This is my school photo for my junior year of high school. The year was 1984. What you can’t tell from this photo is that I was six months pregnant. I was planning on placing my child for adoption. Prior to the mid-1980s, almost all unwed, pregnant girls planning on placing their child for adoption went to live the last few months of pregnancy away from their home and family. It was thought that the girls would have an easier time transitioning back into their community if they hadn’t been seen enormously pregnant. That way, if the girl and her family chose to keep it a secret, they could do so. I was anything but secretive, but I agreed to be in foster care for the last three months of my pregnancy. My parents were with me when I delivered. They loved and cared for a very fragile mom who chose to say good-bye. Adoptions were closed then. In each part of this series, I will share an experience during and after my pregnancy and my adoption decision that will, hopefully, shed some light on how birth moms were and are treated, which only adds to grief’s sorrow of placing a child.
From an outsider’s view, the year and a half from the time I placed my son for adoption until the time I graduated from high school was fairly normal. I worked part-time, was very involved in the band programs, went to school, did homework, participated in church youth activities, and applied to several universities. On the inside, however, I was far from normal. High school was something to be endured. Those classmates that I had looked up to and wanted to hang out with now seemed simply annoying and very shallow. I did make some new friends, but I was simply OVER the social aspect of high school.
The day that my mom and I drove up to my college dorms, a new feeling enveloped me—freedom. No, not freedom from parents and rules but the freedom to start over, to reinvent myself, and to have a clean slate. It was marvelous. My roommate was a stranger, as well as everyone on my dorm floor. No one knew me or my past. I was able to really be myself on my own terms. I met some other girls who have become my life-long friends, and I felt myself transform into someone who was confident and secure in who she was. I was not embarrassed or ashamed, and I didn’t keep any secrets about having a child or placing him for adoption. Because of my confidence, people accepted that of me and even respected me for it. I thought that I was through being silenced by society.
During my second semester at college, I chose a class for one of my requirements based completely on the recommendations of dozens of others. It was a class on human development. From the first day, I loved the class. The professor was engaging and funny and touching, and I loved his class. I wouldn’t have imagined skipping his class. The class was so popular that people would come just to hang out (it was held in an auditorium) and listen in. By the time April rolled around, we had explored birth through the teenaged years and were embarking on young adulthood. I was excited to hear his insights and to learn about the time of life that I was currently experiencing.
That day, the class started off just like all the others, with a cartoon on the screen. The room was especially full because of the day’s topic—human sexuality. The lecture began with humor and insight. I had chosen to sit close to the front and was totally engrossed in the lecture, like everyone around me, until the professor said, “Sexual exploration is very common among young adults and the reputation for what goes on in most college dorms is well-founded.” There were several snickers from the audience. “Because of this extracurricular activity, the highest rate of out-of-wedlock pregnancy occurs during this time. When this happens, the best possible situation would be for the couple to get married.”
I was okay with everything that had been said. I agreed. One of the reasons why I had placed my son was because I wanted him to have both a father and a mother.
“Sometimes marriage is not possible and many young women go on to raise their child alone. Some girls choose to place their child for adoption.” (That made me sit up and lean forward just a little). “Those who give up their child should be ashamed of themselves. The only women who would ever give up their own child are those who are not normal and do not have the normal emotions of a woman. They hate children, and they are those women who end up becoming child abusers.”
I was stunned, hurt, and very, very angry. I had placed my son for adoption because I loved him more than I had loved anything else. I was willing to die for him and had wanted to die when I let him go. I quickly gathered my things, and since I was sitting in the middle of the row, made a bit of a scene as I left. I did not return to his class.
Because there were only a few weeks left in the semester and I had an A in the class at that point, I still passed the class. I did not, however, let the incident go. I wrote a letter to my professor as well as the head of the department, the college, and the president of the university. I explained what had happened in class, my background as a birth mother, and that I thought that this professor was an insensitive idiot. I further explained that at a religious, Christian university, the professors should be sensitive to all who are in their classes because even Christ Himself forgave those who were truly repentant and trying to change their lives. I explained that I refused to be silenced by society and that while I was not proud of some of my choices, I was proud of the person I had become because of those experiences. I explained my professor’s ignorance with regard to what real love is and that it always requires sacrifices. I further stated that I would not recommend this professor or this class and while I would not go out of my way to defame him, if asked my opinion, I would share my negative experience.
Interestingly, I never received any kind of reply or apology from the professor, the department, the college or the university; however, that professor was never assigned to teach that particular class again.
Read the Rest of the My Story: