Wednesday, March 10, 2010


It was a difficult time. It was the Great Depression and I came into life here at the end of it. My mother, for some reason, decided when I was about 10 or 11 she would divulge a secret that she and my father had been keeping. She very simply and matter-of-fact said the words I will never forget. “We decided to keep you.”
Up to that moment I had no idea that they were thinking of not keeping me, so I was shocked and sad and uncertain. What did that mean? Were they going to throw me away?

It was her way of saying “We really love you a lot.” But, I couldn’t put those two sentences together to make any sense. I tried asking her questions, but she brushed them off telling me that I was too young to understand.


I spent what I thought was a very long time waiting for the right time and the right age, and finally my mother gave in and explained what she meant.

In those days there was no means of safe birth control. A Lysol douche was the most effective and most dangerous, a diaphragm was neither dependable nor a guarantee. The use of a coat hanger was an extreme method. These methods were used immediately after intercourse, with the hope that they would prevent pregnancy. From what she told me, the time between when my sister was born at the beginning of the Depression, and the time at which she became pregnant with me nine years later was a horrendous period. A time during which preventing pregnancy was a dangerous and perilous journey. A man had a choice to keep a woman from getting pregnant. If this choice was not exercised, then the burden was left to the woman.

It was the Great Depression. The depression was a dreadful time. People were out of work, and there was not enough food or shelter. Men lost their jobs, and this was difficult because at that time, men were the breadwinners, men headed the families, and if they did not have a way to make money, to take care of those they loved, they felt shame and disgrace. My father had been out of work for a period of time, and my mother found a job as a banquet service employee, setting tables and serving food. My sister was sent to live with an aunt during the worse of times. It was all my parents could do to take care of even themselves.

I tried to understand what she was telling me, but even in my teens I didn’t fully grasp the reality of what was happening during those years and the way it affected my family.


Who could know what would have happened had I not been born? Had they decided not to keep me? But, the way I look at it is, the only way I would not have been born is if I had changed my mind. We choose our parents for the lessons and experiences that we know they will give us.

My mother may have used everything she could to prevent pregnancy at the time of intercourse, but I still would have been born to them. In the instant the decision was made, it was the only decision. I already knew and had decided that these people would be my parents.

I learned that, from their perspective, deciding to keep me meant the same thing as loving me. I was afraid of doing something wrong and of not being perfect all the time, because I figured that if I didn’t live up to what they expected, they wouldn’t love me and could reconsider their decision at any time. It is, of course, impossible to be perfect all the time.

Regardless of the tough lessons and experiences, this is what I needed for this lifetime. I chose them to teach me lessons in freedom and independence, and I am still learning. My parents, my father especially, wanted me to have freedom and not work for someone else. He also wanted me to make a lot of money. Freedom and wealth are what he wanted for himself and could never make it happen. They wanted the best for me in the only way they knew how. It wasn’t until recently that I realized how important this is for me and how I wish I had asked my father more questions about what he thought I should do.

Some of their messages are unusable, and I catch myself still using them (such as, “You don’t have what it takes”), with negative effects. I now take control of my life by reminding myself, when I am doing something I know they would disapprove of, that I do have what it takes to do and be what I want, and even if I don’t, the choice to BE remains with me.

  • Do you know if you were planned or unplanned?
  • How does this knowledge affect the way you view your life and your parents?
  • How does it affect the way you have planned your own family?
  • Do you believe we choose our own parents?

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