How I Spent My Weekend


I read two important books this weekend. (I read a lot and I read fast, a trait that served me well during my mommy/scholar years). The first one was Birthmark by Lorraine Dusky.

Wow. I cried my eyes out towards the end where she goes home and talks to her mom about her daughter she relinquished for adoption. One thing that has followed me through the weekend: Lorraine is STILL fighting for adoptee rights and open birth records nearly forty years after she first testified.  Forty years, people. That’s how long the Israelite people wandered in the wilderness. Isn’t it about time we do right by adoptees and let them have their true inheritance: the knowledge of their beginnings and unfettered access to their original birth records?  While this book is out of print, it can still be found through your local used bookstore or through amazon.com. It is well worth the time spent reading it as it is still just as relevant today as it was in 1979 when it was written. Birthmark should be part of every adoption-reading library.

And then there was Ithaka.

The full title of the books is Ithaka: A Daughter’s Story of Being Found by Sarah Saffian. It was another profoundly insightful memoir by an adoptee about her natural parents finding her in 1993. Saffian tells of a deep and abiding relationship with her adoptive father, and her hesitancy to meet with her natural parents face to face. The writing was beautiful and evocative, and Saffian does a fine job of telling of her experience of being found.

As I read the book, it helped me understand a little more about what other adoptees might go through when faced with the potential of reunion with their natural familiy. When I picked my daughter’s family, I intentionally selected them because of her adoptive father. He was strong, but gentle. Honest, but humorous. A good man from what limited information I had about him. And from what others have told me about her relationship with him, she have always been the darling of his heart. I have imagined they have a close relationship, the kind of father-daughter relationship every girl deserves. The kind Saffian has with her adoptive father.  Towards the end of the book, she says something to the effect of “my father only knew my birth mother as the one who abandoned his precious daughter.”

I’ve wonder how my own relinquished daughter’s adoptive father feels about me. After all, what he knows about me, really, is that I walked out of Bishop Felix’s office at the Orem Institute of Religion in March 1993 and I never came back for my daughter. I can only imagine what he thinks of a woman like me, a woman who can do that to her own daughter.

My eyes were opened even more this weekend and I can feel the fog of life a bit more. Lorraine helped me understand I am not alone and I am (unfortunately) not the first one to walk this road and Sarah helped me understand what it is like to be found.

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11 thoughts on “How I Spent My Weekend

  1. I been wanting to read the first book you mentioned but my library doesn’t own it and I don’t buy books very often at all. I have thought about buying adoption related books but honestly I feel weird asking for help to find them in the book shop. The second book you mentioned, I have read and really liked it. when it comes to my daughter I felt more of a connection to her Dad than her Mom cause he hugged me when I was crying while my Mom and her soon to be Mom stood by and did nothing when we were at the court house. Well, I believed I have written enough for now. I hope someday you do get to connect with your daughter. Reunion has it bittersweet moments but it’s better than not knowing her.

    • I got mine from Amazon for like $4.01, including shipping. That’s about the cost it would have been at my local used bookstore!

      I am glad someone showed you some kindness that day at the courthouse.

    • Where I found a measure of comfort in Birthmark, Ithaka has left me unsettled, Suz. It is going to take me some time to digest it and really figure out why. Is it because of her reticence to meet her natural parents? Her inability to see the paradox of quickly and easily loving her adoptive mother and her step mother but not being able to make room for her natural mother for three years? Is it because of her anger over being found? Or is it because my fears about my own daughter’s reaction to being found make me uncomfortable? At any rate, I still think the single best adoptee memoir I have read is “Found” by Jennifer Lauck. Her honesty is infused with wisdom and love, which makes reading the difficult things she has to say more palatable.

      And thank you for the kindness about my other children. You know, the counselors all said we would have other children, they just didn’t warn us of how hard adoption would be on them.

      • I just read Found and really liked it. I believe the difference, for me, between Found and Ithaka was the maturity and awareness Lauck showed in relation to adoption. She seemed more aware, compassionate, of the damage it does to all. She was able to look and see beyond herself. Saffian did not seem to be that aware. Maybe this was by design in the writing of the book but as the reader, it felt differently to me. Clearly, I am aware that all books I read related to adoption are influenced by my own experience and state of my reunion. Even with that, I left Ithaka feeling icky and unsettled and in a bad place where Found left me hopeful for me, mothers, adult adoptees, etc.

      • I left Ithaka feeling icky and unsettled and in a bad place where Found left me hopeful for me, mothers, adult adoptees, etc.

        Yes! Just as you said, Lauck’s writing seems to possess a great deal of awareness and compassion for all of the people in the adoption constellation. Yes, compassion I think is the right word. compassion for herself, her natural mother, for every one. It is in part because of Found that I am finally willing to write my own story.

  2. My youngest (raised) daughter also has struggled similarly, though in the wake of a closed open adoption (and even, to degrees, before it was closed)..

    • What heart ache adoption has brought to all of our children. 😦 It is so rare to hear any of them speak up about their experience of having a sibling that is lost to them because of it. In fact, now that I think about it, I don’t know of a single blog or writer who is from that part of the “constellation.” They have got to be out there somewhere….

      • I found my sons sharing or speaking about it was directly related to my own. The more I shared with him, the more aware he was of it, the more he talked, made craft projects for his sister, etc. As my reunion circled the drain faster and faster I stopped talking about it (to protect him) and not suprisingly, so did he. I believe he took my silence as a need to silence himself. Not true of course, but presumed.

  3. Hey, thanks for the shout out about Birthmark. But yes, I did not imagine I would still be working for adoption reform these 40 years later….I know this seems a little sappy, but I am very happy that you read it, Melynda.

    And…I really had a hard time with Ithaka, So many times I wanted to throw the book against the wall. I found the author condescending towards her natural parents (and there wouldn’t be a book without her natural father’s letters), so pleased that she was not raised with folks who seem somewhat like hippies in Vermont, so unanalytical about her own abortion. I know that adoptees have to feel good about their adoption, but Saffian seemed, like A. M. Holmes, to rub it in her parents’ faces. It comes out the most when the adoptees were raised in a higher social strata; yet of course that is why so many women give up their babies. I can;t say that counts for me because the times (1966) were so different; I couldn’t even admit to my family that I was pregnant.

    As you now know.

    • I found the author condescending towards her natural parents (and there wouldn’t be a book without her natural father’s letters

      Yes, that is it. And perhaps that is why I like “Found” by Jennifer Lauck so much. She writes with such raw honesty but it is infused with awareness and compassion as well. If you haven’t had the chance to read it yet, you should. Good stuff.

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