' [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum: h♥le in my heart: The Sixties, the inevitable, the life-changing reality

Saturday, April 8, 2017

h♥le in my heart: The Sixties, the inevitable, the life-changing reality

The long winding road ahead               Photo by Ken Robbins
The mores of the times kept a’changin’ with the music, but no cultural shift happens all at once. While the sexual strictures were loosening, and hip young women like myself were supposed to be sophisticated about sex—not only having sex but wildly enjoying it—the heart-breaking irony was that being caught “in a family way” without someone to marry you revealed a society still stuck in the sexual shaming of earlier decades. Good girls still didn’t do it. Smart girls didn’t get caught. A great many found ways to get an abortion. The lucky ones got married. It’s estimated that more than a quarter (27 percent) of all children born to women between the ages of 15 and 29 in the decade between 1960 and 1970 were conceived before marriage.*

That’s a lot of people having sex outside of marriage but it was,
at least in my world, all sub rosa.

The stories of women who got pregnant when they weren’t supposed to are
as varied as the culture itself. This one was a debutante, with her engagement
already announced to an appropriate young man in the pages of The New York
Times. This one thought that her college boyfriend would marry her. This one had
sex in the back seat of her boyfriend’s parents’ Buick—once. This one had sex the
night of her prom when she had too much to drink. This one had sex with a lot of
different guys because it was what the cool girls did at her high school. This one or
that one was raped by her boyfriend, or a friend of her father’s, or a stranger who
jumped out of the bushes. This one had sex with someone when he temporarily
The light fades                                                                        Photo by Dusky
broke up with his girlfriend. I had an affair with a married man I met at work, who promised that we would be together one day. Later. After.

In 1970, four years after I hid in shame and fear of discovery, New York made abortion legal. Three years after that, in 1973, the Supreme Court made abortion legal in 50 states with the decision of Roe v. Wade. [It would be an untruth to leave out here that I tried to get an abortion--which is included in the book, as are other pages before we get to this excerpt. I will only say here that it was impossible for me, for a lot of reasons, but once I did not have an abortion, everything changed.]
                                       *   *   *
By February, “it” shifts to “the baby.” And the baby is always he.

Please leave your wife now, I beseech him. NOW. You say you are going to, you’ve been saying that since July, when is the time going to be right? If you do this now, we can keep the baby. Tell The Wife about the baby, that will make all the difference.

He cannot do that.

We have to get through this first, he says, meaning: we (you) have to give him up.

He tells me the name of the adoption agency in the phone book, Hillside
Terrace. He says there is no other choice.

No no no, I can’t, I insist, now blubbering uncontrollably. He hates scenes
like this.  

You have to.

No matter how horrible the idea seemed, no matter that my being was recoiling at the idea, adoption is what someone like me did. We gave up our babies. They would have a better life than we could possibly give them. They would have two parents, they would not be bastards, they would not be the subject of scorn and derision, as we both would be if I kept the baby. Adoption for babies born “out of wedlock” by women or teenagers who “got in trouble,” euphemisms of that era, seemed writ in stone. I did not have the strength to resist or to chart a different course.

That was the Sixties I knew. It was far removed from the pungent aroma of weed
and the vision of nearly naked flower children who would be singing in the mud
at Woodstock by 1969. In the Sixties that I knew pantyhose might be on the
way in but Playtex rubber girdles and roles for women just as constricting.
International air travel was opening up, but women didn’t fly the planes, now did
they? They served up coffee, tea or me, a catch phrase that became a naughty
anthem of the generation that came a few years later when The Pill was popped
by legions of young women. All that would be later. I would be trapped between
those two worlds, and in the process, lose my baby.

I can still conjure up Patrick’s back retreating down the stairs before it
makes a half turn, me standing at the door watching. He is wearing his navy blazer.
He turns to nod, and I nod back before he continues going away from me. Despite
what he says—that we will be together eventually, that we will get through this—I
sense that giving up my baby will be the worst thing I ever do in my life.
I will probably never murder anybody, or rob a bank, or embezzle funds;
instead, I will have a baby and give him up. I know he will miss me, and I know he
will always wonder why, and I know there is no going back to life as before. Yet I
cannot protest because that is the way it is.

I am a shaft of wheat in a field blown down by the wind. I bow to the
inevitable.  -lorraine from hole in my heart: memoir and report from the fault lines of adoption 
Pages 33-35.  

*M. Ellison, "Authoritative Knowledge and Single Women's Unintentional Pregnancies, Abortions, Adoption and Single Motherhood: Social Stigma and Structural Violence," Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 2003,Vol. 17, p. 326.
See earlier sections of the book by scrolling down. Last section posted:

h♥le in my heart: Sore and ready for new love who comes riding in


  1. "They would not be bastards" The hell we are not bastards. Being fodder for the infertile does not change our bastardness. The only ones who cared about bastardom were the religious ones anyway. The people in the bars never cared if we were bastards. I've taken the value out of the term. I hope as a society that we have all taken the value out of the term.

    Screwing married people has never had a high return on investment, even today. My mom did the same thing. I hear that in the 60's women had the affair to replace the husband, not just for something to do. She had five kids at home and no education or job prospects. Alimony was not a given in the 60's and child support was not a guarantee. I have this feeling that she had to choose between the loss of me or the loss of all six kids, her income, and her home once she found out my dad was not going to risk his marriage, loss of income, and loss of my sisters.

    And some people wonder why it is so important to make young women strong and bulletproof.

    Adoption is such a screwed up thing.

  2. "The lucky ones got married." Not necessarily. Two married teenagers without any emotional or financial support were not even close to being "lucky." And, don't forget that males born between 1944-1950 may have been unwillingly shipped off to Vietnam if they didn't get a lucky number in the draft lottery that began in December, 1969. Those born on September the 14th were the first to go as these poor souls were number 1.

  3. I always found it puzzling why an innocent baby would be given a nasty label based on the actions of the people creating the baby. Never made any sense to me.

    1. The derivation of the word is probably medieval Latin from "bastum" which means "pack saddle" and the idea being a child produced by a traveler. Saddles were often used a makeshift beds while travelling. In French (bastard or later, bâtard) meant an acknowledged child of a nobleman by a woman other than his wife, probably from fils de bast "packsaddle son," meaning a child conceived on an improvised bed from one's saddle.

      It is hard to understand today the kind of shame and scrutiny that a child of an unmarried woman--and the woman herself--would be subject to in the Baby Scoop Era. And because so many women were counseled never to speak of it, far too many of these women refuse to acknowledge their children when they are found.

    2. Historically bastards were considered lower than "legitimate" children, perhaps because their fathers did not want to accept responsibility for them. The child not inherit from their fathers. In the days before DNA testing, families were worried that someone would show up and claim to be the child of a rich man and demand a share of the property. The "bastard" Edmund in "King Lear," gave a powerful speech about his "base" status.

      Until recently, bastards in many states were legally treated as having no father. All of this reflects the power of a patriarchal system where state depends on one's father.

      Even today, some children born to single mothers ("out of wedlock") are ashamed of their status. Bastard Nation took its name as a way of turning a slur into a badge of pride.

  4. The thing is the way the term is used in common speech is an insult, something you might call someone you are mad at for doing something wrong or uncalled for. I am an adoptee from the WW2 era and have only really heard the term used that way in everyday usage. The derivation of the word from "pack saddle" is interesting though. I realize it has been used as a legal term, and may still be, but to me it is an ugly word that I really hate to see used to describe an innocent child, even as a legal term. There are other words we know that have morphed over time in their usage and meaning and are now off limits, wish this one would do the same.

    1. Of course we get your point, and you are right, but in my era that is how people would have thought when they were thinking about the child: poor thing, who is his daddy, and that disreputable woman. Pity she ruined her life.

      How do you feel about the usage in the name of the organization that uses it. Does that neutralize it?

  5. Your era is fairly close to mine-maybe a few years different since i am WW2 vintage. But I am very familiar with how judgmental people were and still are in some ways. I remember a friend who had a relative who married a divorcee and people were scandalized at the time. I also knew a few girls who were sent away to have babies and give them up for adoption and also a few who got married in a hurry. People always counted the months between wedding and childbirth, actually they still do that.

    I would not want to be a part of an organization that uses that word in their name. Adoptees are already treated as second class citizens by denying us our own records and I just don't think calling yourself something like that helps to be taken seriously but that is just my opinion. Maybe I am old fashioned but that is how I see it.



COMMENTS ARE MODERATED. Our blog, our decision whether to publish.

We cannot edit or change the comment in any way. Entire comment published is in full as written. If you wish to change a comment afterward, you must rewrite the entire comment.

We DO NOT post comments that consist of nothing more than a link and the admonition to go there.