Friday, March 23, 2007

The Girls Who Went Away

Have you ever read a book that you thought "Wow, this may haunt me for the rest of my life?"

It is an eery feeling. I heard this author on NPR several months ago. I was driving around in traffic on my way to meet another adoptive mother who was going to be a travel mate on our trip to China this past August/September. I was stunned at hearing these stories of birthmothers who had relinquished their children between the post WWII years and before Roe v. Wade. She was truly captivating as she talked about her experience as an adoptee and all of the interviews she had conducted with birthmothers here in the US.

I thought, "Oh yeah, I must read this someday. Huh, isn't it weird that I am in the car getting ready to meet A who is also an adoptive mother and we leave to adopt our girls in a matter of days?" (A and her husband traveled to China with us every step of the way to adopt their twins.)

Well, of course life happens and I got a wee bit busy this fall and completely forgot about the book. Then, I was perusing other blogs this week and stumbled on a recommendation for the the book.

I haven't even finished it and it is painful what these women went through. Some were hardly women they were girls. Society put so much pressure on them to be certain way, and many had absolutely no choice at all, they gave up children under complete distress. Over and over they tell the story of one baby, one choice, and they could never forget what happened no matter how many people told them to move one, just forget about it.

I suppose we all know someone who "got into trouble" as a teenager. Or our sisters or mothers knew someone. This book focuses on women in the 1950's and 1960's. But I started high school in 1983 and I knew a girl who went away.

She was kind and cute. She was smart too. She was popular but not in a "slutty" way. She was 15. She was dating a senior football player. Her parents were Catholic. Her name was Dee.

Dee disappeared in November of our freshman year. She told me one day her parents would not let her stay at school and she was going to a school a 1/2 hour away. I naively asked her why. She replied that she just had to go away but she would be back next year. Sure enough she appeared back in school 5 months later. Rumors ran rampant...home for illegitimate babies was where Dee went and the nuns took her baby. I just couldn't believe that could happen to Dee. The football player went on to become "most popular". He took a very pretty blond girl to the prom while Dee was "away".

Without even knowing that Dee was truly "in trouble", since I just heard the rumors, I had a dream she had a baby boy a week or so before she appeared in school again. I wanted to ask her about it but no one said a word to her about it. Ever. In 4 years of high school. I traveled with Dee our senior year to Scranton, PA to check out Scranton University. It was the first time Dee was allowed away from home since her freshman year. On the car ride listening to the Police she said, "I had a baby." I said, "I know."
That was it, I didn't know what else to say. She did not go into the full story but she told me that she was thankful for our friendship because lots of people would not talk to her when she came back. It thought this was weird since we weren't even that close.

So, here I am all these years later. On the other side of the fence profiting from some woman's shame or poverty or government ruling, parental pressure or perhaps her choice. I don't know.
But I do know this book is a must read if you are an adoptive parent, no matter how much it makes you feel like crawling out of your skin.


Melissa said...

Thank you for the recommendation. I am one of those babies that was taken away from her mother at birth in 1965. I reunited with her in Sept of last year, and its been the happiest time in both our lives. Its truly a blessing that we got to share the rest of our lives together. What they did to those girls in those days was beyond reprieve. My birth mother was put in a mental institution and was given electric shock treatment every other day while she was pregnant with me. It was to convince her that giving me up was the right thing to do. She didn't want to give me up and she's still tortured with the memories. I will definately read the book, but I'll probably cry during the whole thing.

Perrin said...

Thanks for the comment. Glad you are here. I am sorry for your birthmother's treatment. Not that it means anything from me, but I am glad you and your birthmother are here to tell the important story. This is an easily forgotten very important part of American history.

Peace to you and your mother(s).

nikki said...

Wow, I will definitely be reading the book. Thanks for making us aware of it.

Traci S. said...

My neice is 17 years old. Down the street from her lives her dearest elementry friend, R.

A month ago my neice told me that R was pregnant. R and I became close all those years ago and we still love seeing each other and catching up. Whenever we see each other she runs over with arms outstretched saying, "AUNT TRACI!" We always hug and smile a lot when we share a few moments at the curb as I make my way by.

I knew that I wanted to make a point to see her and support she and her baby. I stopped by about a week ago. She happened to be in her car, in the driveway getting ready to leave. Like always she ran to me with an excited, "Aunt Traci!" and we hugged. As she held her belly I told her that her baby was looking absolutely beautiful. Her response was, "Oh, I hate getting so fat." I held her face in my hands and told her that she isn't "fat", she is the Mommy to a beautiful baby that is growing inside of her. She seemed to like hearing that.

We talked for awhile and she said, "I left school so that no one sees me get fat." I reinforced that her growing belly is beautiful and that she is NOT fat and then asked about her parents (who I know have strong religous beliefs), she gave the thumbs up that everything is "cool" and that the excitement in their home is building.

She talked about her boyfriend. He's leaving the college that he attends two hours away and will finish at our local college. She has taken her GED and will go to the same school. No plans to live together, but they do see their future together after college is under their belts.

They have a plan, she will have her baby and she is being supported. Thank God we have evolved as a society!

Thanks Perrin for the scoop on this book. I have stories from high school as well. I wonder what ever happened to my friend, Tracey?

Anonymous said...

My older sister's friend also went through that experience. Disappear for months, come back sans baby. I guess times have changed, young women have more choices (I hope). Sometimes as a potential adoptive parent I wish more babies were given up for adoption but I know thats selfish and its better that women have more options and support to make their own decisions.

Take care, Lin

Kristin said...

Wow... I am ordering this and am going to reccomend it to my book club...