Sunday, June 24, 2018

To Be Committed

To be committed has several different meanings. The first one that comes to my mind is be committed to prison. Then there is to be committed to an insane asylum or the like.
But on a Saturday in May as I watched Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding first alone and then later with my husband of 38 years in two weeks, I thought of the commitment that two people who love each other make when they literally “tie the knot.” Just as if you jump out of an airplane to skydive, you had better pull the parachute cord and enjoy the dive, since there is no going back. You are committed.

That cord or rope of commitment or obligation may seem to be strangling or restricting your freedom or happiness, but you agreed to be faithful to that exclusiveness. And as in most wedding situations, you made that commitment in the presence of witnesses and for many in the presence of God.

June is slipping away. That month has always been associated with weddings and June brides. I was a June bride in 1980 and made a commitment. 

I am keeping it. 





Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Know Your Audience

Having never professed to being a great writer, I still try to consider who will possibly read my written works. In other words, I try to anticipate my audience.

In the last year, I have done some significant writing (My Story) and some insignificant writing (my Wetcreek Instagram). The story I published on this Wetcreek Blog earlier this year had no real audience intended. I just wanted to “open my cupboard” and let my story be known to the World Wide Web. Since then I have specifically shared those writings with others who have a connection to the Methodist Home Hospital in New Orleans. That sharing opened up some good discussions, especially among the other birth mothers. So I guess that I found a good audience.

If someone read my story about surrendering a daughter for adoption almost 48 years ago and gleaned anything from my experience, then more power to them. If sharing it inspired someone to share their own story, search for their birth parents, or search for the child they too surrendered, then that is an added bonus.

Lately I have been considering writing a book. At the moment, I really can’t remember much more than what I have already written. I do not want to “make anything up” to just fill in pages. My writing must be true as well as believable. 

Actually I am pretty sick of so-called authors who write “this is BASED on true facts and events and people.” While plowing through their work, I find myself questioning what is true and what is fiction. I do not want to be that kind of writer. I want my reading audience to believe that what I write is true. 

I want an audience who will conclude that what I tell in my writing “is what it is.” Nothing more. Nothing less.

Friday, April 20, 2018

I Have Been Away

I sort of abandoned my Wetcreek Blog, but I wanted to come back to share a video. This could have been my story.  I am still dealing with this after 48 years.

Plus, I am also still dealing with a Pacemaker implantation three weeks ago while on one of our regular trips to The Netherlands. More on that experience when I get back home to southwest Louisiana.

Growing older isn’t easy.
Linda

Sunday, February 4, 2018

F U

I never ever thought that I would use those words. Especially as a respectful member of this society, I am still amazed that I have uttered those two words on several occasions lately. But there comes a time when being polite and accepting what life throws you is unbearable and deserves a PO or FU.

Now I am angry! What the heck does Siriusxm radio http://www.siriusxm.com  think that they  are going to accomplish by harassing us by phoning us almost every weekday?We told them that we were not interested in continuing with listening to Sirius in our new car. 

When will NO mean NO? 


(Where is my whistle? Didn’t that shrill sound turn off prank phone callers in the old days? Saved me from cursing 🤬 )

Monday, January 29, 2018

Methodist Home Hospital for Unwed Mothers in New Orleans 1970

(Dear Blog Followers, 
This is the conclusion of my memories of “the summer I went away.” I have written all that I can remember, and now my story —at least three parts of it— is out there in the World Wide Web. I trust that I have answered any questions that you may have had about my experience or the Methodist Home Hospital. This was not a pleasant writing experience, but I accomplished what I set out to do for myself and for those who care. Linda)

Part 4
Methodist Home Hospital for Unwed Mothers (Written January 16, 2018)

As the maternity home was sponsored by the Methodist church, of course there were religious services every Sunday. Somehow I ended up playing the piano for most services, but I am sure that there must have been someone better trained in doing that job than I was. Anyway, I did it. And to this day I seem to do a little better at picking out those musical notes from a Methodist or Baptist hymnal than reading music on a “real” piece of sheet music.

Passing the free time while in the Home was also a challenge. Some girls went out into the hot grassy backyard for sunbathing, but that was too much for me. Luckily I liked to sew, so I spent a few hours behind my sewing machine in the air conditioned sewing room. Besides whipping up a new sundress for myself or remodeling one that had been left behind by a former guest, I once made a receiving gown for my baby. Back in those days no one had a clue as to the sex of the newborn until it was born, but I believe that I made the baby gown of light blue batiste. My biological daughter says that she is not aware of any such gown, so who knows whatever happened to that. As she did not come back to the Home with me in the car after her birth since she was not well, any baby could have worn my creation home from that hospital.

The sewing room was right off of the television room. I remember lots of comfy chairs and couches and a television in that space. Most afternoons were spent napping, reading, or watching whatever soap operas or television programs that were on. As I rarely just sat idly by, I bought a How to Crochet booklet, a crochet needle, and yarn and taught myself to crochet while watching tv. I even made a few purse clutches for girls who thought they were nice. 

Outside the summer temps were toasty. Those of us who were regular walkers always went walking in the mornings. It seemed that every morning around 11 am there was a short rain shower, and most of the time we were without umbrellas. No one really seemed to care, since we were cooled off naturally. 

I didn’t have much pocket money, but I did visit the little neighborhood grocery store across the street once or twice. For me, most of the time the visits were more of a chance to get outside than to actually buy anything. Any pocket money we had at the Home was kept in the Home safe/bank. We had to go to the office and actually ask and sign for it. That is about the only thing that I can remember that made me feel incarcerated, but I now understand why we could not keep money in our unlocked rooms. We had very healthy and delicious institutional-type food at the Home. I never remember being hungry or deprived of what I needed. 

I always thought that my parents must have had to pay around $250 a week for my stay, but after much thought it must have been around $250 per month. We could never have afforded $250 per week. In 1970 my parents jointly probably did not have an income of $1000 a month.  As a teacher in Louisiana, I did not even make $1000 a month until 1979 after nine years of teaching in public schools.

If I remember correctly, most of the resident bedrooms were located on the front of the building on Washington Avenue. Maybe they were even only on the second floor with the rooms below being used for administration and coffee break areas. The church chapel and kitchen/dining room were on the right wing. The baby nursery was on the ground floor in the back middle, and the Infirmary was in the left wing. I have no idea where the laundry area was located, since I never remember going there. Maybe it was near the kitchen.

As I spent a lot of time in the Infirmary “pushing iron pills,” testing urine samples, planning doctor appointments/clinics, sterilizing medical equipment, and tending to new “mothers,” I was aware that we lived and worked in a residential neighborhood. Next door (maybe a little more than three feet away) lived someone who was very unhappy and very disturbed with their situation. It seemed like all day long that person/woman moaned and screamed out something that I recently heard in a movie and determined it must have been “Help!” I do not remember discussing what I heard with anyone, and no one else mentioned the cries to me. I know what I heard was real and not a figment of my imagination or a dream. While living in that facility and hearing the cries, I pictured a severely disturbed or handicapped person next door who wanted freedom. Why didn’t I ask questions? How did I ever do my job while listening to that shrieking? Why didn’t I go next door and knock and ask? I have had some creepy things happen to me in my 69 years, but this almost tops the list. But then again in 1970 I had never read about or seen in the news about the atrocities of how people can be held captive and tortured. So I guess that I just tried to ignore what I heard.

I do remember that there had been regular therapy sessions. At one session I revealed that I had been the victim of date rape. Back then no one used the term “date rape, ” so I guess that I must have said that I became pregnant after being raped by my boyfriend. I remember lots of giggling and non-belief from most of the guests. There wasn’t much compassion or empathy from anyone, and even the so-called therapist/ social worker did not seem to understand or try to believe me. I suppose that everyone thought that I was trying to save face. If I had gotten pregnant because I had wanted to, I would not have spent 4 months of my life in a maternity home or surrendered my child for adoption.





Sunday, January 28, 2018

My Summer at the Methodist Home Hospital for Unwed Mothers —1970

(Warning Readers: This is a long post. And this is how I remember it. Linda)

Summer of 1970

How I ever got to the Methodist Home Hospital for Unwed Mothers on Washington Avenue in New Orleans sometime in June of 1970 is a complete mystery to me. At least my dad must have taken me, but I don’t remember a thing. I do remember an interview with the director/social worker, but whether both my mom and dad were sitting in on that, I don’t know. And whether it took place at that first moment as we stepped inside the place or not? I don’t know.

Anyway, I was “registered/enrolled/incarcerated/whatever” with the alias name of Cheryl Ridge. Cheryl is my middle name, and Ridge was my mom’s maiden name. For the months of June through October of 1970, I was incognito in the big city of New Orleans, Louisiana. Any letters that I received from my parents during that time were addressed to Miss Cheryl Ridge. Practically no one in that time or place of my life knew me as Linda. And I surmise that I did not know the true names of any of the other “guests” at the Home. My youngest brother recently asked if I kept in touch with any of the other residents. What a laugh! We did not even know each others real names. As for me, I hoped I would never see any of these people ever again.

I recently saw photos of the building (inside and outside), and they brought back some memories of the time I spent there. Although the building is now a dog kennel/spa, I believe that its original design as a dormitory for unwed mothers seems more fitting. Nothing was really warm or cozy about the facility, but then again it wasn’t meant to be anyone’s permanent home. Four months was probably about as long as anyone stayed there. For me it seemed forever.

On admission, I was assigned a roommate. Lynette. She had arrived before me and was definitely “showing.” For some reason I think Lynette was from Mississippi or at least somewhere along the Mississippi border with Louisiana. She had long, Pentecostal type hair and always wore long sleeves and long dresses. I guess she questioned who I was, since I had a super short haircut and liked to wear short summer frocks in the NOLA heat and humidity.

Most of the time we all wore white cotton simple shift type nurses dresses. They were easy for the laundry staff to wash, dry, and iron, and not many of us needed any other clothing besides undies. Understandably, girls left most of their better maternity wear when they left the Home. As they left, I always made a mad dash to the “collection” to find something new for my wardrobe. Plus I sewed up a few presentable outfits in the sewing room. That is where I kept my portable sewing machine that my parents had given me for my college graduation in May.

Lynette and I got along fine. She seemed to be about my age of 22 and more mature and smarter than most of the other guests. Somewhere in my mind I think that she and I must have both worked in the Infirmary as assistants to the resident nurse. 

I never saw babies, but I learned to litmus paper test urine specimens I picked up each weekday morning from the guests. I also washed and sterilized medical apparatus used by the nurse and visiting doctor on scheduled exam days, as well as organized and kept record of weekly examinations. I took care of new mothers or ill mothers in the Infirmary hospital. Pill pushing and preparing pill cups every morning before breakfast was the one job I hated. Most girls learned quickly that the iron tablets lead to constipation, so they disposed of those huge burgundy pills  any way they could. One young girl even bragged about a collection she had in a jar in her dormitory room.

Yes, each girl had a job. Some operated the washers and dryers and folded the clothes in the laundry for the entire facility.  Some had nursery duty taking care of the newborn infants who were being readied for adoption or going home with their mothers. (My roommate Lynette chose to take her baby home with her after she held and fed it.) 

I do not remember ever seeing any of the girls actually cleaning anything except their own living area, so I guess there was hired help for general cleaning. Some girls did have kitchen duty, but I believe it was more table bussing and maybe dish washing rather than actual food prep. On the weekends, we made our own meals, but someone from the kitchen brigade was always in charge.

My urine testing and pill pushing usually meant that I was up early around 6:00 am. The first few mornings there I got up even earlier and hot-curled my hair and even put on make-up. I learned quickly that after breakfast most of the girls were free and went back to bed until around 10 am, so I did that, too. I forgot the hair and make-up until a more decent hour, if I planned to go outside the facility. And I even started listening to the baby nurses when they told me to stop getting so “fixed up.” 

Our dormitory rooms were simple and mostly bare. I had a twin-sized bed, and there was a dresser with a mirror for the two of us. Two sleeping rooms were joined by a toilet and also a sink and shower. There were two different doors from our room to those facilities.

There was enough room next to my bed for me to do pelvic stretching exercises, which I did up religiously until the birth. There was also always a book next to my bed. That means that there must have been a library of some kind in the building.

Most mornings before lunch a group of girls would go out for a walk in the neighborhood. Although the Home was in the Italian quarters of the city, a walk down to busy St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District past Commander’s Palace Restaurant was always nearby. It wasn’t unusual to run into another bunch of preggies from another of the maternity homes in the city. I never saw anyone else I knew, so that was good. Sometimes a group of us would even take a tram ride uptown for some shopping at Woolsworth on Canal Street. Once or twice we ventured down to Bourbon Street during the day, but invariably I would usually see a familiar face among the tourists. Not good for someone “under cover.”

Once during my stay, my college roommate Barbara and her future husband Barry  came down to visit me. Barbara and Barry were my only visitors besides my parents in the four months. The highlight of their visit was eating beignets with lots of powdered sugar at the Cafe du Monde. 

Phoning home was sometimes a challenge. There was only one pay telephone for the guests, and to allow for privacy it was located at the end of the far hallway.  Some days the phone was so busy that you could almost not get a time to place a call. I phoned my parents by collect call, so I rarely needed change for my calls. Plus phoning home was always risky with a 13 year old brother. I remember writing many letters to my mom and dad, and I guess they must have destroyed them all since the earliest letters I found after my mom died  were from 1971.

Near the end of September, my doctor said I was ready to be induced, so they scheduled the date September 29, 1970. I was actually due to give birth around October 3, so the date scheduled would be perfect. It was on a Tuesday, and I was on my own and alone. But as for most of this nine month “trip,” I had been on my own and alone.

Someone from the Home must have taken me to the hospital (I think it was the Baptist Hospital). I think that I remember being prepped and then someone inserted a needle into my left wrist which left a little scar that I could see for many years later. The drip began. I felt nothing. I remembered nothing of the birth or the pain. I later awoke in a hospital bed lying in the same room with another young mother. I was informed that I had given birth to a girl and that someone would walk me to a pay phone to call my parents. That happened, and I phoned my mom to give her the news. Then I was walked back to my bed. Who knows how long I stayed in the hospital? I don’t remember.

As I had requested not to see my newborn child (was that my idea or the social worker’s or my parents?), I left the hospital thinking that the baby was riding in the back seat of the car on the lap of the nurse. For over 46 years I wondered if there really had been a baby in the back of that car, since I heard no baby noises at all. And no one at the Home even mentioned the baby when I returned to the Home. I was amazed that everyone was honoring my request.

Eventually I had to legally relinquish the child that I had birthed but never saw. I was transported to downtown New Orleans to a judge to sign relinquish papers. The old judge was rude and was visibly disturbed that I had given the child the name Dana. He said, “Dana is a boy’s name.” A lot he knew, since Dana was the name of a female character in a book I had read that summer.  Sure wish that I could remember the name of the book.

The next thing that I remember is being picked up by my dad to go home and to get on with my life. Dad came alone the four hours from Alexandria to New Orleans. He loaded up my belongings, and I must have “signed out” of the facility. I vaguely remember going to eat a meal with him, and then we made the trip back home.

On our way home, we talked a lot. About what? Who knows? At any rate, we talked so much that we missed our turn off on Highway 71 to Alexandria outside of Baton Rouge. Before we knew it, we were in Opelousas, Louisiana. Then we took Highway 167 North. By this time, it was getting dark. Somehow we got back on the right road, and near Cheneyville  Dad’s car broke down. He could drive it backwards, but not forwards. Dad parked on the side of the two-laned road and stepped out to see if he could wave down a passing traveler in the dark. The first person to pass us stopped and asked if we needed help. I do not know what Dad told the man, but the two men loaded my suitcases into the guy’s car and we were off. I remember that the kind man drove us right to our home. What a good Samaritan back in the days before mobile phones and when people actually helped others!

The next morning my dad and Mr. Ralph Howard drove out to Dad’s car on the side of the road in Cheneyville. In our haste the dark night before, Dad had forgotten to even lock the car. Nothing was missing. Even my graduation present Kenmore sewing machine in its carrying case was still sitting in the trunk undisturbed. Dad and Mr. Howard must have towed our car back home to be repaired. 

Summer was over. Linda was back home. No one ever discussed anything about “How I Spent My Summer of 1970.”  


Some days later I went to our Rapides Parish School Board office and applied for a teaching job. Before Halloween I was teaching English and Reading at Jones Street Junior High, a predominantly black school on the other side of town. That is a whole other experience that  I will write about at a later time.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

One Woman’s Voice

One Woman’s Voice

scream
so that one day
a hundred years from now
another sister will not have to
dry her tears wondering where
in history she lost her voice.
— jasmin kaur

My name is Linda and January 1970 was probably the most difficult beginning of a new year as I can ever remember. Before I could make it back to college for my last semester, I got the flu. I was really sick. So sick that I missed my scheduled college registration and returned late to campus to do late registration. At least I didn’t have to wait in long lines, but some of the classes I wanted to take were already closed. So I took the lightest schedule I ever had my four years of college. Maybe that was for the best.

My earliest class three mornings a week was an introductory speech class. I was not too new to this speech stuff, since I had been an avid debater and oratory speaker in high school. I enjoyed standing before my classmates and making presentations. Probably sometime in late January or February, morning speeches and classes became difficult. Most mornings before class I spent a few harrowing moments throwing my insides up and out in any toilet in any restroom or behind any bush I could find on the way to class.

Morning Sickness. At first I blamed it on the flu I had had back in early January. But really. There was only one reason for my Morning Sickness. I do not remember discussing this with anyone. Not anyone! Of course, my roommate Barbara must have known. Our suite-mate must have also known. But they also knew that my boyfriend and I  did not date anymore, so no one said a word. It was as if you didn’t discuss the pregnancy, then it did not exist. 

My life continued on its course in my last semester. I had a few dates with other guys. One fellow(Tommy had been my regular ride to Student Teaching for an entire semester) even noticed that I was getting a little poochy tummy when I wore a tight knit dress when we went out dancing, and he asked if I was pregnant. I acted surprised at his question and lied, of course.  Tommy must have known the truth. He never asked me out again. 

One of my girlfriends tried to convince me to enter a campus beauty competition that early spring. My dad even agreed to financing my wardrobe, etc. What was I thinking? Or was I even thinking? This situation had not only screwed me, but had screwed up my mind, too. 

Recently in late 2017, one of my best high school and college friends read my Wetcreek Blog from last January and found out about what happened back then. She was so apologetic that she had never even noticed anything or picked up on any clues of what I was going through. I even remember spending time sunbathing with her in April or May of 1970, and she never noticed a thing. Except for Tommy, no one seemed to notice or even care.

In the meantime, I had kept my parents completely in the dark. Several times when I went home for the weekend, I wanted to share. But how could I? What would they do? What would they say? Didn’t I need to finish college?

Sometime that spring my mom came up to college to spend Mother/Daughter Weekend with me. A perfect opportunity! Even after viewing together the movie “The Graduate,” I still could not tell her. Finally two weeks later I got up the nerve to tell both of my parents at their breakfast table that I was pregnant.  

There were no happy tears of joy, since I had no steady boyfriend. How quickly my mom got to work trying to plan my future, I do not remember. I do remember her somehow getting a phone number from the secretary at our church and calling the Methodist Home Hospital for Unwed Mothers in New Orleans. Momma scheduled a date before my birthday on June 22, and then we must have planned my exit. 

I vaguely remember a brief discussion with my parents about whether I would keep this baby. When I said that I could not keep it, my dad said, “We don’t want this baby either.” I don’t remember any crying or emotions. It was just matter of fact.

I finished out the last few weeks of the semester and graduated from Northeast Louisiana State College on May 22, 1970. At that moment I was five months pregnant. With the help of an elastic girdle ( yes, even skinny girls weighing 125 pounds wore them) and a puffy dress my mom made for me, I celebrated my college graduation and even attended a Memorial Day picnic with relatives visiting from out-of-state.

Then in June,  I “went away” for the summer.


(Linda’s note: I recently wrote everything that I could remember about my situation of date rape and the events that followed. I decided to spare my blog followers the details of Part 1 of my story, so this bit today was Part 2. I will be back another time with more parts. I am so happy to have finally found “my voice.”)