Monday, August 2, 2010
Birthmark is the autobiography of Lorraine Dusky's life as a mother who gave her child up for adoption. It is the most honest tale of life without children I have ever read. To tell you the truth, I could not put it down and every extra moment that I had I opened it up and carefully read her thoughts, her fears, her struggles and her heart as it so beautifully unfolded on the pages of this book. Released in 1979, it was the first book of its kind that told the story of traveling life without the child that was placed in her womb. Living life with the uncertainty that many birth mothers live with.
Lorraine is a writer and has been for most of her life. She tells of how when she was young she was more inclined to hang in her room reading than playing outside with friends because books were her muse. A Midwestern girl full of dreams of being a big city newspaper journalist, she told her parents at an early age that she was going to go to college and make something of herself. She would not be content following the norm of those days which was maybe college after high school, but eventually a nice boy would take notice, they would settle down and have children ... white picket fence ... dry cleaning to pick up .... dinners to plan ... stains to fight in cotton shirts. Not Lorraine. She was determined to make something of herself, and it was not going to be a homemaker.
After college, she finds herself alone in a big city trying to make a name for herself writing for a paper that gave her a shot at reporting. Along the way, she befriends an intelligent, handsome colleague who eventually becomes her lover. Lorraine did an amazing job describing her relationship with Brian, I could feel the thrill and excitement as she unveiled the tale of her courtship with the intriguing man in her office. It was a forbidden relationship due to his marriage and other life beyond the newspaper walls, but her delicately crafted words makes you want them to be together no matter the consequences. But just as they begin to grow closer to their own beginning as a true couple, she finds out that she is pregnant. He is married. He has a family. He is having trouble leaving his wife. This is not a pregnancy that they celebrate.
Lorraine's description of the months that followed are heartbreaking, yet interesting to read. Her time is spent trying to fill up the days and nights that are plagued with questions and self doubt. Her feelings about Brian are changing even though she does not want them to. Her life is taking a dramatic turn that she was not expecting, you can feel her concerns and pain on each and every page. Life and opinions were different in that generation, which becomes apparent once she delivers her baby and begins the process of adoption. She does not see the baby, she does not hold the baby, she keeps to herself in the hospital bidding her time until she can go home. But it is here where the book begins to shine.
Open adoption was not an option in those days. There were no files to look through to find the right parents for her baby. There were no arrangements for counseling. There was not much more than "Have a nice life" after she gives birth. She simply signs the paperwork and the adoption is done. It is here where the case for curiosity kills the cat comes into play, for after the birth we see how Ms. Dusky is tortured by the internal questions that all mothers of loss have. Is she happy? What does she look like? Will she ever know how much I love her? Think about her? Want to know her? Will I ever get the chance to meet her? Is she smart? Does she like to read ... dance ... play music ... wear bow in her hair? It is in these final chapters that Dusky begins to shine as a pioneer in understanding the mind of the birth mother.
Dusky starts to explore the disadvantages of NOT knowing where her child is and sets out to write all about the scores of women who walk everyday with those same questions and the effect it can have on one's life. She begins to research where her daughter went and who she is. In that search, she interviews and talk to so many facets in adoption: birth mothers, adoptees, agencies, law makers ... anyone who has opinions on how adoption works. She becomes involved with ALMA (Adoptees Liberty Movement Association) and finds that birth mothers are not the only ones who thinks knowing where you are from is important. Dusky eventually testifies about her life in a hearing and why the laws should be changed to opening adoption records for all adoptees. Her activism leads to opening up the door for others to see how very damaging it can be to one's psyche when you do not know anything about your child. She has gone on to be a great voice for adoption and a leading crusader in the fight to open closed records for adoptees.
I, for one, thank Ms. Dusky for her honesty, her strength, her insightful and masterful writing, and her ability to bring to light what life is like for those mothers who live with their hearts walking without them. This is a wonderful book for everyone involved with adoption, but especially for any birth mother out there.
Birthmark by Lorraine Dusky
Printed by M. Evans and Company, Inc. New York 1979 available at Amazon.com ~ click here
Cover courtesy of Amazon.