For the Love of First Mothers

May 8, 2014 by

Building Bridges for Change

A few weeks ago, I packed my bags and headed  cross country to San Francisco to attend the annual conference of the American Adoption Congress.   Yep — four days of adoption-related keynotes, workshops, films and art.  And to beat it all, I shared a room with someone I had only talked with briefly on the phone.  Crazy, right?  Well, actually, no it wasn’t.  It was worth every bit of time, effort and money I spent to get there and back.

Of course, I learned from the keynote speakers and from the workshops I attended.  had an opportunity to learn about efforts to open adoptee records in a growing number of states.  And the touching films shown in the evening made me cry.   I loved connecting with other writers.  The experience as a whole helped me as a person, as an activist, and as an adoptee.

Hands down, though, the most valuable  aspect of the conference wasn’t the formal conference activities.


It was the connections and the conversations.


The adoption community is full of terrific people!  I was in the midst of fellow adoptees, activists, first parents, adoptive parents and adoption professionals.   And each of us has a story — there are similar themes, but every story is unique.

The conference opened with a session to allow attendees to get to know each other.  I almost skipped out on this session.  In fact, the only reason I was there in time for that session was because I accidentally booked my flight a day earlier than I had planned.  And I almost skipped out in favor of some sightseeing in the City by the Bay.

But I didn’t.  And because I showed up at that session, I met two women who touched my heart with their stories.

Picture this:  the room was set up in wagon wheel circles.  The idea was to answer a couple of questions with the person sitting across from you, then after a few minutes, the outer wheel of the circle moved, and you repeated the conversations with someone new.  Within the first few minutes, I met two first mothers who, in just a few brief minutes told me enough of their stories to make me want to hear more.

I ended up having dinner with these two lovely ladies, and we talked several more times throughout the conference.  What I loved about these conversations is that, because they were willing to share their experience of being young, unmarried, and pregnant in the ’60s, I was able to put a little more of the puzzle together of what my own mother’s experience might have been like.

It’s comfortable to have conversations with others who share our experience.  We stretch and learn and grow when we open ourselves up and have deep conversations with someone who has had a different experience than ours.  I learned from them, and maybe they learned something from what I shared about my experience growing up adopted.

I had a great time getting to know these two ladies, and many others, while I was in San Francisco.    It seems fitting to share this experience with two first mothers in the days leading up to Mother’s Day.

My  experience reinforced to me that we learn by being in community and conversation with each other.   The AAC Conference is a great opportunity to meet others who have been touched by adoption.  But it’s not the only way — there are discussion groups, online communities and maybe  a neighbor or coworker who has also has an experience that will touch your heart.

Reach out.  Connnect.  Share.  And learn.

Not Fade Away Dawn Young

One more thing:  

During one conversation, one of my new first mother friends mentioned that she had written a book about her experience.  I ordered it as soon as I arrived home, and I finished it over the next week.   


I’m usually a fast reader.  But with Dawn’s book, “Not Fade Away,” I found that could only absorb so much in one sitting.  Our conversations at the AAC Conference didn’t prepare me for her story.  It is that intense and that real.  She pulled me right in to her experience as the girlfriend of Rolling Stone Brian Jones, the experience of getting pregnant in 1960s England, the heart-wrenching choice of adoption that was made for her and her son, and then putting her life back together.  You can read my review of Dawn’s book here.  

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