September 15, 1979 at 1:17am, my baby girl was born. After 25 hours of labor, she was pulled into the world with a pair of forceps. Back then, hospitals didn’t kick you out the door 24 hours after giving birth, so I spent 3 days with my girl before leaving without her.
At the time, I had been a resident at a home for unwed mothers. Back in the late 70’s being a pregnant teenager was a disgrace. Being single and pregnant was a disgrace. Being a very young, pregnant teenager who was impregnated by molestation was the most disgraceful thing to be.
During those 3 days at the hospital, I got to hold my baby and to bottle feed her. Being just six days past my 15th birthday, the whole thing was quite surreal. Because I never entertained the notion that I could actually bring my baby home and keep her, I didn’t bond with her particularly. And being so young, I was very clueless in general. But I loved her nevertheless.
Initially after her birth, I was placed in a room with 3 other mothers whose new babies spent a lot of time with them. When the mothers needed to sleep, the babies were taken back to the nursery, where nurses looked after them.
I remember sitting, eating a bowl of cereal for breakfast one day, talking with one of the other girls from the home for unwed mothers that had delivered a day after I had. Something she said brought me to tears. I bawled at the thought of leaving my daughter. When I couldn’t stop crying, a nurse came in and asked me what was wrong. She figured out that I would be better off in a single room. Why no one thought of this in the first place baffles me.
I can still remember the day I walked out that hospital without my daughter. It was a cool fall day, with dry air after a very hot, humid summer. The sky was deep blue. Such a juxtaposition between the physically comfortable weather (and not having a baby sitting on my bladder and pushing up into my lungs), and the pain in my heart. Six weeks later I got to visit briefly with my daughter before signing away my rights to her.
The irony is, 23 years later when I walked out of a hospital without my son, it was oddly familiar and didn’t seem weird. But this time, he was in another hospital, needing to grow and mature for a few weeks before I brought him home.
Happy 36th Birthday baby girl. I love you.