The year was 1967, the year I left the convent (after two years training to be a nun).
Within the year, concerns led me to a doctor. My physician called with test results. "Marion, the test showed you're just pregnant".
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When I confided my ‘condition’ to my sexually-active roommates (nursing colleagues from St Paul’s Hospital & 10 yrs my senior), they were furious with me, afraid for themselves and their reputations. Pregnant single girls and women were subject to societies’ sneers and snubs. I was shocked the day a retail clothing store clerk refused me service when she noticed my pregnant body and the absence of a wedding ring. Children of unwed mothers were called bastards and illegitimate. Such unnecessary stress for both mom and unborn child! Where’s the village that will help moms stay connected to their children?
Of huge significance, was a cousin who connected me to a couple (Anne and Ron) of three children who offered their home to pregnant singles (I was their seventh), in exchange for housekeeping and childcare. AMAZING GRACE. Their home was an oasis! Anne introduced me to a church family and they offered me transportation to the church. ( It felt like they shielded me from the discriminating glances). AMAZING GRACE. Ron took me to see their first pregnant single who was the only 1 out of six women who chose to raise her child on her own.
The woman was living in a dark basement suite that smelled of urine. Her daughter was two. The father of the baby was not available in any way. She couldn’t provide for their needs, so would hustle on the side for extra cash. She wanted male companionship, available as one-night stands mostly. “As soon as they realize I am a single mom, they don’t come back!”
My doctor suggested I look into co-op housing. While certainly an economical temporary solution, living with strangers with values unlike my own would not be a sustainable solution.Returning to my parents’ home and lifestyle would NOT be in the best interest of my child or me.And still, my God remained my loving God. I am deeply at peace with my decision of 1968. At the Family Services office, I signed over my parental rights with three conditions: my baby would belong to a Christian community; my baby would know it was adopted; and my baby would be raised among open communication. Before I left the hospital, I knew my son would be going to a home of two PhD parents, who agreed to my terms and — BONUS — a 6-year old daughter would be his sister.
Fast forward to 1984. I’m ironing in the bedroom while listening to Jack Webster receive calls from other adult mothers who were still carrying the grief of their surrenders, who wanted (needed) to meet their biological children. My MLA, Lyle MacWilliam, read my story, delegated adoption research to a University librarian, and agreed that thousands of consenting adults would benefit from an Adoption Registry that would assist adoptees to connect with their biological histories. The province did set up a Passive Registry — when both bio-parent and adopted adult applied for contact, the province would assist. An Active Reunion Registry followed, which permitted any member of the adoption triad to apply for contact information unless a VETO directive was placed on file.
Fast forward to 1993, my 1969 son Tim and I reunited — AMAZING GRACE —, we were accepted to be on a panel at an Adoption Triad conference around 1994 to benefit the Adoption Triad, and agreed to let the local papers run a story about our reunion and encouraged others to phone my home to share their stories. The calls consumed 40 hours a week. A law reform team included our city to hear our story and many others’ stories and experiences. Tim and I actually helped in the formation of a revised Adoption Law.
Fast forward to Friday, June 25. I had a visit with my granddaughter —through the blessings of open adoption and the discussions between the couple and my daughter. Because addiction is an inter generational fact, my daughter surrendered her parental rights to a Christian family. Heidi’s parents have adopted three more children since, and they have lots of support, even a grandmother who lives close. It’s such a joy (and relief) to visit. Heidi’s father is interested in our genealogy and I’m grateful to have the Harty side to offer, with permission from a relative who did a lot of deep diving.
Heidi has just turned 12, and has a desire to play guitar. I was thrilled to be able to share guitar stories from my childhood!!!
Thanks to Tim, I am able to post a copy of a photograph now in Tim’s possession and taken when I was pregnant with him.