"birthmoms" Exploited By Adoption
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birthmother stories


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"She told me that women who were trying to keep their babies were considered to be psychotic"
by Barb Morra


I became pregnant by my boyfriend in March 1968. I was a senior in high school, with plans to go to college. I had been awarded a full scholarship to a private college. I was a great student - National Honors Society, National Merit Scholar, and feature editor of the school paper.

When I told my boyfriend that I suspected that I was pregnant, he became terribly upset. Within a few days he broke up with me and began dating someone else. Naturally I was devastated. The stress of the breakup and morning sickness took their toll. I became very ill and dehydrated and lost 25 pounds during that two-week period of time.

I told no one else of my pregnancy. I graduated from high school. My ex-boyfriend was sent to Colorado to visit his mother for the summer (his parents were divorced.) I was left to my own devices.

As my pregnancy advanced, I could not ignore what was happening inside me. I confided in an older woman, an R.N. at the nursing home where I worked, who referred me to a maternity home. I visited there, and they suggested that I choose an adoption agency. I grabbed on to their assurance and confidence about what I should do in my situation as a drowning person snatches for a life jacket.

Eventually, I informed my mother of my pregnancy. She didn't believe me, at first. She never spoke a word to me about it after I convinced her that I was indeed pregnant. She died many years later without ever mentioning my baby or pregnancy again. My father, on the other hand, was deeply disturbed by the news. He insisted that I follow the adoption workers' advice, enter a home, and give my child up. He assured me I would be shunned by society, unable to work or get an education, if I kept my child. He said no man would marry me, ever, if anyone found out about the pregnancy. He said he would not raise my child as his one of his own. He said my brothers and sisters would be corrupted by the knowledge of my pregnancy. He said he could be fired if anyone found out. He said the news would kill my grandparents. In short, I was to keep my mouth shut.

As the weeks passed, and I began to feel my child move inside me, a growing sense of dread filled me. I sensed a great darkness coming in my life, but I had no real idea of the magnitude of that darkness.

I delayed my entrance into college, and entered The Florence Crittenden Home in
Cleveland, Ohio in September 1968. At the home, they assigned me a new name, Chris Garson.

No one inside the home was to know my true identity. If I received letters, they were to be addressed to Chris Garson. I was allowed 15 minutes of phone time a week, after the first two weeks. All calls were to be placed to Chris Garson. I was not allowed to have any personal money beyond a few dollars. My maternity clothes were provided by the home. No personal clothing was allowed except underwear and nightgowns. I was allowed out for two hours at a time with a group of other girls from the home after the first two weeks. I had to sign in and out. I was provided a wedding band for those few precious hours of freedom. In short, I was isolated from every friend or possible source of emotional support I had ever had.

I had weekly meetings with the social worker from Catholic Charities during my pregnancy. No mention was ever made by her of alternate plans beside adoption for my baby. If I brought it up, I was told that it was impossible, that I was no good, selfish, fallen, that I had sinned, that redemption would come if I placed my daughter in a good home where good people could take care of her. This mantra was drilled into me over and over by the social worker, by the staff at the home, and by the other girls who were hearing it from their social workers, over, and over, and over. I guess we were trying to convince ourselves that this was the thing to do, even though my instincts, and I am sure, many of theirs, were screaming the opposite.

I paid for my own room and board with the money I had saved for college. My exboyfriend, to his credit, helped pay for part of the baby’s hospital bill. I had daily chores to do to help maintain the home. Other than the chores, and the weekly "counseling" sessions with our social worker, my time was my own. Mostly, I read. I also wrote poetry.

Thanksgiving was grim. There were manifestations of grief everywhere in the home, although I am not sure that we girls recognized it as such. There was constant fighting over telephone time, chores, and TV programming. There was crying every day, and every night. There were girls who tried to induce abortions with knitting needles and cans of Lysol. Rudeness, snide remarks, and other evidence of self-hate and depression were to order of the day.

My father was pressuring the home to return me to my family by Christmas. They had lied to my grandparents about my whereabouts at Thanksgiving, and didn't feel they could keep up the lie much longer. My father, who had not graduated from high school himself, was also very anxious that I start college in January.

So in mid-December, my labor was induced. I was left alone during labor except for a medical student who was doing research on if women in labor were more psychic that women not in labor. He sat by my bedside and asked me to predict the pattern printed on cards he held. Aside from that, I was left virtually alone. My daughter was born later that evening. I was drugged with barbiturates during labor. The record says I was hysterical. I do remember screaming that I was dying. I do remember being strapped down with leather straps. I do not remember hearing my daughter cry at birth. I never saw my daughter. The record shows that her Apgar scores were only 3/5 in the delivery room. She too had been sedated with the drugs given to me and was breathing poorly. Since I was a Catholic, she was baptized in the delivery room.

I fell asleep after delivery, and was taken back to the maternity home the next morning. I never saw my daughter.

I refused to sign the relinquishment papers at the home. By this time, despite the efforts to convince me otherwise, I was sure I could not place my daughter for adoption. I had decided to try to go it alone with her, and told the social worker so. I did sign a paper allowing the agency to take care of her medical needs, and to remove her to their nursery because I was not yet ready to assume her care.

I left the home on Christmas Eve, 1968. My daughter was in the newborn nursery at St. Vincent De Paul Home in Cleveland, Ohio. I was taken by my parents to their home. I was expected to participate in the Christmas celebration like my old self. I was expected to never mention it again. It was over and done, as far as my parents were concerned.

I knew that I was a different person from the one who had gone away pregnant. I had carried and birthed a baby, and that is a life changing experience. My parents didn't seem to understand this change. They seemed to expect me to be the same person. I felt so cut off from them and the rest of my family. I had experienced something they probably never would, one of those things which are so out of the ordinary that it creates a huge gap between those who know and those who don’t. I was a different person, and I was filled with an overwhelming grief and a heaviness I was never to discuss with anyone. I was completely isolated and alone.

The next day, on Christmas, one of my little sisters innocently gave me a gift in a little box. The box had originally held rubber pants for babies, and had a picture of a baby on the lid. I completely freaked out when I saw that. I will never forget my father asking my mother in a frustrated voice, "Now what's wrong?" as I broke down.

Somehow I got through the holidays. Between Christmas and New Year, I begged my father on my knees to let me bring my baby home. He refused. I begged him to adopt my baby He said he wouldn't. He said if I brought the baby home he would never let me in the door. He told me she and I would surely perish in the cold.

I was experiencing unrelenting, incapacitating pain. I would cry and scream until I fell asleep. When I awoke, the pain was there again.

College began Jan 2 or 3. I couldn't function at all. I couldn't understand what was being said to me. I couldn't understand simple directions. There was an orphanage a few miles from campus. Once I got lost trying to find my way around, and ended up behind the orphanage, in the parking lot. I was screaming, not knowing how I'd gotten there, or why I was screaming. I continued to attend classes, but just wasn't getting it. A week or two after classes began, I returned to my old part time job. It was then that I began to see a way to keep my baby. I would quit school, and work full time. The owners of the nursing home where I was working maintained a little house next to it. They said I could move in there. I felt that if I could make it a few months, my parents would relent and let us move back home.

By now it was near the end of January. I went back to Catholic Charities with wings on my feet and told my case worker to turn my child over to me. She replied that I would then owe them either $2,500 or $4,500 for the care they had provided her. (I can't remember which). What a blow! I had not yet signed the relinquishment, and they really began to turn up the pressure on me. They used the seeds they had planted during the pregnancy, that I was not good enough to raise my own child, that the child deserved a "good " mother and father. She told me that I was basically emotionally unfit, that I was a neurotic little girl, that I just wanted a doll to play with.

They said my baby was not thriving in the nursery, that she needed more care and attention than she could get in an institution. She quoted studies done on war orphans. Finally she told me that there was an infectious disease in the nursery that all the babies were catching, and that I really had to sign before my baby got sick. (This last part turned out to be true, I discovered during reunion. She had indeed contracted a disease in the nursery, couldn't eat properly, and was losing weight.) Still I did not, could not, would not, sign. Everything in my being resisted. Everything I was told me what an unnatural, abhorrent thing such a practice was.

On Feb. 11, 1969, I had another appointment with her. The baby’s father offered his savings to pay the money demanded by the social worker. He was willing to give it to me to obtain our child back from the adoption agency. I told her so, told her I had a job, a place to live, and the money to pay her.

That’s when she destroyed me. As I found out during reunion, she had already promised my daughter to a wealthy Mafia couple, and was no doubt anticipating a large donation from them. This nun (who later left the convent, married and had children of her own), evidently decided she was tired of the game, and decided to end it there and then.

She told me that women who were unmarried and pregnant were considered by the professional establishment to be neurotic, and that women who were trying to keep their babies were considered to be psychotic for choosing the pain of unwed motherhood over the freedom of relinquishment. She said that when I appeared before a judge to try to reclaim my child from the adoption agency, he would involuntarily terminate my parental rights, and have me committed to the county mental institution. She warned me never to mention my pregnancy, or my attempt to keep my child to anyone, because then everyone would know that I was mentally unstable. She told me that if anyone ever found out how "mentally unstable" I was, any other children I had would be permanently removed from me.

In this way she assured my silence, and the secrecy needed to maintain that kind of closed adoption. It also interfered radically with my ability to test reality. I actually came to believe that she was right. After all, the system could take my baby from me because the judge and social worker both said I was mentally ill to even try to keep my baby. Something in me concluded that they must be right, and I must be wrong. So for twenty-five years afterwards, I questioned the data that my senses and my mind were giving me. I had no confidence in my ability to perceive accurately. Years after that when I finally sought therapy, one of the first tasks the therapist had was to convince me that I was not out of touch with reality, or with the world as I perceived it. She taught me that I could trust the information that my senses were giving me, that I could trust my memory, that I was perceiving correctly. She taught me that I was a fairly normal person in a very crazy situation.

At any rate, it was under this duress that I signed. I was eighteen years old, still a minor, bereft of my child, in deep mourning for her, abandoned by my parents, and the boy I had loved and trusted. I picked up the pen. It took me a half hour to sign my name, as I had no strength in my wrist and fingers. Finally I was able to write my name. I was crying bitterly the entire time. I got up from the desk, took a few steps, and collapsed. Someone, I don't even remember who, carried me home.

A few days later I was back, saying I could not live with my decision, and that I wanted my daughter back. The social worker said the child had been placed, but she would “ask the bishop.” I returned again a few days later, and she said, “the bishop says no.” I never went back. And they never called.

For the first several years afterwards, I was just numb, unable to understand what was being said to me, unable to feel anything at all. I was like a lobotomized beast at that point. Of course, I dropped out of college. Eventually, I was able to go to nursing school and finish, but so much more had been predicted for me in my youth. I took up art as a way to express my pain. I made steel sculpture mostly out of old pipe. This provided me some relief, because I had begun to visualize my pain as a force that had to be contained within a steel prison, a steel pipe, buried deep within the earth, and welded shut. That pain and that pipe had become my prison. I attempted to create something beautiful, an artwork, out of that prison. Other than that, I barely existed.

Eventually I married and had more children, but still, on holidays and special days, and especially around her birthday and Christmas, I experienced a pain and a heaviness that would put me in my bed for most of the month. The nights were the worst. I would experience a pain that was like being in the middle of a whirlwind. The whirlwind threatened to destroy me. I remember pushing the pain down, pushing it down into a place like a steel pipe inside of me, and welding on a steel cap so the pain could never overtake me again.

In December 1987, I gave birth to my last child, a girl. Within a year of her birth, I was experiencing a complete inability to deal with life, my kids, and my job. I laid in bed. That's what I did. I went through weeks of having to choose minute by minute not to end my own life with a gun. I debated whether to put the bullet through my brain or my heart. Which would better express my state? The only reason I didn't kill myself was the knowledge that my two sons, then five and four, would probably find my body.

By now my husband was at the end of his (very long) rope. He insisted upon therapy. I began to see a female PhD in clinical psychology. She tested me and therapy began. I was in therapy for years - an expensive and painful experience. After extended therapy, I became strong enough to search. I did search, and was reunited. I am now experiencing the ups and downs of reunion. I am happy to say that my emotional life is not painful the way it used to be. I am slowly becoming less concerned with the adoption experience, and more able to live in the present. However it remains, and will probably always remain, one of the defining facts of my life.

Surveying the past thirty years of my life has been a grim task, to say the least. I believe that devastating, forced loss of my baby, coupled with the threats from the social worker, and the massive shock of abandonment by my boyfriend and family, are responsible for the psychological destruction I experienced.

In researching brainwashing techniques, I have discovered that what the social worker did was, first, to isolate me from the reality and identity I had known for eighteen years, and then, destroy my concept of myself as a worthy individual and replace it with the concept of a self that in my case, was false...the concept of a mentally unstable, slutty child who only saw her own needs. I believe that this assault is at the root of the depression from which I have suffered for thirty years.

I believe that natural mothers from this era have the responsibility to educate the American public to the horrors of our experiences. I believe that not only will this help redress our wounds, it will help to put a stop to such practices, by making people aware that they even existed. I believe that in some ways, natural mothers of my era are a unique group, and represent a failed social experiment. We, and our children, were experimented upon without our knowledge or our informed consent. The people who designed and ran the experiment were neither qualified nor competent to undertake the venture they did. I believe that they have done immense damage to thousands upon thousands of women.

I believe that the preservation of families should be the primary goal when individuals and families are faced with pregnancies such as mine. 

 
 
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