' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: Getting married after giving up a baby

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Getting married after giving up a baby

After I relinquished my daughter to the great unknown that is adoption, after her father went back to his wife (for a couple of years), after I was tossed and turned by the emotional turmoil that hung to me, I met a young man and married him. He was five years younger than me and still in college. We met during the summer and married seven months later during spring break of his junior year. His parents were not happy, to say the least.

I'm not going to say that I was not in love with him; I was. But in looking back at that marriage, I cannot avoid the conclusion that I married him partly because I was so burned out and looked to marriage as a kind of salvation from feeling so bad about myself.

Marriage would be some kind of magical balm that would help heal the wound left when I gave up my daughter. I would have not have to be forlorn and rejected. I could be a Mrs. A Mrs. meant that someone valued me enough to marry me, when I felt inside like scum, like a sorry woman who had given up her baby. Trust me, this was no "adoption plan," no matter how today people try to pretty up the language. At the time, I had no where to turn. Society, as well as the father of our baby, were telling me I had to do this, and I gave up, and gave up my daughter.

The stress factors of that period in my life were compounded by having to quit my job in Rochester, New York, when I was pregnant; after my daughter was born, having to find a new job in a different city. When I did have the job in Albany, I packed my stuff in a U-Haul that I attached to the back of my car and moved by myself to a new but depressing apartment. This is how I "started a new life." An astrologer who did my chart once asked me if 1966 was a bad year in my life, if I had lost anything.

Lost anything? I practically laughed when I reeled off: My baby, my love, my career, my home.

Two years later in 1968 I met my first husband. We were not introduced by anyone; he came up to me on Main Street on Nantucket and asked if I'd like to have cup of coffee. He said he noticed me, and I had walked by twice, and he said to himself, if she walks by a third time, I will talk to her. Perhaps how we met is immaterial, but I am sure that I did not look like a hip, together 25-year-old, even if I had a good haircut and clean clothes. Emotionally I was a wreck, and he saw the hurt pouring out of my eyes.

Would I have married this man, who in some ways was so unsuited to me, had it not been for what happened before? I doubt it. Plus, it was a very different time. In 1968, unless you were in some hippie commune, women married in their twenties. Living together before marriage was rare. Besides the times, your parents, and your church, Vietnam and the draft also encouraged marriage. At the beginning of our involvement in Vietnam, men got deferments if they were in college, then if they were married; then if they had a child. By the time we married, the "marriage" deferment was no longer available. We did not have children--I said I could never have another, and stuck to that. My husband was able to get Conscientious Objector status, which was not an easy feat, and worked two years in a hospital after college. We stayed married for five years.

I did have a scintilla of doubt that this marriage would last when I said, I do, but I beat back that thought because I needed the marriage to feel whole. The doubts resurfaced on our honeymoon. It was not a terrible marriage, but it was not right for me, for us. We separated without a great deal of commotion or recrimination. Of course marriages break up for a lot of reasons, but I can't have been the only one who rushed into a marriage as a way of coping after giving up a child. So, I wonder, how about the rest of you?--lorraine 
Waiting to Forget: A Motherhood Lost and Found
Described in the New York Times Book Review as "uniquely enlightening," Waiting to Forget is a mother's story of coming to terms with the child she gave up for adoption over thirty years ago. In 1965 Margaret Moorman was unmarried, pregnant, and still in high school. Forced by societal pressures to give her baby up, she suffered emotional trauma both before and for years after the birth. At forty, she gave birth to a daughter and found herself terrified by the possibility of losing her younger child, a fear she can now trace back to her uncertain decision to give up her son. --Amazon

The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade
Fessler is an adoptee who was herself surrendered during those years and recently made contact with her mother. She gives us the voices of more than a hundred women, as well as the spirit of those times, allowing the women to tell their own stories.


  1. I could have written this, Lorraine, even down the part about marrying a younger man. My first husband was 18 months younger than me and his parents were n.o.t. happy about our marriage. Our marriage lasted 22 months, just about the same length of time from between relinquishment to the beginning of the marriage.

  2. Feverfew: Similarities everywhere. N.O.T. Happy is right! I was Catholic, they were seriously Protestant; I was OLD; I was Polish. But they were nice to me after the fact, I will say.

  3. I married five years after losing my daughter. I did this for two reasons. On the surface was the obvious to everyone one. I was pregnant with his child. The real one...he "valued me enough to marry me." It was everything but easy. He had issues, I did too. That was 25 years ago. We had two more children. Two raised successfully to adulthood. The youngest is 10. We're still married.

  4. Very interesting points, Lorraine. My mom started dating her first husband the day she found out I was placed the first time(I was placed twice)at 3 months. She was crying at work, a colleague said lets get a drink and he commiserated because he had 'lost' his 3 older children to divorce. She believed his song and dance about the horrible ex-wife and how much he missed his kids and my mom had a feeling that he understood her loss; two years later they were married and she was pregnant with the only pregnancy she planned- my sister. (my other sibs were all concieved as I was- on some form of birth control.) My sister is by no means a 'replacement' - but my mom had found someone who didn't hate her for having been an unwed mother and she wanted to desparately to be a mom and have a family. Her husband was not a great guy- he persecuted her for years- often telling her how much better off I was without her. He abused her and wasn't a good dad to their four kids much less his 3 older kids. They divorced after about 15 yrs and she has since remarried. Her second husband is a great grandfather and a loving husband. I am so glad that she has someone to share her golden years with.

    I don't think that it is unusual for moms to marry inappropriate men after they have suffered the loss of their child. I also think that it is very common for adopted women to repeat their mom's mistakes- maybe subconsciously to be able to actually feel what she did or to just feel akin to her. Both my daughters were surprise gifts- I was on bcps for both. My sister also has a couple of surprise pill babies- my daughters will be well versed on many methods of birth control.

    But I do agree that the original loss overshadows everything thereafter for a mom and for the adoptee. Adoption is a lifelong event.

  5. ..."original loss overshadows everything thereafter for a mom and for the adoptee. Adoption is a lifelong event."

    Amen to that.

    Ft: I have been married to my 2nd husband, six years older than me, for 31 years.

  6. My son was born in December 1959. I signed the papers and was back on campus for my senior year by the end of January 1960. I was depressed and suicidal. I dated one "very safe" guy who I was not attracted to, but dating him kept the "rapo' guys away. I feel very guilty about him because he fell in love with me and I broke up with him the summer of 1960 when I met my husband. I told my husband about my son on our first or second date. His behavior towards me didn't change so I married him in Sept. 1961. My second child, a daughter, was born in 1962 almost 3 years to the day after my son was born.We have two more sons and have been married 52 years. Three years after I was deemed "unwed and unfit" I became MRS. Ideal Young Mother....

  7. My first husband should have been my first son's father but he was in Veit Nam and could not get back. He proposed but my parents and the adoption agency would not believe me. I never felt worthy after relinquishing my first son. I tried very hard to get my next relationship to a great guy with a PhD to marry me but after 8 yrs. together it did not happen. I dug many holes for myself afterwards for years. Then my best friend for 14 yrs. asked me to marry him. We are very different. But my husband and I know how to scrap it together for 25 yrs. now. Marriage did save me because I was headed down a dead end.

  8. My first mother seems to be unusual - she had her one and only marriage 12 years after I was born, they were married 4 years before her death.

    Before I was born, she was a nurses aide, after I was born (while she was on a working holiday and without her family ever knowing), she returned home and more or less lived at home for the next 5 years - I have no idea what doing. She then trained again as an enrolled nurse. She suffered a tragedy in the early 70s and did move north and met her husband up there.

  9. Lorraine, so when did you tell your husband about your baby?

  10. I married at age 20, when my son lost to adoption was three. Not long before my son was born, I used to babysit for a newborn baby girl whose parents lived next door to mine. That little girl was the flower girl at my wedding and represented the age my son would have been at the time. Jenny had been in my arms when I still carried my son. It seemed like some sort of connection - I carried her on the outside and my son on the inside. I'd sing to them both.

    I also felt like scum after surrendering my son as everyone in my hometown knew my story - I had attended the local Catholic School throughout my pregnancy and my husband was from the same town and school (although he had graduated a few years before).

    I married the kept child of a pregnant teen mother. My MIL had been kicked out of public school, but my husband's father had married her, and her family was willing to help. It is interesting to note they were a working class family while mine, the upper middle class family for whom money was no issue, forced the adoption of my son. My MIL understood and did not judge me. She was also very young when we met - just 39 years old. I felt I could relate to her after my own mother had betrayed me on the deepest of levels. Looking back, I am quite sure I married into the family to try and heal as much as anything.

    A couple years into my marriage, my husband's younger brother and fiance had a baby. They were both 19. My in-laws made sure they stayed together when my SIL's own parents were pushing adoption. I was almost ill with envy.

    I would most definitely say my marriage seemed to be a safe place to fall back then. In many ways I was trying to heal, to "get over it." At 22 was the next step - I gave birth to the son I raised. I love him so much, but he in no way took the place of his brother.

    My marriage ended when I was 33 years old after a very, very rough ride. I had entered into it in an emotional state of devastation and desperation - terrible reasons to get married.

  11. This isn't totally on-topic, but I wanted to say thank you for your ongoing discussions as they help me to heal and understand my situation as an adoptee.

    In mid-life now, I am married, with two grown stepdaughters and two step-grandchildren. My oldest stepdaughter is a labor and delivery nurse, as well as a new mother. Last week, I attended the birth of our second grandchild. It was a water birth and family were in attendance.

    The FIRST thing the baby did (right after emerging from her mother's body, taking a breath and emitting a cry) was look for her mother and reach out toward her. When her father held her minutes later while mom recovered and finished the birth process, the baby immediately relaxed in his arms. When my SD was ready to hold her baby again, the baby immediately gravitated to her, wanted to be on her chest, and you could tell just by looking, that the child knew her (and the sounds of her family) and was most relaxed on her mommy's chest.

    According to the LD nurses, not many children are relinquished these days (thank God), and the nurses have a term for them - BUFAs (babies up for adoption).

    However, one of my SD's fellow nurses mentioned one PAP who has followed five birthmothers through their pregnancies and the first four decided not to relinquish once the child was born (yay!).

    What I can tell you, based on my observations, from baby S and the L&D nursing field ... is that someone who is willing to hover over a laboring mother and remove the baby from her arms ... understands nothing and cares nothing for that child or his/her mother ... and, imo, is not fit to be a parent. Those might be harsh words, but attend a few deliveries with your eyes, mind and heart open and see if you don't feel the same thing.

    If you care for a person, you will do whatever you can to support them and provide for their needs. It is so obvious babies and their natural mothers need to stay together - especially in the early months and years - that to be willing (and worse, eager) to separate them and damage them by doing so should render the person "unfit" for motherhood.

    My SD is currently out on (unpaid) maternity leave, and I seriously consider asking her to quietly whisper in the ears of any potential Birthmother that she might encounter "please don't abandon your child ... research the effects on adoptees and natural mothers ... my step-mom is an adoptee and she's really suffered".

    There aren't many BUFAs these days (thank goodness), but the hovering, greedy PAPs are a frightful shock. I wouldn't trust anyone willing to snatch a babe from their mother's arms. It shows they care NOTHING for and know nothing of the baby's (or mother's) needs.

  12. Boy did I rush into marriage and kids after relinquishment! I met my husband 3 months after the birth of my daughter and married when she was 6 months. I was trying to erase the pain and shame by making my life "legitimate". Within 2 1/2 yrs we had our son and even though I told myself all the time I wasn't replacing my daughter in my heart I had hoped it would take the pain away. Of course all it did was magnify it.

    We are still married over 27 years now and have happily raised two of our own, but I know if it weren't for having surrendered my daughter I would never had married someone after only knowing them for a few months!

  13. I too rushed into marriage after losing my daughter. Fortunately for me I married a man who is kind, loving and understanding. It could have gone a whole different way. When we got engaged, the question from my family to me was.... does he know about "the baby"?. I replied yes. The next question was... "and he STILL wants to marry you?!"
    We were damaged goods.

  14. I told my first husband about the baby when he asked me to marry him. I told him before I answered. He did not skip a beat. We were driving in a car at the time, on the way to a restaurant in Altamont, NY, in a beautiful location on a Saturday or Sunday.

    And my second husband knew of course from the day we met. He asked me what my recent book had been about, and my recent book was Birthmark. I told him. He had no visible reaction. We were in the kitchen of someone's apartment at a Sunday afternoon brunch. He was relieved my biological clock was not ticking and that I probably did not want to have other children. He was having enough trouble paying for college et cetera for the two that he had. I know that sounds weirdly humorous, but so it was. As I have said before, he understood a great deal because his cousin had been through this in the 50s, and he saw how giving up a baby had changed her life.

  15. Complete opposite extreme for me.

    I avoided all relationships for 12 years. When I finally got involved, I sought a man that did not want children. Also sought a man that loved me but that I did not initially feel attraction too.

    I had this idea in my head that there was something wrong with the men I liked and if I went with a man that liked me but that I did not like maybe I could change the outcome.

    We married. Two years into the relationship he changes his mind and says he wants children. This was a bit of a blow to my orderly adoption avoidant world. I gave in (seems I still had that pattern) but dont regret it. I have two wonderful sons today.

    We did divorce. It really was doomed from the start. We were equally responsible for that. Me and my adoption issues and he with his own and oh, how they so neatly fed off each other. His embarrassment at my adoption status propped my own denial up so nicely. My need to be a mother fit neatly along a man who had serious mother issues.

    Second husband is a wonderful man, although many find us an odd pairing. He is silly where I am serious. He is simple (and I mean that in a good way) where I am terribly complex. Most of all - he loves me for me and I allow him too. He is nothing but a really good, really decent man that adores me and feels he "married up" where my ex and his mother told me he had "married down". After being discarded by all who I thought loved me, it is a wonderful feeling to see a man's face beam with adoration when you enter a room, to know someone finally has your back.

    I should also add that for nearly half my life and through my first marriage I was still in love with my daughters father. We had affairs spanning over 25 years - in person, online, in the heart. Oh. What a story that is. I really should write this book I keep dreaming of.

  16. DaughterLeftBehind: Even if you knew him only a few months--six months is actually not so quick, in the old days--sounds like you made the right decision.

    I met my second husband on Feb. 8; by the end of February, we were living together. When you know, you know!

  17. Suz: My relationship with Jane's father spanned decades too. I think that is not so unusual.

  18. Definitely not unusual. Merry Bloch Jones book taught me that. Interesting I read it in early search and first marriage divorce. Very illuminating for me.

  19. StepMomAdoptee thanks for your post. Off topic, yes but beautiful to read. And oh so sad. We were promised you wouldn't give a care in the world about us after you knew your Disney family.
    After relinquishment all I wanted to do was get married and have children. I'm smart, kind and good looking but NO ONE was interested. I guess I was a bit of a CONTROL freak, which is not too attractive. I went to Al-anon and recovered somewhat from the adoption even though I didn't know that was my issue. I married a seriously messed up alcoholic when I was 40 years old. His disease was pretty well hidden during dating, but I did know we was a drunk. But here was a man that looked good on the outside, came from a good family, and was willing to marry ME!!! Even at our advanced age we went on to have two natural children. The marriage was doomed but once again the twelve steps saved me. When I was ready for a divorce he turned to AA. We are married 13 years now and are actually getting along pretty good. I'll take it one day at a time.
    My daughter found me when I was 51 years old. I went from being okay with adoption thinking I did the noble thing for my daughter, to meeting my flesh and blood and having the realization of the loss come crashing down on me. I realized I was duped out of my daughter and that I harmed her (she wouldn't say that)by abandoning her. A year later I told my husband I was leaving the marriage. He got sober and we stayed together. I have been able to build somewhat of a relationship with my oldest daughter even if we don't communicate much. I know she loves me and I try to give her the space she seems to need. I'm just glad I made it though all the drama.



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