I am telling you a story, a true story, but a story of my mother as it was recounted to me on that fateful afternoon eighteen years ago. It was told to me through tears and although you might find it too hard to believe it is probably all to familiar to other first mothers of that era.
My mother at 16 faced delivery alone. The nun supervising the process was to ensure it was as painful as possible to "Teach the girls a lesson". Laying across her stomach during contractions. Calling her a whore. No medications. No help. Just lots and lots of pain.
In some ways my mom was one of the 'lucky' ones. She was able to hold her baby after she gave birth. She was able to name her. Know she was a beautiful little girl.
She was assured that the baby was going right away to a "good Catholic family". She balked, argued and protested about signing the papers, finally in order to ensure her consent, the lawyer promised her that she would be a sent a picture of the baby at three months old.
You all know, I am sure, such a picture never arrived.
For two weeks she recovered in the maternity home. It was then time to appear in court.
She watched as a screaming baby was walked down a long hall held in a Nun's arms. The Nun handed the baby to her mother. Her 16 year old mother. In court, alone. Having to physically hand the baby over in front of a judge. An exercise in torture it seemed to her at the time.
Instantly the baby settled into her arms. She recounted to us how she had stared at my sister, and then when the judge decreed that her parental rights were legally terminated, she turned and had to hand the baby back to the Nun.
She watched her baby, once again screaming, disappear down the hallway in the arms of a French Canadian Nun. That was the last time she saw her, or heard anything about her for 27 years.
My mom tried to find comfort in the imaginings that her baby, then named Beverly, went immediately to the home of her adoptive parents.
She did not.
We found out later that it was 6 weeks before she was placed into the arms of her adoptive parents. Time to make sure she wasn't defective? Time to ensure that in fact this beautiful little baby would really be a perfect little adoptee? Time to ensure her skin stayed a creamy shade of ivory? No matter why or how, when she was finally placed into her home she was covered in bed sores and in desperate need of love and family.
My mother returned to the home of her abusive father. There was no where else to go and this was supposed to be her "fresh start". My grandfather, rest his soul, was horrible. Evil in his intentions, abusive in his parenting.
He told her over breakfast every day that God would punish her for giving away her baby. Yet reminded her continually that no man would ever want a whore. A whore, in his mind, anyone who had sex and got caught before marriage.
Every adult, without exception, from the start to the end of the process treated my mother as an object of derision. To be mocked. Insulted. Used to be made an example of. She wasn't offered counselling, support or even understanding. She was never to talk about the time, yet everyone talked about her.
In a twist of fate, the infant baby of my mother's roommate at the maternity home was adopted by her father's neighbour shortly after she returned home without her own baby. A baby she watched gestating in his mother. A baby she saw after he was born. A baby she now saw with his adoptive parents. She never shared the secret she knew of his past and his birth until the day she shared the story of her own daughter with my younger sister and I on this fateful afternoon in 1991. A question of wonderment at why God would force her to see this other baby, but never allow her to see her own.
She quickly jumped forward in time. My sister, (OH MY GOODNESS MY SISTER!!) had been looking for my mother for 9 years. From the day of her eighteenth birthday when she hired a private detective.
That very day my mother had received a letter from the BC Government Passive Reunion Registry. My mom had heard through a church service that it was possible for mothers and children to reunite nowadays, and she she had applied. Before that time she had not realized it was even a possibility. My sister had applied years before.
They had spoken. I was an aunt, three times over. My mother, a grandmother.
And we were going to go meet her the next day.