NAME IS KAREN I AM A MOTHER WHO LOST HER CHILD TO ADOPTION
My steady boyfriend, an identical twin, had moved to Norfolk,
Virginia at the beginning of our senior year of school. I
stayed behind at Annandale High School in Annandale, Virginia.
That November of 1965, I traveled with his twin brother's
girlfriend by bus to visit for the weekend. That's when our
daughter was conceived. I remember how happy we were to see
each other. We were both so lost and lonely; he, having moved
to a new city and a new high school, and me being left behind
in my relatively new high school. (I was transferred from
Woodson High School to Annandale at the beginning of my junior
After four months, I could
no longer hide my pregnancy. I called my dad and he and my
mom decided to take me out of school. I was to be placed in
the home of strangers as an unpaid servant and babysitter.
The first was in Northwest Washington, D.C. I lived in an
old brownstone in their attic. The people had me serving mixed
drinks when they entertained. I was miserable and threatened
to run away so I was moved to a home in McLean with a very
In the Florence Crittenton maternity home, I went by the name
"Karen B." they said - to protect MY reputation and identity.
What that meant to me at the age of 17, was that I should
feel shame and guilt. The maternity home was a shame-filled
When I was seven months pregnant, I was admitted as a full
time resident of FCH. I finished my last year of high school
there. Our classroom was in the attic of the main building.
A picture was taken of me in a gown of my high school colors
(white and red). I lived in the Dorm with a few other girls,
some younger some a little older. We had a living room area
with a black and white TV, tables and chairs for playing
cards and old books and magazines. We also were allowed
to sign out in pairs of two to walk down the street a block
or two to the grocery store or the MacArthur movie theater.
We were not given any education about pregnancy, labor or
hospital section connected to the other two buildings so
that we never had to go outside in order to move between
the three buildings. The cafeteria was in the basement of
the dorm as was the "clothing room" where we borrowed clothes
to wear and then left them when we departed the Home for
good. There was also a beauty parlor and an arts and crafts
room. Our incoming and outgoing mail was read and censored.
Visitors had to be approved. No boyfriends and no other
friends were allowed. We had the use of a pay phone and
could only get coins from the front office.
On July 21st, I was taken
to George Washington University Hospital by cab and told
to walk in and give my name and tell them I was from the
maternity home. I was admitted and prepared to give birth.
I was given so many drugs I remember very little of labor
and nothing at all of the delivery. My daughter, Michelle
Renee, was born the next morning at 2:30 a.m., weighed 8
pounds 1 ounce and had an APGAR score of 10. That same morning
she and I rode together back to the maternity home in a
taxi. We stayed together in the post partum ward for ten
days. My baby girl was brought to me for each daytime feeding
and then was returned to the "nursery" to be cared for by
the nurses over night along with the other babies. At any
given time, there were about ten to twelve new moms in the
August 1, 1966, I took my daughter to Our Lady of Victory
Chapel down the street to have her baptized. My aunt was
her Godmother. It was our last day together. After my mom
and Michelle's Godmother left, I was taken to an empty room
with just a wooden rocking chair and my daughter was brought
to me so we could say goodbye. An hour later, she was removed
from my arms forever.
Thirty years later, I searched for and found my daughter whose
name is now Maria. She grew up not too far from Annandale
and, at one point, we lived just within miles of each other.
Maria said she had searched for me during that time and had
wondered if she had sensed that I was nearby. A friend called
her for me and told her who I was. We began writing by email
and spoke by phone. On February 7, 1998 we met for the "second"
time in our lives but for the first time as adults. It was
People are under an incredible misperception that young, unmarried
mothers of the 50's, 60's and 70's "willingly gave away" their
babies. Not true. We had no choice. In order for someone
to choose, they must be given more than one option. We
had only one. The maternity homes and adoption agencies, along
with our misinformed and pressured parents, coerced us into
relinquishing our babies. We were led like lambs to the slaughter.
We were told to sign formal documents but we were not told
to read them or asked if we understood them. Most of us never
received copies of those papers. No lawyer was present at
any time nor were we ever advised of our legal rights to sign
or not to sign. We were told by the caseworkers that if we
REALLY loved our baby we would give it up so it would have
a mom and a dad and all of the things we couldn't afford to
The pain of relinquishment lasts a lifetime and affects every
single aspect of our lives. I invite anyone who is interested
in the maternity home experience or the experience of a mother
who has relinquished a child to read "Wake Up Little Susie,
Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade" by Rickie Solinger
and "Fallen Women, Problem Girls" by Regina Kunzel. It is
my personal mission to try to undo the damage done by erroneous
and cruel messages given to society by so-called "adoption
professionals" regarding women like me. If adoption has touched
you in a personal way,
please feel free to contact me.
In 1966 I was a high school Senior. I was