Thirty-Eight years ago, I gave birth to my son after 72 hours of labor. He was beautiful and I wanted him to be with me always. This event occurred two months to the day after I became a resident of St. Anne’s maternity hospital in Los Angeles, California. I had been instructed to give the baby up for adoption.
I had every intention of following instructions. The mound in my abdomen had grown into a huge burden. It was heavy to carry around and awkward to maneuver. At one point “the baby” kicked so hard that I had time to count all the toes and determine that I was seeing a right foot. It was not a magical moment as much as it was a painful moment and it was also an awkward moment because I had been standing in back of someone seated on a couch and when “the baby” kicked he hit her in the back of the head with sufficient force to rock it forward. She thought I had hit her “upside her head.” Embarrassed, I pointed to the still extended foot to which she responded, “still” with foreboding in her voice. I left the room to find some place where this thing could act up and not put me in danger of physical harm.
I was fifteen years old. Just weeks away from being sixteen, an age that sounded infinitely more mature. I begged the doctor to put age sixteen on the birth certificate but he said he had to produce an accurate document and that it was my own fault that I was not older when I had gotten myself into this position, which would have been funny, if it hadn’t been trying to shame me. I was still in the delivery stirrups-wide open to his assault on my character and his judgment of me. Shame became a theme in my life but I would not recognize it as such until much later.
I had a firm belief that I would not live past age 21. I’m not sure where this idea came from but it was firmly held. In my teenaged narcissism I figured that giving birth was a good experience to have before I died. It was an abstract thought with no attachment to reality and no thought given to the human being who would be orphaned if I kept “it” but who would provide someone a lifetime of joy if I followed the instructions I had been given.
Back in the day, there was no largely available way to predetermine gender, so expectant mothers expected babies- generic-not boys or girls or humans with names. I do not enjoy the predetermination of babies that technology now provides. I prefer to be surprised. However, I do feel much more comfortable addressing the emergent being by a gendered pronoun. “It” just feels wrong. I much prefer he or she and even before predetermination became commonplace I would use those pronouns interchangeable just to avoid the “it” word.
I won’t use this first blog to share the “discovery” story of how I told my parents I was pregnant and their response, except to refer you back to the first paragraph. My residency at St. Anne’s is a part of that story. It was believed that because my condition would be confusing to the other kids- my siblings-one brother and two sisters, all younger- I needed to be removed from the house. It was decided that I would go on a “vacation” to visit a friend who lived in Texas. This way when I returned as just plain `ole me no one would be confused.
Weekly phone calls home would reinforce this plot line, and every Friday evening I would tell each sibling, in turn, how much fun I was having in Texas. The trauma of standing in line to use the pay phone each Friday night only encouraged my disassociation with reality and while I was in the phone booth, I could actually believe that just outside the door of the pay phone booth was my friend’s living room in her home in Texas. It wasn’t a “magic place” but it was a short escape from the reality of my life and I took it. The instructions were to convince my siblings that I was on a short two-month visit with my friend and I was having a great time.
I followed instructions, I went to St Anne’s I caused only a small amount of trouble and I believed until the very moment of delivery that this child would soon belong to people I would never know. This, again, was back in the day when open adoption was a possibility but was discouraged by professionals, I am still unsure of what that profession is. But, they didn’t like the idea of a continuing relationship between biological parent and adopted child. . It was for this reason that the staff of the delivery wing of the maternity hospital did not allow delivering mothers see the children they delivered. However, on this day, someone was not as thorough as she should have been, and yes, back in that day most nurses were women,
Maybe it was due to the 72 hours of labor but once I looked over at the covered bassinette and saw a tiny penis wiggling around in the folds of the blanket, I sincerely believed that this child would be adopted. Later a counselor told me that statistically women change their minds about adoption when they learn they have a boy more frequently than when they know they have had a girl. I am organizing some statistics for a future post that will tell you if that is factual or not. Better yet, if you have those statistics, please post them here.
I was not supposed to see my son, whose name I had already chosen although I knew that name would be changed by the new mommy and daddy. This was also back in the day when single people were nearly always considered unfit for adopting a child.
I had not really gotten a proper look at the owner of the penis when I began to tell anyone who would listen that I had changed my mind. They all responded by telling me “you all say that. Tomorrow you will feel differently.” But I didn’t. So they allowed me to hold and feed him, thinking that this would overwhelm me, and it did, but I didn’t change my mind. The only thing I have ever been absolutely certain of with my whole being in my entire existence is that I was meant to be this baby's mother. For good or ill, and there was plenty of ill, it was my course in life, even if it did end at age 21, to provide for this little human and to take him through the world as best I could.
I have lived long past age 21 and my son is now an adult, married and contemplating children, who I believe with every fiber of my being, will be born to be my grandchildren. I will follow this post with more specific stories about me. I want my son to post only when he is comfortable doing so and anonymously, if he wishes it.
This is a forum for both parents and children, and I invite you all to share your stories.
For today, this blog is born and I want to use it to wish a Happy birthday to my beautiful boy.