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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 babys 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.
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.
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.
asleep after delivery, and was taken back to the maternity home the
next morning. I never saw my daughter.
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.
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.
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 dont. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
11, 1969, I had another appointment with her. The babys 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
that the preservation of families should be the primary goal when individuals
and families are faced with pregnancies such as mine.