In 1966, when I was 17, I became pregnant. My mother arranged an illegal abortion for me, but I was too afraid to go.
I went through Catholic Family Services, and ultimately spent the last 3 months in a facility for unwed moms. While we were very well treated by the staff, the neighborhood teens thought it was a game to drive by our small garden where we walked and yell names like “slut, whore, tramp, and the C word”. My social worker came every week. She was cold and looked at her watch while I cried.
We shared a small cubicle with another girl. The walls were very thin and at night you fell asleep to the sounds of girls crying. One night, the girl in the next cubicle began to bleed heavily. She was delivering the placenta before the baby. She died holding our hands waiting for the ambulance.
Doctors rotated monthly for delivery. I got the worst. He literally butchered me doing an episiotomy. My general physician told me he had never seen an incision that bad. Years later, in an effort to fix it, I had surgery and almost bled to death.
After the delivery, I was not allowed to talk about my pain. For 53 years I never cried. Finally, while writing my story on GRR’s website, it all came flooding back, and I began to grieve for my loss. I just wanted my baby. To those who say, “Just have the baby and give it up for adoption”, I say that you have no idea. No idea.
Lois Tochtrop, a former Colorado state senator, worked in a hospital where unwed mothers were placed for childbirth. Her description of their treatment in the 1960s is as follows:
“They were in this room by themselves, with no flowers, no nothing like that. There was no joy of a woman having a family interaction. Many times, nobody ever came to visit them. And, sometimes, the mother didn’t see the baby. The only time she saw it would be when a social worker brought the baby in so the mother could say goodbye before they took it away to be adopted. Nobody ever talked to these girls to say, ‘You have a choice.’ It was sort of like, they were going to deliver, see the baby one time, go home and that’s pretty much the end of it.”