Letting go

Snowscape

I came across this poem, “Letting Go”, by my sister Christine Ruth Wiebe. It’s a Christmas poem and I know it’s after the holidays now, but reading the poem triggered some memories I want to share, and I want to share the poem, too.  It’s just a week after I published my book, BIRTH MOTHER.  Now that so many people are reading my book, I am starting to getting used to the idea of other people knowing the intimate details of that earlier time in my life. I just wish so much that I would have had the courage to share the story earlier. With my sister Christine, for example, and my other sister, my brother and my mother. Why did I hide my thoughts and feelings from them about this part of my life?  It was not until my second child’s thirteenth birthday that I told him about his brother — lost to us, out there somewhere in the world. Why didn’t I talk with my friends — my first husband — anyone?   Why did I lock my story up inside for decades?

Keeping a secret from your dearest ones cripples intimacy, and consumes enormous amounts of personal energy.

Christine passed away in 2000 without ever hearing more than the bare outlines of my experience, and the rest of the family also knew very little.  I am very happy, though, that she and the son I gave up for adoption had the chance to get to know one another, because he found me in 1996, when he was 27 years old.

And I am thankful that when my son found me, my heart had been opened and prepared for the reunion. This was thanks to the imagination, vision and encouragement of a special naturopathic doctor and two psychotherapists, retreats at Kripalu Retreat Center and Shalom Retreat Center, intensive journaling, yoga, and my husband’s love.

So here’s Christine’s poem:

LETTING GO

This is how it should be:
Christmas vacation, and I am six;
Daddy and I are driving outside the city
to a great hill with untouched snow.
Sun warms the car.
I climb up the tracks Daddy makes
hearing the crunch each time the first time.
We stand at the top, just Daddy and I, breathing,
and the sparrows laugh.
“I’m afraid,” I say.
But then we’re sailing
and I’m safe on a narrow strip of wood
clinging to his broad back,
a solid thing in a swaying world,
and I’m laughing and wishing
we could fall like this forever
into the sun sparkles and whipping wind
and the white snowdrift
waiting to embrace us
over and over and over.

– Christine Wiebe

September 19, 1985

What is a “birth mother”?

In 1975, with "Snowden", planning my Mexico trip

When I announced my new book after Quaker worship Sunday morning, everyone present drew a blank at the meaning of the title, BIRTH MOTHER.  I used the term “birth mother” as that was the popular term in 1976, the year in which my book was set, in referring to the biological mother of a child who also has an adoptive mother. Six years earlier, when I signed the adoption papers in January of 1970,  the popular terms were “unwed mother” or “natural mother”.

I was instructed to write “final surrender” next to my signature on the adoption papers. Later, this term morphed into “placement”. Today it might be something else, I don’t know.

You can read more about the terminology and history of adoption in Wikipedia.

BIRTH MOTHER is available for the Kindle.

A print copy will be available in a few months, and I’ll post here and on Facebook to let you know.

Birth Mother

Birth Mother by Joanna Wiebe

My first book, BIRTH MOTHER, available for the Kindle, opens in the weeks preceding Christmas 1975.  I longed to celebrate the holiday with my family in Hillsboro, Kansas, but the relationships were tense.

Why, after having a baby out of wedlock, did I take new lovers like I was sampling chocolates?

What did my worldly lifestyle lead people to think about our Mennonite Brethren family?

And, when was I ever going to begin to have a personal relationship with Jesus?

Six years earlier, on Christmas eve 1969, my son Matthew William was born. Three days later I gave him to a social worker. Soon he was in his new home, in the process of being adopted by a loving Western Kansas family.  As I understood the law, adoption meant “final surrender” and I would never see him again.

Since then, the holidays always triggered bleak, black states of being. Now as the 1975 festive season approached, I attempted to solve my problem by launching a Christmas road trip to Mexico with my current boyfriend and my dog, Perfect Master Lord Shiva. However, my dog was soon run over by a truck, my van’s transmission broke down, my friend left me to go back to school, and I was out of money.

After a 7.3 earthquake, I disappeared into the social chaos of Guatemala City, playing a temporary role as La Maestra with a street gang, embracing a dark, dangerous, and all-absorbing way of life.

A journal of my journey toward wholeness, my book BIRTH MOTHER includes drawings and Mennonite and Guatemalan recipes. The book includes descriptions of the closed adoption process in Kansas in 1969, and my experiences at the Salvation Army Home for Unwed Mothers in Wichita, Kansas.

If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can read this Kindle version at no cost. Others can purchase the Kindle version for $2.99.  I am working to make a hardcopy version available on Amazon later this year.

If this book resonates with you, please be in touch and write a review on the Amazon page for my book!

The incredibly perfect cover illustration is by Ellen Greene, an artist born and raised in Lawrence, Kansas, and a friend from our homeschool association when our family lived in Chicago.