With all the arguments in the news these days, here's my $.02 on the subject.
After mother died, my father married my wicked stepmother and she had the locks changed on our house so that I couldn't get in unless she was at home. After her rebuke I moved out rather than disturb my Dad's new bride. My education wasn't finished and my new secretary job allowed only a one-room. third-floor walk-up studio apartment. When my brother witnessed my stepmother closing the door in my face on Thanksgiving, he and his wife invited me to live with them in Connecticut. They had three little children and the plan was for me to help out with the kids; get a job; and contribute to household chores and expenses.
Because my sister-in-law thought that the boy a few doors down was 'cute', she invited him to come and help me babysit on New Year's Eve. He brought liquor and champagne, so we got drunk and I got pregnant.
After three months when it became apparent that I was getting 'puffy', I decided to get an abortion. I really didn't understand abortion and in those days before ultrasound, people said the fetus was just a 'blob of tissue'. One of my co-workers put me in touch with a local doc known for abortion and his receptionist gave me an appointment, stressing that I would need to bring $500. In cash.
At a bus stop on the way to the abortionist, there was a sign for an OB/Gyn and since pregnancy hadn't been diagnosed, I went in and the doctor examined me. He confirmed my pregnancy, guessing it was a New Year's Eve conception, and told me that my baby was due at the end of September. The doctor, with an Italian name, started telling me about pre-natal vitamins and exercise and I stopped his instruction, telling him I was on my way to the abortuary. Becoming very distressed, the doctor emphatically told me that abortion 'is murder!' ''Don't do it", he warned. "You'll regret the rest of your life. Go and see this lady and she'll take care of you." He handed me his business card with a phone number and address on the back.
Confused and afraid to the point of being paralyzed, I took the card to the address and arrived at St. Agnes Home in West Hartford. Tiny little Sister Damien answered the door and invited me to sit down in her office where she fixed me a cup of tea. I was in tears of shame and Sister handed me a box of tissues. Full of compassionate humor, Sister told me "no one is here because of a headache" and there were about 25 girls in my condition. Gently advising that just because I had made a mistake with a boy, my life wasn't over. When I told her that I had no money, she said "Don't worry. God has lots of money."
Living at St. Agnes was perfect to prepare for childbirth. The Sisters of Mercy cooked three nutritious meals every day and made sure that we walked at least two miles after dinner to ensure adequate exercise. In those days, the Sisters of Mercy were a teaching and nursing order, with several M.D.s at the home in addition to the R.N.s in crisp white habits.
We were offered Mass every day, but it wasn't forced, and Father was always available to us. I later learned that the priest was also a psychologist. Even the Protestant and Jewish girls bonded with our gentle and holy priest.
On September 27th my beautiful, perfect little girl arrived. She was exquisite and I can still feel her tiny fingers grasping mine when I held her during her Baptism. I named her Bernadette Lucy which was my mother's name. Sure that Mom was in heaven with God, I wanted my baby to always have her own, personal patron saint.
Because years of wisdom resided at St. Agnes with the nuns, they counseled us all during our pregnancy about the inevitable decision - to keep my baby or surrender her for adoption. Since I had literally nothing to offer a child, I decided on adoption. My self-esteem was non-existent. Locked out of my own home, a brother very disappointed that I would get 'knocked up,' and my career prospects looking bleak, I was despairing for myself, and didn't want to take my beautiful baby into what I felt would be a life of desperation. But had I not signed the adoption authorization several months before her birth, I would have kept my wonderful child throwing pragmatism to the wind. The nuns understood a mother's love and anticipated a young woman's emotions trumping logic.
But when the day came for me to give my baby into the arms of a social worker, my heart felt as if it was being stabbed with a dull knife. I can still feel the pain when I think of her angelic face and tiny lips as I kissed her goodbye - forever.
My life turned out to be what most would call successful. Moving to Boston and interning with a seasoned newspaperman/publisher, I finished schooling and had my first byline published about a year after my child was born. But every night I would pray that little Bernadette Lucy was OK and adopted by a loving family. I tried not to dwell on her face and the way she felt in my arms, since crying myself to sleep every night was very unproductive. What was done, was done.
But after about ten years, I hired an investigator to find her. Of course, it was a fruitless investigation because records were 'sealed'.
Still remorseful about surrendering my own child into the arms of stranger, memories haunted me. It wasn't until I returned to my Faith and spoke to priest in Confession that I reconciled what I had done. Father assured me that I had taken the proper action and that my job was to forgive myself and pray assiduously for the child. He reminded me that the Blessed Mother had given Jesus to the world and He was killed in a horrific act of deicide. I should be at peace with the fact that my baby was living in a good home with a loving family.
But when my third brother was diagnosed with the same colon cancer that killed our mother and two uncles, my doctor advised that our family could be pre-disposed to get the disease. I wrote to Catholic Family Services in Connecticut asking that they inform my daughter. Although she may be susceptible to the deadly cancer, she could avoid it with diet and lifestyle. I expressed concern that I did not intend to intrude on her life, but wanted her to know.
About three months passed, I received a call from a social worker who informed me that my daughter wanted to contact me. I gave permission and in less than two months she and her husband brought my grandchildren to visit me in Virginia.
When Bernadette (who had a new name from her adoptive parents), walked in my front door and hugged me, I could feel the dull knife come out of my heart and the wound healed immediately.
The years in between saying goodbye and hello to my child were always tinged with sadness, but seeing her happily married to a solid, good provider erased the sadness.
And when I saw those beautiful grandchildren, tears, of joy this time, were more than welcome. They were GLORIOUS!
Giving birth under difficult circumstances is a challenge and can be a heartache as it was for me. But it was worth every minute to know that I didn't kill my baby and a lot of people are happy that she is alive. Her devoted husband, her many friends and brilliant children, just to name a few.