16 and Pregnant When Reality TV was Just Black and White
I have been sitting here shaking with anger for hours trying to figure out how I should write this. I have decided I am not going to name names and point fingers, because nothing will ever really get solved. I am simply going to tell the story about something I had no idea about until three days ago.
This week I was fortunate to have a high school friend come back into my life. We caught up with a lot of things via email and then she told me a story that I think I should have known decades ago, but I didn’t.
A very long time ago my family were prominent members of a local church in a rural area of Quebec. The minister was quite flamboyant yet there was just something about him that I could not put my finger on. He acted like he was king of the world and sometimes showed us a pair of brass knuckles as a joke when we did not learn our confirmation lessons.
He gave a long sermon once about certain young girls in the parish that he thought were no better than street walkers. The Holy Man insisted to the congregation that they should be brought back into the fold. I can remember my grandmother giving him a tongue lashing telling him just because the friends I hung around with were French Canadian did not mean I was a loose young woman. Yes, there were three of us that he was pointing fingers at and I was one of them that the sermon had been dedicated to.
A year before I left home my grandfather left the church. The reason given to me by my grandmother was that he had issues with the dear Reverend. He never said a word and not until today did I have an answer as to why he did it. After calling a family friend I found out that the reason he left the parish was because he knew a very dark secret about the fair Reverend.
The man was in the baby business and shuffling unwed mother’s babies around like an adoption conveyor belt in the 60’s. No one will ever know if he did it for profit as he made sure he destroyed every last record. My grandfather had found out about the baby brokerage and had confronted the holy man and his small group. He was outnumbered and got so angry that he never darkened the church’s door again.
So what happened to all these adopted children? The Quebec government had strict laws about releasing adoption information and the rules were not eased up until 1986. But there was no help for this group of children that had been set up for adoption by this religious man. He had destroyed everything from hospital records to personal letters from the mothers.
Because he had made sure there was no trace we now have adults in their 40's and 50’s still looking for birth family years later. I cannot even imagine what it must be like for someone to look at a stranger’s face and wonder if he or she could be related to them.
As I did some research for this story I found out that this was not a unique case. There were many adopted children still looking for their birth families out of similar adoption rings in Canada and the United States. What hope do they have without records?
I remember the day my mother died and the good Reverend came to my class. He whispered something to my teacher and she looked at me and told me quite simply that he wanted to give me a ride home. I have no idea why I never thought anything was odd about this whole scenario.
We drove the short drive home in silence and just as I was about to get out of the car he grabbed my coat by the collar and pulled me back in. He stared at me straight in the eyes and asked me if I was a Christian. I was getting confirmed that very night and thought it was some sort of trick question. Knowing not what to do I just silently nodded my head. Without any compassion and not losing a step he told me that my mother had died an hour ago.
That night it was decided by my family that things should carry on and I should go to my confirmation alone. The only love and sympathy I got that night was from friends and their families. As I watched him pay more attention to some unwed mother of the congregation and her family I wish I would have known what I know now. I think I would have reciprocated the question he asked me that very afternoon.
In my mind I would have simply grabbed his collar and asked him what sort of Christian he was. Everything I learned in his Sunday School and every song I sang in his choir is sitting in the dumpster of my mind right now.
All I can hope is that these babies were adopted by good people. I pray that they were loved with the dignity and respect that they so deserved when they came into this world.
I sit here and look at the screen in sadness for the babies, the parents and for myself, as today I am slowly losing my religion.
"I do not know my background, my lineage, my biological or cultural heritage. But when I meet someone new, I treat them with respect.... For after all, they could be my people." - James Michener, Author
If anyone reading this was part of these baby adoptions please email me. I would love to share your story with the compassion and love it so deserves.
Images and text by Linda Seccaspina 2011
Images of my baby book from the 1950's
Picture of my grandfather in a newspaper article and me with my Sunday School kids in 1970.