Saturday, November 14, 2009

1967

The year started with me, a 5'7", 100 lb. pregnant girl, just turned 15 years old. I was so sick, I could barely function. My mother overheard a telephone conversation between me and my boyfriend and discovered that I was pregnant. She sent me to the doctor who confirmed what we already knew. The thing that amazes me as I look back on this is that there was no adult who said, "OK Mary, this is the deal, here is what is going to happen, this is the plan..." So I just kept getting bigger and bigger and going to school and having no idea how I was going to have a baby. My mother wouldn't even tell my father I was pregnant, fearing he might drink again or have a heart attack or something.

Finally, I went to see a priest and asked him what he thought I should do. He called my parents and talked to them. By this time I was 5 months pregnant and showing - heck, there was nowhere for that baby to hide! The priest got my parents to take action and they got me into a home for unwed mothers. Once again, for those readers more than a couple of years younger than I am, this probably sounds like something from a 19th century novel. But there were such things. And thank God. And thank God I got to go to one.

It was at 721 N. LaSalle in downtown Chicago. I was on the floor for unwed mothers. There was also a floor for nursing students. It was a grand old building. It was run by nuns, and you know I had to feel at home there! I loved that place. I loved going to mass every morning. I loved the structure of the days. I loved my little job of serving the meals to the nuns in the nuns' quarters. I loved every single thing about this place that should have been more of a penance than a blessing.

Having all those days to contemplate the mistakes I had made in my short life, I knew that I would mend my ways once I had to go back to my "real" life. I knew that I wouldn't take back up with the boyfriend. I knew that I wouldn't drink again. I knew that I would continue to go to church and continue with my life of prayer. I didn't just kind of think these things... I knew them.

On August 15, 1967, I gave birth to a perfect little girl and named her Mary Catherine after a nun from the home who was beautiful and kind and wonderful. Surely some of you who read this have given up a baby, so you know. For others, there are no words that can describe what it is to give up a child. I remember walking out of that hospital on an August day, in more anguish than I had ever had been in prior, and maybe ever have been in again. Feeling that I couldn't bear to physically leave the building containing the physical presence of my daughter. Knowing that it was permanent. That I would never get to touch her. Ever. I never got to hold her. Ever. The word devastated comes to mind, but it seems a pale description.

I got to go back to the home on LaSalle Street for a few more days and then I had to go home. I thought I was prepared to go back, but I wasn't. I wasn't ready for anything. I don't know if I had ever heard of post-partum depression, but I sure had a world-class case.

I had left my house in April of 1967. The world was still somewhat "normal" at that time. I was still a somewhat skinny girl at that time. When I came back home in late August, the world had gone insane. It was the Summer of Love, man. My friends were all wearing bell bottoms and beads and doing all kinds of things they weren't doing when I left. I suddenly had a full-blown woman's body and it was rather shocking if you hadn't seen me for a while, which nobody had. I found out my boyfriend, who I thought was going to continue a chaste relationship with me (until we were married), had been carrying on with several unchaste relationships while I was away in an unwed mothers' home carrying his child. It was all a recipe for some crazy stuff.

I picked up a drink without a thought at all. Not a thought.

I went back to school in the fall, it was a nightmare. I think the other kids could accept the fact that I had just had a baby, even though nobody was supposed to know, everybody knew. The teachers, however had a harder time with it. When I look back at it, it is gross, particularly the behavior of some of the male teachers. (Later I found out that although I had a hard time, they ran my boyfriend out of town, he literally had to move to his grandparents to finish school.)

I broke up with the boyfriend. I hung out with my best girlfriend. We drank. We smoked pot. We took LSD. We hung out with some pretty unsavory characters. The Doors first album, Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band, Jimi Hendrix's Are you Experienced, Fresh Cream, oh, what a grand sound track to such misery!

By the end of 1967, I was a depressed mess. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight, thanks to taking up a 2 pack a day cigarette habit. And by now, I had the requisite long, straight hair, a suede fringed jacket, bell bottoms, seed beads in many different hues - oh, I looked the part! In 4 months, I had gone from Catholic girl, who was never going to drink again to drunken depressed girl who hadn't been near a church in months and wasn't going to be near one again for a long time.

A year and a half after my first drink, and 16 and a half years before my last.

13 comments:

Scott W said...

In 1967-68 I wanted more than anything to move to San Francisco and be a hippy, but I was too young and would have to wait four more years to get away.

Pam said...

You are doing a wonderful job of describing those days, I just wanted to keep on reading.

Mary LA said...

Oh Mary Christine -- the hardest part of this for me is reading between the lines and knowing what you went through. All alone.

Patty said...

My heart is aching for you to have gone through all that at such a young age, and alone.

Annette said...

I once knew a girl who gave up her beautiful baby girl for adoption. The aftermath was excruciating to watch. The sounds of despair that came from that girl's mouth were the most raw, the result of the deepest pain, a ripping away, I had ever seen or heard. It took my breath away as I sat next knowing that all I could do was be there.

Thanks for sharing your story Mary....it is an honor.

valblog said...

"What a fine soundtrack for such misery"...indeed. Thank you for helping me remember some of my own story, and realizing why those songs used to bring unrecognised tears before I discovered a power greater than myself.

Lou said...

This sounds a lot like my teenage years, except for the heartache. I did a fair amount of drugs and drinking and unchaste stuff, but I never had to pay the price you did. I never really got in trouble, and when I "grew up" I quit doing that crazy stuff.

Come to think of it, that is what separates me from an alcoholic. I could quit when I saw big trouble looming ahead.

Fascinating story..

Syd said...

I did all that too, except for having a baby. It was a wild time for living free. Or so I thought.

Ed G. said...

I remember the confusion, the despair and the sound track.

Blessings and aloha...

~Christina~ said...

Wow...my birthday is August 15, 1964.....

What an experience you went through....

Madison said...

Very moving. I remember when girls used to be sent away. It doesn't sound like you had a supportive family while living through this. That's a whole lot to overcome.

Scott said...

I was born in 1968 but I am definitely a "summer of love" person at heart... I lived that life in the 1990's

I cannot imagine what you must have been going through MC, wow!

Just Another Sober Guy said...

All of this happening in the first year of my life. I always thought of myself as a child of the 60's and felt like I was born way too late. I surely would have been at Woodstock and fit right in with those times.

I am behind on reading all of this but I am going to follow through. Thank you for sharing all of this, you convey it incredilby well.

JAS G.