Madonna/St. Joseph Center 1990-1994

Following is an excerpt from my journal representing four years of working in a maternity home on Chicago’s North Side.  Download Chapters 1-4 (7 mb),and Chapters 5-7 (7 mb) (pdf format).

January, 1996

A couple of conclusions can be made about the risGuysDisappearPhoto.1e in unwed pregnancy in the United States and about teenage pregnancy in particular.  However these words have probably have all been said by politicians, social workers, school teachers, law enforcers (police and lawyers), the clergy and the families themselves.  Whatever I could say in conclusion has already been said.  The issues are complex and one answer doesn’t quite sum it up.  Murphy Brown’s reasons for wanting to parent her child alone would be completely different from an urban teenager’s reasons for wanting to become a single mother.

However, I would say that linking family planning clinics directly to schools would be a starting place; making ALL men own up to and be responsible for their progeny would be another; insisting that love and money and health were commodities to be given out in equal shares would be another.

March, 1996

Most of what I’ve written has been in the first person narrative so I’ll close in a personal voice also.  When I started this journal about the Madonna/St. Joseph Home back in 1990, I wanted to work through my own feelings about being a woman and being a mother; about mothering and being maternal; about merging and separating.  Like Demeter and Persephone, Mother and Daughter, the differences were clear one moment, mercurial the next.  For me, the variations were endless . . .

When my mother died in 1984, my 75-year-old father decided it was time for him to develop his female/maternal side—to BECOME the Mother.  It was an odd fit at first, but we both needed it to keep my mother/his wife’s energy alive and flowing through us.  We both missed her terribly.  Oh, we didn’t truly exchange recipes, or mending and household tips when I say that he wanted to Become the Mother, but I think he wanted and needed to have a bond with me and my young children, and that could only have happened without testosterone crashing around, and I, at 35, still wanted my Mommy.  The relationship we came up with was full of love and uniquely our own.

I am grateful I had the nerve to share a much rougher version of this journal with him in 1994, six months before he died.  My conclusions about the repressed and devalued feminine in our culture come straight from my father’s breast (okay, heart!).

From one of my father’s many letters to me about my experience at Madonna he wrote:

Dear Betsy,

Do you call the world that these women live in “the other side?”  What a profoundly touching, utterly true-to-life, rock-bottom layer of experience.  How these short bios illuminate in a flash a young woman’s character and personality—the terrible choice between parenting and adopting, the touchy relations to parents and siblings, the often miserable sometimes thrilling picture of the young father and his sense of responsibility.

The lightening-flash spot on the dark side of sex.  Of our biology.  How to help young men?  How to help young women?  More free condoms?  More sex education?  More Madonna/St. Josephs?”

September 22, 1991