My Grandmother Was Placed On A Neighbor’s Doorstep At Birth

Lefty Graves

** This article is based on nonfiction by actual events that I have experienced firsthand; used with permission.

My grandmother was a real adventurous woman and I loved spending time with her. We were always having adventures and trying not to get caught by my mother. Sometimes we would go to the casino and other times we would just sit and visit. It was during one of these visits that she shared the following story with me.

Her mother had already had 12 children and she was physically and mentally exhausted. When she found out she was pregnant with my grandmother she was sure that she didn’t want the baby. For her, a strong Catholic girl, abortion was out of the question. So she decided that she would give the baby up for adoption.

Instead of giving my grandmother up for adoption, she decided to leave her on the doorstep of a kindly neighbor lady. The lady had several children of her own but loved children and was wonderful as a mother.

My grandmother went to great lengths to conceal her pregnancy and keep it from everyone. Her husband had passed away while she was only a few months along so there was no need to conceal her pregnancy from him. Her other children had no idea that she was pregnant as she always wore long dresses that had many flowing layers anyway.

In the early hours of the morning on a cold November day, my great-grandmother gave birth in her bedroom. She didn’t cry out because she didn’t want her other children to know what was going on. After giving birth and an hour or so of recovering she quietly made her way downstairs and across to her neighbor's farm. Here she carefully laid her newborn daughter in a basket with several small quilts to keep her warm.

She kept watch from an outbuilding and when the baby began to cry the neighbor's husband opened the door to see what was going on. He carefully picked up the basket and looked around. Her job of guarding her young daughter was done, my grandmother quietly returned home and got her other children off to school for the day.

I can only imagine what my great-grandmother was thinking. Years later she would tell my grandmother that she loved her but she was just exhausted. After three months she returned to the neighbor who by now had figured out that my great grandmother was the baby’s mother.

The neighbor handed my great-grandmother her baby and my grandmother began to cry. My great-grandmother took my grandmother home that day and confessed to her older children that this was indeed their sister.

As my grandmother grew up she was told the story and she was able to meet the woman that had cared for her as a young babe. My grandmother never harbored any anger or resentment at her mother for placing her on the neighbor’s doorstep. My grandmother told me that her mother was brave for even having dared to think she’d ever get her back.

I’ve often thought about this story as I’ve looked through family pictures. There’s a definite sadness in my great-grandmother’s eyes. She was active and healthy up into her 90s. My grandmother lived into her 80s. I miss our sharing times and going places with her.

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming & more. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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