It is clear in my mom’s adoption file that my maternal grandmother, shown above holding my mom for the very last time, never intended to surrender her. She was pressured and exploited by circumstances and the expert manipulation of that baby thief, Georgia Tann, in Memphis.
I read a statistic that said that more than 30% of women who have relinquished children never have another – either because they chose not to, or could not. There is an increased incidence of secondary infertility among natural mothers.
I know that my grandmother never had another child. I know that while her birth name was Elizabeth, my mom’s birth certificate had her name as Lizzie. I saw her sign Elizabeth to a note and a postcard she sent to Georgia Tann after losing my mom. Yet, when she died in her 60s after marrying a second husband, Lizzie is what is on her gravestone. I can’t help but believe she hoped my mom would find it someday. My mom died without fulfilling her desire to know about her original mother. I was the one to find the gravestone and sit beside it and talk with her soul.
There is no way to know why my maternal grandfather left my maternal grandmother in Memphis four months pregnant. It seems her widowed father sent her away to Virginia to have my mom and I doubt she was supposed to bring my mom back to Tennessee. It is clear my great-grandfather was unwilling to take the two of them into his home.
It appears that the only time my maternal grandmother had any communication directly with my maternal grandfather (after he left her alone and pregnant) was when he decided to go ahead and divorce her 3 years after they married and two years after my mom was born. The divorce papers also show her name formally as Elizabeth. I believe that having lost their child, my grandmother was so filled with shame, she could not face him. The divorce freed her up to remarry and not long after that he remarried. My heart is glad they didn’t die alone.
My mom’s adoption file is a constant reminder to me of what they had not done, of the courage they somehow lacked to fight back and of the child in the middle (my mom) they both lost. I come close to tears every time I revisit this story in my heart’s mind.