A few weeks ago at my birth mom group, one of the caseworkers mentioned how, years and years ago, a birth mother would likely never see or hold her baby - nurses would whisk the newborn away because it was thought that it would be easier that way.
I knew all this, of course. I've read as much as the next person (assuming the next person has an interest in adoption) about adoption in this country and how it has changed over the years. The fact that a birth mother in the '50s or '60s would never see her baby wasn't new information. But for some reason, when the caseworker said this, I thought of my mom's birth mother.
I've written about her before. I never think of her without marveling at her strength. She would never know what became of the tiny baby girl she loved so much. This was typical of an adoption in 1957. But, perhaps because of the situation - my great-grandfather being the hospital administrator - Roberta got to hold my mother, her baby girl. She had at least one evening with her that I know of (my mom was born at dinnertime), and I think most of the night as well.
I don't think I ever appreciated until that moment a few weeks ago how remarkable that really was! I suppose that if Roberta had placed with any other family, delivery would have been goodbye. How serendipitous, how lovely, that she placed instead with my grandparents! I like to imagine that the hours she spent with her newborn daughter were among the most precious ones in her memory. I hope that they gave her comfort.
After I'd signed my placement paperwork but before I handed Roo over to her parents, I had a few minutes alone with my little girl. I whispered things to her. I told her how much I loved her, and how much her parents loved her, and how happy she was going to be. I think that Roberta must have done much the same thing with her baby girl.
I wonder if she knew how unusual her situation was - if she knew how lucky she was to have that goodbye time. I wonder if she knew of any other birth mothers to compare her situation to. I doubt that she did. In those days, it was a shameful secret. As far as I know, Roberta never told a soul about the baby she placed. I marvel that she was able to carry the weight of that burden alone for all those years. I wonder where she found the strength.
I am more thankful for Roberta than I can say. Her love and sacrifice gave my mother a beautiful, happy, wonderful life. I hope that some day Roo will feel the same way about me.