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December 22, 2008 / allyo

Safe havens

Over the past month or so I’ve been reading about Nebraska’s Save Haven Law, through items shared by Dawn (through Google Reader, which if you aren’t using, you should be!).  The article I linked to sums up the big problem with the law, which is that there was no age limit specified. The purpose of the law in most states is to provide a safe haven for newborns, but with no age limit in Nebraska, older children were being abandoned because the system wasn’t providing the services needed. (Here is a good discussion of the issues with Safe Haven laws in general.)

So there’s the background. The point to this is in one of the stories about the Nebraska law, someone is quoted as saying that abandonment is especially painful if the child is old enough to remember it. And it ocurred to me all over again that while I’m sure that’s true, it’s also painful if you can’t remember it.  I’m not being snarky here. It took me 30 years to acknowledge or feel that pain. Not because I wasn’t familiar with my story. To the contrary, I am more familiar with my abandonment story than I am my birth story. I have to look at my birth certificate to see how much I weighed when I was born, but I am intimately familiar with every detail of the night I was delivered to my grandparents’ house, alone in a cab.

My grandma told me that story so I would know just why I didn’t live with my mother. I have to give her credit for knowing that I needed that explanation, that just pretending that everything was good and right wouldn’t fly. Of course, they didn’t go far enough with the discussion, which is why it took me so long to realize how painful my mother’s action was. When Ruthie and I were talking to my pastor before C’s funeral, she said that C had told her for years that she was going to go to hell for what she had done to me, and Ruthie always agreed. But my grandma’s version of the story always focused on the story’ happy ending (my safety) rather than what had driven my mother to abandon me in the first place.

In that vein, when Ohio first passed its Safe Haven law, I thought it was a good thing. It was a time of escalating abandonments by teen mothers, with stories of babies being found in dumpsters becoming commonplace. The law seemed like the best and fastest way to ensure the safety of those babies. And in the back of my mind was my own abandonment and wondering what would have happened to me if C hadn’t had someone to send me to.

The thing is, C choose to parent me and she choose to marry my dad. These choices may have been motivated by the desire to get away from my grandmother, although I know that she truly loved my dad. The few times she talked about our short time together as a family she sounded happy. I think where our story fits into this narrative of abandonment is that at some point, things went wrong. Now that I understand that depression runs in that side of my family, now that I’ve experienced post partum depression myself, I doubt she was making choices with all her reason intact. And the choice presented to her when she found out she was pregnant (abort – illegally – or get married) left her with little flexibility or a good way out when things went oh so wrong. I’ll never know what was going through her mind when she put me in that cab, but I suspect that she felt like she was out of options.



Leave a Comment
  1. MystikMomma / Dec 22 2008 10:42 am

    Nice post, in terms of your healing and understanding. Blogging really does bring out our issues so we can make sense of it. Hugs to you my dear friend.

  2. Thorn / Dec 22 2008 11:20 am

    Thank you for this post. Perhaps ironically, I found it through Dawn’s shared items! My partner was raised and adopted by her grandparents because her birthparents had issues similar to yours, and this is something we talk about a fair amount especially recently. I somehow hadn’t mentally tied it into thinking about Safe Haven and I appreciate you making the connection. This meant a lot to me.

  3. LittleWit / Dec 23 2008 10:20 am

    It’s really hard to imagine what is going on for those families. On the surface its’ very easy to judge and place blame. But we don’t know their stories we don’t really know what’s going on. It may not make their choices “correct” but knowing the stories behind them can help to find ways to avoid or handle the situations differently in the future.

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