Sunday, May 9, 2010

Orphanage, Pt. 7: Relinquishment

I was stunned when I read the last paragraph of the report from the United Charities of Chicago to the orphange . The hospital in which I was born was given instructions that Lillian 'is not to be given the baby at any time'. Of course, I know that that's not an uncommon practice, especially in 1948, but had hoped that in my case it would be different. I was hoping for a mother to child soliloquy along the lines of "I'm so sorry, baby! I want better for you than what I can provide. I will always remember the feel of you in my arms and your sweet little face". That was not the case, but I did find out that she didn't take the decision to give me up lightly.

"5-20-48: Worker visited Lillian at IRH (the hospital) today. Lillian stated her delivery was not difficult but she was looking forward to being discharged from the hospital as soon as possible. Her plans are to return to the Sara Hackett Home where she will stay until she can find other living arrangements. She stated that Mrs. Fox, her CW (case worker), was going to help her find a place to stay and also help her get employment. Lillian signed her paper surrendering her child to the agency."

After signing papers releasing me to the orphanage (not to be confused with relinquishment papers to be adopted), I was released to Lake Bluff Orpanage at almost two weeks old. I might have been released sooner, but there was a question of my being of low weight and of the orphanage being not quite ready for me. So, on May 26, 1948, eleven days old, I was picked up at the hospital by a case worker and taken to my temporary home, which noted that I was "a lovely little girl, well formed". And thus began those few months that have been shrouded in mystery, both in regard to myself and to what my mother was doing during that time period.

While I was beginning my new life in the orphanage, Lillian had gone back to the unwed mother's home. She took a job as a counter girl in a cafeteria at WMH (don't know what that was) while trying to decide what to do next with her life.

"7-6-48: Went to WMH today and was given permission to talk with Lillain......(misc. remarks)... It was apparent from the beginning that Lillian was not ready to sign final consent. She wanted to know more about our adoption program and the type of home the baby would go into. CW (caseworker) gave all assurance she could as to family we have and why it was best for the baby. Lillian then said 'I am afraid to adopt my baby out'. She knows she has no other plan as she is only able to support herself. She also knows a boarding home plan is unsatisfactory in the long run. She asked about her baby and CW described her. Lillian related easily to the worker, but tears came to her eyes during the interview. She definitely is perplexed in making her decision."

"There was a noticed change and a sigh of relief when the CW suggested that she would be glad to return in about 2 weeks. This would give Lillian time to rethink her decision and perhaps talk it over with Mrs. Fox (who was on vacation). She was given the CW's card and told to write her if there was any change in her plans. She said she did not think there would be any change but 'wanted a little time to think'".

"7-8-48: Phone call asking us to go along with Lillian until 8-5. They feel that Lillian is feeling the insecurity of not having Mrs. Fox on hand and has no one to turn to. If the worker could become acquainted with Lillian and perhaps visit her once more, they feel she will be willing to sign as soon as Mrs. Fox returns."

"7-29-48: Lillian is now employed in the Dixon Grill which is a small soda fountain...(misc. notes)...she was glad to see the worker and we talked together in one of the social service department offices."

"We had no sooner been seated when Lillian explained that 'I guess I am ready to sign final consent..........'. She explained that after she talked with the worker she had thought definitely in terms of keeping the baby. But the more she thought of how her baby would not have a stable home life nor two sets of grandparents, the more she realized that that was too much for her baby to miss. She was interested in knowing what kind of family the baby would have, but was especially interested in the grandparents. She herself has had little home life of any kind or contact with grandparents. She repeated that fact several times during the conversation and usually added the statement 'I never had a place to bring my friends.' " (Remember, she had already stated that she left home initially at age 16 because her maternal grandfather had moved into their home, was very strict, and they did not get along well at all.)

"Lillian ws composed and relaxed during the interview. She is more settled in her job and enjoys living in the girls' club (I'm thinking this is something like the YWCA that she lived in when she first left home). She expressed being glad that she was not living at Sarah Hackett and that she did not want to return there with her baby. She seems quite ready to sign final papers and will look forward to seeing the worker at that time."

"8-9-48: CW met Lillian today at the FSB office where she signed final consent. As Lillian had already reviewed the paper with CW, she had few questions regarding it. CW did take time to explain some of the details of the paper once again because she felt Lillian was trying hard to keep her emotions under control. Some time was also taken to explain some of the background of the prospective adoptive parents, the Ecklunds. Here again, Lillian was accepting of the information. She signed final consent and thanked the CW for being so interested in her and her baby."(I believe she's referring to Mrs. Fox, the case worker from United Charities.)

"CW then offered to drive Lillian to work as she was driving in that direction. As we went down in the elevator, Lillian gave the CW the copy of the final consent which CW had given her to read as she explained the details of the paper. She said she did not wish to keep the paper as it only served as a reminder. The girl was told that the baby would go into it's adoptive home within the next three or four days. She again expressed her gratefulness to the CW for finding such a fine home for the baby."

This ended Lillian's part in the 'story' of my birth and relinquishment for adoption. I had always wondered if she had a hard time giving me up - and I now know that she did. I had never blamed her for 'giving me away' or anything like that, or felt bitter towards her...just curious. To read the account of her struggle was very touching for me. Although I was disappointed that she had never seen or held me, I know now that I had been in her heart, and that has made all the difference. It erased the picture I had of her in my head the last thirty years that was taken from the later accounts of the alcoholic and neglectful mother who eventually lost her other four children. I now can see her as a teenage girl who found herself in a position that even an adult would have trouble with, pregnant with no means of taking care of a baby. She did the best she could, made the only decision that made sense at that time.

Lillian would eventually return to Galveston. Family lore has it that she called the orphanage and was told that I had died in a fire. I now don't think that's what happened. The records kept by United Charities and especially by the orphanage were very detailed, and I think that the thought was that if the baby turned adult came looking, the information would be there, that the story would come full circle. Kraig thinks, and I agree, that Lillian, perhaps, made the story up to stop the family from asking about it, to put an end to the story.

Next, the papers tell about the investigation of the adoptive family before my time at the orphanage ends. ( be continued)


Jerry said...

I've been reading so much of this that I'm overwhelmed. Kraig supplied you with closure to your past. Yes, to find all this out at 62 is it is amazing and wonderful.

yaya said...

Just reading the few lines on those pages, you can feel Lillian's pain and desire to better her child's life...I can't even imagine it. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

Bernie said...

Your birth mother was pained by her decision it is obvious, who knows Linda this may have been the reason she drank, perhaps she couldn't handle the guilt of it all. Breaks my heart really but she had so many chances to make things right with her other children, not for us to judge though.
I love your attitude with all of this info and I think Kraig is a wonderful human being helping answer questions that you have had for so many years.....:-) Hugs

lakeviewer said...

I'm happy for you that all these details provide a closure of some type. It must have been hard not knowing, feeling in limbo about your mother.

Wine and Words said...

Does it make it any easier to know our mother's struggled with the release? I'm not sure that it does. That their pain and confusion could aid us in some's a little strange and if anything it just attaches us more to the one who left us. I don't know. I'm just thinking it through. You said that you had wanted to know if she struggled with the decision. I would like to know if it helped know, and in what way.


Oz Girl said...

I can definitely see that your mother struggled with her decision. I can also see how knowing this fact may help some find peace with their adoption, while for others, it may add more confusion and a sense of unsettledness. We are all affected differently by the events in our lives, and we assimilate them in a fashion that works for US.

I hope you are finding peace with everything that you have found out about your mother and your adoption.


ethelmaepotter! said...

I can't imagine the pain your mother went through in her decision. But I'm glad you finally have some closure. It must be a bittersweet heartwarming feeling to know you were loved by 2 mothers.

Timoteo said...

A fascinating account, as usual.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Sounds like you have found a level of comfort in Lillian's story, a knowledge that she cared deeply about you and her decision was not an easy choice.

Will be interested to hear about the adoptive family. The name Ecklund - my mother's maiden name without the "c". Swedes.

kobico said...

It is sad when the choice of the heart does not match up with the choice that has the best potential. Seems as though some of these discoveries are providing a positive sense of closure for you and I am happy for you.

Bernie said...

Happy Birthday to you dear Linda, I hope you have a wonderfull day and that it is your best birthday ever........:-) Hugs

Middle Aged Woman Blogging said...

You have no idea how fascinating this entire story has been to me. My own mother was raised in Guardian Angel Orphanage in Peoria, Illinois. It still stands. I've been to visit several times. Her mother died of a tubal pregnancy in 1929, I believe. My mother, her sister and two brothers were placed there by their father, who never allowed them to be adopted out.

My older sister became pregnant at age 16 and put her baby girl up for adoption. We have never been able to find her. I wonder if the Catholic orphanages operated a little differently. My mother was never even allowed to see her brothers when they were growing up. God forbid the boys and the girls would be allowed on the playground at the same time. Many sad stories. You have me thinking!

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