A Birthmother's Journey

This is the journey that begins when the author is a teenager and continues during the reunion with the son she gave up 32 years ago.

Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am the natural mother of two sons one, age 32 and the other age 18 and stepmother of two sons.I had to start this after my oldest son found me in July of this year after 32 years. It is one heck of a rollercoaster ride but we plan on meeting face to face in November.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

My Doctor

The most humiliating experience for a teenage girl is going to see a gynecologist for the first time. In my case I went to see an obstetrician at a woman's hospital. At first I saw a male doctor, but my foster mom who was head nurse at one of the university hospitals insisted I be seen by her doctor who was a woman. That helped but it was still embarrassing. I mean here I was a kid telling this doctor how old I was when I had my first period, what they were like when I had them and when I had my last one. Then there was the matter of the exam...IT HURT! When she did a breast exam, they were so tender that I yelped in pain!

I also had to describe the cravings and morning sickness and everything I could think of relating to my pregnancy. I was all of 4'11" and weighed under 100 pounds. She prescribed pre-natal vitamins, multi-vitamins, told my foster mom I had to eat more to gain weight, even if I wasn't hungry I would have to eat something. I was throwing up all the time and couldn't hold anything down...how the hell did she expect me to gain weight?????

But I ended up gaining weight very slowly and pretty soon my doctor was happy with it...I still hated going to see her. I asked if my foster mom could be in there with me but all I got was "You are a young woman now, you can handle it by yourself" from my doctor.

I told her I was scared but got looked at like "You got yourself into this, you can deal with it on your own" and my foster mom was not allowed in the examining room with me. So I dealt with it, coming out of the room with tears in my eyes and trying to pretend to be as brave as I could possibly be for my own sake. I learned to hold all the pain, shame and guilt I was feeling inside from the very first day I was examined on through out my adult life.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My Pregnancy

From the beginning I had really bad morning sickness. Only in my case, it was morning, noon and night sickness. It got so bad I had to keep a pan by the side of my bed just so I wouldn't throw up all over the place. I also kept a stack of crackers and a bottle of 7-UP on my nightstand to help with the nausea. That lasted well into my sixth or seventh month. Then there was the constant having to run to the bathroom every 5 minutes! Seemed like even when I didn't have to go, I felt like my bladder was gonna burst at any minute!

I remember when my foster mom took me shopping for the first time for maternity clothes. The rage then were smock and tunic tops-you know the kind with the angel sleeves- so I was able to pick out a few really cute ones. But as soon as we went into the maternity department for slacks and dresses and bras, I felt like a pariah. All these women were staring at me when, after asking if the clothes were for her, my foster mom had to tell them that they were for me. As soon as they looked at me, I lowered my eyes, ashamed of who I was and what I let happen to me.

Then there was going to Mass every Sunday. I went to Confession and told the priest that I was pregnant and unmarried. I swear I thought I was gonna be excommunicated! But he was a young associate pastor and he said I wasn't the first pregnant teen he had seen come to Church and confess her sins. He asked me if I was going to marry the baby's father and then I told him I was going to give him to a family who could take care of him.(It was weird how I always referred to the baby as "HIM" from the minute I knew I was pregnant- like I knew already that I was carrying a son) Well this young priest said that in that case I could receive Communion and NOT be excommunicated but I had to say three Hail Marys, an Act of Contrition, a complete Rosary, ten Our Fathers and The Stations of The Cross, but I was able to take comfort in the fact that at least my spiritual virginity was still intact!

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Foster Home

I was living in a foster home right about then with a single parent. The mother was a really sweet lady with three kids of her own. I was shocked that she would find it in her heart to take in a very troubled, very pregnant teenager. I had never really been loved by a family before, but I did find it in the home of a registered nurse. She talked to me and comforted me when I cried and really all I learned about being a young woman and a parent I learned from her.

I would sit up all night sometimes wondering what I would do about the condition I was in. I knew I had to be logical but nothing seemed logical. I couldn't pretend it never happened because I could feel it....even though I didn't look pregnant until I was about 8 months. Still I had a decision to make...my caseworker kept telling me that it would best for everybody if I signed my baby away, I would forget about it in time and have more kids, I was young and reasonably healthy. The caseworker even said I would regain my figure because I was so tiny any ways. My foster mother said she would stand by me no matter what choice I made. So I did it...I said I would give him up for adoption.

Being Certain

I was sure I was pregnant after I missed my period just once. I mean I was as regular as clockwork all my life. Something had to be wrong. But I was a Good Catholic Girl and being pregnant without the benefit of marriage was something that just was not done! Besides I was only sixteen. Talk about being scared! How do I tell the dorm mother that I was going to have a baby???? I knew of other girls who had "gone home for good" only to return after a few months, scared and sad. So I ran away. I hid until the cops located me. The home said I couldn't come back there. So I was placed in a group home then sent to Booth Memorial Home for Unwed Mothers in Chicago. I found out that my child's father had been sent away too. We were not allowed to get in touch with each other but we found a way to anyway. We had these romantic dreams of getting married and raising the baby. So once again I ran away from Booth. I was placed in a foster home. My caseworker said I had a few options(by this time Roe v Wade had passed but no self-respecting doctor would perform an abortion on a minor). I was still only sixteen and I was told I could have an abortion(too late, I was already at the end of my first trimester and I was Catholic so it was against my religious beliefs) I could raise the baby myself(I would just turn seventeen when he was born and had no marketable skills and no education), get married(yeah right-he was a year younger than me and a real jerk as all teenage boys tended to be) or relinquish the baby (everybody seemed to think that was the best thing for all concerned) I was given all these choices but none of them made a lot of sense to me. It was a pretty heavy situation for a sixteen year old girl to deal with.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Continuing My Journey

I was a "wild child" as we were called back then-the type that, while most fifteen and sixteen year olds were listening to Bubble Gum Rock, I was making out to Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" and smoking Kool cigarettes. It wasn't unusual for me to lie about where I was spending the weekend and go over to a girlfriend's house to party. There were always plenty of guys there and I loved the attention. My friends Mary and Karen often let me crash at their house and had their parents take me home on Sunday.

I had broken up with a guy that I cared deeply about and got stoned one night. Duck's ex-boyfriend David was there so he and I got together. That was the night I concieved our son. I knew from the minute he said he didn't use anything that I was pregnant. Guess I could just sense it-feel the baby growing inside me from jumpstreet.

In The Beginning

I guess the beginning is a good place to start. I was sixteen and it was 1973. I was living in a Catholic "home for dependant children" in Illinois. My best friend"Duck" was forced to go on birth control, even though she wasn't sexually active. I was and had been since I was fourteen but they refused to allow me to go on "The Pill". It was before Roe v Wade was passed, before abortion was legal.