The Other Mother
by Carol Schaefer
Soho Press, 1991

     There are very few books on the market written for or about birth mothers. This one is a must for birth mothers, their spouses, adult children (including adoptees), and parents of birth mothers or birth fathers. It is the story of the author’s pregnancy, the birth and relinquishment of her child, her subsequent life, and, finally, her search and reunion with her son. She describes, in words familiar to most birth mothers, her panic at discovering she was pregnant. In 1965, in the South, this was real cause for panic! Her parents and her boyfriend’s parents said they would be supportive, but their “support” turned out to be sending her away to a home for unwed mothers, saying she was “on a trip for semester.” The young man was told he must finish college and forget all about this. Carol was also told she would “eventually forget.” Of course, no one forgets, ever.
     The author describes her experiences at this “home,” her feelings for her baby, the love she and her boyfriend still had for each other as well as for the baby, and the constant shaming messages she is given by the staff as well as her parents, and even the doctor. Although not allowed to tell their last names or home towns to each other, the girls form close, and sometimes resentful, relationships with each other. Each girl had required physical work to do, and they were encouraged to knit or crochet baby sweaters, but not for their own babies. When they left the confines of the building, in a group, they were given wedding bands to wear, as if a dozen young married, pregnant women would be eating or shopping all together!
     Christmas at this “home” was especially hard, as several of the residents were due then, and all were isolated from their families. The author’s own baby, due then, was frustratingly late. The plan was for her to go back to college second semester, as if nothing had happened, and tell no one, and then her life would be wonderful. Of course, although she spent years pretending she was okay, keeping her secret, it was never “as if nothing had happened.”
     Finally, after a marriage and two more sons, through the guidance of a therapist, she finds a support group, and begins her search. The story of her search and reunion is as exciting as any mystery novel, full of coincidences, near misses, and apparent dead ends, until she finds the son and his adoptive family.
     I found that this book brought up old feelings of sadness and grief, but that was a healing experience too. I had intended to take my time reading it, but I could not put it down until I had finished it. I asked my spouse to read it, and he stayed up half the night reading. I would recommend it to anyone involved in the adoption triad, including current spouses and siblings of the relinquished child. For birth mothers, I believe it will be a special treasure they will want to keep and re-read from time to time. It may even inspire some to write their own story.

— Barbara
August 1997

Excerpted from the October 1997 edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 1997 Operation Identity