Twice Burned

August 28-September 16, 1999

Once upon a time there was a woman who had four children. At the age of 19 she had given birth to her first child and placed her for adoption. The second was born when the mother was 23, and she, too, was placed for adoption. The woman married at the age of 25 and had two more children that she raised.

The woman’s first pregnancy had been the result of a relationship with her high school sweetheart. They had known each other all their lives and fallen in love as sophomores. They dated through high school, but he joined the Navy after graduation. On his last visit home before shipping out to Vietnam, they spent the weekend together and conceived their child. She wrote to him when she learned she was pregnant, but never heard from him. His betrayal was worse than the pregnancy, and caused her to lose respect for herself and most men. She went away to another state to have the baby, placing her for adoption in the belief that the child would be better without her.

She stayed in the area and over the next few years, she slept with many men, some for extended periods, and some only briefly. She also drank and “partied hearty”, except the partying felt more and more like work, and she eventually grew tired of making the effort. When she found herself pregnant for the second time, she immediately checked herself back into the maternity home, sobered up, cleaned up, and took a few months of schooling that would help her to get a better job. After the baby’s birth, she walked away, and never looked back. She moved back home with her parents and never mentioned the second child.

When she got back to the old neighborhood, she found that her old boyfriend was in town. They met for coffee one day, and he apologized for his behavior years earlier. He blamed it on youth and the bad influences of his fellow soldiers. He asked about the baby, and she told him about the adoption. He apologized again, and begged her to fogive him. She did. They were married several months later and had the next two children.

One day, the phone rang, and a strange voice asked for her by her maiden name. She immediately questioned who was calling, and was told that it was a social worker from the maternity home with news of her daughter. The birth mother’s heart soared as she thought it might be the child of her husband, but plummetted when she was told the date of birth-- it was the second child. Immediately, she refused contact with the adoptee, but as she ended the call, she told the social worker that she would cherish the idea of contact with her first daughter.

HINT: Shame is an integral part of many unmarried pregnancies, but when compounded by the fact that it is a second or even third happening, the shame intensifies. Many women who voluntarily placed more than one child for adoption live in a compartmentalized universe in which one child is acceptable and another is not. These women often search for only the “acceptable” child while refusing contact with the other if it is offered. It seems that some of these women completely accept the old saying, “Once burned, shame on you. Twice burned, shame on me!”

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