name is Bonnie Parr and I am a mother of 4 children.
spent decades of my life telling anyone that inquired that
I had only 3 children. My heart and soul knew that to be a
lie, that indeed I had given birth to the first of my four
children on April 20, 1962 and had been forced to surrender
him for adoption just 3 days after his entrance into this
was never able to "get over it" as the social worker and my
parents had promised would occur once he was passed on to
complete strangers. I was told to forget and get on with my
life. I got on with my life, but I never forgot.
was done to me and millions of other young women back in the
60's and 70's and even up to the present day was nothing short
of a crime in my view. A crime committed not only on us mothers,
but more importantly, on our children.
I have been in reunion now for over a year and a half. I have
read as much as I could get my hands on about this subject,
joined online and face to face support groups, have been counseled
for the trauma I suffered, and have read and listened to thousands
of stories written or told by women just like me ~ women who
have felt the deep and gnawing pain of losing their child
to adoption. I have finally come to the place where I feel
compelled to tell my own story, to add my voice to the growing
numbers of women who will be silenced no longer. I believe
that by sharing our stories, by exposing the reality of the
destruction that adoption caused in our lives, is one way
to help prevent and diffuse the myths that are still perpetuated
by our society: the myths that adoption will serve some good
In reality, adoption, as it was back "in the old days"
and still remains to the present day, causes severe trauma
and lifelong emotional struggles for the first mother and
child. I lived much the middle class life of the 50's as I
grew up. My parents owned a corner drug store with an old
fashioned soda fountain which was the center of a small community
as well as a popular gathering spot. I learned at an early
age that my parents valued the opinions of others over the
needs of the family. The drug store business came first, any
problems involving the family were kept hidden from the public
view and we were expected to portray the Cleaver family image
to everyone we knew.
met the father of my son in 1960 through High School friends.
There was an immediate attraction and we became inseparable.
My parents were not happy with my choice, especially my father,
which was probably more incentive for me to pursue the relationship.
story short, on my Senior Prom night, in May of 1961, I lost
my virginity and several weeks later realized that I was pregnant.
It was surreal, I felt as though I had been placed in an "Escher"
lithograph, feeling a total loss of direction or reality.
I eventually told my boyfriend about my pregnancy and he and
I planned a trip to Reno to secretly marry. We thought that
this was the answer to our situation, as we both knew what
would unfold once my parents became aware of my condition.
I was only 17, Doug was 19. We were concerned that I would
be rejected for a marriage license as I was a minor. Once
at the courthouse in Reno though, we were surprised to learn
that they didn't even question me for identification, but
were quick to dismiss Doug as he could not prove that he was
the required 21, the legal age for a male to legally obtain
a marriage license.
remember that the trip home was very quiet and I felt my life
crumble. I began to withdraw from Doug and everyone else,
hiding myself away in my room, covering my swollen abdomen
with oversize sweatshirts and baggy dresses. I enrolled in
a community college that Fall and actually completed the semester.
I had successfully hidden my pregnancy from my family and
friends for almost 7 months. However, I realized that as I
approached my 8th month that the inevitable was upon me.
summoned the courage one evening and called my mother into
my room. I don't remember what I actually said to her, all
I remember is her face. She looked at me with shame and anger
in her eyes, as though I was a stranger. All I wanted was
to be held and comforted, all I wanted was someone to help
me understand what I was facing and help me to prepare for
my child. What I got instead was a nightmare -„ complete and
father was told by my mother that evening, out of my sight,
but not out of earshot. He yelled and screamed at my mother,
then left the house, slamming the door behind him. I did not
see or speak to my father until after my son was born. Our
relationship, as tenuous as it was before, became almost non
existent after my son's birth, and in fact, my father refused
to have any contact with me for many years. But that is another
next day after I told my parents, I was taken to the home
of a Doctor who was a friend of the family. My mother hoped
that he would be able to place me into a home for unwed mothers,
but she soon found that all the local facilities were full
and there was no place for me to go. All I wanted was to stay
at home, I promised that I would stay hidden from view and
hide away in the basement if necessary. Of course, that was
not to be. Instead, I was taken to a motel room on the opposite
end of town, a place that seemed dark and foreboding. I was
deposited there with instructions to stay put and not to venture
outside. I had a small kitchenette, a TV and a phone. I was
told not to call home, that they would call me. I remember
receiving a few calls a week, and an occasional in person
visit from my Mother to deliver food. The only clothing that
I had was a pair of sweat pants and a mu„mu. I was isolated,
alone, and to this day do not know how I managed to remain
relatively sane throughout my incarceration at the motel.
mother took me to my Doctor visits once a week as I was already
in my eighth month. She drove me to a Kaiser hospital that
was 45 miles away, instead of chancing my being seen at the
local Kaiser hospital which was only blocks from my jail/motel.
I remember crying most of the time and being more frightened
than I had ever felt in my life. I suppose that I had shut
down emotionally as a coping mechanism but I do remember talking
to my baby. I fantasized being rescued and taken away to live
happily ever after and dreamed often of life in the suburbs
with my husband and newborn. How I remained sane through all
of this, I still don't know to this day. The memories that
were stirred when I began my search for my son about this
time in my life were the most difficult to deal with and it
was only through intensive counseling was I able to begin
to ńface the pain and begin the long process of healing. I
believe that the process is lifelong to come to terms with
remained in the motel room for over 7 weeks. I was 3 weeks
over my due date and at my lowest point, feeling nothing but
an empty numbness. I remember lying on the bed, TV on for
noise, and stuffing my face with whatever food had been dropped
off by my mother. All of a sudden there was a knock at the
door. It startled me as my mother didn't knock and I hadn't
seen another soul weeks other than my Mother on our weekly
trip to the Doctor. I went to the door and asked who it was
and much to my shock I heard my grandfather's voice. I opened
the door and a burst of sunlight came thru into the dark little
room. My grandfather stood in the door and quietly said, "gather
your things, I am here to take you home." He put me in
his old Rambler and took me home to his house.
grandmother was at the door with lots of hugs and tears. We
spent the night crying and talking and eating freshly baked
cookies dipped in warm milk. I stayed with them until I began
my labor a week later. My mother visited me only when I needed
to be taken to the hospital. My labor was unusually long.
I entered the hospital on a Monday night and delivered my
son that Friday afternoon. I was heavily drugged and alone.
My mother never came to see me until after my son was born,
and then only to take me home. I was put into a ward with
three other women who had also given birth. They were all
married and I felt shamed and ignored by them as they all
seemed to know of my circumstances.
morning after my son's birth, I got out of bed and hobbled
down the hall to the nursery. All I could think of was to
see my son, to hold him in my arms. I peered through the glass
window, checking each bassinet for his/my name. Finally, a
nurse came down the hall and asked what did I think that I
was doing? I told her that I wanted my son and she looked
at me and said, "Miss Parr, your baby has already been
taken to be placed for adoption."
I remember very little from that moment on. My son was born
on Good Friday and I was picked up and taken home on Easter
Sunday. (To this day, I have done all I could to ignore this
holiday) The following day I was taken to the Children's Home
Society and told to sign the papers that would separate me
from my baby forever. I remember shaking so badly that I thought
that my signature would not legally be binding. Silly me.
It didn't matter whether I had signed that paper or not, my
son had been taken from me and I knew that I had neither the
support nor the strength to fight for myself or my son, I
felt beaten and lost. I remember feeling that my life had
been changed forever in that one instant, that no longer was
I due any respect or value as a human being, as a woman. I
had been abandoned, my son had been abandoned, I had no hope
for my future or myself.
following years were ones of much trial and error for me.
I married the first man that asked although I knew that I
didn't love him. I was so anxious to remove myself from my
parent's home and this was the only way out that I knew. My
marriage lasted less than a year. I went on to marry again,
this time the relationship lasted over 5 years „ still the
longest of any relationship to date. In those years I gave
birth to two children, a son and daughter. The birth of my
son triggered memories of my lost son and I struggled to keep
the voices in my mind quiet and tried once again to "get
on with" my life.
the time that my daughter was born, my marriage was extremely
troubled and I sought counseling. My husband felt that any
problems that required counseling were definitely my problems,
and refused to participate. I continued and we were divorced
shortly after. I fell in and out of relationships easily after
that. I now realize that I could never really put my trust
into another person, that I felt somehow unworthy, destined
to live alone and without a partner, unencumbered by male
I managed to work and raise my children fairly successfully,
in that we never starved and remained together. I was able
to provide for them and give them all my attention. We were
extremely poor by most standards, but I knew that it was the
price I had to pay in order to keep my children. I wanted
nothing to do with my family or society giving me handouts
in return for giving them control over me and my children.
I moved to Oregon when my children were small, to distance
myself from my family and my ex husband's family, to provide
some sense of independence in raising my kids.
the age of 37, when my daughter was just 9 years old, I realized
that I was pregnant once again. I was not married and had
no intention of getting married, but I also knew that I would
carry my child to term and raise him and that no one on the
planet would dare tell me different. I did just that. He is
now 20 years old and has grown up to be a fine young man with
a very loving and understanding heart and mind.
two years ago I was sitting at my wood stove on a chilly Autumn
morning. All of a sudden I had an incredible sensation come
over me. In one instant I simply KNEW that I was going to
search for my lost son. It was the most incredible feeling,
one that raised the hairs on my arms and stirred an ache in
my heart. That was the beginning of the most recent chapter
in my life and I can say without a doubt, one of the most
the beginning, as I had no computer of my own, I used my daughter's
computer to see what I could find. I had no idea at what was
out there in terms of resources and support for mothers and
their surrendered children who were searching for one another.
I was completely taken aback by the numbers alone. There were
literally millions of people with the same feelings and experiences
I was feeling. That in itself filled my days with lots of
tears - tears of relief, tears that I had finally come home,
tears that I was NOT alone.
I joined the Sunflower searching list and after 6 months had
the name and address of my son. I spoke to him on the phone
38 years and 7 days since I had seen him last - it was such
a miracle to me and an experience that I will never forget.
I actually felt my heart grow whole 3 days later when I held
him in my arms and looked into his beautiful eyes. It was
the beginning of my journey to put the pieces of my life back
together. It was the beginning of my realization that I indeed
had value, that I indeed was a woman of strength and grace,
that I was the person I always wished I could be and would
don't know if any of that will make sense to anyone else,
but I have found that reuniting with my son has sparked much
more than what reunion brings on the surface. It has ignited
a fire in my soul to heal from the past, to make my heart,
mind and soul complete and whole - repairing the damage that
occurred when my son was stolen from me 39 years ago. My journey
has just begun, but what I have learned is of more value than
all the riches I could ever imagine. I have begun to learn
to trust again - trusting myself, forgiving myself, taking
pride in who and what I am, breaking free from the self imposed
cocoon that I had built for myself over the years. My reunion
has had its ups and downs, but through it all I have learned
that unconditional love and forgiveness is the key. I have
been able to understand what it means to love unconditionally
and have learned to forgive myself and therefore forgive others.
that has not lessened my zeal in fighting to open all records
across the land to all people - to fight against the adoption
system that perpetuates the myths that separates mothers from
their children instead of giving support and comfort to aid
in keeping natural families together. I am committed to do
all that I can to help educate others about the reality of
adoption, to fight the fairy tale image that the media has
portrayed about adoption, and to support and encourage all
women searching and in reunion to share their stories with
others. In numbers there is strength and that certainly is
true of first mothers. We are truly among the most strong
and courageous women of this world. We have faced unbearable
trauma and pain, and yet first mothers are among the most
compassionate and understanding of people, steadfast in their
goal to eliminate the secrets and lies that have dangerously
affected so many of our lives. We stand together to shout
our truth to the world and I believe that in our truth, there
Ashland, Oregon August 22, 2001