Saturday, January 22, 2011

January 22, 2011

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.


  1. A beautiful granddaughter and so much hair! Lovely.

    I'm sorry for what you had to go through at such a young age and at a time when your option was probably the only logical one.

    We were in a similar position with our daughter who became pregnant at 18, before she finished high school. She and her boyfriend were here and she approached me explaining that she was pregnant. Not that it was a good thing, but you're right, she did not use birth control and she did not have an abortion. There was no yelling or screaming, no saying she ruined her life, none of that because it would have been pointless. I very matter of factly told her what her option was: don't marry the guy- very unreliable (6 years later still not willing to truly step up as a father but loves claiming to be a dad). Why make a bad marriage on top of everything? She would live with us, get her GED since she had dropped out of high school, enroll in Jr. college night school and we would watch the baby at night. She would take over after class, not have to work, and could study during the day. Four years later she still did not have a "degree" but did have her daughter. It has not been easy for her. She's 25 now and knew it was time for her to be living on her own. She works 6 days a week and the grandparents alternate taking Taylor on weekends since our daughter works evenings in the restaurant business.

    I was not counting on starting over with kids at our age but it is well worth it and fortunately my husband is great with kids. He has much more patience than I do. Becky's a good mom and I hope she finds a guy that will be the perfect husband and father someday soon. So many others might have taken the easy road and gone ahead with the abortion.

  2. You know, that story is so much better than an abortion story. That's how it should be. Or even better would be if you were able to keep the child and raise it. With your parents help, of course. It's a good thing that unwed mothers are no longer stigmatized. It's too bad you don't quite get along with your daughter. But many parents and adult children have such relationships. I pray that you form a stronger bond.

    God bless on your grand daughter!

  3. Kathy & Manny, I am actually grateful that she was adopted. Even with my parents help, I could not have raised a child at that age. And a couple without children were able to adopt her and raise her with all the things I could have never provided - and I don't mean just material things.
    And Manny, it is strange because I have great relationships with all three of my grown children, so it is odd that I don't have a good relationship with the daughter I gave up for adoption - or is it?

  4. Hey kid, come on, you Americans teach the rest of us. We do what we know how to do. When we know better, we do better.

    By the way, teenage unmarried mother coming back at ya! I have so many regrets, I couldn't list them. Well, actually, I could and knowing me, I probably will. We have a saviour.
    I love you, Mary Christine.

  5. Listen to the song i posted yesterday, it's poignant. xx

  6. MC
    What a beautiful thing to share. Amazing, isn't it, how we thought our parents would react one way and in fact, they reacted in the opposite way? I recall a girl in my 8th grade class getting pregnant and she, too, had her baby and allowed the child to be adopted. You did the best thing possible for your birth daughter and now the rest is up to her. Someone prayed for me, so rest assured I will pray for her. And Your granddaughter is beautiful.

  7. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I did have an abortion, 30 years ago. My father had JUST passed away and I just couldn't see dumping that news on my mother. In retrospect, she probably knew. As a mother , I realize that now.

    Even though your relationship with your daughter isn't all roses, she is a child of God, and I know from raising my own in a quite imperfect way in what I can only call a crazy world; He is able. I have a green scapular for each of my kids and say the prayers for them. It is a comfort to know that the Lord is active in their lives, whether or not I can always see it.
    I didn't have the greatest relationship with my mother, and she raised me! lol- We are all, in the end, individuals, after all.

    Here is my story, if you would like to read it. It is actually a talk I gave at a board of directors meeting at a local hospital.

    God Bless you, enjoy that precious baby!
    In Him,

  8. Probably not strange, Mary-C. Your lives really didn't intertwine. Was she raised Catholic by her adopted parents?

  9. She was raised Catholic by her adoptive parents. When I met her at 20, she was very much a Catholic. By 40, she got to be very anti-Catholic. So, it isn't even adolescent rebellion.