by Carol Schaefer
Soho Press, 1991
are very few books on the market written for or about birth mothers. This
one is a must for birth mothers, their spouses, adult children (including
adoptees), and parents of birth mothers or birth fathers. It is the story
of the authors pregnancy, the birth and relinquishment of her child,
her subsequent life, and, finally, her search and reunion with her son. She
describes, in words familiar to most birth mothers, her panic at discovering
she was pregnant. In 1965, in the South, this was real cause for panic! Her
parents and her boyfriends parents said they would be supportive, but
their support turned out to be sending her away to a home for
unwed mothers, saying she was on a trip for semester. The young
man was told he must finish college and forget all about this. Carol was
also told she would eventually forget. Of course, no one forgets,
The author describes her experiences at this
home, her feelings for her baby, the love she and her boyfriend
still had for each other as well as for the baby, and the constant shaming
messages she is given by the staff as well as her parents, and even the doctor.
Although not allowed to tell their last names or home towns to each other,
the girls form close, and sometimes resentful, relationships with each other.
Each girl had required physical work to do, and they were encouraged to knit
or crochet baby sweaters, but not for their own babies. When they left the
confines of the building, in a group, they were given wedding bands to wear,
as if a dozen young married, pregnant women would be eating or shopping all
Christmas at this home was especially
hard, as several of the residents were due then, and all were isolated from
their families. The authors own baby, due then, was frustratingly late.
The plan was for her to go back to college second semester, as if nothing
had happened, and tell no one, and then her life would be wonderful. Of course,
although she spent years pretending she was okay, keeping her secret, it
was never as if nothing had happened.
Finally, after a marriage and two more sons,
through the guidance of a therapist, she finds a support group, and begins
her search. The story of her search and reunion is as exciting as any mystery
novel, full of coincidences, near misses, and apparent dead ends, until she
finds the son and his adoptive family.
I found that this book brought up old feelings
of sadness and grief, but that was a healing experience too. I had intended
to take my time reading it, but I could not put it down until I had finished
it. I asked my spouse to read it, and he stayed up half the night reading.
I would recommend it to anyone involved in the adoption triad, including
current spouses and siblings of the relinquished child. For birth mothers,
I believe it will be a special treasure they will want to keep and re-read
from time to time. It may even inspire some to write their own story.
Excerpted from the October 1997
edition of the Operation Identitiy Newsletter
© 1997 Operation Identity