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I think I recall being told I was quiet and withdrawn.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.

55 Thoughts.

    • Hi,I also lived at Gehring Hall home for unwed mothers in 1978. I had twin girls which I kept and are such a blessing to me! I had a fairly positive experience there but I am sorry some did not. I am relieved to find someone from there because when people, places, and experiences become lost it can seem like a distant fog. I hope someone from the time I was there will speak up. with sincere thanks,”a sisterfriend sharing in the memory of a difficult situation”.

  1. You wrote that so descriptive, felt like I was there. How awful of an experience.
    I believe buildings do hold energy, there is one in my neighborhood that has such a sadness to it, a dark energy, one day about a year after we lived here i researhed it and found out it was a orphanage type place, in 1940’s where people would leave thier babies until they could afford to come back and get them. Now its a treatment center for abused kids. Its wierd how I could feel something sad about the building.
    Its interesting how you say they can draw from the building, from all the emotion in the walls, I believe that.
    I know it must be hard for you to return to all that pain.
    MSP

  2. Ohhhhh I can SO pick up on the energy of a building. We can even pass a house in the car and it’s like I simply know something terrible happened there.
    Suz I read this and it may sound silly but I kind of wish you and I could go back in time and do a little a** whoopin.
    Do you still have contact with Carole? Bless her.

  3. yes, mia, i still keep in contact with carole. chatted with her online just this a.m. just told her that we needed to get together. it has been too long and i missed her.

  4. When I typed in “Gehring Hall” in my Google search bar, I never expected it to lead me here. You brought that “prison” to life once again. I am sitting here in a pool of tears grieving all over again at the memories you resurrected. Why I kept reading is beyond me. I knew it would be painful. I knew it would conjur up those locked away feelings of helplessness and despair. I knew I should have stopped. Yet, I couldn’t. Something drew me to finish reading it. You have created a perfect picture of Gehring Hall — the bad times AND the good. (Roma Pizza! How I’d forgotten about that place! (o:) I wish we’d been there together. I suffered my interment January through July of 1985 and was never so glad to leave a place. Warm regards to you…Mary

  5. Hi ladies, I, too, remember… I am SOOO blessed to write though, that I did not place my son. I went against everyone(even my mom who eventually told me that I’d never hurt her so badly-may her soul rest in peace). I just couldn’t do it. When I first laid eyes on my son, I knew I could not live without him. He is now 24 years old, soon to be 25,wow… I was there January & February 1984. May God bless you all. I wish I could’ve met you. If anyone reads this and remembers me, I’d like to see ya. Take care, Lisa.

  6. Alisa – I am sorry to hear you were also imprisoned there but I am thrilled you got away with your son. Did you work with Easter House? I do have a picture or two of Colleen if you are interested. I an tell you she was very tan, athletic build, short spiky, blondish hair.

    • To Suz..I lived in gerhing hall my baby was born 7-26-1986..I remember when Megan came back from the hospital . I kept my baby. I couldnt do it. Would love to reconnect ….I was there….

      • Hey Chris. I remember you! I sent you a private email. Congrats on getting out with your child! I wish more of us had. You likely also remember a few other moms on this thread. Also from Gehring. Carol, JM, etc.

  7. Hello, I was there too. My entire pregnancy…. I guess my family was embarrassed that I was pregnant and not getting married. Thats why (I believe) I was sent there. Everyone made me feel welcome. They showed me around… I hated that room, that bedroom…. like you, I left the window open just so I could breathe…. I was afraid of everything, I never thought I would have to grow up so fast. Cooking,cleaning, working, public transportation, thinking that at the end of the day is it worth it. I was doing this all for my baby, my son that I did give up for adoption. I did learn a lot from the house mothers ( Lorraine) and Debbie Rizski, the director at the time (1983-84). I dont know what I would have done without all my girls, Laura, Moe, Hilary, Liz, Cathy (red)..They helped me even though they were in the same boat I was in. I could’nt wait to get out of there, But I do miss the friends I made. So, now my son is 25 (26 in May) I have been trying to find him for 9 years now. I have registered with midwest adoption, searched child services and I am about to call Catholic Charities. If you know of anything I can do to find him, It will be much appreciated.

    • Hi Cathy – I am both happy and sad you were at Gehring. Sad that you endured what I did but happy that you found me here. It is one of the many reasons I blog and am so open – to provide support, understanding and friendship to others that suffered and lost as I did.

      My daughter was also born in May. She will be 24. Was Lorraine the older woman? Ick. If its the person I am thinking of, I disliked her intensely. My friends Carole and JM (who comments here) would know. They also lived there with me.

      I will try to write you privately with some ideas on finding your son.

      Hugs to you.

  8. Thank you so much Suz. I am so happy to talk to someone who is in the position I am in. Yes, Lorraine is the older woman I am talking about., she was very good to me, and treated me with respect. She was there when I went into labor. It was a very long and wet ride to the hospital that day. My water broke and I think she was just as freeked out as I was…. lol. Do you remember Debbie the director? I would love for you to help me find my son and I do have some info that could be helpful. Thanks again for your quick response. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Hugs to you too.

    • Yeah, I can see Lorraine now in my head. Again, wasnt a fan of hers in 1986 but glad she was helpful to you in your confinement. Yes, I remember Debbie, and Patty and Terry and Ranita and all the others. Many of my friends speak highly of Debbie but honestly, I dont. I never connected with her and I struggle with the fact that she knew my agency was crooked and brokers but she never told me or my parents. She just avoided me. I think that was her own conflict speaking. To be fair to Debbie, I did not connect with anyone there, not really. I was a shell of an expectant mom doing what I needed to do to make sure my daughter was saved from me and that I had somewhere to live afterwards. I did not make many personal connections. Went to work at St. Joes, came home, hid in my sterile room.

  9. Debbie really didnt talk to me or anyone for more than 5 minutes. When I tried to find out about Catholic Charities, she told me to talk to my counselor. Yeah right… she was a meek woman, seemed like she was afraid to do her job. “dont worry, everything will be fine”. You can write to your son and send it to Catholic Charities and we will put it in his file. When you move about in the world, let us know so we can update his file so when the time comes, he will be able to find you. I was so excited!! In 2002 my husband and I bought our first house. I called and spoke to the lady who took over my case. I told her that I wanted to put information in my sons file. She said what do mean. So, I told her that every time I moved or got a new phone number, I could leave the info with anyone at Catholic Charities and it would be put in his file. She told me that was not true… I had to write to them to tell them what was going on with me…. I was so devastated I had been lied to everytime I called there. Ok thank you we will update his file, what is your last name, first name and date of birth… OH MY GOD!!!!! so many times… lied to, broken hearted. The pain of losing him all over again!!!! So I started looking. No luck!!! Still no luck!! I miss him every day. I think of him every day. I wonder every day. Is he healthy, alive, happy?? I wonder if I am a grandmother. Sorry…didnt mean to ramble… this has been stuck in my throat for so long. Talk to you later…. Cathy

  10. As a young adult, I moved into Gehring Hall on my own accord in May or June of 1980. I never thought of it as a prison and found lots of solace there because it saved my life. I wanted to die since nobody wanted me or my child. I needed help. Only Gehring Hall was there for me. I made a lot of good friends that I never saw again and they loved me at the time. I was one of those girls that the other girls looked up to. I was going to put my son with the Cradle, but I couldn’t and I didn’t. I was not forced to place my son when I changed my mind, but they did ask me to stop coming around with my baby because it was making it harder for the other girls to place. That upset me quite a bit, but I stopped coming around as requested. He will be 31 this month, lives with me and is very handsome and a good man. All the people who were so down on me and didn’t help me aren’t important in my life now. His father died two years ago after never taking care of his son, but did apologize for being absent before he died. This world should make it easier for women to keep their children. Unwed expectant mothers have potential to be some of the strongest women in our society.

    • I was at Gehring late 1980 and my daughter was born in 1981. I had a great experience. I was able to see my own doctor. they helped find me a job at a downtown firm to help pay for the expenses. I could have my car. it gave me a place to go and make a decision of what I wanted to do without the pressures of the family. I was grateful for the staff and the environment. I was glad we had to have dinners together and cook together as we became more of a community. I wish I could find some of the young ladies that were there with me at that time. Girls from other states as well as Illinois. There was no pressure to give your child up. And I kept my daughter and we are thriving because of the experience at Gehring. It sounds like it changed. dk

      • Hi DAK! Thank you for your comment and congratulations on parenting your child. I was at Gehring 6 years after you so yes, it could have changed. I am not aware of a single girl there when I was that was actively encouraged to parent or given access to resources to research. One girl did get away as her baby’s father married her (and the rest of us were so envious).

        My experience was overwhelmingly negative. I did not want to be there. I was with a corrupt agency. I knew what I was doing was wrong but I had no idea/way to do anything but. Contrast that against other friends of mine who really enjoyed being there, who felt it was a big girls party/girls dorm and who felt much less remorse about placing their children for adoption. No doubt my view/opinion is skewed based on my persona experience.

  11. I remember Lorraine. Sorry to hear so many people didn’t like her. I don’t remember anything bad about her other than she was somewhat stern. We had some real characters in the house while I was there, one girl went on a robbery spree and stole from everyone she could and had her boyfriend shacking up in the room with her. Another lady who was older than me, went out drinking almost every night, like she was trying to kill her baby. The rest of us were more normal and spent our time trying to keep cool, lots of fans during the “Summer Of Luke and Laura”…I had started to enjoy cooking for “groups”…but some of our girls, seriously did not know how to COOK! I actually miss that place. We used to sit out in the back when it was nice enough and we all used to go sit down by Depaul on the Preggo Wall. We used to go to Roma’s for ice cream a lot, but I don’t miss the cockroaches there. Yuck.

    • Hi Dak, I was at Gehring Hall from Aug 1981 to Feb of 82. I adored Lorraine. She was there with me during labor and showed me respect. I do remember a nun there that was very mean to me and always challenged me. I remember a girl who always went drinking usually with the nun. They always came back drunk. I also remember watching the wedding of Luke and Laura. I kept my son and he is now almost 34. I remember a girl there who had a car and she was so depressed. She talked about suicide alot and commented on the theme song from M.A.S.H and what the words were. I think of her often and wonder what ever happen to her. I remember having a craving for grapefruit and Lorraine somehow arranged for a crate full to come in. I also remember a girl who had her boyfriend sleep over alot (the nun looked the other way) I also attended alot of Cubbie games with the girls. Gehring Hall was a safe place for me. Not the best but definitely not the worst.

  12. Does anyone know where the records from Gehring Hall were sent after the building closed down? I am an adoptee who recently recieved my original birth certificate, but the address listed as residence is this former, Gerhing Hall. I know that i was not adopted until I was 6 months old, so would it be the final adoption agency that holds the records? I have been searching her name, with no luck whatsoever…I’m wondering if she used an alias at the time of birth, which I have heard of places making unwed mothers do. Any info on this would be greatly appreciated. From the story you tell, it sounds like maybe my birthmother might have wanted me, but had to give me up to save face with her family, as no father is listed on the birth certificate. Thanks again

    • HI Jaquelyn. – Interesting that your mother put Gehring as her address. Not uncommon. I suspect you have it as something like 2130 N. Kenmore, Chicago? It was located pretty much ON the DePaul campus in the Lincoln Park Neighborhood. I was told it closed and the records were transferred to another location near St. Joseph Hospital. The name escapes me at this time. Perhaps Lydia Center? I can tell you I tried to find them and the center and my own records some time ago. I had no luck. Your visit and comment makes me think it may be worthwhile for me to share more about the Gehring logistics (staff, records, details). What year were you surrendered? I was there for nearly five months. Chances If you were born in 1985 or 86 I may have known your mother. I am still friendly with other mothers that were also there before and after me. They may know her as well.

      • Suz-

        I will contact you privately if that’s ok with some of the more personal details. Any information on this place could help alot of people, especially those who are recently recieving copies of their original sealed file birth certificates. I did have to research a little bit to find out that this 2130 location was in fact a maternity home at one point or another, but any information helps!

        • jacquelyn – been corresponding with you privately. doing some more research for you on my end. your mother was there years before I was. no chance of crossing paths. more to come.

        • I was there in the summer of 83. My memory is fading, but I will help if I know anything.Amy

      • My understanding is that they were moved to the Madonna Center which became Madonna St. Joseph’s when Gehring closed. After that they were archived at St. Joe’s.
        (Wouldn’t you love to get a chance at that room for a day?)

          • after our conversations – you, me, jm – this weekend, I opened up one of your blogs about Gehring Hall – amazing the things we remember and forget…lol..suz – the floors were concrete, that’s why they were so cold…we didn’t spend much time in those rooms except to sleep – watching television downstairs or upstairs next to the chapel -I worked with Rose in the Volunteer Department – wish I worked in Records – Suz you worked with Dilva for a period of time …

    • Hello,
      I am also an adoptee who received my birth certificate after the recent change in IL law. My mother also put down the address on Kenmore as her address. I have gone through all sorts of records to even find out that Gehring Hall existed and what it was. I am still searching for my birth mother. She did not put any info on my birth certificate about my father except his age so I have little chance there.
      Have you found out where the adoption records went after Gehring closed? I actually live not far from where Gehring was now. I contacted Catholic Charities of Chicago and they were no help.

      • I also contacted St. Joseph’s hospital but they destroy records after 12 years and I was born in 1982.

      • This was the letter that Catholic Charities sent me after doing some searching. Maybe it can help someone else out—

        We have received your written request and we have taken some time to thoroughly research our records here at Catholic Charities, and find that we do not have any record of your adoption taking place through Catholic Charities in Chicago.

        You may want to contact the Illinois Department of Public Health, Bureau of Vital Records, 605 W Jefferson, Springfield, IL 62702. (217-557-5159) They operate an adoption registry, and they may also be able to tell you which, if any, agency placed you in adoption.

        You may also wish to write Judge Mark Ballard, Circuit Court of Cook County, County Division, 1713 Richard J. Daley Center, Chicago, IL 60602. You may be able to learn more from the court, assuming the adoptive parents resided in Cook County and the adoption was legally finalized here.

        Best wishes in your search for more information.

        Sincerely,

        Post Adoption Registry Services

        • Yikes. David. Sounds like a mystery for sure. I am going to write you privately via email as I have many questions and a few suggestions. Have you gotten your OBC from IL? Do you have any info on your mothers name or age? Why do you think you were adopted via CC? Have you seen your adoption papers? Your adoptive parents should have them and it should list the agency. Clearly, I have many questions and some suggestions (and other contacts). Look for an email from me.

          • David
            I would say that with Catholic Charities they won’t give you much, they could have the records and not be giving you access, the records could be missing or misfiled. I was to have pictures and letters from my son’s parents and they told me they had no record of them or me. I sent them a copy of the adoption agreement and papers to no avail.
            If you want any help with the searching with the info you have let me know. Suz is a better source for this, but I am certainly willing to help, and also share any information re: Gehring and my time there.

      • Do you have her name on your OBC? If so, that can be huge. I will email you with some tips for searching.

  13. Read your post and for the life of me I can’t remember who the heck Lorraine was – I remember Terri, Patty (very unliked), Gloria (who was there was out when I went into labor) Ranita who took me to Rush Street on my birthday, Mary Luna and Geri….am curious did you hear privately from Jacqueline? I’m a little disturbed by her comment about having to do research on 2130 kennmore, as if we were giving her bad info – we know it was a maternity home, we were there….let me know…

    • are you serious? lorriane? older woman, like much older, gramma? cranky type? yes, terri, patty, debby, ranita, dont remember mary luna or geri. what was the matnerity nurses name? siobhan? the one who taught us how to give birth in the chapel (which makes me laugh to this day). the place where lenore talked about the taint. HA!

      • Mary Luna worked on Sunday nights – dark haired glasses very soft spoken. Geri (black woman) worked in the kitchen monday through friday- got cooking tips from her…cuz we were on our own on the weekends…I honestly don’t remember Lorraine..and I’m glad you remember who went through lamaze with us and it wasn’t in the chappel it was in the upstairs tv room next to the chapel…i remember watching The Exorcist up there and then couldn’t sleep after watching it…

  14. Carol-

    I did that research before I found this website…when i got my obc, I googled the address given. The address came up as the theatre annex of DePaul University which didn’t make sense, so i googled trying to find out what the building used to be, which is where i came up with Gehring Hall, which I in turn googled and found this website…no disrespect meant and I certainly did not mean for anyone to feel as if I doubted the info in the posts, just didn’t find this site until after I had done the research. The research I referred to was done before I found this site….

    Jacqui

    • Honestly, I think my records even said 2130 N. Kenomre. I was homeless at the time what else would I have put there? My parents would not allow me to claim their home as theirs. I likely had to put something. I am nearly positive my St. Joes records have Gehring as the address. I have them so I can double check.

      • Yes Suz. Mine say the Gehring address and I am assuming N’s records do as well.

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  16. i lived a Gehring hall from Aug 1987-Dec 1987. I had a pretty good expierence there. I had severe toxemia and almost died. The medical care I recieved was excellent. My Daughter was born premature at 34 weeks Dec,5 1987. My biggest problem I had there was that all the couseling we recieved was from adoption centers. i felt it was one sided. I felt like I had to put my daughter up for adoption. I picked out a family. My family flew out from Calif. and New jersey when I delivered early. The adoption people tried to have me sign over my daughter while I was on alot of drugs and not thinking very clearly. My mom who is a nurse told them they could not make me do that while on drugs. I decided to keep my daughter. The adoption agency was very very angry with me. I had to make the right decicion for me. I am stil sorry that i disappointed a family but did what was right for me. I would love to get in touch with anyone who lived there then. i remember Mary….her son was born on the same day as my daughter. She placed her son for adoption. She had an open adoption and had a ceremony in the chapel at the hospital. I got to kiss her son steven before they went to the chapel. I rememvber that day like it was yeaterday. Very emotional. I also remember Maureen and Kathleen,Claudia. So I have some good and bad feelings from that time. If any one would like to contact me on facebook….Lisa Luehmann. Many blessings to all of you.

    • Lisa – Congrats on escaping with your child in arms! You shouldn’t feel bad in my opinion. You were under no moral or legal obligation to give that family your child. They surely went on and picked another from the supply. They wanted any baby not YOUR baby. I also have fond memories of the friends I made. Several of them are still friends today (and commented on this thread!).

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  20. Hi SUz , Im glad you remember me…I never got your email. please email me again! or call 815-762-7080. I know its kinda of risky putting my phone number out here like this , but what the hell..I would really like to talk to you. I was there with you all. it is a part of my life that was kinda secret…never any connections from it..my heart goes out to you..please call or email again. I hope you get this Chris

  21. @Chris Hi. i was living in Gehring Hall from abt Nov or Dec ’86 until Feb 1987. i wanted to offer my Daughter a better life by letting her go. i had a wonderful experience there with the other Girls & went there with the impression from Kathy? HouseMother? &Cradle? that ALL the Girls living were there to give up their Baby. i actually felt guilty for changing my mind the 2nd day after my Daughter was born. i was older then most of you Girls but i was happy. i had a black & white bedspread w\an M.C.Etcher design on it from Babys Daddy which everyone saw differently. i was also still a clean freak which amazed most of My Girls who were much younger & we were a close bunch. Paula was my main side-kick & i still have a letter she wrote for me when me, my Hubby (who was killed 7yrs later at 33) walked out, got in our car, went to St. Joe’s to collect Our Baby but unfortunately i never looked back yet have always thought about Paula who had no Family, was pregnant by a sloppey stalking 56 yr. old married doctor (P. was only 24, vunerable, beautiful, desperate (obviously by her ill-choice to have a short affair w\Dr. McSleazey!!!) She gave birth to a 4lb. Premie Baby Boy who died a shortly after. The people at the memorial held in Gehring Halls small chapel w\out the Baby were us Girls. Altho Paula was definately giving her Child to good people & determined to move on (& respect her sweet self!!!) she cried & weeped for days, no Friends, no living Parents etc totally alone. We lost touch yet i have never forgotten her. i have often wondered & even worried over her. ANYONE REMEMBER PAULA??? Near end of 1986 to Feb 1987.

  22. Hi Sux,
    I just read each post in its entirety and ran across names of 2 girls that were really special to me: Liz and Hillary. They lived at Gehring in 1984. Liz helped me name my son. I’d love to see or talk to them.

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  24. Hello, my name is Donna. I lived in Gehring Hall from Jan. 1978-June 30, 1978. I did not have a bad experience there. I was very sad having to be there but I worked at a daycare, i met a lot of nice people, loved Roma’s Pizza, and the most importantly, i was able to keep my son. The one name that i can recall is Jean, who was the house mother. Gehring Hall saved my life along with three ladies who were also there during my stay. Tonya, Jan and Marie, I will forever be grateful to them for helping me to adjust and survive the most frightening time of my life.

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