On the surface, it looks like we have traveled far from the shame and guilt heaped by society on unwed mothers. During what is called “the baby scoop era” from 1945 to 1973, young women who became pregnant out of wedlock were shamed by their parents and society into making emotionally devastating decisions.
Women were shipped away to maternity homes to have babies in secret, relinquish them for adoption and return home as if nothing transpired. Women had little access to birth control in those early years, and abortion was illegal. Many birth mothers were very young and unable to care for their babies and wanted a more secure future for them. However, most were not given a choice in the matter by their parents, and an unplanned pregnancy resulted in immediate confinement in a maternity home. It is estimated by the number of adoptees from those years that 1.5 million women placed their babies for adoption.
Now, 100 million Americans have adoption in their immediate families. Seven million of us alive today are adoptees. About 135,000 children are adopted in the U.S. each year (2019 statistics from the Adoption Network).
While I am not an expert on the vast and complex topic of adoption, I am one adoptee and have one opinion on the subject. Many adoptees like me from the “baby scoop era” were born in maternity homes where unwed birth mothers relinquished us.
Today, more women keep their babies than give them up, but in many communities, children out of wedlock and single mothers still are treated differently and experience prejudice.
Young women who keep their babies do so with or without family support. There are still maternity homes today, but most now offer financial assistance or child care to allow mothers to keep their babies. State and Federal programs are available, as well.
My family believes in adoption. I was adopted as an infant. One of my daughters adopted four older children, and they are thriving in her home. It is a very personal and courageous decision to rear another child as your own.
Being adopted can be both wonderful and sad at the same time. For an adoptive family to receive a baby in their family, a birth mother must relinquish one. So, adoption is a two-sided coin—excitement and joy for the adoptive parents and sadness and grief for the birth mother.
Writers are always told to write what they know. I knew my adoption story, so I chose to tell that story when I decided to write a book. My debut novel, “No Names to Be Given,” is fiction but has a thread of memoir running through it. My main characters are young, unwed mothers who relinquish their babies for adoption in a maternity home in New Orleans in 1966.
I was one of those children from a maternity home. I fantasized about my birth parents even though I had wonderful adoptive parents. When I began to have my children, I wanted a health history and searched for my birth mother. I was successful and met her. And, not long ago, I found my birth father’s family through a commercial DNA test. I was fortunate that both situations were good ones.
I was prepared for less than perfect results, which some adoptees encounter. Not every birth parent wants to be found. Their families may not know they relinquished a baby for adoption. Their reactions may be less than supportive. Be prepared if you search; the situation may not be good.
My book sparks a conversation about the complex topic of adoption and the current issues discussed today—same-sex adoptive parents, adopting out of the culture, international versus in-country adoptions, and closed/open record states.
All in all, I consider adoption to be a loving gift—the ultimate sacrifice for a birth mother and a lifetime commitment from adoptive parents.
Adoption resources are available on my website at juliadaily.com. You can also order No Names to Be Given, my historical debut novel, on Amazon, Bookshop.org, and wherever fine books are sold. My second novel launches in August 2022.
Julia Brewer Daily is a Texan with a southern accent. She taught at every level from kindergarten to university and even shadowed Martha Stewart. She is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas, the Women Fiction Writers’ Association, the San Antonio Writers’ Guild, and the Women’s National Book Association. Daily is an adopted child from a maternity home in New Orleans and searched and found her birth mother and, through DNA results, her father’s family, as well. She and her husband live on a ranch with their Labradors, Memphis Belle, and Texas Star.
No Names to Be Given by Julia Brewer Daily
“A gorgeous, thrilling, and important novel! These strong women will capture your heart.”
—Stacey Swann, author of Olympus, Texas
1965. Sandy runs away from home to escape her mother’s abusive boyfriend. Becca falls in love with the wrong man. And Faith suffers a devastating attack. With no support and no other options, these three young, unwed women meet at a maternity home hospital in New Orleans, where they are expected to relinquish their babies and return home as if nothing transpired.
But such a life-altering event can never be forgotten, and no secret remains buried forever. Twenty-five years later, the women are reunited by a blackmailer, who threatens to expose their secrets and destroy the lives they’ve built. That shattering revelation would shake their very foundations—and reverberate all the way to the White House.
Told from the three women’s perspectives, this mesmerizing story is based on actual experiences of women in the 1960s who found themselves pregnant but unmarried, pressured by family and society to make terrible decisions. How that inconceivable act changed women forever is the story of No Names to Be Given, a heartbreaking but uplifting novel of family and redemption.