I have often struggled with some aspects of writing a book and blog of this nature because it excludes maybe people. I keenly remember how it felt to be the only childless woman in a group of moms talking about their birth stories. For many years I feared that I would never be able to have children, and I have been with many friends and relatives through the emotional roller coaster of trying and failing to conceive. I met Mary and David when I moved into my current ward 8 years ago and we were fast friends. They had one adopted daughter already, and a few years later, they were able to adopt a boy. It was the closest I had come to the adoption process, and I honestly thought it was preparing me in case I couldn't have children. As it turns out, however, my body is a great baby maker, and Mary turned out to be a great film maker.
When I put out my call to LDS filmmakers, I forgot to give a shout out to Mary Durnin Firth for the important work that she has done. As an adoptive mother, Mary always felt like people misunderstood birth mothers. She told me this many times.
Mary and her husband moved to Montana shortly after they adopted their son, and Mary started a Masters Degree in Fine Art at the University of Montana. When it came time to do her thesis, Mary tried to shoot some PSAs but nothing was working. I remember when they visited Los Angeles that summer to meet Jason's birth mother, Mary told me that what she really wanted to do was make a documentary on birth mothers, but she was afraid she couldn't do it well enough. "Whatever," I said. "Nothing else is working because this is what you need to do."
Mary's documentary, The Giving, now a four-time festival winner, is a brave and beautiful exploration of adoptive mothers and why they make the choices they make. She interviews six different women. Some were young, others were older. One women was married with two children when she decided to place her third child up for adoption. The film shatters any stereotype one might have of women who give up their babies.
The women share their feelings from the moment they found out, to the decision to place their child, signing papers (the most heart-rending chapter), and life afterward. There is one scene that I can't forget where a birth mother tells about the birth of her daughter. Her husband decided not to be there so the adoptive mother was her support person. When they put the baby girl on her chest, the adoptive mother throws her arms around both of them and the three of them are frozen there in this amazing lovely moment that I think captures what the film is really trying to say about adoption.
The Giving is an incredibly emotional documentary that shows the amount of love and selflessness and maturity it takes to be a birth mother. I recommend it not only to anyone who might be thinking of adopting, placing for adoption, or is adopted, but to all mothers and young women.
You can also buy it on Amazon.