My oldest son at age 4. There are probably baby pictures somewhere but didn’t find them easily on my hard drive. The point here is that I have often referred to him as “my savior”. That is because trying to conceive him alerted me to a danger I didn’t know was lurking in my body – hepatitis C. Had I not gone down that road and been subjected to numerous lab tests, I would have continued drinking alcohol – sometimes to excess. The genotype I have is unlikely to progress and so I have chosen not to embark upon the treatment which is expensive and would disable me for months in attempting the cure. He is now 20 years old and I am healthier than ever, though my almost 67 year old body is showing me signs of wear and tear – especially my knees.
Today, I learned about Megan Culhane Galbraith’s new book The Guild of the Infant Saviour: An Adopted Child’s Memory Book, which will be published on May 21 and can be pre-ordered now at bookshop.org. An excerpt appears in Severance magazine. As I turn to reading the article myself, I will acknowledge that some people adopt infants to save their marriage and outcomes would indicate that is more often than not – unsuccessful. Others adopt infants thinking THEY are the saviors and that without them the child would fare badly in life and that is generally NEVER true as well.
Galbraith’s book is identified as creative nonfiction. The book is described as experimental in form and structure. It is a memoir but much more. A striking visual art project, an intellectual inquiry into the nature of memory, and a frightful window on the failures and brutalities of the American system of adoption. The book is the origin story of a girl who had three mothers before she was half a year old and the experience of the woman she grew to be, who, only during her own pregnancy, was overwhelmed by the need to know her history and learn about her first mother. The author’s meditations on the nature of identity, her compulsion toward self-erasure, and her fear of abandonment likely will resonate with adoptees.
Snippets from the excerpt that you can read more fully at the Severance link above –
“It is incredible how few concrete details I needed to feel connected across time.” . . . “I began to think about who I was at nineteen—a virgin for starters—and how incomprehensible it would have been to become a mother when my own future felt like it was just beginning.” . . . “What struck me most was that my birth mother had cared enough to update my file.” “within the last ten years” to alert her that she was a DES granddaughter.
Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was a drug given to women during their pregnancy. DES was a synthetic form of estrogen given to women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriage. The daughters of women who used DES were forty times more likely to develop cancers of the cervix and vagina. Galbraith goes on to note – “The drug’s side effects were known to skip a generation, meaning, they may have affected me—or worse my unborn child. Late-onset and irregular periods were one side effect for DES granddaughters like me. I didn’t get my period until I was sixteen: my biological mother got hers at around eleven. Other risks included infertility, cancer, congenital disabilities, and fewer live births.”