The Girls Who Went Away

adoption and birth mothersI belong to a book club and we recently  The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler. The book is heartbreaking, well researched and eye opening. In other words, its a must read.Ann Fessler, before I go further and lose you all, talks in the book about the experience of moms who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s and became pregnant while unmarried, and were forced to ‘give up’ their kids to adoption agencies by societal pressure.

I always admired people who adopted kids, and there are many I know. Being a mom is tough enough, and some days I feel that the only thing that sustains me is the bond built through months of nurturing my children inside of me – without that, I dont know how I would react. But adoption has never had any personal significance for me.

So I wasnt expecting to be so profoundly disturbed and moved. What really got me was that this aspect of adoption is not something I have ever thought about. Most media presents adoptive parents as heroes, and they are, in some ways. And while adoption is often justifiably glorified, that glorification completely overshadows the pain the birth mother must feel in giving up a child.

Most of the moms profiled in the book are young, innocent in many ways, certainly not drug addicts or criminals. Being forced by society to first go through nine months of bonding with your baby – because, whether you like it or not, I dont believe you can bear a human being inside you without being attached – and then give up that love overnight was bound to, and did, influence their lives forever. And so they became the girls who went away. To maternity homes or charities. But also to places of sorrow, longing, guilt and depression that lived long after they returned to  their regular lives.

The book is written in a conversational, interview format, which is easy to read and remember. The voices are of these women. I would say its not to be missed.

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  1. Tana

    Thank you for sharing this book – I am sure it will probably be a moving read for me, and an important one, since I have often considered adoption.

  2. Indrani

    Dear Khushi
    Thanks for sharing such a wonderful book. I am going to look for it in the library.

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