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.

Why a Special Day for Birthmoms?

Why a Special Day for Birthmoms?

Since 1990, Birthmother’s Day has been the day set aside annually to commemorate the birthmother experience – honored on the Saturday before Mother’s Day. I’ve long thought it was such a fitting day, because it’s not tidy like Mother’s Day, which is always the second Sunday in May. Because the Saturday before Mother’s Day can be either the first or second Saturday of May, Birthmother’s Day moves, according to when Mother’s Day falls.

According to my research, Birthmother’s Day is controversial, as many birthmoms either don’t feel they deserve a day (all the more reason they should have one!) or feel that Mother’s Day should cover it for everyone. From personal experience, though, I know that many birthmoms don’t quite consider themselves mothers in the traditional sense – understandably, I think. I’m guessing things get a bit murky for those who have both relinquished a child and raised at least one of their own. I get that Mother is by no means a one-size-fits-all title. My husband and I celebrate Mother’s Day every year with his stepmom, who was much more of a mother to him than his biological mother ever was.

What feels like a VERY long time ago, but was actually only about 21 years ago, I was involved in creating a Birthmother’s Day commemoration at Spence-Chapin, the New York City adoption agency through which I placed Eric with his parents. Since the holiday didn’t pre-date my son by too many years, we weren’t on the cutting edge, in terms of creating a ceremony at our agency, but we were certainly early adopters. I don’t exactly remember who came up with the idea or how it was proposed, but I know it originated with Spence-Chapin’s Birthmother Advisory Board, of which I was a member.

Once we had the green light, we were tasked with planning the event. Five or six of us got together at an Eastern restaurant (the specific cuisine has slipped my mind) in mid-town Manhattan, and banged out a plan that included: the date and time, a rough outline of the program, who would be invited, where the event would take place, the kinds of food and beverages we would serve, and a budget. We each agreed to take on a task or two, and we were off. I remember Judy Green, Soence-Chapun’s birthparent department coordinator, being particularly shocked when we came back a week later with our plan all spelled out on paper. It seems she was used to those meetings where you get together to plan the next meeting wherein you discuss the date and time for the next meeting – and nothing ever gets done.

The event was a solemn occasion – we knew we had a mix of birthmoms, some of whom had had joyful reunions, some who’d had difficult ones, and some who had been unable or unwilling to try to locate their children. We crafted paper flowers that each birthmom “planted” in a container in honor of the children we’d birthed and relinquished to others to raise. A few people read. Some spoke. We made a printed program. Unfortunately, I no longer seem to have a copy of that.

The second year was easier, because we’d been through it before. Instead of flowers, we made leaves that we stuck to a large tree on a wall. If I’m not mistaken, that tree remained on that wall for quite a few years after we originally put it there. I moved back to Arizona before Spence’s third Birthmother’s Day, but the gals all made sure I knew they’d acknowledged my part in creating the original event – and they sent me a copy of that program (lost, along with the original one, it seems).

It was a few years before I realized that I missed my connection with other birthmothers, so I decided to try to create a Birthmother’s Day commemoration here in Phoenix. I reached out to every adoption agency and adoption social worker I could find – remember, this was pre-social media, so this meant going through the phone book and hoping someone would call me back. The only person who did call back was my now good friend, Beth Kozan, who was nearing the end of her long career as an adoption caseworker with Catholic Charities. She thought the event was a great idea and invited all of the birthmothers she knew who she thought might want to attend.

We held our event, which we called The Birthmother You Know – named for a poem I wrote – at a local coffeehouse, and it was packed. I asked a friend to act as emcee for the evening, and we had about a dozen women come and share their stories, through various mediums. Some read poems. Others stories they’d written. One shared the letters she and her daughter had exchanged via email, in advance of their reunion. It was much different from the events I’d helped launch at Spence-Chapin, but wonderful in its own way. One birthmom was there with her daughter and her daughter’s adoptive mom. That was powerful to observe, although I know that Kathy would have attended, had we still been back on the East Coast.

I tried to get the story into the newspaper, to no avail. I remember having recently met a birthmother who was working as a confidential intermediary, helping connect adult adopted children with their birthparents. She told me, woefully, “People want the gossip and the scandal. No one wants to hear a happy birthmother story.” She was one of the most depressed people I’d ever met at the time.

Imagine my surprise – and that lady’s – when the following year, a reporter from The East Valley Tribune called me up in late April. My news release, it seems, had made its way to the features department at this newspaper, and been stuck in a tickler file for stories that might work “someday.” This reporter was new to the paper, and came across my information while looking through her predecessor’s desk. She – and her editor – thought the idea of a Birthmother’s Day commemoration was newsworthy enough to warrant a full two-page spread in the features section on Mother’s Day 2006. This online version contains the words but fails to convey the amazing layout and full impact of the story.

We’re coming up on Birthmother’s Day 2018 – so this year, I proposed something new to Beth. We’re going to see how it goes to hold a virtual commemoration. Participants will all be online together via a Zoom conference call, and then we will broadcast that to the public via Facebook Live.
If you are – or know – a birthmother who might want to participate, please forward this post to her.

Here are our requests for participants:

  • Birthmothers of any age or form of adoption
  • Willing to participate in this event publicly, via Facebook Live
  • Willing to send us a headshot – does not need to be formal
  • Willing to send us any written text they want to share during the event ahead of time so we can display it while they’re reading/talking

Please have them contact me directly at phxazlaura @ gmail.com if they wish to join us, and I will forward the information they’ll need for the Zoom call. If you know people (other than birthmoms) who might just like to join us for the Facebook Live event, they can find details and RSVP here.

Here’s to birthmothers everywhere!

birthmom

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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.