Following is OYFF's 4th feature of the Birth/First Mother Point of View Series.  Brooke Bergman attended a literature reading on the theme of "mothers".

Summary of 'Mother Lode: Women on Mothers, Having One, Being One'

On May 18, The Octopus Literary Salon in Oakland, CA hosted a literature reading on the subject of mothers. Eight women authors/writers read literature varying from poetry to fiction short stories to personal anecdotes of motherhood or of their mothers: Nancy Au, Melissa Cistaro, Jacqueline Doyle, Kara Levy, Micah Perks, Peg Alford Pursell, Monica Wesolowska, and Olga Zilberbourg.

First/Birth Mother’s POV:

I attended this event cautiously as a birth mother often has to do around the theme “mother,” especially near Mother’s Day. I had relatively few expectations given that the holiday is typically rampant with commercialization and celebration of conventional motherhood, which is super triggering and difficult as a first mother and daughter who’s estranged from my mother. However, I was intrigued by this event, coupling art with a topic that can be emotionally loaded for many people. My curiosity was around if there were any depictions of adoption and motherhood, and if so, how was the birth mother is represented if mentioned at all.

The first writer was Nancy Au reading her nonfiction piece “When Bones Grow,” a beautiful and painful reflection of the time spent with her mother leading up to her death. Despite the painful piece, I felt more at ease realizing that the emotional trenches that people sometimes find themselves in this time of year wasn’t off the table.

The positivity that started the evening was stifled when author Jaqueline Doyle began reading her fiction short story “Louanne’s Baby.” The first line was a man approaching Louanne as she was leaving Walmart and asking her if she’d like to buy a baby while gesturing to a teenage mother holding her tiny infant wrapped in a soiled blanket standing only a few feet away. The young mother was described as fifteen years old, and Louanne explores thoughts about her including if this was her choice or if she is on drugs or actually loves her baby. The story shifts between Louanne’s longing for children but inability to have them by herself as a single, 42 year old woman. Momentarily after the man asks Louanne if she wants to buy the baby, police approach and Louanne illustrates the silent tears falling from the mother’s eyes as her child is peeled from her arms and removed from her care. The remainder of this short story is centered on Louanne’s feelings about the Walmart occurrence.

This was the only adoption storyline, and it was told from the perspective of a woman longing for a baby, longing to be a mother. As a birth mother, this story was incredibly difficult to hear. While the main character also had no knowledge of the young mother’s situation, the way questions were framed about her were so reminiscent of the single story that the media often tells about first mothers—poverty stricken, drug addicted women whose love for their children is questioned. Empathy is shown to the woman who has her life together but an empty nest and pity and poor assumptions assigned to the woman who is a mother but who doesn’t appear fit to be one. 

The evening continued much how it had started with another reading. My initial feeling of ease was never quite restored though, as the discomfort from witnessing such a poor vision of a birth mother being placed in the minds of the audience even in a fictional way was too disheartening to fully shake.

Adoption Story Depiction: F
Potential Triggers: A+

-Brooke Bergman
The POV series is a forum for the voices and opinions of birth/first mothers to react to birth mother representation in popular culture. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of OYFF.  If you are a birth/first mother interested in having your voice heard as a POV Reviewer, please email Jenny Sindel at jenny@onyourfeetca.org