Tuesday, June 29, 2010

History Dunces

It amazes me how little our younger friends know about recent American history. I am not talking about early colonization and the Revolution, but mid-20th century realities. They tend to keep wanting to view it through the perception of today's  mores.

I think that a friend and I got the biggest laugh from a guy on Craigslist who was very blaming and wanted to know why we didn't use birth control. This was an adult asking this question and I wondered on what planet he had been living.

One more time, in the EMS, and prior, birth control was hit and miss and there was no pill, no IUD, no depo shot...nothing but condoms. Even married people did not have access to birth control until a woman named Margaret Sanger started campaigning for the rights of women to prevent pregnancy. You can read about her on Wikipedia. She died in 1966 when the idea of birth control was really getting started. A single woman, even after the pill was approved, had NO access to birth control at all for years afterwards.

Condoms, when a boy was able to get them without the pharmacist calling his parents and getting him in trouble, were not 100% effective as many of us can attest. No young girl would be caught dead going into a drug store to buy a pack of protection. This shows you just how much things have changed, both socially and scientifically, in 50 to 60 years.

People from today see the 60's as an era of peace, love, sex, drugs and rock and roll. Sorry to bust the bubble, but the "Summer of Love" didn't hit until I had been married and had a 3-year-old kept child. In small towns like mine, "hippies" were scorned and the way of the yuppie was embraced. Virginity was still prized and Doris Day was the archetype of the "wait until you are married" school of thought. I used to wonder if she frustrated Rock Hudson, but then we all know about old Rock. He was battling his own hypocritical demons. Looking back, I ache for him and others like him as I do for us. People were such blue-noses back then.

Young women were not as sophisticated as they are now. Very few of us were given more than the mere basics of sex education and the misinformation that we picked up from our peers. The boys were supposed to try to get us naked and we were supposed to control them and never get naked. It was a man's world.

Roe v Wade changed a lot of things. The right of a woman to choose her own reproductive process was an idea that was revolutionary and scary to the religious community. However, it became the law of the land in January of 1973 and the back-alley butchers were, largely, out of business. Some remained but I daresay they didn't get the business they got prior to that momentous decision. Many parents who could afford the procedure were more than willing to pay for it. By that time, I had been married for five years and we were talking about having another child. I had worn an IUD for 2 years, because I was married and could get one, and didn't have to worry about it until we were ready. I felt like a pioneer.

By the time my daughter was old enough to become pregnant, birth control had been made available to single girls, as well. and the supply of womb-fresh infants for the adoption machine fell even further. By the mid-80's, adult adopted people and mothers who had lost a child to adoption were starting to search for and find each other. I remember falling out of my chair in shock when I saw a reunion story on the Phil Donahue Show.

I was 48 and, unknown to me, a grandmother, when my daughter found me in 1993. By then, searches and reunions were making the news, regularly. My daughter and I were interviewed by the local paper. The closet doors that were shut in the middle of the 20th century were opening as the century drew to a close. Now, those of us that were swept up in that horrible thing called the EMS are fighting. We fight for recognition and justice and our children for equality and access to their own original birth certificates.

That is a short synopsis of the history of reproductive right and the days of my youth. It is a view from someone who lived it. It has all gone by so fast that I feel like I have been in a time machine. When I had my first child, there were no PC's, no cell phones, no microwaves, VCR's, CD's, DVD players or video games. People still communicated via the postal service or the expensive long distance call. Our telephones has dials on them..not buttons, and Barbie was brand-new. The Beatles were playing in cellar clubs in Europe and John Lennon had a DA, not the famous mop-top.

And girls from that time...? Well, they were either the "good (virgin)" girls or the "bad (non-virgin)" girls and never the twain would meet. It gives me great sorrow to see the conservatives and right-wing Christians of our society trying to wind the social clock backwards. The social engineering of adoption is still big business. They just have to work harder and more subtly to get those babies to the "right kind of people." The anti-choicers and the adoption industry are holding hands in the dark and getting downright chummy. It seems that the only thing they have learned from our recent history is how to get around the newest obstacles in their paths.

But, we continue to speak out and, if it makes some people less than comfortable, so be it. If it causes one young woman to change her mind and keep her baby, hooray and hallelujah. If it makes people take a closer look at one of the more shameful periods in our history, then we are doing our job.

We are teaching if anyone is up to learning.


Sandy Young said...

I will be like the Universal Emulsifier...water...a constant, never-ending drip that will wear away the arguments of those who would try to deny it.

Linda said...

I had my last child in 1988. I STILL had to have my husband's "permission", with a written "permission slip" to have my tubes tied.

It is amazing to me that people do not think coercion happened, or that it still does not happen. It does....but it is savvier, slicker..more subtle than it was my Mother had me in 1965.

The underlying, fraudulent message that "good girls give their babies to those who are more deserving" STILL exists. And that message is still wrong.

Robin said...

That is no longer the case, either. My granddaughter had hers tied and she didn't have to get anyone's permission.

The differences are not that it isn't still happening, it is. Just in not as overtly a punitive way, in as great a number and things that are available for mothers later were not, then. Legally, they could do what they wanted with us. Now they can't. And as early as the 70's it became acceptable for a single woman to keep her baby.

It was on the broken hearts of millions of EMS mothers that the idea of surrender being the "right thing to do" was conceived and perfected by the industry.

Amanda said...

Awesome post!