Thursday, October 16, 2008

Remembering When



Forty-Six years after the fact, I still find this time in my life hard to write about. But, as a Senior Mother and member of SMAAC, these are the things that we want to bring to the public's attention.

I was 15, it was 1961 and I was deeply in love with a boy, one who didn't have the maturity to love me back the way I so desperately desired. Oh, he said he loved me, and, in his own way, I guess he did. But mostly he wanted one thing from me and, in order to keep him, I did what he wanted me to do. Just before my 16th birthday, my daughter was conceived. It was also when his parents decided that he needed to get away from me (he was "too young" to be serious about a girl) and from some other "bad influences" and sent him to visit some relatives in California for a month.

Realizing that I had missed a period was terrifying. I have never felt so alone in my life. I was "one of those girls." I was "in trouble," and there was no one to help me or to make it go away. There was no Roe v Wade or access to birth control for single women. I didn't even know what birth control was except for condoms. I was amazed that this had happened to me because my sex education had been spotty and filled with erroneous ideas. I thought that what my boyfriend and I did was nothing like the sacred thing a married couple did to have children. To say I was confused was an understatement. I spent precious weeks in denial.

One thing sticks out in my mind and that is the fact that, though I gave in to my boyfriend's demands, I was a product of my Bible-Belt upbringing and I never was able to even enjoy the act. There was too much guilt in me. I even remember seeking the help of my minister.

Telling my parents was the most horrible experience imaginable. I had a close friend with me and she had urged me to tell them and promised to stand by me when I told them. We were in our kitchen and I will never forget the look of utter despair and disappointment on their faces. Once my mother stopped crying, I was ordered to keep my condition a complete secret while they figured out what to do. I was so emotionally exhausted from carrying the load all by myself, that I was happy to let them do the thinking for a while.

Little did I know that their plans included isolating me from my community and family, housing me with strangers and the "choice" to either surrender my baby for adoption or be homeless. I became an outcast in my community and shamed by my own family. My boyfriend ran like a rabbit and denied paternity. I was given a false name, treated like a delinquent with mental and emotional problems, challenged with questions about my "fitness" whenever I mentioned keeping my baby and told that I was a bad influence on my younger sisters. I guess they thought they would catch the pregnancy virus. The words "bastard" and "slut" were thrown around like balloons at a party.

I was given medical care, but it, such as it was, was also a humiliating experience. On "clinic day," we lined up in the hall, outside the nurse's office and exam room, wearing skirts with no underwear, as directed. We would be called in, one at a time, and given pelvic examinations, whether we needed one or not, by interns doing their OB/GYN rotations, while other interns and the OB/GYN resident looked on. Often, these exams were rough and painful and always, always embarrassing and demeaning.

When the time came to deliver, I remember hearing the nurses whisper to each other that "this one is from the home." They seemed to hold me in disdain and one even told me that the pain I was experiencing was what I deserved. I had to fight to see and hold and name my baby, but I did that and cherished the time I had with her in the hospital. As soon as I was out, the Social Worker was waiting for me, at the home, with the papers. I was still hormonal from giving birth, taking pain medication and signed the papers in a daze. I also broke down in tears after signing, but was persuaded, by then, what with all the coercion, that I would be a toxic mother to my child. I found out, 33 years later, that I would have been a great mother.

This is the time that we, at SMAAC, want to present to the nation. This is the time when helpless, vulnerable young women were subjected to a grave injustice. The fact that I was sexually assaulted when my daughter was four months old, by a guy who knew my boyfriend and believed his tales of my "easy manner" means that I went through this horror, not once, but twice. That is one time in my life when I would have loved to have been a bit less fertile. But I loved my son, regardless of the means of his conception, and wanted him as desperately as I wanted his older sister.

This lack of choice, autonomy, support and comfort was part and parcel of the Era of Mass Surrenders. My story is not unique. There are minor differences in some of our stories, but the injustice, mistreatment and ultimate pain of loss are all constants. Add to that the fact that our families and others disregarded our grief and did not want to witness our mourning. So that grief, we stuffed along with all the rest of the pain, until the days of our awakening.

We know, now, that a burgeoning industry that catered to infertile couples of the "right kind" was forming around our tragedies. We were the supply conduits to meet the demands for healthy infants. It makes me wonder why our babies were in such high demand when we were characterized as morally, psychologically and socially delinquent. (*see "Wake Up Little Suzie" by Rickie Solinger)

Most of us are in our late 40's, 50's and 60's and up. Many of us have been in reunion for quite a while. I have been reunited with both my children for 15 years. Once we got past the recurrence of grief, learned a few painful, home truths about what had happened to our children and how they saw us, we began to talk to each other and that is how we learned that we are numbered in the millions. We were ordered to keep our "dirty secret," even from the men we eventually married. Many of us felt that was not appropriate and told and it was amazing that there were men who loved us for ourselves and felt that we were good enough to marry. That was NOT what we were told would happen. We were told that "no decent man would have us" if he knew.

When I became engaged to my first husband, I was even told that I would not be allowed to wear white, have music, flowers or attendants because I was no longer a virgin. So, we eloped. Since then, I have learned how many non-virgins made that trip down the aisle in their pure white and, when I married my current, wonderful husband, I WORE WHITE!

The full story of the injustices against the Senior Mothers of the EMS would take ten blogs and still not tell it all. I can only give you the summary of my punishment and pain. It's time for someone to answer to this. If they can apologize to other minorities for unfair treatment, then they can do the same for us. If they can investigate other injustices with an eye to future prevention, then they can do the same for ours. It's not just something that is right and proper..it is no less than what we deserve. We have earned justice.

15 comments:

Ana's Mama said...

How awful. I am so sorry that people were not as accepting back in the day. Thank goodness there are choices now. America has come a long way. My heart goes out to you and those that have felt your pain.

Robin said...

There are more "choices," BUT, there is also more power and money in the industry, more pro-adoption propaganda and coercion and criticism of the single mother still is used to separate these little families.

Hopefully, when more of our stories are told, people will examine adoption, as an institution and an industry, more closely. It's about time that the mythology was challenged.

America is in big trouble and the adoption industry is just one of the problems. Children and mothers are not interchangable entities.

If we have "come a long way," there are still those whose interests lie in taking us back to the horrible injustice of the EMS.

Sandy Young said...

Robin,
I so agree. Your blog reminded me of my own incarceration and the things that came later. I think that even though women have more choices now, we who step outside the norm are still seen as "other" which means that we are fair targets for exploitation and abuse. I don't think that has changed much since, as the earlier woman said, "the day"...

"Otherness" is also what let the young men feel that it was acceptable to force themselves on us after we returned from the home, something that they would never have thought to do with another young woman.

It is "otherness", too, that allows women to convince themselves that those "other" women in India LOVE to have babies for American women and that Chinese women don't love and desperately their babies.

When we reach a place where we realize that women love their babies, that red, yellow, black and white all are just the same, we bleed, we hurt, we cry all the same, then maybe we will realize that things haven't changed, they have merely been turned to others.

Anonymous said...

Anna's "mama" your post makes me ill.

Your pretend that you care but you perpetuate the act of taking another woman's baby.

This is what happened to 6 million women because of other women like yourself had to play "mother"

Sick of the cluelessness adopters in adoption.

Robin, its ok if you don't post this I just had to vent it out. Seems like you have two adoptress's reading here.

Educating them is impossible they shake their heads and agree with the trauma that we endured, but then turn around and do the same to another woman. Ignorance.

Chris said...

I will not go into my experience of having sex and getting pregnant in 1964. Many young women were having sex outside of marriage back then, some got caught, some didn't. In 1964 birth control pills were not yet legally obtainable for unmarried women and in a few states, such as Connecticut, not even legally obtainable for married women. Abortion also was still illegal and thus unsafe. Many an unwed mother was terribly damaged or even died from back-alley abortions..so desperate not to be forced to remain pregnant and suffer the wrath of boyfriends, families and society. I would like to touch on the less than acceptable medical treatment that was afforded and practiced upon young unwed pregnant women in that time. Let alone the humiliation that would be a 'normal' occurrence, it would also be the barbaric medical practices used against and on young unwed pregnant women. Having doctors and nurses making cruel and even subtle obscene remarks about your pregnant state while visting the clinic. The attending doctor inviting 'interns' to witness your internal exam, which was a first for so many us. Most of the 'interns' being young men, straining their necks to look into and up your vaginal area, the doc pointing out the pregnancy state of your breasts, the size of your nipples and color of the areola. And many times no nurse and surely no advocate nor family member for moral support. Just your young self, bared naked to the world, for examination..as if all you were was a pregnant torso, with no brain, no heart, no soul and no feelings. Once you looked upon the gazing faces of 5, sometimes 10 young men, humiliated like never before, you took yourself outside of yourself and stared at that ceiling and tried to make believe, no one was there. I was 17 yrs old when I experienced this. You then would be asked the question in front of your 'audience' or rather stated..'YOU aren't Married!!!!!" And I would answer in a very small voice...No After the exam I would be told I needed to go visit with the person down the hall. I was raised to respect authority, you did what the 'authorities' told you to do. I went down the hall and sat beside a desk..where a 'man' would then question me about my unmarried pregnant state, what religion was I baptized, etc. He would then embark on the 'social worker bible' of Sayings. You are not married, you cannot raise a child on your own, no man will want you with another man's child..(Funny that one is now..because adoptor fathers are always taking on 'another man's' child when they adopt), your child will be called a bastard, no one will play with your child in the school playground, people will talk about you and your bastard child...is that what you want?, blah, blah, blah. I would then be given the name and address of an adoption agency attached to the religion I was baptized in.. Lutheran Child and Family Services, River Forest, Illinois.
And each clinic visit would be just as humiliating as the first visit. I hated those clinic visits and so did not want to go for another round of humiliation.

In the hospital I was treated like a leper. My mother had paid for a 'ward', but I was admitted into a 'private' room and not once during my 3-4 day stay was allowed to leave it. I was 'knocked out' for the delivery and awoke back in my 'private' room. The pain in my vaginal area was excruciating. The nurse would tell me, if you have pain there, it is because you ripped (no episiotomy)and we had to stitch and use skin clips. I still bare the extra large scar tissue in that area. I would be given amnesiac-narcotics post-partum (I now have my medical records). The nurses did not speak to me, I don't remember seeing or speaking to a doctor. All I remember is stone silence and a dimly lit room. And my hospital experience is still relatively good, compared to what some other EMS mothers were forced to endure during their L&Ds and hospital stay, horrific experiences. Were the Social Workers, the doctors, the nurses all reading from the same Hand-Book..'How to torture a young unwed mother delivering and post-partum'?? My baby-girl would be lost to adoption.

Exactly 2 1/2 years to the day, then married and giving birth to my 2nd daughter.. my birthing experience and post-partum, would be the difference between night and day. WHY? I know why today...simply because I had those 3 letters that safe-guarded a mother's body, heart and soul and most importantly her own baby..MRS! That's all it took in this society of ours..3 little letters, to show that I was 'respectable' and 'manned'. If that isn't discrimination, I don't know what is then! I could write much more, but I will make my leave, as a much older, wiser Senior Mother..who can't be railroaded anymore and will not 'suck it up' nor 'get over it', until a whole lot of 'authorities' do some really tall, long explaining!!

Chris-Class of 1964

Chris said...

""I am so sorry that people were not as accepting back in the day. Thank goodness there are choices now.""

Ana's Mama... one just saying they are sorry for the non-acceptance 'back in the day', simply just does not get it. Nor the immediate glossing over and moving on to immediately..'Thank goodness there are choices now'. Maybe that makes you feel a little better...that still does not erase the inhumane, discriminatory treatment that so many of the EMS mothers were forced to endure. Not only here in America..but in all the Westernized Countries, globally. The same exact inhumane, discriminatory treatment was being practiced in Canada, the U.K., Australia, New SOuth Wales, and New Zealand. This was hardly just a mere coincidence that was being visited upon millions of young pregnant unwed mothers, globally, at the very same time. This was a most deliberate, thought-out plan, a social experiment..to strip young unwed mothers of their newborns and give to stranger women and stranger men..simply because the young pregnant unwed mother was not married. That is a clear-cut case of discrimination against those unmarried and those married. Those strangers who were married being deemed more worthy of an unmarried mother's newborn, then the mother herself. Much the same as it was (and still in some cases today), gay people being discriminated against (marginalized/ostracized) in regards to equal employment, housing, benefits, etc. The heterosexual being made out to be more worthy than their human gay counterparts, only because of sexual differences.
Any unmarried mother should have the sole human right to birth, keep, and raise her own child, with no thought that maybe a stranger woman/man would be touted as the better fit or more worthy of. It goes totally against Mother Nature..and the reason that are species has not become extinct. If all babies were forcibly removed from their mothers and given to strangers, since the dawn of time, our species would have died out a long time ago. We mothers are not replaceable nor are our babies. We are human beings, not a shell game.

I will agree though today, should a mother, who has thoroughly educated and informed herself on all things adoption, without any outside interference, absolutely none, and she chooses adoption for her child after educating herself, so be it. But never, ever should money exchange hands, never, ever should baby-sellers make a 'profit' off the backs of human mothers and their children, never, nowhere. And adoptive parents can whine all day long that they don't buy children...ENOUGH!!! you are taking out loans, you are borrowing money, you are accepting government adoption welfare assistance, you are conjuring up all kinds of ways to bankroll an adoption to pay-off the baby-sellers...what they like to call 'Service Fees'! Plain and simple the Adoption Industry is selling babies and PAPs are buying babies...money is being exchanged for a 'product'. I don't know about 'choice' today..that is a real mixed bag of debate. But as sure as I am sitting here, turning 62 yrs old in a few weeks...for the greatest majority of pregnant unwed mothers during the Era of Mass Surrenders..there was no choice..NONE! And adoptive parents in more ways than one were the benefactors of the Human Rights and the babies that were denied to us...the Rightful and Natural Mothers of Our Babies that have now grown up in your households. The word 'Choice' in regards to the EMS and those mothers who were forced, one way or another to sign surrender docs...did not exist..the only option was adoption! One Option does not a Choice Make!

Chris-Class of 1964

Robin said...

"I will not go into my experience of having sex and getting pregnant in 1964. Many young women were having sex outside of marriage back then, some got caught, some didn't."

I appreciate your feelings on this, Chris, and thank you for all your observations. For me, the seduction, abandonment, rape and another abandonment are germaine to the total picture of my EMS experience. It was another case of males getting off the hook and leaving me, first, heartbroken, and then, second, traumatized. Those male interns that watched us being probed and prodded are just another example of how females were of little value unless they were "worthy/married" and even then, were expected to "stay in their place."

It seems easy for everyone to forget that it took two people, one of them male, to conceive a pregnancy. Spontaneous, asexual conception only happens with sharks and some amphibians, as far as I know.

Robin said...

Ana's Mama, what you said is like telling African-Americans that there is no more racism in this country. It looks "prettier" on the outside, but it's still the same shite, different day.

Anonymous said...

Ana's mama,

I have one more thing to say and if this feels like an attack you can just ignore it as you seem to ignore and acknowledge, the pain of adoption while taking part in doing it to some other third world country woman.

Just what do you know about coercion, and being forced to surrender your child due to poverty?

Do you really know where the child you adopted came from? I don't mean the country. Before you say she was an orphan was she really?
Was she stolen from her mom because she could be sold to Americans. Was she living in an orphanage due to poverty? WAS her mother forced into adoption because she had no help. I can bet my a$$ it was one of the above.

So before you come in here giving your opinions of how terrible it was take a look at what you have done. You have done exactly what was done to we moms. You were part of the market the selling of a baby. What makes you different than the abusive people we came up against.

Here in U.S. there is still the abuses we talk about here. BUT at least women have some rights, they can still obtain birth control if they go to the right pharmacist who will fill the prescription. Some of these highly moral "Christians" aren't doing that. AT least women can say no I want my baby and someone "may" listen or help. It is a lot different now as far as that goes. BUT there are still paps out there scouring the internet, looking for a mother, who is pregnant and alone. There are DEAR Bmo's letters telling mothers what a wonderful life they can give. Still adoption just marketed in a different light. Its wrong now and then. Oh and I didn't even mention the open adoptions. I could go on and on but your post with the pic of you and the child you adopted really triggered me. EVEN more than your sympathy toward we mothers.

One day maybe the child you adopted will find her family and go home to see them. Maybe, she will even find them and save them maybe even bring them here and be able to have a relationship that was met to be. Scary thoughts huh.


Gale

maybe said...

Robin wrote, "children and mothers are not interchangable entities."

I think this really needs to be explored. Who are earth came up with the idea the mothers and babies were simply cards to be shuffled? It's incredibly disturbing, but at the same time it is the prevailing attitude in the adoption world.

Oh, and just look at Angelina and Brad - she wants to adopt again, and she just had twins 3 months ago! WTF?

But she, and her fans, have totally bought into the interchangeable mother/child paradigm. We are losing this battle thanks to narcissistic celebrity adopters.

Chris said...

O Robin...I re-read what I wrote in my opening sentence in my first 'comment'. I did not explain myself fully. I didn't mean to imply that I would never speak of my pregnancy and of the male/father wholesale abandonment that so many young unwed pregnant women were also forced to endure and ultimately left holding the entire 'bag of responsibility', while 'daddy' merrily went on his way and on to his next conquest. I only meant in that first 'comment' that I wanted to speak to some of the medical practice issues (abominable)that I and so many other young unwed mothers experienced.

I believe when our society, nonchalantly dismissed the majority of the fathers of our babies as no biggie, society and our families left these daddies entirely off the hook, actually condoning their irresponsibility and encouraging more of the same. Thus once again, making the female entirely responsible for not only her feelings, but those of the male that would father her child as well. Not only 'feelings', but the entire physical sexual act of intercourse as well. 'As if' we were the Seducers and the entire cause of the 'victim' male being drawn into the Web of Seduction and ultimately he being a 'victim' of sexual intercourse with the female and thusly being 'hoodwinked' into fatherhood! How dare we even begin to think that the fathers of our babies should be held to some standard of accountability and responsibility for engaging with us in the sex act, that would produce a child! What were we thinking! Who was holding the Father's Feet to the fire? Who was condemning Unwed Fatherhood during the EMS? Who told any Unwed Father-to-be that he would be shamed, ostracized, marginalized by family, friends and society? Who told Unwed Fathers-to-be, that no woman would want him AFTER he had fathered a 'bastard'? What social worker told an Unwed Father-to-be, that he would be ridiculed and spoke of as Unfit and Unworthy? How many times was an Unwed Father-to-be told that his 'bastard' child would be called names and bullied in the schoolyard at recess???? Rather these Unwed Daddies-to-be were given a slap on the back, told she was only trying to 'trap' you, that the young unwed daddy had a bright future in front of him and he had to think of that firstly, rather than of the 'whore' who was carrying his 'bastard'. Even better..how could he really know that was even his child, afterall it was common knowledge the 'whore' was banging the entire football team! It has always amazed me in our supposed civilized, compassionate society, that our young men can fall in love with the lovely sweet thing down the block, his forever love, UNTIL she becomes pregnant, then instantly, in the blink of an eye..his forever love becomes a street-whore and the object of his disdain, comtempt and disrespect. Amazing, simply amazing..in how quickly love & sex, can turn a young man's heart to stone. Not only did his heart turn to stone once the word 'pregnant' was heard, but his heart turned to stone of and about this child that would soon enter this world, the same child that would be the 'fruit of his loins', his own flesh and blood. This was the experience of many a young unwed mother, not all, but many. Families in quite a few cases, did not even want their daughters to marry the father of her child...those Unwed Dads that wanted to step up to the plate and take care of their own. WHY? Was it better for families to shame & humiliate their daughters, when the young man loved and wanted to marry her and love & raise his own child? How can any family say they truly loved their pregnant unwed daughters and then condemn their daughters to a life of sorrow and shame, even when the Unwed Father was declaring his love for their daughter and willingly wanted to marry her? Condemning her to a life without the love of her life, but even worse without her own baby. What were these people thinking of? That's the mark of Love...condemnation, shaming, humiliation..basically throwing their daughters under the bus and the life of their own grandchild with her???
Again I will say...a whole lot of people have a whole lot of very tall, long explaining to do about the actions they undertook to 'punish' their daughter and the 'abandonment' of their own grandchildren.

And I still want to know where the millions of Former Unwed Fathers are, who's babies were lost to adoption during the EMS. Anyone, at anytime can plainly see, especially on the Internet...once again, their complete Absence!

Their Silence is deafening and speaks louder than words to their lack of character and lack of personal accountability, in the fathering of the millions of EMS babies lost to adoption. I believe relatively few former unwed fathers search for their lost children, in comparison to the Mothers. I have seen no evidence that former unwed fathers are very much interested in the children they helped to produce. When I see and hear the evidence that I am believing incorrectly...I will then say I was wrong in my beliefs. I believe my take on the majority of uninterested, non-caring former unwed fathers, is dead-on!!

Robin said...

Thanks, Chris. It looks like that wall of shame is going to have to be a big one to hold all the names.

Hugs,

Chris said...

""Oh, and just look at Angelina and Brad - she wants to adopt again, and she just had twins 3 months ago! WTF?

But she, and her fans, have totally bought into the interchangeable mother/child paradigm. We are losing this battle thanks to narcissistic celebrity adopters.""

Many a Celebrity and some average (and not-so-average adoptors) adoptors, are Child Collectors.They collect children like they would a favorite series of knick-knacks, barbie doll collections, tea sets, paintings, etc. From time to time, they dust them off, pride themselves in relation to their 'collections', have people 'ooo and ahhhh' over their 'collections' and then return them to their 'curio cabinets', to bring out another day, when the mood strikes them.

Angelina has immense 'issues' that she is trying to resolve by 'collecting' children. Better she check into a place to help those mentally ill, rather than visiting her mental illness upon innocent children. I feel terribly sorry for the children she herself has given birth to..they aren't 'collector' items. I think Angelina prefers the 'collections' she can buy, rather than what her own human female body produces. She can 'save' 'collections', she can't 'save' that which is brought forth from her own body. Many an adoptor does enjoy the 'Savior' status that they have been annointed with, even relishing it..all the while, at the same time outwardly speaking they don't. BS! JMO!!

Anonymous said...

Maybe,

LOOKS like another forever family is gone separate ways. MADONNA and her hubby have called it quits. News reported this weeks ago, and this adoptress denied and lied. Hmmm, typical adopter lie, lie and lie till your lie can't be covered up!

Oh, and just look at Angelina and Brad - she wants to adopt again, and she just had twins 3 months ago! WTF?

But she, and her fans, have totally bought into the interchangeable mother/child paradigm. We are losing this battle thanks to narcissistic celebrity adopters.

Vengence said...

Okay, so it was considered okay for Madonna to adopt that baby because "he didn't have a mother." Now the child "doesn't have a father." By THAT logic, she should darned well give the baby back to his REAL father.

If it was okay to force a father to sever all ties to his beloved child (who was only the orphanage due to poverty, as are many children that age in Africa -- orphanges are temporary places of shelter until the child is about 5 yrs old and past the infant mortality stage) because his mother was dead, how about what Madonna has done?

It shows that being rich and white (or even middle-class and white) breeds an attitude of entitlement to other people's children.