Grandma Says..

Observations and views from a different set of eyes

Putting Your Child In The Arms Of Strangers

on February 8, 2013


It was 1968.  I was excitedly looking forward to the life ahead of me.  I had just graduated high school and was starting my first job at a local bank.  I had high hopes for the future and couldn’t wait to start my life as an adult.

I didn’t worry about missing that first period; I was usually regular but I just put it down to all the changes I was going through.  Then I missed another period and I knew my life had now taken a very unexpected turn.  I was pregnant.

I was only 17 and I was scared, lonely and depressed.  I had nobody to talk to, no one I could I could trust or turn to for help.  The baby’s father was history, my parents would be devastated and my plans for the future were at an end.

So, I hid the pregnancy from everyone.  I started eating massive amounts of food so my parents would not question my weight gain.  I bought loose clothes and a rubber girdle to hold my stomach in.  I held my  secret close and went through the first eight months alone, with no one to share the wonder I felt when the baby kicked for the first time or to listen to my fears of what would happen to me and my child.

Finally, the day came when I could no longer keep my pregnancy secret. I knew that the baby was going to be born in less than a month and I had to tell my parents. They took the news hard but for the first time, they actually talked to me like an adult.  The question was, what do to next?

My father, an abusive recovering alcoholic, wanted me to keep the baby and raise it at home.  My mother, who worried about the embarrassment of having an unwed daughter and her illegitimate child living in her home, wanted me to give the baby up for adoption.

I was now faced with the hardest decision of my young life.  I had to consider the effects on my child based on the path I chose to follow.  My life in my parents home had been a very unhappy one. Could I subject my child to the same atmosphere I was brought up in?  On the other hand, I was already connected to the living being in my womb.  Was I strong enough to give my child over to strangers?

As I said, it was the 60’s.  Women had equal rights on the law books, but had yet to achieve those rights in the everyday world.  I had a low paying job, I didn’t have a car or an apartment of my own, and had no one to care for the baby while I was working and trying to keep a roof over our heads.  My child would have to bear the weight of being called illegitimate or worse, and although innocent, share the shame of having an unwed mother.

So, I decided to let the baby be put up for adoption.  I went to a home in New York and waited there for my child to be born. The home was filled with other girls in my place and the shame of being an unwed mother was replaced with a feeling of sisterhood with the other pregnant teenagers, who were all in the same tough position as I was.

There was only one problem with choosing this particular home; after the birth of your child, you were required to bring the child back to the home and care for the baby for five days.  Then you would be brought to the adoption agency to surrender the child.  I tried not to dwell on this.

After two weeks in the home, I was rushed to the hospital and delivered a beautiful, healthy baby boy.  I was put in a room with other mothers, and I pretended to be married with a husband who was in the Army and stationed overseas.  When the nurse laid my baby in my arms for the first time, I was filled with wonder.  How did I ever create anything so beautiful?  I laid in the hospital for three days and then brought my baby back to the home.

Five days passed so quickly.  I was able to feed, change and hold my baby four times a day, and I spent those days determined to treasure every moment I had with my child.  Although I knew that he didn’t understand anything I said, I talked to him of the reasons I couldn’t raise him.  I spoke of my love for him, and the fact that my love would follow him always.  I think I was talking more for my own sake; I needed to find the courage to follow through with the adoption.

The day came when I carried my child into the adoption agency.  I signed the papers and then we were given a half-hour to say our goodbyes.  I held him close for every minute of that time, knowing I would never be able to hold him again.  Then the social worker came and took my baby.  I went back to the home and waited for my mother to pick me up and bring me back home.

That night, I sat on my bed and cried.  I felt that a piece of my heart had been torn out and taken away.  Once I had calmed down, I started to realize that I had done the right thing for my child.  He would now be raised by parents who could provide him with all the things he deserved, things I could not provide for him.  They could give him love, a home and a future when all I could give him was love.  I would always miss him but I had to trust that he was in good hands.

Life went on.  I would often wonder how my boy was doing, especially on his birthday.  I got married a year later and had three children that I was able to raise and provide for.  But, no matter how filled my life was, I never forgot those moments I spent with my baby boy, before I put him in the arms of strangers.

Years passed and when my children were adults, I believed the time had come to try to find my son.  Through the wonders of the Internet and, we were connected once more.  I flew to New York, where he had been raised, to be reunited and to meet my brand new grandchild.

I met his adopted parents and was able to thank them for loving and raising my child and for making him their own. I was brought to tears when his adopted mother handed me a picture of my son; it was taken on the day they brought him home and the baby in the picture was the child I had carried in my memories for so long.  I was touched when she said to take it home with me.

I told my son who his father was, should he wish to try and contact him; I showed him pictures of his sister and two brothers and I shared the story of why I placed him in the arms of strangers. He was understanding and sympathetic to the time and place I was in when he was conceived.  He shared with me the facts of his adoption, that he had never been put in foster care; he had loving parents who were waiting for him on the day I surrendered him.

It was an emotional, tear-filled visit but, as I flew back home, I was left happy with the knowledge that I had made the right decision all those years ago.

My son has made visits to Florida since that trip; once to meet his siblings and another to attend his sister’s wedding.  I was blessed by having all my children in one room, a dream I never dared to have.

I keep a low profile in my son’s life.  He has parents who love and care about him and I don’t have the right to intrude on that relationship and I do respect their feelings.  But, my son and I do communicate and he knows where I am when he needs me.

“How could you give up your child?”  I have been asked this question by many people and my answer is always the same.

“Because I loved him.” And, I love him still.


14 responses to “Putting Your Child In The Arms Of Strangers

  1. callmesusieq says:

    This brought me to tears this morning. Thanks for sharing.

  2. mewhoami says:

    That was a very courageous choice and your love for him radiates from the words on this page. It’s wonderful and such a blessing that you two were able to reunite after all those years. Beautiful story. Thank you for sharing.

  3. What a beautifully written and heart-wrenching story. Thank you for sharing.

  4. TamrahJo says:

    I had my first child on my own, in 1991 – still dealt with social issues – so I cannot imagine what you went through in 1968 –
    As for those who feel the need to comment negatively on your loving and compassionate choice to put the well-being of another before your own – – –
    Well, there’s a short pier around here somewhere – – hopefully they know how to take a long walk –
    Kudos to you – for your strength, beauty and grace.

  5. Annie Brokaw says:

    Amazing story. Thank you for sharing.

  6. John says:

    As an adopted child, I appreciate reading your story. It is nice to get a different perspective on all the feelings surrounding the giving up of a child.

    I was lucky enough to be adopted into a loving family, and, though we’ve had our struggles, I feel content with my family and life.

    I cannot say I haven’t wondered about both of my birth parents… both father, and mother, though, I do think more about my birth mother, since the act of carrying a baby for nine months certainly creates a bond that fathers don’t have. I imagine her story is not too different from yours (I was born in 1966).

    I don’t often think about meeting my birth parents. I’m curious, sure. But, I don’t feel the need, like some adopted children do, to have a deep, meaningful relationship with their birth parent(s). I’d lik to know who they are; I’d like to know why adoption was the choice they made; I’d like to know that their lives have been happy; I’d like them to know that I’m ok, and that my adoptive parents gave me more love than I could ever say.

    But, perhaps, like your son, I’d maintain some contact, but, it would not be a relationship where I’d spend all kinds of time with them. Maybe a holiday here and there, simple, quiet.

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m glad that you were able to find your son. My adoption took place in South Carolina, which is a state that has sealed records that can never be opened, so, I don’t have much to go on. I posted a few years ago on, but, I didn’t spend much time with it.

    The weird thing is that even though I have no overwhelming desire to meet my birth parents, the fact that I’m 47, and have heard nothing, or seen nothing on the internet the few times I’ve looked, feels awkward. I guess there is a weird sense of “if I am wondering about you, you should be wondering about me.”… Strange, huh?

    • I cannot speak for your birth parents, but I cannot wonder if perhaps your birth mom doesn’t have access or the knowledge to use the Internet tools available today. Not everyone is computer literate, my SO doesn’t even know how to turn one on and he’s 59 and spent 22 years in the Navy.

      Using only works if both parties are registered. If your birthmom is using a different site or does’t have access to a computer, it won’t work.

      On your birth mom’s defense, I waited years to search for my son. I was hesitant to involve myself in his life as I feared disrupting it. But, believe me, she has never forgotten you and never will. But, understand, especially in my time, there was a great deal of shame attached to having an illegitimate child. Some women can handle it, some can’t. And, it’s very possible that your birth dad doesn’t even know he has a son.

      I am so glad that your adoptive parents gave you the love and support you deserved. It makes woman like me feel so much better about having to give up our children. Thank them for me.

  7. cloverwill says:

    Oh my god. I can’t even begin to imagine ALL the emotional ups & downs you must have (& still) experienced throughout your life. You are a strong woman. This definitely is a touching read — im truly thrilled it ends as such a happy story. I love your words!!

  8. I jumped over here from John’s blog. This was beautifully written. As an adopted child (adult) it is always good to see adoption from the other side of the fence. I have also met my first family and maintain a relationship with them. Ours is a different story.

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