Thursday, July 11, 2013

Leaving without them

This week my 6th grandchild was born. It's an amazing feeling to have 6 grandchildren and an even greater feeling to be able to tell the world that I have that many grandkids because there was a time when I wasn't even allowed to admit to having 3 children, let alone having so many grandbabies.

Before my open, out there, truthy days, when I was pregnant with my second child, I would cringe every time someone asked me how many children I had. If a nurse, during a check up, asked me about the number of pregnancies I had experienced, I went through the usual struggle in my head. Do I tell her about my first baby, the one I surrendered to adoption, or do I pretend that this is my first go around this block? Of course, because I was dealing with the medical profession and there was a reason they were asking me this, not just nosiness - I fessed up to it being my second time with this particular experience. Ok, the stretch marks were going to be a clue anyway so there really wasn't any getting away with a deception when dealing with people who are going to see you naked so might as well tell the truth. Even then, it wasn't easy. There was shame. There was the quiet moment when you shared the information and waited for the judgement. Am I turning red? Please don't let me cry in front of these people. I just want to get out of here!

So what brought me to thinking about all this? When I was in the hospital, walking the corridor on the maternity ward, excited about seeing my new granddaughter, I was passed by a woman in a wheelchair being escorted out of the area. At first glance, I thought - oh, a new mom leaving the hospital with her baby and getting ready to set out on her new life with her child. The reality was, there was a woman being escorted out of the maternity ward by deputies. There was no child in her arms. There were no congratulatory balloons, no flowers. She was sitting with her head hung low and her tear stained cheeks told a different story. Where was her baby? Did she die? Was she leaving her behind for a family member to raise? Did she surrender her child to adoption? Was she leaving the hospital in the same state I was in 33 years ago? This woman, leaving the maternity floor was obviously in the custody of the state. I don't know what her crime was but I felt for her. 33 years ago I was in the custody of the adoption industry and the church. My only crime was being pregnant and single yet there we were. She and I. Two women separated from our children.

When I saw her my heart hurt. I was immediately taken back to the day that I was pushed out of the hospital, sitting in the wheelchair, arms empty, a voice in the distance, to this day clear as a bell, asking me - "where's your baby?". Me, unable to answer. All I could do was sit with my head hanging low, just like she was, quiet, desperately trying to hold it together, tears pouring and throat closing, not able to beg or plead for my child. I was transported back to that young woman who was dying inside.

No matter what that woman's crime was, I hurt for her. Whatever was causing her to leave the maternity floor with empty arms was causing her a pain like no other. I wanted to put my arms around her because I know that look. I've lived that look. She had that haunted look, the look in her eyes that said she was lost. It was a look that said - my life will never be the same again.

In the middle of the joy of a new grandbaby, I was reminded. I remembered that there are mothers leaving hospitals without their babies. With each new grandchild I'm reminded that there are grandmothers who won't get to see their grandchildren, mothers who won't get to hold their babies and families who won't be together - ever. This is what infant adoption does.


  1. You could have been talking about me. As little as 10 years ago, when I had to go for a D&C, I was whispering to the anesthesiologist that I had had three pregnancies, but please don't write that down!!! I also became a 'real' grandmother last year, three grand babbies within six weeks of each other. One set or boy twins from my 'real' daughter, and one baby boy from my 'real' son. My lost son who has three children won't even allow me to meet them. They are also twins, girls twins, 16, and a boy of 13. We have been in reunion for almost 7 years now and I'm supposed to be grateful for just that. I am grateful not to have had to go to my grave without knowing what happened to my lost son, but it's very painful that he will not 'allow' me to meet his children. So I too hesitate when asked how many grandchildren I have. I know exactly what you mean.

    1. (((Sharon))) I'm so sorry. How painful for you to be kept from your grandchildren. And what a loss for them! He's keeping his 3 children from knowing the love of a grandma. I understand the hesitation about telling people a number. That's when the questions start - where do they live? do you get to see them often? do you have pictures? All innocent questions but so painful for those of us who don't want to get into the explanations.

  2. Sharon-I am so sorry that your son is keeping you from seeing your grandchildren. From an adoptee perspective it can be very hard having the torn loyalties. A friend of mine is in reunion and his mother has meet his daughters but the daughters are sworn to secrecy so as not to tell his amom about the reunion. Both situations are completely wrong. No more secrets people!

    Carlynne- thanks for the touching post. I recall when I was a candy stripper assigned to admissions and maternity. The Catholic Hospital that I volunteered at had a maternity home still active in the late 80's and I did have to bring a birth certificate to a resident who planned to surrender her child. The difference in the rooms segregated for the Home's residents on the Maternity Ward was palpable- and my heart screamed at 16 to talk to this similiarly aged mothers to tell them adoption hurts your baby!Reconsider! One of the Sisters saw my reaction and that I was spending extra time with one mom- and asked me if I knew her. I told her that no, but I was adopted so I wanted to know her. I was immediately transferred to just admissions. I was tasked with checking paper files against what was in the computer so that files could be sent to be transferred to microfiche. I so desparately wanted to copy all the info from the maternity home births in that file cabinet. I don't know how my firstmom continued to work in maternity for decades as an RN.

  3. same here. five kids, but only two grandkids. both belong to my adopted away daughter. i will never know them.

    with the economy the way it is, i doubt any of my other kids will ever have children. they all are getting too old.

    adoption truly is a generational curse, for me.

    my two sisters were both ready to deliver on the day they married their baby daddy. they have swarms and mobs of grandkids.

    truly, i have had to just stay away from my family of origin, since they forced me to give up my baby, but worked to help my sisters marry and keep theirs. neither marriage lasted by the way, but at least my sisters have their kids and grandkids.

    i was just tossed on the garbage heap. it's too painful to be around all those people, all those grandkids, and all those memories down to this day.

    so, i just stay away.

    1. I also have to stay away from my family of origin, same story, I was a piece of garbage and so were my kids, they forced me to give my 1st son away 45 years ago and my other 3 boys were treated like outsiders. My sisters kids got all the presents and money from my parents and the attention, now I don't even talk to my sister anymore for the way she has treated me. The story ends very well thought I reunited with my son 6 weeks ago and have 4 grandchildren who all want me in their lives. I have never been so happy and my life is complete now, maybe their will be a light for you at the end, like my life has completely turned around and I don't care or miss my family of origin now, just like they never cared or missed me.

  4. Very touching piece, Carlynne. It that hits home, and describes so many of us. The only part I could not identify with was leaving the hospital. I have no memory of that; I was in shock. I, like Sharon, had a reunion, but have been shut out and shut off from my grown grandchild, as well. Unless you have lived it, you can't understand the pain. Thanks for writing this.