"I was not the sort of girl who should have gotten pregnant in high school. I was one of the bright kids, but not the brightest; pretty, but not the prettiest. That last frantic week of sophomore year, when we ran around collecting yearbook autographs, my best friend described me a "passionate humanitarian" like Gandhi or Martin Luther King. I stared at the word "passionate," thinking she might have guessed. That was before I knew how much passion cost, before I crossed the divide between innocence and adult life, and found that much as I wanted to, I could not step back."
So begins a memoir about the price a young woman paid to keep her family's honor intact. This excerpt comes from a memoir written many years ago when I was just beginning to think I might have stories worth telling.
Adoption and “The Price We Paid”
The author (me) and her high school boyfriend were both Catholic and both honor students. When she became pregnant, she entered a Florence Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers. To save her family from shame, she surrendered her first-born child for adoption. Here’s a brief excerpt from a memoir I wrote twenty-two years ago. I hadn’t written for years, and this was my plunge back into calling myself a writer. I invite you to read the whole story in the excerpt above.
Two days after giving birth, I put my feet over the side of the bed and walked down to the waiting room in my robe. A woman with a briefcase passed me papers and handed me a pen, explaining that by signing, I would relinquish my child forever. This was a selfless act. I was giving a childless couple the greatest gift possible.
Her face was wooden. Only her jaw moved up and down, like a marionette’s. “Now you can go on with your own life,” she said. “Put this experience behind you. Forget.” She had said these lines before.
Dizzy and cold, I had turned to stone. Her words had frozen me, but her lips kept moving. My son would have two parents. They would give him all the advantages. She nudged the papers.
Advantages. Yes. I thought of these two people, parents old enough to care for my sweet child. Who was I to think I could have done just as well if John and I had married? I was just a girl, a gutted husk of a girl who had gotten herself into a big mess.
Empty and drained, I now knew wild passion’s sober results. You deserve this, I thought. No one did this but you. Without reading the document, I put the pen to the signature line, wrote my name, and cut the cord. Forever.
Marylee and John MacDonald married two years later and had four more children. They both graduated from Stanford, John with a Ph.D. He was killed in an auto accident in 1971. She found her oldest son, whose name is also John, when he was 21. He is just like her other children, and equally cherished.