When I was younger, my best friend was the child of a single mother. Cathy’s mom was a nice lady, but she spent a great deal of time telling Cathy about the things that she had missed out on by choosing to give birth instead of “getting rid” of the baby. As such, Cathy was very careful about her own sex life. “You’re a smart girl. Don’t make the mistakes I did,” her mom would tell her, all the while insisting that she could talk to her about anything. Needless to say, Cathy didn’t believe her.
Cathy also saw the things that she didn’t have because she was being raised by a single mother. It was more than just not having a dad to take to school events. It was having to cook her own dinner, and dinner for her mother, each night because her mother worked until 6 p.m.
She heard her mother complain about the long days and the loneliness. She heard her mother, usually when she was having coffee with another adult and thought Cathy wasn’t around, talk about the sacrifices she had made for her child. She heard her mother talk about not having an adult to talk to and not buying things she needed, like new clothing, because she had to buy for Cathy first. Cathy heard everything her mother said, and didn’t say, about being a single mother and resolved not to do the same.
Cathy remained a virgin until well after she graduated from high school, but when she decided to become sexually active, she did not go to the doctor to get birth control. When I asked her about it, she turned red and stuttered. “My mom would find out and she would be disappointed in me,” she said. Her mother’s constant nagging had convinced her that good girls didn’t use birth control.
They were smart and abstained from sex. Cathy used condoms, sometimes, but she argued that too made her feel “trampy”. So most of the time, she did not use birth control. She went to college and got a good job and then met the man of her dreams. Within a year they were living together and six months later, Cathy got pregnant.
Her boyfriend was a great guy, but he was still in college and didn’t want children yet. Cathy thought about abortion, but decided that she could never have an abortion because, after all, her mother had sacrificed so much to keep her.
So, she talked with her boyfriend and fought with her boyfriend and explained her dilemma to him. It was unfair to a child to make it grow up with just one parent, she argued, and he argued that he wasn’t ready to be a parent. Her mom called when she found out Cathy was pregnant and began laying on the guilt again. “I raised you alone and you turned out all right. You can raise your child too. Look how much more accomplished you are and more ready for it you are than I ever was,” her mom said.
Maybe if she hadn’t heard her mom so clearly when she was younger, Cathy might have agreed. But she remembered her mom’s lamenting that she had lost the love of her life to raise her daughter and Cathy decided that she would never place that burden on her own child.
She was crying the day she told me that she had made a decision. She and her boyfriend went together to a social service agency and looked through their family album of potential adoptive parents. They read the letters from people seeking to adopt a child and looked at their pictures. She said they finally chose a couple with nice smiles who looked fit and healthy. One was a soldier; his wife was a German immigrant. They couldn’t have children of their own. Cathy said they already had a nursery decorated with teddy bears and seemed perfect. So, they asked the social worker to set up the meeting.
She had questions when she first met them. As a soldier, would he be deployed often? If the adoptive mother was German, would they raise the child bi-lingual? Would they explain to the baby that is birth parents loved him, but were not ready to have a child?
When she was satisfied with the answers, Cathy and her boyfriend decided that the soldier and his wife were perfect adoptive parents. Her mother never understood, complaining that she was deprived of her grandson. Cathy tried to explain to her that she believed that her son deserved two parents. Her mother argued that Cathy chose a man over her child. Cathy screamed with anger finally then, telling her mother, “No, I simply didn’t want to do to my child what you did to me!”
I saw Cathy and her husband the other day. They were smiling and talking about the soldier and his wife. Their son, Kevin, was growing like a weed and the soldier and his wife had sent pictures and a video for Cathy. As she and her husband stood there hand in hand talking about Kevin, I knew she was comfortable with her decision. Because her mother had been so adamant about not putting herself in the position that she was in, Cathy chose not to raise her son. Instead, she and her future husband chose to do what was best for the boy. They know that he will know they loved him and selected his parents carefully to guarantee as much as they could that he had everything he could want or need including two parents.