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 Adoption.com, 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.