Reflecting on Roe v. Wade

Reflecting on Roe v. Wade

Today is January 22, the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal in the United States. I was just 5 years old on that monumental day, and much has happened over the course of my life to shift my thinking on the whole question of legal abortion. Having grown up in a strict Catholic family, my indoctrination was to be in full support of the pro-life movement. My father was a single-issue (abortion) voter until his death. Regardless of all the other harm any given candidate might impose, if he (probably never she) opposed abortion, he was likely to garner my father’s vote.

As young people do, however, I grew up and my thinking changed. Not radically, but enough that I can no longer fully embrace the anti-abortion stance I once held. Because so many other aspects of women’s health have been placed by conservative white male politicians side-by-side with abortion – meaning they’ve been defunded or made nearly impossible to access – I can no longer passively accept pro-life politics. Not to mention that making abortion illegal again won’t solve anything for anyone. What we need to do is make it less necessary, but that’s a conversation too few people are willing to have.

That said, a friend of mine mentioned on Saturday that we should be marching – she meant in defense of Roe. I told her that was a march I’d never take part in. I don’t feel I’m ambivalent – just unwilling to pick up another picket sign for any side on this issue.

When I found myself pregnant at 27, no closer to marrying my son’s father than I’d been when I met him five years prior, I knew almost immediately that I’d place the baby for adoption. My son’s father was not so supportive about the adoption decision. No – he did not want to get married. He wanted me to have an abortion. Remember, I grew up Catholic and pro-life – but I agreed to consider the abortion option. And I did – for two days.

I came to the realization during those two days that women place their babies for adoption for many of the same reasons they have abortions. The pregnancy is unplanned. They have no parental/familial support. They feel they can’t afford to raise a child. With an abortion, you must live with the decision, but no one else need ever even know you were pregnant. Carry a baby to term and then place him with an adoptive family, and you’re likely to receive questions and/or inquisitive looks … from co-workers, neighbors, acquaintances who know nothing of your adoption plan. I decided I was willing to live with the looks and answer the questions, if and when the circumstances warranted it.

Going through the process of weighing the option of abortion gave me a perspective many people cannot share. Most especially, men. No man will ever know what it’s like to get pregnant unexpectedly and need to make a decision about what to do next. As a pro-life teen, I spent my share of Tuesday afternoons picketing local abortion clinics. I still remember hearing a guy holler out his car window as he passed us, “Abortion saved my life.” I didn’t get it at the time, but a friend explained it to me, and of course I understand now. I believe every birthfather should have input into the decision, provided the couple’s relationship is not so damaged as to prevent that. And I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I were a man who wanted to keep the baby when he knew his partner was leaning toward abortion. But until biology takes a dramatic turn, the woman carries the fetus within her body, so ultimately it’s her decision to make.

While I’ve broadened my perspective about abortion, one thing has remained mostly unchanged for me. Until they can get pregnant and have to face this most crucial life decision, men’s comments on the topic are generally superfluous. It was with this attitude that I watched a commentary piece by Tim Pool, a 30-something YouTuber my husband and I generally happen to like quite a bit. On his channel, TimCast, Pool WEB_INRIKESfrequently describes his politics as center-left, and he makes more sense than almost anyone I’ve heard in the last few years on almost every topic. A couple days ago during a livestream, he got to talking about the subject of capital punishment, which led to a comment about abortion, given the annual March for Life had recently taken place at the U.S. Capitol. “Oh, no. Here we go again,” I mumbled, rolling my eyes and expecting an inane comment. Yes – from a guy whose politics and commentary I tend mostly to agree with. I guess I’ve become that jaded.

But what came next stopped me in my tracks. Tim Pool said he thought abortion was a difficult choice, that most women don’t make it lightly. He also added that having sex is a responsibility, and that abortion should not be used as birth control. “I just don’t think it’s fair to make someone else (the unborn child) pay for your recklessness.”

That was it, in a nutshell. The reason I couldn’t, wouldn’t, didn’t have the abortion when Tony wanted me to. I’d never heard it put quite that way before, but it summarized everything I felt and why I made the choice I made. Had I opted to have that abortion more than 24 years ago, our brilliant, beautiful son would not be here today. We would have deprived him of his existence simply because we were reckless. I am so grateful for the choice I made, knowing it was based largely on emotion. Yet sometimes when you’re making a potentially life-altering decision, you need to take a step back and view things through your Spock goggles. You have to strip away the emotion and let reason be your guide. I guess that’s why I support a woman’s right to abortion, but doubt I’d ever counsel someone to make that choice.

Laura Orsini
 is an author, speaker, and consultant who coaches other authors to make loand market exceptional books that change the world for the better. She is birthmother to Eric, who recently graduated from college and began his engineering career. 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 the first book from her brand new publishing company, Panoply Publishing.

Breaking the Adoption News

Breaking the Adoption News

Once upon a time, people had a sense of humor. Some of them told jokes – and most of the rest of them laughed. Some of the better joke tellers even made careers of it, a few of them landing their own TV shows and becoming household names. Not everyone laughed, though, because someone had to be the adult, the parent, the schoolmarm, the one with the common sense – and the stick up their ass. But most people laughed. A popular magazine even had a regular feature titled “LAUGHTER: The Best Medicine.”

Slowly, however, this idea of laughter became unpopular – to the point that making jokes became a sensitive issue. People began to feel that laughing was akin to rudeness or insensitivity. Political correctness swept the land, and comedians stopped performing at college campuses where students were the most prudish of all the citizenry.  The best comedians still told their jokes anyway – refusing to apologize or be cowed into shutting up for fear of offending. Some went out of their way to be even more offensive.

Sadly, this is not a made-up story. And it makes my lazy ass hesitant to post a joke about adoption, because we’ve all become so conditioned to overreact about everything these days. I was determined, though. So I looked high and low. If you find this cartoon – or my language regarding it – offensive, I can only offer you a quote from one of my all-time favorite comedians, Bill Burr: “Go fuck yourself.”


Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them 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.

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

If I Could Do That, I Can Do Anything

I was 27 when I got pregnant. Employed full-time, with health insurance and paid maternity leave. Probably in better straits than many women who find themselves Bravepregnant. Yet I wasn’t ready to be a mom, especially since there was a very good likelihood that my son’s birthfather wasn’t going to stick around. I say “very good likelihood” because he told me he wasn’t going to stick around. Never mind that after I signed the papers, he conveniently changed his story and said, “You know, I would have stayed.” Thanks for nothing, big guy.

Even as I never really waivered from the adoption plan that formed in my head pretty much as soon as I confirmed the pregnancy, I wondered daily how I’d get through it. When I was about six months pregnant, I attended one meeting of the Spence-Chapin birthmother support group and took comfort from being introduced to a handful of birthmothers who had placed their children for adoption, even though one of them, with whom I became good friends later, told me she hoped she’d never see me after I left that night. She knew what I would have to go through, and from her perspective, I would be better off not doing it.

Whenever I would wonder how I could ever go through with the adoption – bring this amazing little person into the world and then walk away from him – I thought of Peggy and Lynn and Cathy. They had done it and lived through it, so living through it was something people did. They didn’t die. The earth kept spinning, sunrises and sunsets right on schedule, every day. They went back to work. Two of them got married – not to the birthfathers – and had other children. Their lives moved forward.

It was clear, even from that single meeting I attended, that these women still had issues and challenges and strong emotions related to their adoptions – but they’d moved on, as best they could. Moving on was possible – they were proof of that.

It’s funny. I’ve lost count over the years of how many people have told me how lucky I was to have found such a great family for Eric. While I will happily agree they are a great family, I have always taken issue with this idea that I was lucky. I’ve detailed in many of my past posts how much effort I put into making sure I found the right family – so from where I sit, luck actually had very little to do with it.

The thing I’ve only heard one or two times was that I was brave. As defines it, bravery means the quality or state of having or showing mental or moral strength to face danger, fear, or difficulty. Danger? No. Fear and difficulty? Yep, in spades. And I faced them. So I guess maybe I was brave.

Just as I used my meeting with Lynn and Peggy and Cathy for encouragement to get through the adoption, later in life I used getting through the adoption to get me through other challenging times. If I could live through the adoption, I could live through losing my dad and my mom, and my sister’s illness and passing. I could live through moving and impossible clients and the challenges of marrying after 40. Thankfully, it hasn’t come up in a while, but when the going gets tough again, as it inevitably will, I will take comfort in knowing I’ve already done perhaps the most difficult thing I will ever have to do. Whatever comes next, I’ll be brave enough to get through it.

I’ve never been a Disney gal. My sister despised Disney, and my husband has pretty similar reactions to all things Magic Kingdom-y. So I haven’t seen many Disney films. But on a friend’s recommendation, I did see Brave, and I really liked it. I loved that this imperfect little girl with unruly red hair was the protagonist. I loved that she stood up to the boys and did things her way. I loved that she really was brave.

I promised last post that this one would be about bravery. So now I am complete with my trio of posts drawn from three randomly selected words: Bravery, Caves, and Song. If you think you might like to participate in the 52-Week Ultimate Writing Challenge, drop me a line and I’ll let you know when we’re planning to begin and how to register.

In the meantime, practice up by sharing the bravest thing you’ve done so far this year in the Comments section below.

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them 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.

Permission to Change Course Occasionally

Permission to Change Course Occasionally

Blogging can be a lonely business. You write for yourself –  but also for others, or why else publish your writing on a blog? And you hope people read what you write. Sometimes they do. When I was posting daily on Eric’s Other Mother, readership was pretty steady. As soon as I moved to posting every other day, readership dropped off dramatically. I’m not holding a pity party – simply pointing out that I was rather surprised by the steep decline that followed what I thought would be a simple shift in frequency.

Blog views

However, continuing to post every day was not really feasible. For one thing, there’s the time commitment. Some posts flow easily and are complete in mere minutes. Others take quite a bit of time to conceive, write, rewrite, edit, and tweak. Then there are the photos to find, and sometimes rework.

There’s also having material to write about. I do have an idea bank, to which I was adding with some frequency while I was blogging daily. The only thing is that if I want to write a quality piece, I’ve got to be “in the mood” to write, and lately, very few of the ideas in my idea bank have sparked the requisite creativity to come to life on the page.

These ideas include:

  • Adoptions in my family and Tony’s (my son’s birthfather)
  • Spending a day in Hoboken getting to know Kathy and Bruce
  • “No one wants to hear a story about birthmothers” – saving this for Birthmothers’ Day in May
  • Asking my caseworker if every couple who applies is cleared to adopt
  • The utter dearth of books and literature by and for birthmoms
  • Birthfathers – there are several topics under this umbrella
  • Search and reunion (in general terms)

And many others. I will tackle most – if not all – of them in future posts. That’s the beauty of this blog: although I truly appreciate the readers, I’m beholden to no one in terms of what I write or the order in which I write it. I suppose, if there’s anyone’s approval I’d want, it would be Eric’s. But even as I write knowing he might be reading these posts, he might one day read these posts, or he might one day read the book that comes of these posts – and awareness of him is ever present – it does not dictate what I write.

I have received some really nice feedback from a couple of readers.

Blythe wrote, in response to my post, “The Unique Pain of Being Adopted”:

Thank you for writing this. My husband and I are working with an agency and currently involved in the adoption process (as the adoptive parents). My husband is adopted and it was a closed adoption. After years and years of searching for his biological mother, we finally found her…and he was rejected. Not only by her, but by her entire family. It was devastating for my husband. We have definitely made a point for our adoption to be absolutely open. It is so important and everyone’s right to know where they came from and who they are. I have also been trying to not make this process about us (two people who cannot have biological children because of infertility) and about the child who has no say as well as the birth mother that has made the decision she can. So many emotions… I hope that I can remain selfless in the process.

And more recently, Celeste wrote:

Thank you for sharing your story! I’ve been jumping around reading various posts of yours and now I’m starting from the beginning to read them straight through. 😊 I really appreciate how your blog has been expanding my understanding of what adoption is like for birth parents and adoptees. My husband and I are preparing to become foster parents. Adoption is not our goal, but we know it may very well end up happening. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I look forward to continuing to learn.

Even if Eric never reads any of this, it’s worthwhile to have written for my own peace and processing, as well as knowing that my posts have helped at least a couple other people. Far more people are reading than are commenting, so who knows what other butterfly effects could be occurring that I’ll never know about?

That being said, today I decided to give myself permission to occasionally expand the topics I write about to life in general. I am a birthmother in an open adoption. My kid is brilliant and beautiful, and I have a very nice relationship with him and his family. As adoptions go, we could not be more blessed. That truth runs throughout my life, day in and day out, whether or not I find myself specifically focused on adoption on any given day. So the majority of my posts will continue to be, essentially as advertised, in some way related to adoption. Nevertheless, when I veer off onto the occasional other topic, I’ve realized that I’m still staying true to my own tagline, one birthmother’s perspective. My life, my perspective, wouldn’t you say?

Today, I find myself focused on trying to locate my birth certificate. I had it in my hands just days ago, when I was cleaning and organizing my office in advance of our housewarming party. My husband’s birth certificate arrived in the mail yesterday, so I went to retrieve mine (we’re getting ready to apply for passports) – and I can’t find it anywhere. I know it’s here – probably in a box that got re-stashed in the garage. Or maybe it’s in one of the folders housing the family trees from both my mom’s side and my dad’s side of the family. (I stumbled onto those while unpacking – future blog post, for sure!) My office has never been this organized – so it’s frustrating to be unable to put my hands on this important document.

Deep breath. It’s here somewhere. And now that I’m only blogging every other day, I have extra time to look for it!

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them 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.

Responding to the Question, “Do You Have Children?”

Responding to the Question, “Do You Have Children?”

I made a pledge to my son, before he was born, that I would never deny his existence. If people asked me – as is so often our way when we make new acquaintances – “Do you have children?”, I would never duck the question and always answer in the affirmative. That hasn’t proven to be 100 percent possible – occasionally, it has just been necessary/easier to say “No” and keep moving. But whenever possible, I have kept my pledge.

In the early years, when the pestering follow-up questions would come, I might simply say, “He doesn’t live with me,” not caring what conclusions the other person might draw. Depending on the time constraints and my relationship to the individuals, I’ve offered a number of people specific details about the adoption on initial meeting. But if I felt a person were asking with no concern whatsoever about the answer – or if I felt that telling them was going to take me down a rabbit hole that would be difficult to exit – I would curtail my answer.

Over the years, Kathy would send me snapshots and Eric’s annual school pictures. For the duration of my Investment Banking stint at Lehman Brothers, I kept a framed photo of him on my desk, just like other proud moms. One of my friends, Wayne from the mailroom, would occasionally ask how my son was doing, and I would give him the latest update if I had one. Interestingly, a birthmother friend of mine told me that by doing that – embracing my son so publicly – I was putting the people I worked with in an awkward position. Project much, Alissa?

My position has always been that if my honest answers and public acknowledgment of my son made anyone else uncomfortable, that was their problem – not mine. I’ve often suspected that Alissa might have had some shame or guilt or other unresolved negative emotions about her own adoption that made her feel squirmish because I was comfortable talking about my own situation. It wasn’t a competition, but neither was I willing to pretend to be uncomfortable to make her feel better.

I had long heard that people’s responses to birthmothers was often, “How could you do such a thing?” I think Alissa was worried this would be their response if she told them about her birthmom status, so she chose to keep quiet. The thing is, I believe that we get back whatever we put out into the world. If we expect people to accept us, they will; if we expect them to judge us, they’ll do that instead. I was happy with the family I chose for my son – and though I naturally had some grief issues, I never felt guilty about my decision. As I told the other mothers in the birthmother support group, if I’d felt guilty about it, I never would have chosen to place. So it was fairly easy for me to talk about my son and the adoption with almost anyone who asked.

Over all my years as a birthmother, only two people have questioned my decision. One was the petty woman who was my boss’s boss at Lehman Brothers. She was a terrible manager who treated her staff like Joan Crawford did her daughters in Mommie Dearest, sowing division by pitting them against one another. I believe I may have been the only one of the 14 females under her direction whom she never made cry, perhaps because I never gave her the ammunition or power to do so. I was always cordial, but never friendly, having learned early that this woman would sock away bits of information like a mad squirrel, bringing them out later to use against you if/when it suited her. So it was no real surprise to me when she asked, at one point, why I hadn’t just gotten an abortion.

The other person was a man named Tim, with whom I was madly in love in my mid-30s. We had an emotional affair, but never dated. He knew the whole story of the adoption, and would celebrate my son’s birthday with me every year. I don’t really remember the context of the conversation, but once when Eric was about 8, Tim said to me, “I don’t know how you did it. I just don’t think I could have gone through with it,” – it being the adoption.

“It feels like you’re judging me,” I said in response.

“I’m not – I’m just saying…” Things got quiet then, and he apologized.

But that was it. In 23+ years, virtually no one has had what I have perceived as a negative or judgmental response to the news that I placed my son for adoption at birth.

It used to be that I didn’t know a person five minutes before I revealed that I was birthmother in an open adoption. It was just important to me that they know up front, so that if it ever came up in conversation later, they wouldn’t look at me and say, “You have a son?” I realized at a business meeting recently that this is no longer the case. It’s a monthly meeting where we share our accomplishments since the last meeting, and I mentioned starting this blog. As I began speaking, I realized that most of the people in the room probably did not know about Eric, so I had to explain. I’m not sure what has changed – after 23 years, the novelty is gone? Familiarity has set in? My life is in a different place now?

Regardless, I still typically answer yes to “the question” and brag about the kiddo when given the opportunity.

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them 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.

Talking and Talking and Talking

Talking and Talking and Talking

Almost immediately upon confirming my pregnancy, I knew I wasn’t going to parent my son – that I would place him for adoption. Which sounds good, in theory, but how the hell does one go about actually finding parents for a baby, as yet unborn?

I confided in my manager at Lehman Brothers, and she told me that a woman in an adjacent department had recently adopted her baby from a New York City agency. She offered to get me the details. The next day, she had a name and a phone number for me. I should call Judy Greene, the birthparent coordinator at the Spence-Chapin agency, located on New York City’s Upper East Side.

I worked up my nerve to call Judy, and she was very kind. She asked me lots of questions, seemed gracious and concerned without being overly solicitous. The day after that, I received a phone call from the woman who would become my social worker, Mary Weidenborner. I was stunned when Mary repeated back to me, virtually word for word, the things I had told Judy I thought I was looking for in prospective adoptive parents. To this day, I don’t know if Judy took shorthand, recorded our call, or has a photographic memory.

Judy knew her stuff, because Mary was the perfect fit for Tony and me as a birthparent counselor. Thing is, I’m not sure how she divined that, because I hadn’t revealed all that many details about us. Mary was the mother of boys, a baseball fan, and a card player. We were both baseball fans, and Tony was, at least back then, a Black Jack player extraordinaire. Tournament-winning good. Now to say he was reticent to be involved in the adoption is putting it mildly. Mary knew that, and did what she could to engage him. Nevertheless, on more than one occasion, he referred to Spence-Chapin as “the baby sellers.” This from the man who wanted me to have an abortion. But, to his credit, he went with me to the first six or seven meetings with Mary.

They told me that the average prospective birthmother sees her social worker four or five times. I saw Mary 21 times before Eric was born and 12 times after. I don’t recall very much of what we talked about during all of those sessions. I just know that talking –  and talking and talking and talking – helped me work through all the feelings, some of which were extremely difficult to put into words. Mary understood, though, because like Judy, she was very good at her job.

Growing up a reader and having earned a creative writing degree, I have always turned to books as a staple of my education on any topic – even in the internet/information age. On learning I was pregnant, I remember looking for a book about adoption that was geared at birthmothers. There was virtually nothing. Perhaps one memoir – a birthmother sharing her harrowing ordeal. And The Primal Wound – a super comforting book about how traumatic adoption is on the baby removed from his/her birthmother at birth. Other than that, the Barnes & Noble shelves were littered with books offering info on the inside track to adopting a baby – cheat sheets, if you will, all but promising gullible parents that THIS book would teach them the secrets that would guarantee an easy and flawless adoption. Liars all of them – as no such thing exists. Adoption is a human institution, and humans come ready made with flaws. Glitches happen – best thing is to set a goal to have a few as possible.

Since I had no books to turn to, I turned to the birthmothers I met at Spence-Chapin. I was invited to a birthmom support group meeting where I met Peggy, Lynn, Karen, Cathy, Alissa, and Cheryl. The first four had placed between 12 and 25 years ago. Alissa’s adoption was fairly new – her son was just 6 at the time I met her. Cheryl’s son was just 18 months older than Eric, so we seemed to share more similarities in our experience than any of the others. Meeting them all gave me hope – they’d all lived through their adoptions. While there was pain, they hadn’t died and had managed to come out on the other side. Peggy still stands clear in my memory. At the time I met her, her first daughter was in her 20s. She had been tiptoeing around a search for years, but as she’d subsequently had two other daughters with the man she’d married (not her first daughter’s birthfather) and none of them knew about her first pregnancy and the placement, she was hesitant to commit to a search. We all wondered how she had faked never having been pregnant before.

It was only after I’d placed my son that I learned about Patricia Roles’ book, Saying Goodbye to a Baby. I read it and wept because I could have used so much of that information while I was pregnant – although it was still helpful afterward. That was my biggest suggestion as part of Spence-Chapin’s Birthmother Advisory Board: give a copy of that book to every prospective birthmother who walks through the door. At the time I left the Tri-State Area, they were doing just that.

One thing Roles’ book touched on – which I later realized later that Mary had helped me navigate – was a thing called anticipatory grief. That’s what all of the talking was about. Knowing some hugely difficult feelings were headed toward me – an unavoidable emotional tsunami – if I intended to go through with the adoption, I could talk through a lot of them before they hit, so that when they did actually pummel me, they were somewhat softened because I had prepared for them in advance.

Once I placed my son with Kathy and Bruce, I was no longer a prospective birthmother, so I was able to join the support group. Peggy told me privately that she had hoped, that night she met me, that she’d never see me again. That was sweet – and also a wish though the lens of a birthmother who still had unresolved guilt and grief issues. At meeting after meeting, I would frustrate the other women because, while I could empathize with their guilt, I could not relate to it first-hand. “How can you not feel guilty?” they would demand to know.

“I’m not sure – I just don’t. If I’d felt guilty, I never would have done it.” I didn’t mean to be flip with my answer, but that was the honest truth. I wish I could have done the adoption without hurting Eric – but to this day, I’ve never quite felt guilty about it.

I think part of the absolution of guilt might have come from Father Bede Wilks, a Fr. Francis Bede Wilks, O.P. - St. Thomas More Newman Center, University of ArizonaDominican priest on staff at the UA Newman Center while I was in college there. For a brief time one semester, I made a practice of attending daily Mass. It was during one of those weekday services that Fr. Bede gave a sermon about the emotions of guilt and anger. “Guilt,” I very clearly remember him saying, “is from the devil. It is a useless emotion.” Now paraphrasing, he continued, “It ties you up in knots, paralyzes you, and makes you feel terrible. But it’s not helpful. Nothing productive ever comes from guilt. Anger, on the other hand, can be a very positive emotion, because anger can motivate you to change things.” I’ve since come to learn that anger, unchanneled, is also destructive – perhaps deadly.

I’m not sure Fr. Bede’s sermon was a magic wand, per se, but I know that I never viewed – or practiced – guilt the same way again. Without judging other women’s choices, I know that I did everything I needed to do to be OK with the adoption – and I’ve been fairly well adjusted about it from the beginning. Many birthmothers are not as fortunate.

Is There a Birthmother in Your Life?

Is There a Birthmother in Your Life?

When I was 12 years old, attending St. Agnes Catholic School in Phoenix, we had a remarkable assembly in the parish hall one afternoon. To my recollection, it was the only assembly of its kind we ever had. I have no idea who orchestrated it, or to what end. The meat of the presentation was an adoptive couple telling their story. What I took away from it was: Be a good girl. Don’t have sex, or you could get pregnant. But if you do get pregnant, choose adoption, not abortion. And definitely don’t even think about keeping and raising that baby.

I’m not sure why the memory of this assembly still aggravates me so much, but I get agitated as I recall it because it strikes me today – 38 years later, in the midst of an open adoption with a seemingly well-adjusted kid who is, himself, 10 years older than I was at the time of that presentation – as brainwashing and/or propaganda.

I was 27 years old when I got pregnant – and yet my very first instinct upon confirming my pregnancy was that I wasn’t going to keep the baby; I would place him for adoption. Who does that? What kind of mother even thinks that way? Why, when the birthfather asked me to, did I consider abortion for two days but never, not once, seriously consider parenting?

I also remember being 14 and thinking that I was never going to have children. So maybe it was just a thing with me – the biological clock skipped over me. My younger sister got married and pregnant at 22. Her first husband made Tony, my son’s birthfather, look like Ward Cleaver by comparison. David did eventually mature and mellow out a bit over the years, but he was fairly irascible and somewhat easily triggered until his death of heart failure nearly five years ago. He wasn’t marriage material, though, and my sister soon found herself a single mom, so I had a front-row seat for all that entailed. Additionally, my mother had raised my older sister on her own, and I saw the results of that relationship in my dysfunctional sibling. Come to find out, my mother had health issues that did not make her the ideal candidate for single parenting – but these were the facts, as I knew them, when I found myself pregnant.

I have heard that birthmothers tend to go one of two ways, when it comes to having additional children. They either never have another kid, or they get married/find a partner very soon after the placement and have several children in quick succession. I most definitely fall into the first camp.

I was 42 when I met my husband – first marriages for both of us. We hit it off well from the start and were pretty sure we were going to get married by about four months in. His sister and I are the same age, and she had a 1-year-old daughter at the time. Because of my age, John and I were forced to have a difficult conversation very early in our relationship: did we, or did we not, want to have children? If we were going to, the timer was ticking loudly. Even had we decided that we did want kids, nothing was guaranteed, and health-wise, things could have gotten dicey. As it turns out, we decided – together –that we were fine with not being parents. I did occasionally ask John for a long time afterward if he was really OK with our decision. You see, because even though I did not parent Eric, he is still my son and we have a nice relationship. John won’t ever have that, and I needed to be sure he wasn’t feeling bad about it. He finally had to tell me to stop asking. Yes, he was fine with the decision. No, he did not have any regrets. Yes, really.

I don’t know who that couple was who first planted the adoption seed in my head. Their child would be about 40 now, I’m guessing. I hope whoever he or she is, that they grew up well adjusted. That adoption would have taken place about a dozen years before open adoptions began to become more commonplace. I hope that he or she found their birthparents – if they wanted to – and that their reunion was a positive one.

I’ve no idea who is reading or will read this blog. No idea what kind of influence I’ve had over anyone with regard to adoption through the years. If I could leave one lasting legacy with regard to this crazy, mixed up, incredibly peculiar way to build a family, it would be that birthmoms embrace their roles in their children’s lives and be fearless in claiming that role – to themselves and to all who know them. It’s time for birthmothers to come out of the closet. Everybody knows an adoptive parent and someone who was adopted. The thing is, there’s a third side to the triad. The stork didn’t bring that baby, a birthmother did. And you probably know a birthmother, too – you just may not realize that once upon a time she placed a baby with another family. That she is also someone’s other mother.

Details Have Not Been Changed to Protect the Innocent – or the Guilty

Details Have Not Been Changed to Protect the Innocent – or the Guilty

I’m pretty sure it was Newsday, a daily newspaper in New York that now primarily serves Nassau and Suffolk counties and the New York City borough of Queens. In the mid-90s, it was also published and distributed throughout Manhattan. She must have gotten my name from the adoption agency, the reporter who called and asked if she could interview me about my adoption. I think Eric might have been two by then.

I don’t have a copy of the story and remember only the faintest details – particularly that this reporter got two things wrong. One might have been a spelling mistake, but the other was an error in a factual detail. Although I’d come out of a journalism minor and nearly eight years at the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, this was early training that reporters twist words, whether out of deliberation, laziness, or carelessness.

The thing that stands out most to me, though, was my desire to protect Tony’s identity. He didn’t want his family to know about the adoption for any reason. And though it was unlikely that anyone he knew would read the 20 lines of my story in a full-page article about adoption in a New York City newspaper, I spoke only on condition of anonymity and revealed only our first initials.

I shared his trepidation about telling my parents for a while, but I got over it before he did. And it wasn’t too long after this that I decided that I didn’t owe him any protection or anonymity from the facts. At the time, Oprah was the biggest thing going, and I had dreams of her interviewing me (about what, I have no idea now). Damned if I was going to stay silent if Oprah asked for details about my son’s father!

I suppose this nonchalance about sharing personal details is still at play in my decision to reveal as much about Tony as I have in the posts on this blog. I know there are libel laws and that memoirists must take care about whom and how they characterize people in their true stories. While my aim is not to tempt fate here, I also know that Tony couldn’t – and probably wouldn’t – take issue with any details I’ve revealed about our past thus far. And what I’ve shared to this point is really as bad as it ever got. No further skeletons (from his side of the family) are likely to be uncovered.

Again, it’s not my goal to instigate or rabble-rouse. Just to share my side of the story. He certainly has his side, and if he wants to, he can start his own blog.

Laura Orsini is an author who works with other authors to help them 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.