A SENIOR MOTHER’S STORYMay 30th, 2013 | By Sharon Shaw Elrod MSW EdD | Category: For Senior Women
Labor, Delivery and Loss
Forty-seven years ago tonight, I went into labor, preparing to deliver my beautiful baby girl. That childbirth labor would last 36 hours. I have always thought that long labor was her protest against what I was about to do… surrender her to strangers to adopt her and raise her as their own. I was 22 and not married, a horrendous sin in 1966. I was in hiding to keep my condition a secret. The social guns were loaded and pointed at my heart: Surrender your daughter or suffer the unthinkable consequences, which were worse than death.
She was beautiful. A little dark hair framing this amazing little face. There is a phrase that my sisters and I created to describe our children, all whom share a familial resemblance… that is ‘Shaw-Baby’. We were four Shaw girls,we all looked alike (still do!) and our children had that distinctive look that we labeled. She was definitely a Shaw-Baby.
Her original birth certificate would be changed to pronounce a stranger had given birth to her. A stranger would become her father. And I would relinquish all rights, forever, to any relationship with her whatsoever. Her original birth certificate would be ‘sealed’ and no one would ever be able to see it but me. She was only a ‘Shaw’ for nine months and a few short days. Her biological origins went into a sealed document, forever hidden from any human being.
But I have one claim to her… She and I spent nine months and a few days together. She had grown and developed well, weighing in at just a few ounces less than eight pounds. I was careful about what I ate because I knew it would affect her. I sang her to sleep at night when she refused to stop kicking. I told my friends at the home for unwed mothers that I was sure she would be a soccer star. But when I sang to her, she stopped kicking. So I made a lot of music with her. And when that didn’t work, I lovingly and firmly pushed her little feet from my rib cage and held them in what I hoped was a comfortable position for her, but away from my ribs. We spent many a night with my holding her feet through my belly.
And I learned the day after she was born that my older sister had also given birth to a baby girl on the same day, just a couple of hours later, with only a few ounces difference in their weight. I would have a constant reminder of the deepest loss of my life, for the rest of my life.
I was not the typical teen-age unwed mother. I was college-educated and 22. The director of the adoption agency told me I could keep her in foster care and wait to decide about whether or not to surrender her. But those social guns just wouldn’t go away; their aim was everpresent. I did not believe I had any options. I whispered to her to come back and find me one day, and asked her to forgive me for abandoning her. To this day, I don’t know how I ever signed that document surrendering her.
Thank God and a gazillion social workers and legal experts, those kinds of experiences are rare these days. They still happen, to be sure, but they are rare compared to 1966.
Forgiveness and Redemption
And then the unimaginable happened. Ten years ago she called the adoption agency and began the process to reunite with me. That whisper-request stayed with her for 36 years. Soon after, I wrote the story, Shar’s Story, a Mother and Daughter Reunited. We have had the most amazing and miraculous reunion, and now have a relationship that I treasure every day.
So Happy Birthday on Saturday, my beautiful daughter! Thank you for returning to me. Thank you for the grandchildren you’ve given me. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for sharing in my redemption.