THE DARK SIDE OF ADOPTION
I know over the years how much joy an adoption can bring to a family that has tried for years to get pregnant only to find out that it will not happen for whatever reason. I know the depression that sets in when a couple realize they cannot have children.
Of course now a day’s so many young girls and women have abortions and there are not as many babies to adopt. There are procedures to help with getting couples pregnant but they are very expensive and not available to everyone. Couples can look out of country that is a long drawn out procedure that is also very expensive. I truly do understand how couples struggle.
I would like you to consider for just a few minutes what the other side of adoption can look like for some. I am going to tell you my story.
When I was 16, I became pregnant. This happened in the early 70's and being a single mother was not frowned on as it was in the 50's but it still had some barriers. Sometimes those barriers are not the general population but exist within your own family.
I was raised in a very strict home with 3 older sisters. We were not a close family, it felt more like growing up in a boarding house. My father worked very hard to keep the family going and my mother stayed at home looking after us and the large house we lived in.
Just a few years before I became pregnant my 3 older sisters all got married and left home. That left me alone with my parents. They decided that the house we were in was too large and built a new one on the other side of town. We moved away from a neighborhood that I loved, and we left all my friends from school and the security I had living in that house. I understand people move all the time but with my sisters all leaving at the same time and moving so quickly it was very difficult for me.
My parents and I did not talk a lot. Not like today with parents asking about school, knowing who your friends are and spending family time together. It was a very lonely time for me.
Out of this loneliness I developed a crush on someone and therefore the pregnancy. At that time being 16 is like being 12 today. We never had sex talks in the house or any explanation about dating. My mother didn't even tell me about periods. She found a pamphlet written for teens and slid it under my bedroom door. She never mentioned it again and I never asked.
I was so frightened after I had missed my second period, I knew I could not tell my parents. I am not really sure what I thought they would do to me but I was very scared. So I kept it to myself. I had no close friends at school so I was the only one that knew. I did not weigh very much at the time and managed to keep wearing my regular jeans until I was 7 months pregnant. At that time I had developed a lump that was showing above my jeans and my mother thought I had some serious disease. She told my sisters she thought I had a tumour growing inside me and took me to the doctor.
The doctor took one look at me, never said a word, used a stethoscope to listen to the baby's heartbeat and told my mother I did not have a tumour I was pregnant. The bomb had dropped.
My head was down, I started to cry, did not make eye contact with either of them. I thought my life was over. My mother spurted out, she can have an abortion or something can't she? The doctor told her no, I was too far along. He did mention knowing of a couple that were looking to adopt and that we could consider that. I was no longer part of the conversation or decision making from that day on.
We went to the car and my mother stared straight ahead, obviously in shock and said what are we going to tell your father. I just continued to cry.
When my father came home from work, my mom took him aside and told him. He vomited on the floor immediately and then started to cry. He wanted to know who had done this to me. I could not tell them. I couldn't speak at all.
I went to my room to be alone and wonder what would happen to me next. Little did I know that room would be where I would spend most of my time for the next 2 months?
I know my parents argued a lot but I could not hear what they were saying. About a week later it was announced to me that the baby would be given up for adoption. No one was to know I was pregnant. My mother would be mortified if any of her friends, family or church members should find out. So I was bound to the house until the event happened.
Every once and a while my mother would take me out at midnight. She had made me what looked like a nurse’s cape to wear and she would walk me around the block so that I got some exercise. Other than that the only time I was outside was when I went for doctor's appointments.
I had no idea what would happen when I had the baby, how I would know it was time. Nothing was ever explained to me. My mother finally told me that you get period type cramps, you go to the hospital, they give you some drugs and you have the baby. In her day that is how it was done. She told me in later years that she doesn't even remember delivering any of us because she was so sedated.
Well the day came, my water had been leaking for about 3 days and I thought I was just wetting my pants. The first contraction was not like a period cramp, it was a take your breath away severe pain. My mom called the doctor and said she was sure I had a bladder infection because I had been wetting myself for 3 days. The doctor was annoyed with her and told her to get me to the hospital right away.
So we went in around 11 in the morning. I was admitted as a Mrs. as opposed to a Miss., the secret must be kept.
Not knowing the truth about labor made it seem much worse I am sure. The pain was horrific, and I screamed. I was scared to death. My mom was in the room with me for a while but she kept covering my face with the sheets to try to muffle me. A nurse came in and threw her out of the room. No nurse sat with me, or did any kind of teaching of how to breathe through labor or even sit with me for support. I was left alone in a room for hours, screaming in pain. Just writing about this now is making my hands shake. It has been 40 years since all this happened and it is as just as real as if it happened yesterday.
My mother was allowed back in the room for a few minutes at 10 that night. The only thing she said was, you could be out with your friends instead of lying in bed doing this, and she left the room. I don't know how she could be so cold. I did learn over the years that my mother was just a cold person. My dad did not come to the hospital for reasons I did not find out until a few years later.
The doctor came in around 11 pm and examined me. I was so tiny he was concerned I would not be able to deliver the baby in the usual way. I was sent to x-ray to have my pelvic bones measured. He called in the obstetrician but by the time he had arrived I was at the pushing stage. They gave me a mask to breathe into to help relax me. I pushed for a very long time and I could feel my perineum tearing. The room was very quiet, the nurses were not talking, and the doctor was not talking. I was so confused and in so much pain. Why didn't they comfort me in any way?
The baby was apparently born but I had used so much of the gas they were giving me all I could hear was a fan squealing in the corner. I kept asking them to fix the fan when the doctor finally realized I had had too much of the gas and yelled at the nurses to take it away from me. He then shouted, get that kid out of here. I still didn't know what he was talking about.
The perineal tear I had was pretty severe. I was torn right to my rectum. It was 3 months after the delivery before everything healed again.
So the nurses gave me a bed bath and tucked me in for the night. No one told me if the baby was okay, no one told me if it was a boy or girl. I knew nothing.
I spent 3 days in the hospital after having the baby. They had him way back in the nursery where he couldn't be seen by anyone. I don't ever remember crying as much as I did during that time. Day and night all I did was lay in the bed and cry. One Jamaican nurse came in one afternoon and hugged me and said "don't worry honey, she will change her mind." She was like an angel to me at that point, the only one that showed me any compassion. On the second day when my mother came to see me I asked her why I could not see the baby. She was quite upset and said she didn't think it was a good idea. She then told me it was a boy and everything was fine. The family doctor came in and said he didn't think it would be a good idea for me to see the baby either. He actually told me that in 6 weeks I would barely remember anything and that it would just seem like a nightmare that would go away quickly. He then said we can't legally stop you from seeing him. If you have to do it but it's against my advice.
My mom put me in a wheelchair and took me down to the nursery. He was kept behind glass, in a bassinet wrapped up tightly in blankets. I really could only see a tuft of dark hair. I was not allowed to hold him and no nurse held him up for me to have a better look. And that was it. Back in my room crying again.
I was discharged home out a side door where no one would see me and my mother drove me home.
The day after I was home she had called the school to let them know I was feeling much better and had recovered from my mono and would be back in school in two weeks. So that was her story and I was to stick with it.
From that time on the rest of the world carried on as normal as if nothing had happened and it was never spoken of again. Except for one day....
3 men in fancy suits came to the house and my mom and dad had me sit at the table. The men looked very serious and put papers in front of me and told me I needed to sign them and that I was to understand after signing them I had no recourse of ever seeing the baby again. They told me he was going to a home where a couple had previously adopted twin girls and were wonderful parents. I was in shock. I just sat there, the room spinning around me. My parents became very strict and said, just sign the papers and do it now. So I did, and my son was gone forever.
I was never given any other options, I didn't know there was such a thing as welfare or mother's allowance. I was not included in any conversations about how hard it might be for me if I kept the baby. There was never any discussion about anything.
So, I returned to school for a few months and then just quit. I never did graduate high school. I picked up part time jobs here and there and life went on. I cried at night when I was in my room alone. Every birthday that came and went I said prayers hoping my son could hear me.
About two years later my Dad and I were in the car running errands and out of the blue he said, I never wanted that baby to go anywhere. I wanted him to come home with you but your mother threatened to divorce me so I had to give in. He had been suffering along with me in silence. That is one thing I can say my family was very good at and that was silence.
I looked for my son for years and eventually when he was 38 I found him. We have had 2 reunions. He is very handsome and smart and I love him very much. My mother knew where he was all those years and would not tell me. She was not happy when I finally found him. She never asked me how the reunion went. She just pretended it never happened. More silence.
For those of you who manage to adopt your children I am very happy for you but please take a moment and ask how the birth mother is.