As a mother and a therapist, Linda Franklin writes with passion and authority about the loss of her first child to adoption, the long-term impact of that tragic separation and her resultant grief. It takes courage and insight to share this life-defining experience with others in a style which is both personal and educational. Her book poignantly illustrates the psychological and emotional significance of appropriate grieving. Evelyn Burns Robinson, author of Adoption and Recovery: Solving the Mystery of Reunion (2006) and Adoption and Loss: The Hidden Grief (2003, 2018)
Linda Franklin has added her voice to a surging chorus: women speaking out against the social brutalities designed to facilitate the loss of their children to adoption. Franklin traces her own 20th century experience and the decades of suffering and recovery that followed. Franklin offers her story as a cautionary tale, clarifying the limits and damages that continue to characterize adoption today. Rickie Solinger, author of Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race before Roe v. Wade (1992, 2000) and Reproductive Justice: An Introduction (2017), among other books about reproductive politics.
I loved this book! Not only does it honestly depict so many aspects of the experience of being a birth/first mother, but it makes that experience available to all members of the adoption community in a manner than can be heard and understood. Linda Franklin is courageously truthful in the telling of her experience as a young woman who became pregnant, who was coerced by society into giving up her baby, and who then set out to find him again. There are many obstacles to adoptees and their first/birth mothers finding one another that are so arbitrary and unnecessary, but which instill fear and paralysis in many of those wishing to do so. I hope that Linda’s example of courage and tenacity will instill hope in all those who have been separated and wish to be reunited. This book if full of courage, dedication, love, and inspiration. READ IT! – Nancy Verrier, LMFT, mother, lecturer, and author of The Primal Wound and Coming Home to Self
A river of grief runs through Linda Franklin’s writing as she deftly chronicles the era in which we both lost children to adoption. Yet her story is also one of hope and healing as she navigates through reunion and the difficulties that ensue. A story that first mothers will recognize and adoptees appreciate. –Lorraine Dusky, author of hole in my heart, a memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption
I picked up Franklin’s book to begin reading, and did not want to put it down! She has an amazing way of drawing the reader into HER feelings, and into HER world. This story is one that should be read, as a requirement, for potential adoptive parents, and all who are involved in the process. –Mariann Rose Smith
Janet Mason Ellerby review of I’ll Always Carry You: A Mother’s Story of Adoption Loss, Grief, and Healing by Linda L. Franklin
Between the end of WWII and 1972, white illegitimate babies were on high demand. Childless couples, desperate to achieve the American family dream (two parents, 2.5 children, and a dog), turned to religious institutions and adoption agencies for assistance. The result: the Baby Scoop Era when between four and six million young, unwed mothers surrendered their babies to a ready market of more economically established couples. However, furnishing healthy babies was not enough. Psychological “experts” argued there was only one way to “rehabilitate” damaged young birthmothers and their illegitimate babies: separate them, immediately and forever. In her memoir, I’ll Always Carry You: A Mother’s Story of Adoption Loss, Grief, and Healing, Linda L. Franklin takes us back to 1964 and the heart of the Baby Scoop Era when at nineteen, she is faced with an unplanned pregnancy.
The almost universal tactic of the era was concealment at all costs. Legal steps had to be taken to shroud adoptions in secrecy in order to “protect” surrendered children and their adopting families from putative pariahs, the relinquishing mothers. Original birth certificates were changed, medical histories were excised, and errant birthmothers were expected to disappear into anonymity. With grace, candor, and well-deserved opprobrium, Franklin shows us just how wrong such a psychological, social, and medical practice can be.
Orphaned by her mother’s tragic death and her father’s descent into schizophrenia, Franklin has no recourse but to agree to the only assistance her college boyfriend offers her: to drop her off at the Edna Gladney Home for Unwed Mothers. Though some might argue adoption is a choice, Franklin really has no alternative. With no family or social safety net, unprepared and uninformed, she naively complies when experts in the field, Gladney social workers, insist that not only is adoption best for her baby but the secrecy is compulsory.
Franklin gives a painstaking account of how she comes to be one of the millions of unapprised and ultimately exploited girls of this infamous era. She captures with vivid, excruciating detail the day she signs the adoption papers, under the guidance of a creepy attending psychologist, Dr. Malone, who weeks later tries to seduce her. Franklin tells this part of her story with such honesty that we cannot doubt her adolescent innocence and vulnerability.
Even more importantly, Franklin helps us understand adoption’s aftermath: the undercurrent of regret, sorrow and guilt that birthmothers carry for submitting to closed records and permanent separation. In the early years following her son’s adoption, although Franklin finds herself confounded by her loss and plagued by feelings of worthlessness, she is not destroyed. When faced with divorce and single parenthood, she resolutely pushes forward, responsibly raising two boys, earning her college and master’s degrees, becoming a licensed therapist, and ultimately settling into a loving and sustaining partnership. Nonetheless, the longing for her surrendered son never abates. The pain of their separation runs through every part of her productive life, and we feel its enduring pull.
When the prolonged search for her son eventually culminates in contact, Franklin reveals with the grace and specificity of a true expert in the field of adoption, the often illogical dimensions of reunion. We witness not only the joys of reuniting but also the immense patience required of birthmothers. Reunion does not guarantee relationship. Rather, Franklin allows us to feel the strain of reunion’s uncertainty, pushing us to experience the dread that can haunt birthmothers and fracture reunions, the possibility of another unbearable separation. In splendidly accessible prose, Franklin steers us through the clinical dangers of reunion: emotional regression, repressed grief that can turn into chronic depression, anger, self-reproach, and the unappeasable and “overpowering need to retrieve” the long-lost baby.
Franklin exposes the emotional toll of a particular American Era as well as its ongoing legacy. Rather than simplistically representing adoption as a social and moral good, she demonstrates the ongoing error of a heartless policy and its detrimental effects not just on birthmothers but on families: children, siblings, parents, and spouses. We are delighted when Franklin’s reunion with her first son ultimately settles into security and love, but we know that even so, a happy ending is never a given. Harm was done. Franklin’s memoir bears that truth with hard-earned professional knowledge and courageous personal transparency. Janet Mason Ellerby, Author of Following the Tambourine Man: A Birthmother’s Memoir (2007) and Intimate Reading: The Contemporary Women’s Memoir (2001)
Beta Reader Comments:
First, the writing is terrific for so many reasons. The imagery is powerful as are the metaphors such as the trash pickup by the flight attendant representing the haunting image of the tossing away of your son! The verbs are active and powerful. Many memoirs (and less than stellar novels I have read) I feel like are peppered with vacuous, obvious rhetorical questions that I find boring, gratuitous and annoying. In contrast, here they are deep, meaningful, and specific to the characters that may not be so obvious to the reader. Janie Evans
I became too engrossed in the book to do anything but read. I didn’t look at craft or grammar. I think this is an amazing, amazing book. I felt as though I was in the narrators experience…living in Texas, dealing with daddy, hearing that Judy was the beautiful one. I could see your mother in her fine clothing, matching shoes and gloves. I could smell the land. Your book brought me so deeply into the physical and emotional feelings before the birth, during, and for all the years after. I learned about an experience I’ve never had personally, but feel I have a knowing from your book. Joanne Jones
Wow! What a powerful story! You are a beautiful writer, and your story contains such wisdom. I learned so much about the whole adoption/birth mother/issue. Barbara Tellman
Your memoir is quite suspenseful and that was a bonus for me! … High marks for suspense and pacing!… You brought me right inside your mind/body…. A marvelous ability to write dialogue. Just marvelous. Julia Mullen
You are an absolutely wonderful writer. My gosh…such an emotional, heart wrenching story. It caught my attention from page one. It was very easy to follow your thought process… Linda Ankeney