I’m a creative writer and most of my stories are nonfiction. In fact, they’re usually about my life, dealing with topics such as adoption and family dynamics. I sometimes wonder if my stories make me seem vain, like I know something important or have some better angle. But let me assure you. I don’t. I’m muddling around just like everyone else.
The thing is, I try to make sense of my life by writing parts of it down. That’s how I got into creative nonfiction. Five years ago, I unexpectedly met a four-week-old infant, and the woman who gave me her child – my son’s birth-mom – found out I had a Master’s in English. She thought that meant I was a writer. But at the time I was just a trained literary critic and writing composition instructor. Later, this woman looked me in the eyes and told me her believing I was a writer had been a determining factor in picking me to be her son’s mom. She liked telling stories and thought I did too. We hear what we want, I guess.
But she got me thinking. Maybe it was time for me to write my own stories, rather than just reading others. So not only did this woman make me a mom, she made me a writer too.
It took me several years to believe I could write, though. As I tried to find my voice, I read a lot of adoption stories – memoirs, self-helps, essays, blogs. You name it, if I could find it, I read it. There were adoption stories about fertility struggles, racial issues, foster care problems, international adoptions, identity formation, blended families, special needs, and on and on and on. It was all there, en masse.
Except for one set of stories. Something very important was missing.
I couldn’t find hardly anything from what it was like to be the people who made adoption plans for their children. Where were the birth-parents’ stories? You see, their stories matter a lot to me. And the more I struggled to find them, the more I wanted to read them.
Now my son and I remain in an open adoption, so we have some sense of what his birth-parents’ and biological family experience. We all talk and visit. We celebrate holidays together and ask each other for help. During this time, I’ve sensed many of their emotions. I’ve felt their relief the baby found a “good home.” Once in a while, I’ve felt their scrutiny when I make certain parenting judgments, like ignoring my son’s outbursts so they pass without fanfare. Mostly I’ve felt their joy we’re in their lives. These feelings comfort me, but they don’t paint the whole picture – because the biggest feeling I sense, when I see my son’s birth-parents, is sorrow.
But this is all just speculation. None of them have ever told me what they actually feel.
So in the fall of 2015 when I saw Amy Seek’s book, God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth-Mom, reviewed in The New York Times, I lit up. From the article, I knew Amy’s decision to make adoption plans were unlike my son’s birth-parents. Still I assumed the underlying feelings must be similar. I bought the book that day. I read the whole thing that night. Using descriptive language and beautiful metaphors, Amy helped me understand the grief and loss as well as acceptance and even moments of joy a birth-mother may experience during and after making adoption plans for her child. I knew I’d learn something from God and Jetfire, but I hadn’t anticipated how much.
Since finishing that book, I’ve continued to write my stories. I’ve found my voice and know my angle, but I’ve shied away from telling my son’s birth-parents’ stories. Those accounts must come from them, not me. I may have their child, but they alone have their voice. And their voices need to be heard, in their own words.cr
I spent two full years thinking about this, wondering if there might be a way I could help get birth-parents’ stories down on paper. I thought, perhaps, if I could create a safe place for those in Alaska to tell their stories, maybe they would. So I decided to host a one-day writing workshop in Anchorage. I approached some friends and several organizations, like 49 Writers, asking them if we could work together to make this possible. That’s how Passage Writes: Alaska Birth-Moms’ Stories came to be.
For nine months, we’ve dedicated ourselves to this project in order to explore the process of making adoption plans for children and what the impacts of those plans are on the adoptive community. It’s gone from a one-day writing workshop, focused exclusively on birth-parents, to a three-day series of events, encompassing all of the adoptive community. In fact, the Passage Writes’ events will all occurring this weekend, May 11-13, centered around Mother’s Day.
While the crux of the project is still the writing workshop, featuring several of Alaska’s own writers and storytellers, we’ve been fortunate to confirm Amy Seek’s participation, the birth-mother and author of New York Times bestselling God and Jetfire – the book I mentioned earlier. She will be joining us to give a public talk at the Z.J. Loussac Public Library on Friday, May 11, to participate in a writing workshop session on Saturday, May 12 also at the Loussac, and to read from her book on Sunday, May 13 at The Writer’s Block.
I’m prepared to look into Amy’s eyes when she arrives in Anchorage, which I know sounds strangely intimate, but anyone who has shared a child with another person knows what I mean. We search each other. It won’t be the first time I’ve done so. I’ve already told you I’ve looked into my son’s birth-mom’s eyes many times. So, accordingly, it won’t kick-off the first time a birth-mom has transformed how I think about adoption, empowering me to rise to the occasion. But I know seeing Amy will be a powerful moment and the start of a good weekend. And, when I meet her, I wonder what I’ll learn that I didn’t get from a written page.
To learn more about Passage Writes: Alaska Birth-Moms’ Stories, like the Facebook page. You can also sign up to participate in the writing workshop at for members of the adoptive community at https://bit.ly/2I8AZxG.
Sarah Mouracade has an eclectic combination of academic pursuits, ranging from studying ancient languages to writing business plans, and astonishing experiences, like unexpectedly meeting a four-week-old baby in Anchorage, Alaska who moved in with her two days later and eventually became her son. Lots of times, the randomness of her life only feels relevant when she’s making literary art. Fortunately, she’s pursuing an MFA in creative writing at the University of Alaska Anchorage, so she has lots of opportunities to put her background to good use.