A couple of weeks ago the Daily word prompt was Baby, but on the day I was too busy to write. However, the word triggered the memory of a girl, a girl I knew a long time ago when I was in my early teens.
How strange it is that after all these years I should think about her. I would have expected that the word baby would have brought to mind memories of my own babies, or thoughts of my baby grandchildren but it didn’t, it was all about her.
she was a couple of years older than me and I think her name was Jean. Jean lived with her dad and younger brother at the other side of the street, just a few doors down from my house.
My mother said Jean’s life was ruined and no one would want her. I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about, I even felt a little envious and said as much to my mum, I thought it would be nice to have your very own baby. My mother was shocked at my remarks and immediately put me straight. I soon found out it was improper and frowned upon for a girl to have a baby out of wedlock. If you had a boyfriend who was prepared to marry you it was slightly more acceptable and especially so after you were safely married.
I saw very little of Jean during her pregnancy, my mother said she was hiding indoors out of sight. After Jean’s baby boy was born I sometimes saw her pushing the pram. Occasionally I saw other mothers walk past her, no one appeared to speak to her.
My friends and I were by now aware of the stigma and shame attached to the girls who had babies before they were married, and when we saw Jean in the street we stood and stared, it was as if the poor girl was in a freak show.
Once when I was on my own, I crossed the street to say hello, I looked at her baby and told her how lovely he was. I probably wouldn’t have done that if my mother or my friends had been there.
Times were different back then and I give a sigh of relief that times have changed, otherwise two of my daughters who live happily with their partners and babies would by now be hanging their heads in shame.
How did it happen though? How did we get to here and now, was it really so gradual that I never even noticed?