Tuesday, August 11, 2009

'Goodnight you princes of Maine, you kings of New England.'

My dad was adopted. His birth mother was a young teenager when she gave birth to him. I think I remember hearing that the birth father was much older but, the details remain murky. She later went onto marry and had no other children. My father had three other adopted siblings, all were raised with happy memories childhoods of playing baseball on dairy farms, summers on Lake Michigan and finned, teal colored automobile- quintessential life in the 1950's. While I was in college my father decided to find his birth mother. He discovered that she was old stock American, her family having lived in America at least since the time of Lincoln. Although most of the rest of the details about her life were unremarkable, she did share with my dad that no one else in her whole life, except her and her mother, knew about her pregnancy. There is much to the story that I have forgotten, or didn't ask or wasn't told but my biological grandmother's life and decisions much more made sense after I read the book, "The Girls who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades before Roe v. Wade" by Ann Fessler.

Please read this book if you have not already. I think it is fair to place this book in the category of "books that have changed my life". Not only did it make my own family history seem less strange but, it literally gives voice to those who had no choice and, for me, reaffirms why it is so vital to appreciate and continue to fight for our reproductive freedoms. Additionally, it explains away the rationale for why women should give their babies up for adoption rather than having abortions. Our physiological process of childbirth has evolved to bond a mother to her baby and visa versa. Deciding on adoption is an completely different kind of choice than choosing to not have a baby.

A quote from the book:
"The girls who went away were told by family members, social-service agencies, and clergy that relinquishing their child for adoption was the only acceptable option. It would preserve their reputation and save both the mother and child from a lifetime of shame. Often it was clear to everyone, except the expectant mother, that adoption was the answer...They were simply told they must surrender their child, keep their secret, move on and forget."

While on the topic of adoption, I'd like to mention a wonderful New York City program, The Doula Project. It provides doulas to those who cannot afford douals, doulas for women having abortion procedures and doulas for births in which the baby will be adopted.

And lastly, the title quote is from John Irving's novel The Cider House Rules. A novel that deals much with choices of abortion and adoption pre Roe v. Wade.

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