My OBT

What if you spent every day looking for One Beautiful Thing?

Girl, Interrupted

29 Comments

Photo by byronv2 on Foter.com / CC BY-NC

37 years ago today, after I told my parents I was pregnant, they decided to send me away. They found me a spot in a Catholic home for unwed mothers a few towns away on Long Island. It’s likely they made the decision out of a combination of fear of being embarassed and a sense that I should be punished, but it turned out to be the best thing they could have done for me. For the first time, I fully appreciated the advantages of being part of a community of women. Both my fellow preggos and the nuns who cared for us were remarkably kind and non-judgmental, and we all supported each other. I have heard many horror stories from earlier generations and more religious cultures about inconveniently-pregnant young women who were locked up in terrible conditions with hostile nuns, so I appreciate how lucky I was to land in such a supportive place at a time when the worst of the stigma had passed. Regina Residence in Merrick, NY, was such a positive and healing place, for a few years after I gave up my daughter, I volunteered there, talking to the girls about adoption as both an adoptee and a birth mother.

I know I may have had a somewhat unusual attitude, but I was always proud of my decision to give up my baby. I told everyone in my life about giving up my daughter because it was the hardest/best thing I’ve ever done. But though I was proud of my act of love, another birth parent I knew turned it into a source of shame, hiding it from future partners. I imagine in these days of readily-available DNA matching, that birth parent lives in a constant state of terror, waiting for the phone to ring.

These days, adoption doesn’t come with the same assumption of privacy birth parents and adoptive parents had back then. With the advent of DNA testing sites like 23andMe and Ancestry, buried familial relationships can resurface without warning, and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it.

In my case, I spent 18 years with my fingers crossed, waiting for my daughter to reappear. It was a happy day for us all when we were reunited. But I know that’s not everyone’s situation.

I really hope the end of guaranteed anonymity doesn’t mean the end of the institution of adoption. It was the right decision for me and my birth mother, and it was the right decision for me and my daughter. I think it could still give girls a chance to grow up while making sure their children get the stable home lives they deserve.

I am a total believer in women’s right to choose, but for me, at that time, adoption was the right choice. I have never regretted it a day in my life, and now I have a beautiful daughter in my life who I wouldn’t trade for anything.

If you would like more information about adoption, you can check out the following (non-religious) sources:

Note: I didn’t plan this post to be timely, but unfortunately the serious threats to women’s rights this week have made the whole post seem a bit on the nose. If you, like me, are horrified by the measures passed in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Mississippi, I recommend you go check out these websites to see what you can do to help:

Author: Donna from MyOBT

I have committed to spending part of every day looking for at least one beautiful thing, and sharing what I find with you lovelies!

29 thoughts on “Girl, Interrupted

  1. I went to Catholic schools all my life in NJ. In high school one girl got pregnant and missed her junior year of HS. When she returned, her hair was very short and bleached white ( to the nun’s horror). The joke around school was that Dorothy went to California for a haircut. Her parents thinking was the same as yours, I guess. How much times have, thankfully, changed. Yours is such a positive story, Donna. Kudos to you. XO

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  2. Bless you and your parents.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so glad your story had a reunion with your daughter. I too was pregnant early on and was planning on adoption as well. But, at the end, my son stayed with me and my family. He turns 50 this year and I’m turning 70…we are going to Hawaii to celebrate!

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  4. What a nice story, keep telling it. The Sisters are so often portrayed as strict cold women when in fact many of us know them as compassionate giving people. Happy it all worked out for you and your daughter

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  5. Wow… I didn’t even expect this to be YOUR story (if that makes sense – it’s nothing to be ashamed of; I just didn’t think parents still did that which is to say that you seem like you might be the same-ish age as me or maybe even a little younger!)

    My cousin has been on a mission for years looking for her birth family and, now that she has, she wishes things would go back to the way they were before. Lots of conflicting emotions and this feeling like being so super-accepted into her “real” biological family is weird and maybe a little bit of a betrayal to us. I’m very supportive of her and hate that she feels so negatively about it now but it’s a journey… 🙂

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    • That’s my fear about finding my birth family. I did the 23 and Me and Ancestry DNA tests, but they didn’t turn up much. I’m tempted to go further, but I am afraid I’ll just bring heartache into my life. Hard to know what to do.

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  6. ❤ ❤ ❤ So glad you landed in a place that nurtured and supported you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for sharing more of your story. I am so glad that you found yourself in such a supportive place and that you were able to pay that forward by volunteering. What a wonderful resource you must have been to other women given your dual perspective.

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    • I was probably too young and too raw to really do a very good job with them, but I guess it was better than nothing!

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      • It’s not about qualifications but is about being there with genuine understanding and sincere empathy. There is something about a shared experience that just makes you feel so much less alone at a time when you might be feeling isolated and estranged from yourself. I have no direct experience of adoption but that has certainly been true for me with other major life events.

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      • I think I was there as much for my own healing as I was to dispel their fears. It was a very positive place, but I remember what wild rumors would get going among the girls. The nuns were great, but there were definitely things you didn’t want to ask them… They just let me sit alone with the girls and answer their wackiest questions. In particular, I recall there being a lot of hysterical misinformation about episiotomies.

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  8. What a heart warming story. Thank you for sharing. I think you were lucky, but I also think you were you! I get the feeling you were not ashamed of yourself, and neither should you be of course, but it probably helped a lot to ease the way for you. How wonderful that you and your daughter have reunited. You must be very proud.
    I remember one of my classmates got pregnant at 16 (this was back in about ’65) and there was quite a stigma attached to it. The unspoken assumption was that she must be a slut. So heartbreaking.
    I’m appalled and so saddened about what’s happening in Georgia et al re women’s bodies.
    Alison

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  9. I didn’t know this part of your story. I admire and love you even more!

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  10. My mother was born in a “Home for Unwed” mothers in Kansas City MO. About 1920. I will be 79 next month and have never been able to find even a tiny amount of information. I paid for one of those DNA tests and zerl/nothing showed up that would give a hint who my mother was. She was put in a “foster” home about 4 hours after birth. A short time later she was adopted by a family in St. Louis MO. She died when I was 3 yeara old from TB. My dad was in the Army. So never really got to know her except two old pictures. Dad would never tell my anything about my mother. They did separate while he was away and she did marry my “step dad”, Took me about 40 years to find him. He said he knew nothing about her background. That was not a surprise becaue she also knew nothing about her background/family. Hal

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    • How sad to lose your mother at 3. I did the DNA tests, too. But aside from one first cousin who has yet to respond to any of my messages, it just turned up a whole lot of distant relatives who have no idea who my people might be. I have come to realize that sometimes, mysteries don’t get solved, and what we know will just have to be enough.

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  11. Soo amazing

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  12. Donna, thank you for sharing this. I need to say that the “hardest/best thing you ever did” was not only an act of Love for your daughter and for yourself, but it was an incredible GIFT to the family that adopted her. I am blessed to have had 3 beautiful children with my husband but the greatest gift that I have EVER received came from a woman I may never meet, my 4th child, my daughter who we adopted at birth. I think of this woman often, I hope she has had the same peace of mind that you have, I hope she found support and love during the hard times of making decisions and I hope that if we all connect some time in the future it will be a time of joy and celebration. Thank you again. I can’t wait to share your blog with Melanie!

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