click here to watch it.

I was just poking my head around a birthmom support group on Facebook. Lots of angry rants – and sad ones. Easy to judge, I realize. Hard to relate, though, because I never spent time in that wallowing, victim, poor-me space. I empathize, for certain. But so many of these women’s comments remind me of the comments from those women in  that chatroom all those years ago. I wasn’t in that headspace then, when my son was a toddler; the intervening years have only given me even more time for healing. I worry when I read rants from women whose children are in their 20s. That means they’re well into the double digits of years, still feeling angry and hurt and sorry for themselves. That’s an awful long time to carry around such powerfully negative emotions.

I realize that the grieving process is different for everyone – but the goal should be to move through the grief and get on with life, not suffer with it for the rest of forever. I believe one way to help women exorcise that grief is by normalizing and destigmatizing the birthmother experience. Virtual events like the one we held tonight go a long way toward doing that by taking the birthmother story out in the open where people previously unaware can become more enlightened about the path – and struggle – of the birthmother in any adoption.

One woman in this support group comments, “Why single us out?” She is missing the entire point. It’s not about singling out birthmoms, but rather giving them a day where they don’t feel out of place. Birthmoms who’ve had no subsequent children, who are still keeping the adoption a secret, and/or who don’t consider themselves moms in any true sense tend to shy away from Mothers Day. Birthmothers Day recognizes them, specifically, just as Mothers Day recognizes all moms, not any specific kind of mother.

Many years ago, I wrote the following poem. I no longer have the original, so I don’t know the date. Suffice to say it was sometime between March 1995 and today. It’s called The Birthmother You Know. Please feel free to reprint and/or share it at will, as long as my byline remains attached.

The Birthmother You Know

by LAURA ORSINI

We are women.
We are soul. We are spirit. We are body. We are mind. We are voice.
We are 19. We are 39. We are 79.
We have college degrees. We are dropouts.
We are lesbians. We are hetero.
We are sane. We are institutionalized.
We’ve parented. We’ve aborted. We’ve remained childless.
We are marginalized. We are united.
We feel guilty. We are proud.
We are sickly. We are healthy.
We are married. We are divorced. We are single.
We are grieving. We’ve released our grief.
We are leaders. We are followers.
We are flaky. We are brilliant.
We are beautiful. We are plain.
We are strong. We are weak.
We are passive. We are aggressive.
We are angry. We’ve made peace.
We are shy. We are popular.
We are addicts. We are in recovery. We are drug-free.
We are famous. We are obscure. We are infamous.
We are students. We are teachers.
We are homeless. We are employed.
We have lots of regrets. We have few regrets.
We are sexy. We find sex shameful.
We are spiritual. We are agnostic. We are atheist.
We are spenders. We are savers.
We’ve followed our passions. We’re held hostage by lives we’ve settled for.
We are optimists. We are pessimists.
We are tall. We are short.
We are fat. We are thin.
We are friends. We are enemies.
We are chaotic. We are organized.
We relinquished. We surrendered. We placed.
We are lovers. We are fighters.
We are simple. We are complicated.
We are vegetarians. We eat meat.
We’ve had reunions. We long for reunions. We run from reunions.
We are accomplished. We are struggling.
We are fearless. We fear everything.
We are silent. We are outspoken.
We’ve shared our adoption stories. We’ve told no one about our adoptions.
We are wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, cousins, nieces, grandmothers, granddaughters.
We are mothers who love the children we said goodbye to.
We walk among you.

 

 

Here’s to the Birthmothers

to my other mother

Here’s to the Birthmothers

Today is Birthmothers Day – the day set aside to commemorate and acknowledge women who have placed at least one child for adoption. We don’t really say “Happy Birthmothers Day,” as for some, it is a bittersweet to truly difficult time of year. Instead, we commemorate, recognize, acknowledge, thank, and love the birthmoms in our lives, both known and unknown. Chances are good that someone you know is a birthmother, but she’s never revealed that fact to you.

Please join us for a live virtual spoken word event – the first of its kind for the women participating (and maybe anywhere), where we will come together to share our stories. I’ve written a poem for which the event is named – The Birthmother You Know. Others may share fiction, prose, or just talk about their experiences.

We’ve had many women who were invited opt out of participating – because it’s too difficult, or they expect it will be a maudlin event and they’re just not up for that. In my experience, every birthmothers day event I’ve taken part in has been an uplifting and/or cathartic experience for the birthmoms involved – and an edifying one for the others in attendance.

My friend Beth Kozan, a retired adoption caseworker and my co-host for this event, told me recently that one woman – not a birthmother – was surprised by how “normal” all the birthmothers were at the event she attended.

“What did you expect?” Beth asked her.

“I don’t know – a lot of wailing and tears, I suppose.”

There may be tears – most likely there will be tears. But they won’t necessarily be sad tears – just the tears that come when we acknowledge both the good things and the challenging things life brings.

If you missed us for the live event, you can watch the video at this link on my personal Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/phxazlaura.
Please share this post with anyone else who may have an interest in learning more, understanding more, loving more.