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Published Sunday April 4th, 2010 at 2:15pm

Original Article

I was a freshman in college in the winter of 1967, enjoying my new found freedom, living in a dorm far away from home with a very ample curfew. To say that I was "a child of the 60's" with all the implications that brings is the most I will say about that time.

In February, I found myself 18, pregnant and faced with 2 options acceptable at that time. #1 - You got married. #2 - You went quietly away, stayed in a home for unwed mothers and surrendered your child for adoption. Option #1 was out for me. So I thought a lot about option #2. I also tried to convince myself that I wasn't pregnant. I decided I must have a "tumor". I also spent a great deal of time in the laundry room trying to punch myself in the stomach - thinking that would "solve" my problem.

I dreaded sharing this news with my parents. I figured my father would throw me out and my mother would have a nervous breakdown. I had until May to tell them. They would be coming the 5 hours to my college for Parent's Weekend and my 19th birthday.

In the meantime, I made a doctors appointment to check things out. He was a kind and gentle man and when I told him that I thought I had a tumor, he told me it was healthy and due in November. So much for my tumor. But he said something else that stayed with me. He said he could arrange for a private adoption. Little did I know he had planted a seed.

May came much too early. I told my parents as we ate dinner at Howard Johnson's before they were leaving for home on Sunday afternoon that I wanted to transfer to a different college and wanted to stay out a semester. Still didn't want to tell them the whole truth. We drove back to my dorm to say good-bye and I said that I needed to tell them why I wanted to stay out a semester. It was so quiet in the car that you could have heard a pin drop. Then my mother said, "When are you due?" Like how did she jump to that conclusion, I thought. Well my prediction of reactions was so totally wrong. My mother was furious and started screaming at me; my father, who I was always closer to, said quietly, "We were lucky before we were married." My mother asked how dare you tell her that? I knew I'd marry you!" and Daddy said, "I hadn't asked you yet." I think in those few moments, I loved my dad even more than I ever thought I could. He became a person in my eyes, not just my father.

Daddy (I called him that until the day he died) asked me what I wanted to do. I had thought about this and told them I could go stay at a home for unwed mothers where two girls I knew had gone. My mother, screaming again, said "No daughter of mine is going to a home." I commented that if I came home I could just stay hidden so people didn't know. Daddy said that wouldn't work, especially for me. Then we thought about my cousin who lived in the Midwest and Dad asked if I would like to go stay there. I said that would be good. She was about 10 years older than me, but I had always been just like her and we were close.

They must have called my cousin as soon as they got home, because she called later that evening and said that they wanted me to come and stay with them and her husband even had a part-time job for me. They had thought it all out. So plans were made that at the end of the semester, I would fly to their home and spent my pregnancy with them. I'm not sure what my wages were, but I would pay them $5 a week to live there and the bus to get to work would cost me $5 a week and I would be available any time they needed a sitter for their 2 yr old and 4 month old.

I believe the Lord had His hand on me even then. I was accepted by all their neighbors and friends. I babysat for folks in the area and did all my cousin's baking. I sewed a Christmas ball gown for the neighbor's daughter, a year younger than me and got helped home one icy night across the street by a handsome young man my age. For the situation I was in, it was ideal and even in 1967, no one pointed fingers or made me feel unwelcome.

My cousin made an appointment with her OB/GYN. He said I couldn't afford him and I wasn't crazy about him anyway. He suggested a program through the most elite hospital in the city and said that the delivery cost was $250. Something I could certainly save for and pay off myself. The only catch was I needed to go to Social Services to get into the program. I went one afternoon after work and was assigned a caseworker. I saw her once a month and learned a lot about that state's adoption policies as well as attending the clinic.

Meanwhile, this was the season of the "trapeze" dress, very loose flowing style gathered at the neck and full the rest of the way. I had several of those and my co-workers, all older married women, didn't know I was pregnant. It helped that I carried very small.

I had mentioned to my cousin at one time that I wanted my baby to grow up in the state I was from. Without my knowledge, her husband put out "feelers" to his circle of business associates and one day, after I had quit working - because it was a "summer temp" job - a lawyer with a very prestigious address called from my home state to tell me that he had a couple who wanted to adopt my baby. I got the details and decided to discuss it with my cousin. My parents never wanted to talk about my condition when they called. We decided that this sounded like a good idea and I called back to tell him yes.

The baby was due on November 13 and it was now near the end of October. I decided I had to tell my caseworker that I was going to have the baby adopted by a couple in my home state. Her reaction was unexpected - she told me in no uncertain terms that this was a Black Market adoption and she would have me arrested for transporting an infant across state lines for an illegal purpose. This unnerved me and I called the lawyer to tell him that I couldn't go through with it.

Several days later, as my cousin prepared to go out with her husband, the phone rang and I answered it. A gentle voice on the other end of the phone said "I am the mother of the girl who wants to adopt your baby. I'm here in the city and I want to come and talk to you." I put my hand over the mouthpiece and said to my cousin "It's the baby's grandmother. She wants to meet me." My cousin said we are on our way out - invite her over, so I did.

The woman who came to visit with me for several hours told me about her daughter. She said that all she ever wanted to be was a mother and when she and her husband started trying to have a family that it didn't happen for them. She was aching for a child of her own while her sister "popped" out three in rapid succession and would call from the phone booth in the hall to announce it soon after delivery. She was devastated that it wasn't possible for her. "Grandmother" told me that the couple lived near a major metropolitan area but not in the metropolis. She also told me that they were a "professional" couple. I made a new decision that evening, I would make it possible for this couple to be parents no matter whether I got arrested or not. She said that they wanted to buy my plane ticket home and she would meet me for dinner.

I still worked one day a week to help out, and when I went the next day I asked one of the women whose husband was a lawyer if private adoption was illegal in this state. She said she didn't know but would ask him. This was the first clue they had in the office that I was pregnant.

We found out that to make private adoption legal in this state that I had to carry the baby from the hospital and place him in the arms of a legal representative of the adoptive parents. The adoptive mother also had a cousin who lived in this city so that was how this would be arranged. I had already decided that I would see, hold and feed my baby in the hospital or it would be like it had died and I couldn't stand the thought of that.

November 13th came and went and for a 19 yr. old it seemed like I had somehow "missed" it - that this baby would never be born. I had to wait until December 5th at 7:41 am to deliver my beautiful son. Details of the delivery aren't important now but let me just say that it wasn't the horrible experience I had anticipated.

I cherished the days in the hospital when I got to hold him, and feed him. These memories had to last a lifetime. I also wrote a letter to him (I wanted him to know that I didn't give him up because I didn't love him) and to the adoptive parents and slipped it in with the formula information on the day we were to be discharged. (When I met the grandmother on my way home, she told me that they had put his letter in a safe deposit box and when he was old enough they would give it to him.)

I remember 3 images from that day - my son blinking his eyes in the elevator at the lights, handing him over to his mother's cousin and watching the car drive away with him in it. (That just brought an unbidden tear to my eye as I write this.)

I know without a doubt EVER in the 42+ years since that I made the right decision both for my son and for me. I had my yearly bout for a while of reliving every moment of his birth but I never wished for it to be any different. I knew two parents would be able to give him so much more than an immature 19 yr. old could. After a number of years, I began to pray that he would feel so good about who he was and so secure in his forever family that he would have no need of me in his life. So far that prayer has been answered. And seven years later, when I held my newborn daughter in my arms, I looked in her face and thought "I've seen this baby before" and realized she looked just like her brother.

And 35 years later, I looked in my new grandson's face and realized the joy that I had brought to a family so many years before. Like I said, full circle.