Miracles Happen | A Mother Daughter Reunion
On the 8th of December 1973, after a 33-hour labor, my beautiful daughter, Liza Mary, was delivered by forceps.
The long and intense physical and emotional childbirth saw us fighting for our lives.
While the doctors gave me two liters of blood (an average adult has just under five liters of blood circulating their body) to stop the postpartum hemorrhage (PPH), I came to intensive care and then intubated to regulate her breathing.
I never saw my daughter on the day she was born. Nor I knew about her struggle to breathe and her intubation requirement.
I was knocked out. Then whisked off to a ward full of much older women who had just had a hysterectomy.
There was no maternity ward for me. I was the scorned 16-year-old. The one who had dared to have sex with her boyfriend. The one who had endured five months of shame and guilt being piled on her by the nuns in a Catholic unmarried mother’s home.
There were around thirty women, varying in age from 15 – 30. Even today, I do not understand why older women were there.
If I had been an adult, I would have kept my child. Even after they had assured me that life out there is much tougher than you could imagine!
Every adult I met during that time took every opportunity to tell me that if I loved my child, I would give them up for adoption. Life is tough out there.
There is no way that you could cope. You’re at school. Your boyfriend is an apprentice, not earning enough to look after himself, let alone a wife and child.
The people who will adopt your child are wealthy. They have to own their own home, as in no debt.
Can you provide that for your child? How could you contemplate subjecting your child to a life of struggle when they could live a life afforded opportunity?
From that perspective, adopting my daughter became more manageable. “if you love your child, you will give them a better life than the one you can give them.”
During our six-week cooling-off period, my boyfriend and I visited our daughter in the hospital three times.
The nurses would allow us to hold her in the waiting area outside the nursery each time.
While I have limited memory about that time, I remember sitting there holding her, cuddling her, with my boyfriend sitting to my right, begging me to keep her.
I am sobbing, saying I can’t; Dad won’t let me, and I’ve embarrassed him enough.
In reconciling all that went on during those times, I find it interesting that we both found the courage to visit her.
When we arrived for the third visit, the nurses told us we could see her today. Though never again, as they broke the law by allowing us to see and hold her.
We obeyed. I wonder if the nurses said that because they knew that her adoptive parents were about to pick her up. I wonder if we passed them in the hall!!
An unexpected shining light
As a 64-year-old strong woman, it is hard to admit that I worried more about my father’s approval than my baby.
Even though the 1973 world was different from now, it still does not make sense that I so quickly signed away all of my rights to have my daughter in my life.
Thankfully, while reading ‘Coming Home To Self: Healing the primal wound’ by Nancy Newton Verrier, I found the explanation for why I had misplaced priorities.
“To Birth Parents:
At a time in your life when you were young and vulnerable, you had sex and conceived a baby. If you gave birth in the mid-20th century through to the early 1970s, you might have been among the 95-97 percent of white, middle-classed women coerced into giving up their babies for adoption.
Your choices were limited.Times were different then. You did as we told you. The fact that you were having sex was shameful enough, and that you got pregnant was a crisis. It disgraced the family.
There was not an atmosphere where you could take a stand. Having sex is humiliating, which motivates you to comply with a parent’s orders. In some cases, keeping the pregnancy from others, even other family members, was paramount.
So, you, the young mother-to-be, went to a relative or an unwed mother’s home to give birth. In many cases, your family did not provide you with much support, adding more shame to the burden that you already carried.
You signed papers after you gave birth while fatigued, under the influence of medication, in shock, and unable to make an informed choice.
Many of you lost your right to hold and even see your baby. It was a lie, coercion, and shaming done to you. There was a tendency to make you feel selfish for wanting to keep your baby.
On the rational level, the only thing to do was to give up your rights to your child and turn them over to a ‘more deserving couple. There was a promise that these people could give your child things that you would not, the first of which was a two-parent family.
So, you tried to still the raging instincts and intuition that told you that you should not separate from your child, that they would need you, and you would be the best person to take care of them.
You consciously believed that this permanent solution to a temporary problem (your immediate inability to care for this infant alone) was better. Most of you overrode your intuition and instincts and signed the papers.
Some of you went to pieces and sobbed for days and finally stopped only when you convinced yourself that you might have a chance to meet your child again one day.
Others went numb and felt nothing for 20 years or more. Between 40 and 60 percent of you could not conceive again due to secondary infertility, primarily due to psychological issues with guilt.
Those who did have children may have parented their subsequent children differently than you might otherwise have because of losing the first one.
Whether you went numb or remained painfully aware of your sacrifice, you have never recovered by surrendering your first child.
In either case, surrendering your first child has undoubtedly left you scarred. Whether you remain numb to it or painfully aware of your sacrifice.
The rekindling of those painful memories can be devastating. Some of you have fantasies about your lost children.
Most of you have clung to the promise by social workers of your child having a wonderful childhood and upbringing in their life with the adoptive parents.”
Every word in this passage hits home. It took me back there. I had brought shame to the family.
My mother never told her mother the truth about me being in an unmarried mother’s home. Instead, she narrated the same story about being sent to Queensland because I was anemic as she did about her friends.
The humiliation stole what little voice I had. I had to do as my instructor instructed me. Go here, do this, give birth alone, sign this, come home, forget about what has happened, and never speak of this again.
The Mother-Child Reunion
To let Kimberley (Liza’s adoptive name) know I was available at any time, I wrote to her in early 1996.
I understood if she chose not to do so. As at that time, twenty-two years beforehand, I had signed away all rights to have her in my life.
Five years later, Kim responded to my letter in 2001.
After 20 years of a very up-and-down relationship (some people have previously described it as toxic), in early 2021, we were finally experiencing genuine love, like, and trust relationship.
The first step in turning our relationship around was forgiving myself. First, forgive my 16-year-old self for her misinformed choice in 1973.
She had suffered pressure to choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
Once I forgave myself, I could genuinely apologize to Kim and her birth father.
Now, Kim and I LOVE spending time together. We LAUGH; we’re VULNERABLE. We both SHARE things that we admit to only previously sharing with a few very close friends.
During the last year, we have gone away 1-2-1 five times. The first time was three days, and the latest was eight days.
We’re at a place I was never sure we would reach. Especially when you consider that previously we could not even go out for a three-hour dinner without leaving annoyed at each other!
My dreams, hopes, and prayers for one day seeing us here were always fulfilled.
I find it most meaningful that it is a place I had previously thought unworthy of contemplation, let alone being.
It’s ridiculous that the world’s social attitude to teen pregnancy had everything to do with “what the neighbors would think” and nothing to do with the mother and child’s immediate and long-term psychological welfare and connection.
Thankfully, today, anyone in a comparable situation has a wealth of information to assist them in making an informed decision.
If you’re still not sure…….ask your baby. They will choose their birth parent every time.
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