In October 1961 at age 19, after a summer of living at home in Rhode Island (holding in my stomach), my parents drove me to the Florence Crittenton Home in Brighton, Massachusetts, then an unwed mother’s home. I was pregnant and unmarried. My child’s due date was in late December. The plan was to place my child for adoption and to “go on with my life to forget about this incident.” I chose that plan after my family found out that I was pregnant, and my father researched what one does with a pregnant daughter. My father discussed with me: legal abortion, illegal abortion, or adoption. I chose adoption because I feared the other options, and that’s what we did in the 60’s; it was what Society expected. I never heard the offer from my family to help me keep my child. What would the neighbors say? Crittenton’s social worker did not counsel me to keep my child. She said it would be best for my child to have two parents.
In that I had problems relating with my family household, I was really excited to be at Crittenton, even if I had to wash toilets, pots and pans. I felt connected when I was surrounded by other mothers-to-be, pregnant “out of wedlock” as I was. Friendships developed at the home and continued after we left the home. We helped each other cope with our situations. Of course while we resided there, we had “alias” names, (i.e., last name starting with first letter of our real name), but, those of us who became friends shared our real names with each other.
Activities were a variety of classes. I learned to sew through Crittenton’s sewing teacher. I started small and made a layette out of flannel for my baby. There were quite a few pieces of clothing and a blanket of which I was proud. Later, when I reunited with my birth son in 1991 and met his mother, she shared that the home/agency never gave her the gifts I made for my unborn child. During free time, we went a few times to the nearby village toting our fake wedding rings and big stomachs.
I attended what I remember to be a support group at the home. The important thing that came out of that group to me was: “Prepare yourself along your lifetime; your child might wish to find you when he/she grows up.” I did not follow that path. I always read a great deal, but never read a book about adoption. I had not even realized there were post-relinquishment support groups by this time.
I went through life, working, getting married, going to college, getting divorced, having a great career for 26 years. I enjoyed going to the ocean whenever I could. But Decembers were always a sad time for me. It was the month my first child was born. At times I was sick during the period surrounding his birth. There was much shame and many lies told throughout these years. Being aware of adoptee/birthparent support groups, and reading the books I later read, would have helped me.
I reunited with my son in 1991. I found that he had many problems. Although I have not been able to solve them, I was glad that I was, for the most part, able to be of support, and I know who he is and where he is. There was a lot of synchronicity in our lives. Among the shortest to share: he grew up 5 minutes from my family home in Rhode Island. Also, he lived a two-minute walk from the family of my closest childhood friend.
Crittenton was an incredible refuge at the time. However, after leaving, I became pregnant again. There was much more shame attached this time, than the huge amount of embarrassment that embraced me with my first son. My mother said, “anyone can make a mistake once, but twice?” At my request, the Social Worker at Crittenton, Mrs. Wallace, suggested another home for me in Vermont. I was too embarrassed to return to “The Crit.”
My younger son, relinquished through the Lund Home in Vermont, found me in 1990. I wrote a letter to his file at the home in 1986. I should have written a letter to both files, but I was fearful of finding two children at once. In those days, the subject of reunion was not on TV, and Facebook, and in your face. I knew nothing about reunion until I received a letter from the Vermont Judge, 4 years after I put that letter in the file. We have since all been re-united. It was my 25th anniversary meeting my youngest son, in March 2015; and the 25th of my oldest son, in 2016.
After learning about adoption from the two boys, and completing much reading about adoption and its issues, I returned to school with the goal of earning a Master’s Degree in Social Work. I then worked In Foster Care and Adoption. I wanted to work toward returning children to their parents. I found this was truly not always possible. I experienced great joy when children could be returned to their birthparent(s). I also became affiliated with two incredible organizations: Concerned United Birthparents (CUB) cubirthparents.orgwhere I serve on the Board of Directors; and the American Adoption Congress (AAC) americanadoptioncongress.org where I have been the Maryland/D.C. State Representative for many years. These two groups help in educating pre-birthmothers; and issues re: post-adoption, and support legislation for adopted persons to be able to have access to their original birth certificate.
I must state, that regardless of what we were told in 1961, one cannot “go on with their life, ever, and forget about relinquishing a baby. There is incredible grief, depression, longing, sadness, and shame that hovers forever, even if reunion is achieved.
Nowadays, young, pregnant girls with no resources have Crittenton services that offer a different kind of aid to them. Today, social worker’s mantra is “go where the client is.” If the mother wants to keep her child, at the various Crittenton services, she is aided doing that. Girls who decide not want to parent their child often have “open” adoptions. These individuals are supported to guide their lives in a direction where they want to learn, and merge their skills and energy to create goals for themselves, and to fulfill their life’s goals. I’m feeling much more positive about the future of unplanned pregnancies; that Crittenton understands all sides of issues of a woman with an unplanned pregnancy; and that Crittenton is available to support pregnant young moms in her parenting decisions.