by Michele Kriegman

The “Illegitimate” Daughter Tells Her Birth Mother’s Story

The woman who gave birth to me did so in a very different age. lt was the 1960s, and my arrival was what would now be called an out-of-wedlock birth. At the time the language was firmer: I was “illegitimate.” That label meant that the woman who gave me life could never be called simply, “mother.” Nor the even jauntier-sounding “single mom” (which is what I have become since my divorce). She would almost always, if she were middle class and white, be forced to surrender her child to adoption. Then she was a “biological mother” or a “birth mother,” at best, and a few cruder terms from less sympathetic lips. My search for words is part of a larger search to understand the woman who gave me away and who 30 years later spoke to me, her only child, for the first time.

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