The Prison called Gehring Hall

Its part of Depaul now. The Theatre  Annex. This made me me laugh. Prior to be a building for a theatre department, it was a maternity home.  Prior to that, it was a convent. Something amusing in that to me. Something ironic.

Today they act in that building. We acted in that building in 1986 only we were unwed moms.We were acting okay. We were acting strong. We were acting like we could handle losing our children. We were pretending that our pain did not matter and that we did not matter to the lives of our children. We were acting good and proper and respectful. We had all been so “bad” by gettrnig pregnant. Act good now. Behave now.  Maybe we helped make that building the Theatre Annex. For sure, the building has a lot of negative energy and emotions frozen in the floors and walls. Surely, you can draw from that when you are acting.

It was a dreary building. Inside and out. Sterile. I suppose that is the former convent quality. My room was small. They all were. A single bed, a closet, a desk, a basin and mirror. Vinyl flooring. I think it was green. It was so dreary. So depressing. I used to leave the window open. January in Chicago and the window was wide open.  The girls would tease me that the could walk by my door and feel the arctic wind blow from beneath it. Not sure if the room was hot. I do remember the cold kept me awake, feeling alive. I felt that if I got too warm, if I slept too much, I might not wake up.

I hated the place. I really did. It was like prison. Oh, my girls tried their best to help. We all did. Carole, Cori, Megan, Kathleen. They all tried so hard. Put on a happy face. Forget the fact that you family, friends, the father of your child has discarded you.

I think I recall being told I was quiet and withdrawn. Carole would remember better than me. She took me under her wing. I dont know what she would remember today. What she would say. I do remember her taking me downtown for the first time and me being amazed at the skyscrapers. Looking up in wonder. Her laughing at me. Telling me I looked like a tourist. I also asked her why she was being so nice to me. She still remembers that and finds it amusing. But I meant it. No one was nice to me. Like ever. Only my daughters father and well, look where that got me? I dont remember what she said.

She made those days bearable for me. A few years older than me, wiser. A cross between a mother, sister, friend. Not sure I could have survived the time in the prison home without her.

That building has to have bad energy. Bad Karma. Kinda like the house built on the burial ground in Poltergiest. Too many women and children were separated in that house. Too many mamas cried to themselves, to the children in their wombs. I am sure the walls weep with condensation. Tears of the mothers. Tears of the children.

I stood across the street and just stared. Flashbacks of groups of pregnant women coming and going. House mothers. Megan coming back after the delivery with a cane. Her hip separated during delivery. Trudy with Jim. A lucky one that got to leave and get married. I saw them all.

Ghosts of days gone by.

Kah-Leen

wench

  1. a young woman, especially a servant 
  2. a promiscuous woman

Okay, so I laughed. I found it funny. This post began as a commentary on my caseworker from the adoption agency. True to form, I wanted an interesting opening, something compelling. I thought looking up the definition of her name might be interesting. Her name is Colleen. So I look up the meaning of the name Colleen and I am presented with this.

"The girl’s name Colleen is pronounced kah-LEEN. It is of Gaelic origin, and its meaning is "girl, wench."

This makes me laugh. The Wench part makes me chuckle.  Yes, she was a girl. Some people would say she was a wench. I am still trying to figure that out and its twenty years later.

I liked her. I really did. I thought she was my friend. I thought she cared about me. Maybe she did. I dont know. I still want to believe that. Maybe that is the Pollyanna inside me. I dont want to believe she was part of the baby brokering, of the lies and the deceit.

You know that awful feeling you get when you realize you dont know someone you thought you knew? When they do something that is completely out of character? That is the feeling I had about Colleen years after relinquishing my daughter. I felt betrayed. I felt lied to. Manipulated and used.

Colleen was my very first (and last) contact with the agency. Our relationship spanned almost 3 years. 

Colleen was the one who answered the phone at the agency the night I called. It was close to midnight my time. In a dark, damp corner of my parents basement, I flipped through yellow pages. I dont remember what caught my eye about the agency. Clearly something did. Digging deep into my memory I do remember something about helping, housing, caring. Good copy to lure a lonely, frightened pregnant women into the paws of a baby broker.

I remember she was helpful, friendly, caring. Right from that first instant on the phone, I felt like she cared about me. I do remember her being slightly pushy, anxious, excited. I remember when I waivered or hesitated on items she had a quick, forceful answer. I remember when I asked why I had to go to Illinois she gave me some instant story about my home state and awful adoptions in it (The stories were not true. The agency was being sued by my home state. They needed to remove me from that state if they were to get the child in my womb).

Through out the remaining 5 months of my pregnancy, my entire stay in the maternity home, Colleen was my lifeline. My only connection to the outside world. I looked forward to her visits, to our time alone. I enjoyed her. She was fun. Young. Active. Outgoing. We just hit it off. It really hurts me to think that all of that time was premeditated on her part. That she was faking it, or pretending. To think that she was USING me to get my child hurts me deeply.

She never discussed my options with me. She never asked me about keeping. She never told me about welfare, housing, parenting classes or anything else that might give me the confidence about keeping my child. All the talk was about surrender. About getting my childs father to the state to sign away his rights. About how if I kept my parents and I would be sued. But of course, she was an agency employee – not a neutral party. She and her employer stood to gain from my decision to surrender my child. They would NOT gain if I kept her.

I was afraid to anger her. I was afraid to say anything other than what was "proper, expected, acceptable". She was my only contact. The only person that appeared to care for me. Where would I be without her? (Maybe raising my daughter?). I realize now how wrong it was that my only contact was with the woman and the agency that would be profiting from sale of my child. I use the word "sale" intentionally. She was sold. Aparents who used my agency of record did so because they were promised healthy wife infants in short order PROVIDED they had the cash. Average price of an infant at the time my daughter was born and adopted through that agency seems to be in the 30-40K range. Furthermore, my own daughter told me that her parents (who came into some money shortly before her birth) were quoted as saying "Oh goody, now we can buy a house and buy a baby." Nice, eh?

Did they come up on adoption with the thought that infants were objects to be bought and sold? I dont think so. I believe they learned this behavior from the agency they worked with.

Much of the last days are so foggy. I get pieces and parts. Flashes. What memories I can pull from the stack are excruciatingly painful. I see me, in my flowered pants, my bad 80’s hair-do, just lost. Alone. Crying all the freaking time. So lonely.

I often wonder what my emotional state a the time did to my child. Did she somehow, in utero, feel that pain? Did her cells get wired in any way? If her first connection was to an abandoned woman who cried did that effect her? They say unborn children can hear music and sound vibrations. Surely they can feel the pain and the sadness of the mother who carries them? 

I have been in touch with Colleen through the years. When I was stalked years ago by a woman who claimed to be my daughter, I found her and asked if she could validate any of the info the woman was giving me. She refused. She fed me the adoption agency kool-aid.  "Your daughter went to a loving home". Yeah, right, I got that but can you help me figure out if THIS person who is contacting me is my daughter? She refused.

When I found my daughter years later, I wrote Colleen. I believe I sent her a card and a picture of my daughter. I never heard from her. She never responded.

Again, I am dumbfounded. If she really cared for me, wouldnt she have called me, written me, said "Congratulations, I am so happy for you?". No. Nothing. Nada. Zip.

What hold does Kurtz have over former caseworkers of his agency? Are they continuing to get kick backs? Are they also fearful of being sued? Is it really a violation of some ethic, some legislation if she were to contact me and say "I am happy for you?".

I dont get it. I really dont. Truthfully, maybe I dont want to.

"Wench". That is still cracking me up. She was indeed a wench. A Kurtz wench. A servant of a baby broker.

The Nose

"Serendipity: to make discoveries, by accident and sagacity, of things not in quest of." – Wikipedia.org

Its been two days and I am still shaking. I still cannot catch my breath. I still feel dizzy and disoriented. I feel drained. Depleted of all my energy.

Ever been in a car accident and end up okay but also end up shaking and traumatized for a few days? I feel like that.

My breathing becomes more rapid and shallow and my eyes well with tears just recollecting the events that transpired this past Sunday.

Yes. I visited the amazing powerful Claud.  Claud and I met at a diner in the same town that my daughter goes to school in. Of course I knew this. Of course I let her know. Since we have not met F2F and only correspond via email, I felt it terribly important to let her know this. Why? Well, I was very concerned that if, by any force of any god, we ran into each other she might think I had become some crazy stalker. I am a bit crazy but I am not a stalker.

My daughter made it clear when we first reunited that she did not want to meet YET.  I have not pushed. I have developed the relationship slowly, followed her lead and let things flow as they may.  That being said, I won’t deny that I am anxious to meet her. Anxious to sit with her and share coffee, talk books, look at her beautiful face, hear the sound of her voice, listen to her laugh. To touch her again.  To be back in the same room with a piece of my soul that left me 20 years ago.

I told her of my visit via email. She did not respond. That was okay. I felt I had done my duty of “warning” her.

Saturday morning I happen to check her away message on AIM. It says “parents”. This confuses me. Was she home for the weekend? Was she sick? Did something happen? On a whim, I check her school academic calendar. I learn that the weekend I will be in town is parents weekend. Her aparents will be there the same time I will. We will all be breathing the same air.

I get nervous. I rethink my plans with Claud. I decide against canceling. I realize I am being foolish. I cannot plan my life around where she is at any given time. I cannot avoid that part of the State simply because she is there.

So, I go. I drive 70 miles to visit Claud. As I enter the town we are meeting in, I cross over a street named Michael Avenue (name changed for privacy). I gasp for air. Its like a tidal wave hits me. I shake. For the past year I have been mailing letters and packages to my daughters school on Michael Avenue.  I felt like crossing that street was like going over a threshold, opening a gate, passing into some sacred space. Her space.

This is where she goes to school. For the past two years, my daughter has walked these streets. Something touches me deep inside. I feel short of breath and start to cry.  I keep driving.

I meet Claud. We laugh. We talk. We drink too much coffee. We joke about the possibility of me seeing my daughter in town somewhere. Claud shows me her TWO pairs of dark movie star sunglasses she brought with her. I laugh.

Claud leaves and I begin the second part of my journey.

My daughter and her friends hang out at a certain café/diner in town. She talks about it frequently, posts pictures of it, etc. I had the idea to get her a gift certificate to the place. I am currently preparing her birthday package and I was so pleased with myself with my ingenuity

I had no idea where the place was. Only the name. I ask at the diner. This nice lady gives me directions. Tells me to go three blocks and when I get to Named College to take a right. I gasp.

“I am that close to Named College?”, I say.
“Yeah, its right there”, she says.

I thank her and run to my car. Again the shaking, the problems breathing. She, they, are like right here, somewhere. I ponder not doing it. Again, second guessing myself. I go for it.

It was her nose that I saw first.

I walked into the small café/bakery, crowded with college students (mostly girls) and for some reason my head is pulled to the left. I see her nose. Right side of her face, nose piercing. Her back is to me. I see the hair. Poker straight, like mine. I pass by and glance over and ITS HER.  My daughter is next to me. No longer is she just breathing the same air in the same town. She is in the same god danged room with me.

But I cannot say anything. She does know I am there. She has not given me permission to be there. She does not want to meet YET.

I honestly don’t know how I managed this. I pushed through the crowed and stuttered my request for a gift certificate. She was two people behind me.

I got the certificate and turned and glanced her way again. Yup. Its my baby. My only girl. My daughter. Have not seen her in twenty years and here she is in front of me.

Something about her is so oddly familiar. The slant of her back, the way she is slouching in the chair, the look on her face. Her hair. I know what it would feel like without even touching it. I just know. Her jewelry. Her cool style.  MY BABY MY BABY MY BABY!

I leave rapidly. The tremors are back. The breathing is labored. I am honestly afraid I will shriek and keel over on the floor.

I get back in my car and I drive 70 miles home. On the way, I call my younger sister. I am crying. I cannot breath. I am shaking. She is worried about me driving. I assure her I am fine. I am hysterical that I did the wrong thing – again.

I just left my baby AGAIN!

This time it was my choice. Did she see me? Sense me? Did I do the right thing? What else could I have done? Pulled up a chair and said “Hey, can I join you?”. I don’t even know if she tells her friends she is adopted. I know she has kept me a secret from her aparents. What could I do?

I had to respect her. Regardless of what my needs were or are, hers are more important.

Do I tell her? Do I not tell her? OMG, what do I do?

I told her. I wrote her and she wrote me back. And I wrote her and she wrote me.

And she is cool with it. She was glad I did what I did. OMG. She was cool with it.

Well, yeah. Of course she was. She is cool.

And oh yeah, she was sitting at the café with her AMOM!!!

How, why does this cosmic shit happen to me? What does this mean?

I am still digesting. Still processing and trying to find some positive reason for this happening.

My baby girl is a beautiful woman now.