Tag Archives: unwed mothers

Dystopia’s Child

photo by author

National Adoption Month

“Dystopia’s Child” was originally published in LUMINA vol. XVIII. Yesterday I republished it on Medium.com. Because…

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.

Not just happy stories

As a birthmother, I’m a proponent of lots of different types of adoption stories. Not just the happy ones we’re blasted with all during the month of November. Because, well… not all adoption stories are happy. Every adoption begins with loss. A child losing their mother. A mother losing her child.

You can find the story, Dystopia’s Child, here.

Links to other stories and nonfiction essays about adoption are here.

What to Say to a Birthmother

Birthmothers, the mothers in the shadows

Do you know a birthmother?

There are millions of us birthmothers. For every adoptee, there is one of us. We’re your sisters, your friends, your aunts, your cousins, your teammates, your co-workers, your wives and girlfriends, that person next to you on the plane who’s flying home to see her mom and tells you everything after her 4th rum and coke.

Do you know what to say on Mother’s Day?

Each of our stories is unique, and they’re all the same. What you say to the particular birthmother(s) that you know probably depends on the story. Think about what you know. Step into her shoes. Is she still keeping her secret from others with you being one of the few in her confidence? Is she happily reunited with her son or daughter? Has her child refused to meet her? Is she searching? Does she have other children? Maybe you invite her over for coffee or take her out for a drink. Maybe you tell her you feel enriched by knowing her story, or you give her a card or a take time for a conversation. Maybe you ask her what she thinks of Birthmother’s Day, which is today, by the way, in case you didn’t know.

I don’t exactly hate the idea of Birthmother’s Day, myself. But I don’t really love it either. The phrase Happy Birthmother’s Day pretty much gets stuck in my throat. I’d rather cough up a carving knife than say that, but the idea of commemoration is a good one. We’re here. So, I’m thinking of us and all of our stories.

“Birth Mother” is on audible.com

“Birth Mother” by Denise Emanuel Clemen

My memoir, “Birth Mother,” published last summer by Shebooks is now available on audible.com. I’ve listened to the sample, and while it’s kind of strange for me to hear another voice reading my words, I like the reader’s voice a lot. She sounds, well….kinda like me.

There are other fabulous books by women from Shebooks on Audible too. Check them out.

Donor Intent

Robertson vs. Princeton

Donor intent. What does that mean? Well, what if, some time ago, you made a decision to donate your fortune to a home for unwed mothers?  But  the world changed, and young women started keeping their babies. And then the home closed. 
There’s been a legal case in the news this week. Robertson vs. Princeton. It has to do with the  issue of donor intent–though not regarding a home for unwed mothers.
The Robertson family has been battling for control over the Robertson Foundation. It  was created to prepare students for careers in government service through Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs. The family claims Princeton has misused the donation. The problem is that times have changed. The government now outsources this type of work. So the Princeton program has turned into a business degree factory. Not, as the family intended, a training ground for diplomats.


Donors never know what the future will hold.
NPR, in their reporting on this case, cited the example of the 1950s donor and the homes for unwed mothers. When was the last time you heard of one of those places? Social change has rendered that particular donor’s wishes obsolete.

Me vs. myself

I thought I would end up in a home for unwed mothers. But I kept my pregnancy a secret until six weeks before my son was born. So I had to be hustled out of town to the most readily available place. That turned out to be a foster family who had a farm out in the countryside about 60 miles from my hometown. 
Speaking of homes for unwed mothers, I learned an interesting fact about the adoption agency that handled my son’s adoption. It actually began in 1896 as a “home for wayward girls” (so described by the current director of the agency.)  It seems that the mothers and children were housed there together. The “girls” were counseled and attended an industrial training school. The term industrial training school, by the way, was code for reform school. These girls had to be reformed or trained in the eyes of society. The babies were eventually placed for adoption. I would love to know if the mothers were allowed to be with their babies or if they were kept apart. In 1970, when my son was born, babies were whisked away in the delivery room and the mothers were not allowed to see them.
But. I saw my son anyway. That’s a story for another day. Or you can read about it here.