In 1968, Susan Mello Souza and Mary Moran Murphy were teenagers — and both were pregnant. To keep that a secret, their families sent them to St. Mary's Home for Unwed Mothers in Massachusetts, where they lived until they gave birth.
Then, their children were placed for adoption.
"I remember being wheeled into the delivery room," Susan tells Mary on a trip to StoryCorps. "They lay you on the bed, and they strap your hands down. Then I remember the doctor coming in, and he asked me if I was going to see my baby. And I said, 'Yes.' ... I would rock her and sing to her. Oh, my God — I was so sad."
"The day I left the hospital, my mother walked me down, and we looked in the nursery," Mary says. "I didn't want to walk out and leave her. But there was nothing I could do."
Both women say their mothers never spoke of it again. "The rule of thumb was, 'It never happened,' " Susan says.
For years, Mary never told her boyfriends or doctors about her child. "I lied for the longest time," she says.
Decades later, both women reunited with their daughters. And the two friends are grateful they "don't have to lie anymore" — and that they have each other.
"That's something we'll never lose," Mary says.
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Nadia Reiman, Katie Simon and Eve Claxton.
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Time now for StoryCorps. Today we hear from Susan Mello Souza and Mary Moran Murphy. In 1968, Susan and Mary were teenagers and both were pregnant. Their families wanted to keep it a secret so the girls were sent to St. Mary's Home for Unwed Mothers in Dorchester, Massachusetts. They lived there until they gave birth and then their children were put up for adoption.
Susan and Mary were roommates and at StoryCorps they remembered when they first met.
MARY MORAN MURPHY: We were given fictitious names.
SUSAN MELLO SOUZA: And yours was?
SOUZA: And mine was Stella.
MURPHY: We were told whoever we're gonna room you with, you're not supposed to tell them your real name, but we broke that rule.
SOUZA: We did. I think the first thing we said to each other was, what's your real name?
MURPHY: Did you remember thinking of yourself as being a mother?
SOUZA: I didn't until I felt the baby move, especially at night. That was the hardest time for me. During the day we could occupy ourselves and I didn't think about it so much. But I remember crying most every night.
MURPHY: They didn't tell us what to expect for childbirth. Anytime somebody went into labor, it was a tunnel between the home and the hospital, and that's how they chauffeured us back and forth.
SOUZA: I remember being wheeled into the delivery room. They lay you on the bed and they strap your hands down. Then I remember the doctor coming in, and he asked me if I was going to see my baby. And I said yes, I was. I would rock her and sing to her. Oh, my God. I was so sad.
MURPHY: Oh, yeah. Once I gave birth, I remember counting her fingers and her toes. And the day I left the hospital, my mother walked me down, and we looked in the nursery. And I didn't want to walk out and leave her. But there was nothing I could do. And it was never discussed again. Did your mother sit and talk to you? My mother never did.
SOUZA: The rule of thumb was it never happened.
MURPHY: For years I never told boyfriends or doctors. How do I answer the question how many children have you had. I lied for the longest time.
SOUZA: And here we are 45 years later.
MURPHY: And it's so nice that we don't have to lie anymore.
SOUZA: Don't have to lie anymore.
MURPHY: We're lucky to have each other. That's something we'll never lose.
MONTAGNE: Mary Moran Murphy and her friend Susan Mello Souza remembering their time at St. Mary's Home for Unwed Mothers in 1968. Both women have been reunited with their daughters. The StoryCorps podcast is at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.