Kate Mulgrew Comes Out as a Birthmother

kate mulgrew memoir born with teeth adoption

New “Adoption” Memoir “Born With Teeth”

I am sure by now something about Kate Mulgrew’s newly released memoir “Born With Teeth” has come across your news feeds. The book just came out on April 14th and the media, not unexpectedly, is just eating up the chance to talk about adoption with the first female captain of the Enterprise and a darling of an HBO show I never watch, “Orange is the  New Black.”  Whether she planned on it or not, Kate Mulgrew just joined the ranks of the “Public Birthmother“.

I gladly welcome Kate to our ranks! Lord knows we need the help  getting the public to see that birth mothers are not saints nor sinners, not selfless brave family building angels nor crack whore birth mothers, but real live women; the kinds you see every day ( even on TV)and whom, sadly, faced a personal tragedy at one point in our lives and allowed adoption to enter in.  Unlike other birth mothers in the public before, Kate also seems wonderfully  “unfogged” in pretty much all the interviews.   I know  that there is a collective sigh of relief expelled from many of us as she states the things we know all too well.  I know I feel I hear a kindred sister of loss. I felt she was “one of us” even before I took not that Kate Mulgrew, too,  is a red head and a Taurus, too. My kind of momma!

Busting the Adoption and Birth Mother Stereotypes

Said in an NPR Interview on 4/11/15:

“The dimension of the decision was not only epic but infinite…

“I regret that I could not have raised her. I regret that I saw that decision as an impossible one. I regret that my mother was in such an agony of grief that she could not help me raise this child.”

Written in an AARP Piece:

“So, yes, I had fears about telling my story, fears about the judgment of it. I felt shame, and I had a huge degree of inexpressible regret. Specifically, I would have tried harder to keep my daughter. I was young and so wanted my life as an actress. There is no dancing around that. As my friend Beth (to whom the book is dedicated) told me then, it’s all about what is best for the baby. But I had no idea of the cost.”

This CBS Interview which also interviewed her daughter who clearly is acknowledging her inner “baby rage”:

“I have one memory of Kate visiting me again back in Boston,” Danielle said. “And she was just talking. She was just telling me a story, just sitting across the table. But when I tuned into myself, there’s a screaming girl in my head, shouting, ‘You have to love me. You better love me.’ Like, not listening at all to anything she’s saying. Which I then saw, ‘Oh, this has affected my life, many aspects of my life, many relationships in my life.”

If the video doesn’t shows, go here; http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/kate-mulgrew-on-real-life-drama-in-new-book/

The bottom line is; the interviews and press are great and ARE really representing the reality of adoption relinquishment very well.  There is only one small problem.

“Born with Teeth” is NOT an Adoption Book

All these interviews are ALL about the adoption and I was super excited like I see many of online being. And because the press is so much about the adoption, I assumed, again like many,  that the book would really address the adoption and it’s continual affect through Kate’s life and career.  So  I rushed out and bought the book immediately and  I have to say quite clearly; “Born with Teeth” is NOT an adoption book.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad book at all, but it really a memoir of an actress who is a birthmother. It was a good read and I enjoyed reading it in less than one day! And the adoption story part of it is very true to the experience and very real, very raw and one will find themselves totally “getting it”.  There just isn’t nearly as much “adoption” as one might think based on the press coverage.  Like she really goes into way more and, in some ways much deeper and better, with the interviews.  Granted she does write about the  relinquishment, but after that, until the VERY end,  it’s more of an undercurrent of sorts that doesn’t really get addressed all that much, but referred to in passing.  Like there is one part where she is talking about the need to speak about her daughter to her first husband:

“…increasingly I wanted to share with him my feelings about my daughter., Feelings that would not change and that would not go away…. He didn’t want to hear about the daughter I’d given up, and how this continued to haunt me, the futility with which I fought this sense of regret, the sadness that had become malignant……where I lay sobbing on the living room floor.”

So of course, she is one of us. She KNOWS.  Here it is years later and she is also crying on the floor, but these morsels of birthmother validation are few and far between. It’s more like WE know and we can read between the lines, but it’s not a social commentary on adoption at all and it’s not even like being a fly on the wall next to the therapists couch.  I am betting that Kate Malgrew wrote more about the adoption affects herself, but that the editors thought it was too depressing or repetitive and that perhaps the rest of her life would be of more interest to readers.   Of course, the actual interview questions and the headlines generated clearly shows that it is the adoption part that makes this one actress’ memoir more interesting that the next Hollywood story.

Trying to Get to Kate Mulgrew

Last week, before reading the book, I was thinking  how great it would be to actual talk to Kate. So I shushed the doubting voice in my head that said they will laugh at me, and sent her publicist and interview request.  While I was anxiously awaiting that response, I noticed that there was to be a book signing  in NY on the very same day that Rye had invited me to join him in NY. I took that as a sign that the universe also thought it was a good idea and planned on going and hopefully be able to grab a few minutes of her attention.

Unfortunately, her publicists emailed me back the night before NYC and I had to admit,  I felt pretty shot down. Needless to say my request was declined, which wasn’t really that unexpected; it was more of how I didn’t feel the one line response was “respectful” of not just me, but the adoption community and our desire to hear from Kate in some way as she is representing US!  Still, I planned on the book signing even though I was feeling a bit butt hurt for sure.

At this point, NYC  was now the only chance I had for some access, though I don’t do the fan girl well.  Still, we drove into NYC and while Rye was at his meeting, I bought my book and got my wrist band ticket for the book signing later that night and then sat down to read. I think the universe changed its mind, though. If the dismissal by the publicist wasn’t enough, that morning the dog peed all over the house.   Yet, still I went on.  And then, as it turned out, I ended up having to return home earlier than planned and so , I had a book signing ticket for nothing.  There went my chance to try to talk to her, slip her a note and a business card. I was not a happy camper that evening.

The only thing I have left is a fan mail address to which I will use the snail mail as required.    As Catholic Charities were cold and unforgiving to her AND lied to her about her daughter’s placement, I don’t think Kate has an warm and fuzzy feelings towards adoption. Her daughter is amount the many New York State adoptees denied their civil rights to the identity and discriminated against. If she so choose, Kate Mulgrew’s assistance in the adoption community could be very helpful, but more than that, with this book and interviews she has become a “gateway birthmother.”

First Contact with Another Birthmother

I am sure that there are other birthmother’s in the world who have never had the opportunity, nor sought out, any kind of support or validation. They have lived with their own pain in silence and shame, isolated, for decades, wondering what is wrong with them that they cannot “get over” it.  They shall see an interview or read an article and they will turn to Kate Mulgrew to help them.  I have to say, putting on my web designer SEO hat now, that there is not ONE single adoption resources link listed on the book website.  Not even the ISRR which is actually how Kate Mulgrew and her daughter found each other. It was the ISRR. I fear that Kate and her team is just not prepared for the sheer numbers that will demand adoption information from them.

So I sent the publicist a list of the bigger support groups and sites and I  have snail mailed the list to the fan mail address as well.  I hope, for the others who will need it, that they doing something for the community.  Yes, adoption stories DO touch a nerve. Everyone wants to  look closely at birth mother and try to understand this unnatural act.  Yes, adoption sells, but  please, don’t trigger folks and then leave them out there alone again in their grief, isolated.

One request: as we see the articles and interviews about “Born with Teeth” and Kate Mulgrew, please consider leaving a link to an adoption group or organization of your choice for the other mothers and adoptees who might find it.    Hopefully they will find their way to others and be welcomed by us after they read the book and are looking for more.

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About the Author

Claudia Corrigan DArcy
Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy has been online and involved in the adoption community since early in 2001. Blogging since 2005, her website Musings of the Lame has become a much needed road map for many mothers who relinquished, adoptees who long to be heard, and adoptive parents who seek understanding. She is also an activist and avid supporter of Adoptee Rights and fights for nationwide birth certificate access for all adoptees with the Adoptee Rights Coalition. Besides here on Musings of the Lame, her writings on adoption issue have been published in The New York Times, BlogHer, Divine Caroline, Adoption Today Magazine, Adoption Constellation Magazine, Adopt-a-tude.com, Lost Mothers, Grown in my Heart, Adoption Voice Magazine, and many others. She has been interviewed by Dan Rather, Montel Williams and appeared on Huffington Post regarding adoption as well as presented at various adoption conferences, other radio and print interviews over the years. She resides in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband, Rye, children, and various pets.

2 Comments on "Kate Mulgrew Comes Out as a Birthmother"

  1. Cindy Aulabaugh | April 21, 2015 at 12:39 am |

    Kate states well (birth) mother of loss grief, ”the sadness that had become malignant”. So sad to know that she is enduring this too… here’s hoping Kate is heard.. and understood by all who read her book to help other future mothers and their families avoid this……devastation.

  2. I am waiting until my upcoming (next week!) vacation to read the book, but I just love that your mind goes from public birthmother to book not really about adoption to how can this help the community. Reminders about how speaking up can help us all, collectively, adoptees and first parents, are really needed. I find myself caught up in my own journey too often and need all the reminders that I am not alone — they keep me sane. Off to find some ways to make meaningful comments on the internet.

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