Devoting 3 years of your life to writing a novel requires one important ingredient: fire. Readers often ask me what inspired me to write Empty Arms, and the answer is simple: once I learned about forced adoptions and the incredible injustice faced by millions of unwed pregnant women as recently as the 1970s (and in some reports, the 1980s!), the fire inside of me was lit. And the more I learned, the hotter it burned.
A few weeks ago, Dan Rather investigated these “forced adoptions” in an HDNet special, “Adopted or Abducted”, and the stories continue to shock and outrage me. Over and over, I hear accounts of vulnerable young women who were sent away to maternity homes to hide their pregnancies and often endured physical and mental abuse. When it came time to deliver their babies, many were left to labor alone without pain medication, as a means of punishment. Some of the women were never allowed to see their babies. Others got to hold their newborns for a few minutes. Most didn’t even know they had a right to keep their child.
One woman from Rather’s report said, “I was never told I could visit her in foster care. I didn’t even know she was in foster care. I wasn’t told that I had six months to get her!! To change my mind…as if I had even made up my own mind. I didn’t…they did.”
These young mothers spent the rest of their lives wondering if their children were alive, safe, happy, and healthy, but closed adoption records prevented them from ever finding out.
While Empty Arms is a work of fiction, it is based on the heartbreaking histories of real women who, when asked to describe their experience in one word, responded with adjectives like “traumatic”, “barbaric”, “devastating”, and “torture”.
These brave women and their difficult journeys lit a fire in me. And it is my hope that Empty Arms will light a fire in you.
If you didn’t have a chance to catch Dan Rather’s special on HDNet, you can check out the report he created for Yahoo! News: Adopted or Abducted?