Me and my youngest granddaughter - on the day after she was born.
Can you indulge me while I tell you a story about me as a 14 year old girl? I was a 14 year old pregnant girl. I was horrified to find myself in this position. It was 1966. It was not "OK" to be pregnant out of wedlock back then. It was a disgrace.
I had no idea what to do and my mother was so angry with me she wouldn't talk to me about it. We were terrified to tell my father who had suffered too many heart attacks to count by then, so we just pretended it wasn't happening. But it got to be a few months into a pregnancy, I was beginning to show and I had not a clue what to do, so being a (not so) good Catholic girl, I went to see the priest.
He was so kind to me, and he was kind enough to talk to my father. The day my father got the news, he called me downstairs to talk to him. I was terrified. He told me he was proud of me. Not proud that I was pregnant, but proud that I had gone to see the priest and had taken action to take care of myself. He never mentioned that my mother was no help at all, but he must have surely thought it. * God rest their souls. *
Within days, I was whisked out of my familiar world and into the St. Vincent Home for Unwed Mothers on LaSalle St. in Chicago. In the heart of Chicago. By then I was all of 15. I was one of the youngest girls there. I believe a young Puerto Rican girl named Juanita was younger than me.... but this was many years ago and I may have forgotten.
The nuns there were very kind to me. All the girls had jobs, mine was to serve the meals to the nuns in the Nun's Quarters. I loved that job. I loved those nuns. I actually enjoyed my confinement during that hot summer of 1967 - the "summer of love."
In mid August, I went into labor and stayed in that state for 3 days. I went to the hospital where they put me in a bed and ignored me. I laid in that bed and suffered through labor, alone, for three days. At the end of those three days, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. I named her Mary Catherine, after one of the nuns from St. Vincent's. She was taken away from me right then. I never got to hold her. I never even got to touch her.
Of all the things that have happened to me in my life, I think the single most painful moment I have had was being 15 years old and leaving that hospital and the baby I had given birth to but never touched.
A "nice" family adopted her. Every year I counted the years down until she would be 18 and I was sure I would find her.
By the time she was 20, we had found each other and arranged to meet each other. She flew to Denver to see me. I stood at the airport waiting for my 20 year old daughter - who I had never met or even touched! When she got off the plane, we hugged, and then we just stared at each other for the longest time. It is so odd to "meet" that close of a relative for the first time. She looked so much like my mother! We had many odd things in common. We were thrilled to meet each other, but I think it was much too much of an experience for either of us to handle. We lost touch with each other about a year later. I tried to find her, but I never could.
She found me again, now almost another 20 years later, two years ago. We talk on the phone from time to time. She wanted to come to visit me, but I put her off. I am not ready to see her again. That is the simple truth. She is a beautiful young woman, but has a lot of problems. She was raised Catholic, but now seems to have an adolescent need to offend with outrageous comments about the church - which she knows are offensive to me - I had to tell her. She has pulled a couple of stunts with members of my family that have been very embarrassing and hurtful.
It's so complicated this way I feel about her. I am so incredibly glad that she is alive and was not aborted. But before you give me much credit for this, please remember that her birth was pre-Roe V. Wade. I am pretty sure I wouldn't have aborted when I was 14... but later I came to believe that abortion was a perfectly valid "option" when pregnant.
I don't know exactly why I am sharing this tonight. Maybe just because it is worth sharing what used to happen before we started the wholesale slaughter of "inconvenient" babies. And no matter how complicated this was/is, I am still very happy that she was born.