Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Books: Making Me Think

Last week I finished The Girls Who Went Away, The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler.

Great book! I always have been interested in adoption. I used to tell my mother that I planned to adopt 19 children and give birth to one. Of course, that didn't really happen once I realized I was not cut out to mother umpteen kids.

I still think about it, however. Just a few years ago, hubby and I looked into adopting a teenager out of foster care. We came very close to signing up to actually do it. We realized, though, that we were nearing the "too old and too tired" age. That would have taken a lot of energy that we felt we no longer possess. I still think about it, however, and kind of pine for those kids who need families.

Anyway, back to the book... it tells the stories of birth mothers who relinquished their babies to adoption during the early 1900s and especially after WWII, up until the mid-70s. The prevailing attitude after WWII was that girls in their teens to young twenties who were pregnant outside of marriage were not prepared to be mothers. Their babies, it was thought, would do much better in "stable" families. Most of the teen moms had no say in the matter, and having their babies removed against their will, or at least with no other options presented, proved to be life-altering and very traumatic for most of them.

I was floored, reading this book, and finding that I used to believe some of the rhetoric surrounding these thoughts. It was a riveting book and also gut-wrenching at the same time.

After I finished this, I had some mildly bad dreams about babies and adoption. I like to think that as a young woman in those times I did not blame the girls for being "sluts" as many of them were labeled. But... I was a product of my time. I probably did at least think they were the naughty girls. Little did I know I was falling for false rhetoric. Makes me sad to think of it. (At least I was savvy enough to know it wasn't fair that girls were shamed and boys got away with it or even were proud.)

There was a girl in my class who "went away" for several months, and, of course, rumors were circulating. She probably was in this same situation: pregnant, made to feel ashamed, removed from public, forced to give away her baby. Really makes me wonder about her and what that did to her and her future.

I want to make a comment on the title. I don't know why it is called " the Decades Before Roe v. Wade." That's the law that made abortions legal. The book doesn't get into the abortion question at all (or, very little). And it doesn't make the argument that adoption diminished because of abortion being a new option. Rather it tends to credit the change in thinking on how to counsel pregnant girls, making options more clear to them, and the big one: birth control being talked about openly and made much more accessible. So if you think, because of the title, that it is a pro-abortion book that you want to avoid, please don't. It's not about abortion at all and is a fascinating look at our attitudes toward adoption and toward those girls who find themselves pregnant in their teens and early twenties outside of marriage.

This was a great book. I love a book that makes me think and learn. 5 stars.


Sextant said...

Nice post and interesting looking book.

Blessed are those who do adopt especially the older kids. We had a guy at work that he and his wife adopted 9 kids, all older, some different races and sent all but one through college. Out of the nine, one was problem-some. They wanted to adopt another and was told that they had exceeded the limit two adoptions ago. To me this guy and his wife have a guaranteed ticket to heaven.

The double standard of a slut girl and oh you clever naughty boy has always infuriated me as well, even when I was young. It takes two to tango, and by God two are morally responsible. It is bad enough that the girl or woman has the entire physical burden of the pregnancy and birth. But to then be abandoned by laddy just PO's me to no end. Then compound it with shame for her and cleverness for him and it just gets me in the mood to get out my nuttin' shears. Trim that lad up so he isn't creating anymore problems.

Your tale of the girl that took a trip, reminds me of a remarkable observation of mine. I went to high school from '64 to '67 in a fairly large school of abut 1400 students. In three years with a class of 450 I only remember one girl getting pregnant.

My mother told me stories of when she was young. She went to a small rural high school in her farming community of probably of a 100 to 200 and the number of girls that got pregnant was horrendous. This was back in the late 30s early 40s. That does not compute. Did we have that much better access tp birth control? Possibly but it couldn't have made that much difference. I remember that sex was pretty much limited to wild claims in the boys locker room. For the generation that supposedly invented sex, we certainly had a low rate of pregnancy. Besides we know that was all BS anyhow, our parents invented sex...that is why there so many of us in the post war baby boom.

I read a book by a rabbi one time, and he claimed that there is an old saw about Jewish women... They are too busy having babies to bother with sex.

Great post.

BrendaLou said...

I went to a high school of 3500 and really didn't know of anyone "going away" or getting pregnant in 67-70, but a friend of mine now tells of being drugged at 16, raped and her mother and aunt hauling her off to Mexico to get an abortion. she had no choice in THAT matter and still grieves for the child that was pulled from her body.

I am very PRO-adoption as many of my friends and relatives have gone this route. They are loving parents who have parented children who have grown up to be wonderful, well-adjusted adults. I fully expect to have several adopted grandchildren in the future as my MN kids are on the board of an adoption agency hoping to add to their family.

I cannot imagine any circumstances in which someone would abort a child. Inconvenient? Too expensive? Ashamed? Too busy? I try to understand, but I cannot. Do I hate women who have chosen abortion? NO. But I am so very sad, for them and for the child who is wanted by so many others.