' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: What were the Sixties like and other ?s

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What were the Sixties like and other ?s

Lorraine
Yesterday was a day of highs and lows. First of all the heat and humidity on the East Coast are unbelievably high, and I ran off in the morning to a live half hour interview on Bonnie in the Morning, on a local NPR station on Long Island, WPPB.

The man who has the hour show before Bonnie greeted me with a big hug--I know him from the local bird seed and supply store where he also works, and it was clear he already knew the topic, even though my story was all news to him before then. We usually discuss the merits of safflower seed vs. sunflower in the summer to discourage the hoards of grackles and starlings.

Bonnie Grice
Bonnie Grice was most interested in the story of the Sixties, as she was probably born in the Sixties, and so has an image of that "swinging" time that did not correspond with what I wrote. Her three-hour show consists of interviews and chatter about local happenings and all kinds of music. To me, Woodstock was three muddy days in 1969 that I avoided or missed, depending on your point of view, but that was far removed from the era of constricting  roles for women, incredible shame for being unmarried, unengaged, and unlucky enough to find yourself pregnant. All the changes would come later. The Swinging Sixties happened in the last year or two of the Sixties--and in the Seventies.

BIRTH CONTROL IN THE SIXTIES
I told her the story of a friend of ours who was in Vietnam in the Navy, and how it was all right for him to go to 'Nam but by the time he got out of her tour of duty three years later, everything had changed and when he wore his uniform so he could ride for free on a train to Washington, a woman spit at him. I said the swiftness of the change in regards to the Vietnam War was similar to how swiftly the change came in regards to social change in other areas caught women like me in the crosshairs and in the end I lost my baby. Women were supposedly now "free" to have sex before marriage but...weren't supposed to get pregnant.

Yet we did.

I talked about how not until 1972 was it legal for unmarried everywhere to have access to and use birth control, after Eisenstadt v. Baird was decided by the Supreme Court. How Bill Baird in 1967 was arrested in 1967 for distributing a contraceptive foam and a condom to a student during a lecture on birth control and abortion at Boston University--a year after my daughter was born and relinquished.

She asked me to describe what giving up my baby was like, I got teary for a minute, but it was all right, and I got myself together quickly enough.

ARE ALL ADOPTIONS BAD? 
She asked what I thought of adoption like that of Brangelina's kids: I answered about all the displaced Korean adoptees, that South Korea was exporting kids as a cash cow after the Korean "police action" aka "War" and said that the sense of dislocation of intercountry adoptees was not a good thing, that adoption in general was way more complicated than simply thinking of it as A Good Thing, that it leads to a sense of abandonment that never quite recedes, that there are many issues of feeling out of sync with the adoptive family that are generally ignored, and that every time a celebrity adopts it becomes a promo for more adoptions--and that is not a good thing.

I said that didn't mean there should never be adoptions--but we need to rethink how and what adoption is. I said there were older children in foster care who really did need homes, but far too many people want newborns and those children are left languishing. Actually, I am not sure if I got the languishing part in, but I made my point: IF  YOU ARE GOING TO ADOPT, ADOPT FROM FOSTER CARE.

THE ABSOLUTE RIGHT TO KNOW ONE'S ORIGINS
What do I hope came out of writing the book? she asked. That every individual in the country would be able to walk in one day and simply get their original birth certificate and learn the truth of their origins.

And that while it seems that such a right ought to belong to every individual simply by being born, only in seven states were people allowed such a right.

I added that in some cases the birth certificates did not have the right information, or any at all, and it might rest with the adoption agency (though we know in some cases there is no real record at all). That in New York we have a bill that has enough votes to pass in Albany but every year it is stymied by powerful people in the legislature who use the canard of protecting natural mothers from their children, as if they were going to come back to hurt their mothers. I said that adoptees were people like you and me and they just wanted to know who they were and were they came from, and that not being able to have this information caused unbelievable pain for some. I remarked that our legislators in Suffolk County, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle, were both supporters of the bill and had their names on the respective bills as co-sponsors, and especially gave a "big fat kiss" to Fred Thiele, according to my husband, because he has been so helpful. I did not go into the lousy amended bill that ended up never getting to the floor.

 I said that every time such a bill had been challenged in court the courts decided that the state had no constitutional interest in protecting the privacy or anonymity of a mother from her child. I said that I hoped I would see every adopted person in the country have the right to know who they were at birth before I died.

(I'm sure there was more but that's what I remember. Last night when I first posted this I forgot that I did get to talk about legislation and left that out. I woke up this morning before six and realized that last night--seven hours ago when I first posted this blog--I was tired and had forgotten that most important part.)

I must have gotten quite animated, because Bonnie asked if one could call Hole In My Heart a "rant." Well, that stumped me for a few seconds...and I said I hadn't thought of it that way--but did Frederick Douglas write a rant? She nodded, and conceded the point, and the interview was over. She led out of it with the Stones' "Satisfaction," which readers know that I mention as having been a hit in 1966, the year my daughter was born. That is the reference I think of when I hear "Satisfaction." I love the song, I love Stones, and readers know I had a fifteen minute interview with Mick Jagger before my life changed.

Then she came around the desk and gave me a big hug. Then the station manager appeared from some office stuck out his hand to shake mine, and said it was a great interview, complimenting both of us. In all, a good day, but I will admit the rest of the day I was exceptionally teary and vulnerable.

RUNNING INTO A FRIENDLY SISTER
From the back porch of Cormaria, once a private home
An hour later I ran into Sister Ann on Main Street in Sag Harbor, who runs a retreat house right down the street from us, Cormaria, which is a home for a handful of nuns of the order of the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. Sister Ann (who used to be a model before she became a nun) and knows my story. I told her about the new memoir, and that it had some Catholic background in it--as that is how I was raised--but not that much and that I today was really an agnostic. One thing led to another, and Sister Ann told me that the Mother Superior of her order was one of the nuns who met with the Pope Francis, that he had insisted that no other priests be there because they were sure to keep the nuns in check, and that led me to telling her the story of the first story I ever wrote about all this business of people searching and adoption reform.

Basically, a young woman--after finally getting the truth, that she was adopted--from her parents when she was 21 became a nurse, went to work at the hospital where she was born in order to find out who her natural parents were. When that didn't work she got a job at the Catholic home where she had been adopted from, and while a friendly nun wanted to help her, she did not have the keys to the basement file where the nurse's papers would be. The adoptee eventually became engaged to a man whose brother was a priest, and the priest pried the information out of the sister who ran the home. The woman found her mother in California, waiting for her daughter to find her. The story ran in the June, 1974 issue of Cosmopolitan.  It led to a huge influx of letters from adoptees and natural mothers to both ALMA and Orphan Voyage.

Then Sister Ann said she wanted me to come to talk to their Wednesday group of women who meet there, and there will be a book signing, and we'll do it after Labor Day or sometime in the winter. And then she gave me a big hug and we both went on our way.--lorraine
________________________
If any readers would like to help spread the message of Hole In My Heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoptionplease ask your local library to carry it, in both paperback and Kindle, available at Amazon. Most will do it if you are a card-carrying member of the library. It would be wonderful to have it available there, and since they won't hear about it otherwise, this really needs you to make happen. 

9 comments :

  1. ADDED TO THE BLOG THIS MORNING:

    What do I hope came out of writing the book? she asked. That every individual in the country would be able to walk in one day and simply get their original birth certificate and learn the truth of their origins.

    And that while it seems that such a right ought to belong to every individual simply by being born, only in seven states were people allowed such a right.

    I added that in some cases the birth certificates did not have the right information, or any at all, and it might rest with the adoption agency (though we know in some cases there is no real record at all). That in New York we have a bill that has enough votes to pass in Albany but every year it is stymied by powerful people in the legislature who use the canard of protecting natural mothers from their children, as if they were going to come back to hurt their mothers. I said that adoptees were people like you and me and they just wanted to know who they were and were they came from, and that not being able to have this information caused unbelievable pain for some. I remarked that our legislators in Suffolk County, Assemblyman Fred Thiele and Senator Ken LaValle, were both supporters of the bill and had their names on the respective bills as co-sponsors, and especially gave a "big fat kiss" to Fred Thiele, according to my husband, because he has been so helpful. I did not go into the lousy amended bill that ended up never getting to the floor.

    I said that every time such a bill had been challenged in court the courts decided that the state had no constitutional interest in protecting the privacy or anonymity of a mother from her child. I said that I hoped I would see every adopted person in the country have the right to know who they were at birth before I died.

    (I'm sure there was more but that's what I remember. Last night when I first posted this I forgot that I did get to talk about legislation and left that out. I woke up this morning before six and realized that last night--seven hours ago when I first posted this blog--I was tired and had forgotten that most important part.)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good morning! Very new to this whole forum. I have been searching for my first born son it seems like forever, but in reality only with the Internet have I made progress. Which of course has lead me to so much information and others' stories that I too have evolved in ways I never dreamed possible. I call it my awakening, finally giving birth to my feelings and suspicions and anger and regrets. I never knew, just never dreamed, so many had such an identical experience as I did. The sixties? I turned 13 in 1960, by 1963 I was an unwed mother and by 1968 I was a legitimate married woman with 2 babies. In 1970 the 60's were my nightmare and my salvation.
    I'm amazed I survived and I'm amazed that at 68 yrs old today I'm only just finding such support and solace from all these soldiers in this army of pain and protest. Thank you from the bottom of my heart!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Tycon,

      I'm around your age but was a slow starter, did not get pregnant until college:-) I was in high school when you were, and mostly anyone who got pregnant "had to" get married. There were whispers of the girls who "went away" but not anyone I knew. The early 60s were indeed different from the middle and later 60s. In my sheltered suburban high school nobody used or even knew about drugs, just the usual drinking. I worked for two years after high school but by the time I got to college the whole world had changed. My son's father was my first boyfriend who I was sure was going to marry me. I was hopelessly naive and immature.

      Like you, I had another child right away, got married, had some more, but never got over the loss of my firstborn. Like Lorraine, I got involved in adoption reform very early, in the mid 70s, as soon as I heard there was such a thing, and searched for and found my son. The road to reunion has been long and hard and had many years of rejection and discouragement but I was fortunate that it finally turned around and I now have a good relationship.

      It is great you have found this forum and other internet resources to help your search and to provide support. You might want to check out Concerned United Birthparents, www.cubirthparents.org
      They have some local meetings, a newsletter, a support list, referrals, and a yearly retreat, this year in Carlsbad CA. Where was your son born? Search varies a lot from state to state but has gotten easier now with the internet and so many search angels.
      You are not alone any more.

      Delete
  3. To add to Lorraine's comment about when the Sixties began, the modern women's movement didn't begin until 1966 when Betty Friedan, the author of the 1963 "Feminine Mystic", and others formed NOW and began challenging gender roles and stereo-types. As I recall, one of the major arguments for legalizing abortion was the horror stories of young women sent to maternity homes to hide their unwed pregnancies. Safe abortions were considered a more humane option. Helping mothers keep their babies was on no one's radar at the time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jane, did you catch the ongoing CNN series on the '70s tonight? It was about the sexual revolution and the women's movement--I made my daughter watch! It was great. The name "Phyllis Schlafly" (the foe of the ERA) had totally subsided from my consciousness (and with good reason). My daughter remarked that she is glad to be living in the current age, challenging as it is, and she was gobsmacked by some of the attitudes. Another theatre shooting was announced right after the show . . . so awful.

      Delete
    2. I saw parts of some the CNN 70's segments. I really didn't want to watch it -- too sad to think of how much times has passed, how much time has been lost. My raised daughters were born in the 70's and now they are almost middle-aged.

      I tell people the 60's began in 1964 with the Civil Rights Act and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and ended in 1980 with the election of Ronald Reagan.

      Delete

  4. Oh, I remember sixites. Free love and all that bull shit. I had sex got pregnant was taken to social worker who immediately set my son on course for adoption. Aren't social workers supposed to help people. Instead, she helped another woman to my baby.
    I paid for every bit of love I got in the 60's. I would have loved to raise my precious son. Others decided I wasn't going to raise him.

    ReplyDelete
  5. By the time 1967 was over I was a married woman. Soon pregnant again and this time I was married. No, social worker to take my baby. I was Married and a qualified mother to be. Only, reason I wasn't qualified in sixites is because I wasn't married!
    Although, I was same person I was now legitimate and qualified to raise a baby.
    Ps I had a full sister to the son I lost. I had support from my mom. I was allowed to keep her. I went to school all day and came home to my motherly duties. No mommies and me classes . I also helped my mom with the many chores she had along with homework and trying to be that teen mother.
    I graduated on time with extra credits. That's what a young woman can do with help. My kids NEVER should have been separated. Kills me to this day. They deserved to be with me their mom. My new step thing saw it differently. He had three kids that had lost their mom. He needed a babysitter and my life forever changed from that time on. My step thing has a son in prison for life two other kids that can never help their 92 dad. He raised a bunch of crappy adults.
    Proud, to say this young mom raised some great kids. Not perfect but with me by their side I would never let them down. Like I was forced to do to my son by the adults in my life.
    He was raised by a single mom just like me. Till she married her boss. Another, piece of work...he had his own kids. "Hers" were adopted my son being affected the most.

    ReplyDelete
  6. *Big hugs* to Lorraine and Jane... people I could have been, and am proud to [virtually] know. I mention you and your stories SO often!

    When Eisenstadt passed in '72, making it legal to distribute contraceptives to the unmarried nationwide, followed the next year by Roe, I had never had sex. But I felt infinitely safer knowing that when the opportunity, ahem, arose, as in time it inevitably did, I could protect myself.

    When my sons were young enough to ask where babies came from, and how people could avoid having babies, I told them. They were most shocked not by the clinical details, but by the fact that all forms of family planning haven't always been freely available! I admit stressing the importance of not just using birth control every time, but also voting, every time!

    As far as I know, they vote and I am not yet a grandmother... fingers crossed.

    ReplyDelete

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