The Importance of “Dear Birthmother”

Several weeks ago I said my next post would contain a review of Dear Birthmother.  Then I  had to confess that I couldn’t find the book, as I had loaned it out and like many books, it found a new home.  Next I reserved it — twice — at the library.  Nothing happened.  I finally asked for it at the library’s website and was told they didn’t have it; their copy(ies) found a new home, too, I’ll wager!

So today, I finally got a copy I’d ordered through  Their ‘new and used books’ feature is a good way to find niche books (and adoption books aren’t mainstream enough to be at every local or chain bookstore) at reasonable prices. 

Dear Birthmother contained the first written words I read about openness in adoption.  As such, it validated the baby steps we were taking at our agency in the early 1980s:  letting the pregnancy client read profiles of a few of our waiting families and having her choose the family for her baby.  Encouraging her to write a letter to the family within the first six weeks or so after the placement.  Cautiously sharing letters and photos of the baby with the birthfamily.  We were parallel in practice with the actions spoken of in this book, as were many other agencies in the mid 1980’s.  Published in 1982, the authors, Kathleen Silber and Phylis Speedlin, an adoption worker and an adoptive mother respectively, identified four myths that affected adoption in those days (and still do, today):

1.  The birthmother obviously doesn’t care about her child or she wouldn’t have given him away.

2.  Secrecy in every phase of the adoption process is necessary to protect all parties.

3.  Both the birthmother and the birthfather will forget about their unwanted child.

4.  If the adoptee really loved his adoptive parents, he would not have to search for his birthparents.

(Ouch!  The language of these myths feels harsh, and it is also — still — the language of the outside world!) 

The method used to expose these myths, and to explode them, is the presentation of letters from birthmothers and birthfathers to adoptive parents and to their children, and letters from adoptive parents back to the birthparents.  Tonight, 25 years since I first read them, I can’t get through that first chapter without a tear or two slipping out.   The love expressed by the birthparents is healthy, and it rings true.  The respect that is returned to the birthparents through the letters from the new adoptive parents is genuine.

The authors go on to discuss the preparation process for the family who adopts — dealing with the pain of infertility, loss, the feeling of being scrutinized during the home study, the opportunity for education.   This is followed by a chapter on preparing the birthmothers and birthfathers for their loss issues, while recognizing their right to be proud of the child they have birthed and the life they have chosen for him/her.  There evolves a new definition of adoption:  Adoption is the process of accepting the responsibiity of raising an individual who has two sets of parents.

Open adoption has evolved beyond this beginning, and it is still evolving.  The example of respect, love and caring for each other, rather than seeing these two sides of adoption as “opposing sides” is one that serves adoption well.  It is preparation for nurturing all of the adopted person.  I’ve also ordered “Children of Open Adoption” and will report on it when appropriate (see, I’m not boxing myself into a process here).

Just another note:  Yesterday I started reading The Huffington Post’s Complete Guide to Blogging.  Now, in addition to OJT, I’m learning from a manual!  Yay!

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.


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3 Responses to “The Importance of “Dear Birthmother””

  1. Says:

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  2. kitekampgirl Says:

    I really like this article. I would like to cross post this onto my Adoption and Its Triad. I would like to send traffic your direction.

  3. bethkoz Says:

    I welcome others to visit! Thank you for the comment.

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