"birthmoms" Exploited By Adoption
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"Miss Parr, your baby has already been taken to be placed for adoption."
by Bonnie Parr
 

 

My name is Bonnie Parr and I am a mother of 4 children.

I 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 world.

I 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.

What 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 purpose

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.

I 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.

Long 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.

I 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.

I 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 unmitigated rejection.

My 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 story.

The 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.

My 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 the experience.

I 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.

My 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.

The 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.

The 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.

By 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 companionship.

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.

At 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.

About 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 extremely significant.

In 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 become.

I 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.

However, 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 lies freedom.

Respectfully, Bonnie Parr
Ashland, Oregon August 22, 2001

 
     

 

 
 
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