Warning this is a sensitive subject–Between the 1950s and 1980s, a lot of women were forced by ‘respectable’ society to give up their children. In some cases it became a business — and so many today are still trying to find their mothers or children.
More Unwed Mother Stories — Peacock Babies
As a child whose mother died young I used to pretend I was adopted to reassure myself there was someone out there that loved me. In reality I can’t imagine what people go through attempting to find their birth parents after decades. Almost a year ago I wrote about the black market baby business in Quebec in the 50’s and 60’s as I had no idea it had even existed. I received an email shortly after the posting from a woman thanking me since information about the Quebec Eastern Townships alleged baby-brokerage market was slowly disappearing from the face of the earth.
A very long time ago my family were prominent members of a local parish in a rural area of Quebec. The year before I left home my grandfather left the church, and the reason given to me by my grandmother was that he had issues with our minister.
The good reverend was allegedly in the adoption business and shuffling unwed mother’s babies around like a conveyor belt. Whether he understood the gravity of his actions will remain a mystery because every last record was destroyed. My grandfather had confronted the man and his small group but was outnumbered and got so angry that he never darkened the church’s door again. I became obsessed with this story and even though it has been over 50 years since a lot of this has transpired I will not stop writing about it.
Surely there has to be someone wanting to tell their story I thought. Some of the now grown-up ‘babies” did email me but didn’t want their story told for fear of repercussions. Finally someone came forward and this is her story.
The Story of Baby BMH 5-7-66
I was born on May 7, 1966 in the Brome Missisquoi Hospital, or at least that’s what I’ve been told. I am the product of Baby Laundering, a term I prefer over Black Market Babies and I need answers.
I finally arranged to meet the Reverend (along with his wife) who had placed me up for adoption in 1987. That day I finally realized he was not the man I had imagined he would be. Prior to that I always had an image of a religious man set in his beliefs that he was doing the right thing. Even though he knew who I was I felt the greatest need to introduce myself after he opened the door. His reply to the greeting was simple and matter-of-fact:
“You don’t have to tell me who you are, you look just like her!”
He knew the identity of my adoptive parents, who my birth mother was and the reverend seemed to take a certain pleasure in knowing something I didn’t. Deep down he knew what I wanted, and could only muster a sly smile each time he commented that I’d never find out about my past.
His wife remained in the background, never saying a word, other than, “I was the first person to ever hold you.” Really, was I born in their house? At that moment I pitied her for living with such a man for so many years.
That same afternoon, he teased me with the knowledge that he had a “little treasure chest of information” about my past in his basement that I would never see. In hindsight, I wished I’d gone into that basement, but I didn’t and it was in that moment of time that I hated him even more.
After that discouraging visit I’d heard the good reverend died, so I took this opportunity to contact his wife, hoping she could finally give me some information about my past. Surprisingly she told me she had burned all the adoption records because “people like me” kept “harassing” her. I found her comment to be hurtful and amusing.“I was harassing her” and “people like me” were making phone calls trying to find out about their past when her children knew all about theirs. Later I heard she became ill so I decided not to pursue it. Now I regret that I didn’t go after what I wanted and not put my own well being before hers.
Over the years I’ve met other Laundry Babies, and one thing we all had in common was the law firm our adoptive parents used. Assuming they were allegedly in cahoots, my next step was to contact that particular law firm. Not surprisingly, the son of the lawyer who handled my adoption had taken over his father’s position. I told him a tall-tale about my medical condition and requested my medical history. I’m not proud of myself for lying to him as he was not the one involved, but the circumstances had taught me that it all seemed to be a game and if I wanted to get anywhere, I had to play on the same field.
Of course the lawyer knew what I and others had gone through wasn’t right and there was no doubt he knew his father had done something wrong. He quietly said his father was very ill and not proud of what he’d done. I knew right at that moment he wouldn’t tell me anything for fear of betraying his Dad. I actually don’t hate the lawyer as we never spoke and as for the lawyer’s son, I could feel the struggle in his words that he was between a rock and a hard place.
Now year after year I listen from a distance from one doctor to another wanting answers to the questions of my medical history. I have no answers and I get tired of explaining why. There are so many “experts” in the field of adoption that tell me I can obtain my medical history if I want it. Since the adoptions never went through government channels my history is not a “form-filled-out request away.”
When I was younger, I used my medical condition as an excuse but for some reason now I feel I can’t or shouldn’t want both, so over the years I interchange my wants with needs. I make deals with whoever is listening, and never have I asked to have both my background and medical history.
What do I want now?
Today, I definitely need my medical history as now I don’t have to lie about having a condition, I have one.
The only information from my past I have was that after I was born, I was put into a room with the other “reverend’s” babies so prospective parents could come look at me. I was told that I was “primo baby material”, had nice chubby cheeks, blue eyes, and that healthy baby glow. Shortly after that I got sick, lost weight, and was taken out of that category of elite babies. My illness was nothing more than an allergy to cow’s milk, but enough to remove me from the top of the baby list and out of that priviledged room.
When I heard this story I questioned the world we live in – that babies could be put in a room and chosen based on their looks and breed like a puppy dog. At my age I’m not looking for mommy and daddy, nor am I looking to find out who I am. I’m seeking to find out where I came from and for the story of how I came to be. I want all of these things as I feel I have the right to know because my past still remains in my present.
Epilogue to “The Peacock Adoptees”
So what happened to all these children? The Quebec government had strict laws about releasing adoption information and the rules were not eased up until 1986, but there was no help for this group of children that had been allegedly set up for adoption by this religious man. Everything from hospital records to personal letters from their mothers had been destroyed.
On the Quebec Canada Query board there are 100’s of people still looking for their birth parents today. According to our knowledge – most – if not all the adoptees were freely given to adopting parents. It has been legally noted that Peacock did nothing wrong except he didn’t register these children with a social system agency. By the 1970s, the social workers were on his case so badly that the youngest ones were registered with social service.
UPDATE- this gal ended up finding her father- Do you know how she did it? She took one of those ancestry.ca DNA tests and came up with matches and one of them ended up being her father. Her mother had died but he was still alive
Pictures of The Peacock Babies
Jewish Genealogical Society
Montreal’s Black Market Babies
Switched, Stolen, Black Market Babies & The Baby Brokers
In 2015, the Montreal CTV station aired a news feature about the black market baby ring. Here is a link to that six-minute CTV feature:
Where you can look for information
Women in Peril– Betrayed by Heartless Scoundrels 1882
I worked at BMP during the unwed-baby adoption was all happening.I met Caloren , beautiful young lady. I wish I could have helped her, but there were so many babies, and details just escaped from my memory. But to all the babies there that were put out for adoption, please know that while you were in the nursery you were held and rocked and were very “special” to the nurses that worked there. I hated it when we were asked to put those babies up to the window for prospect parents to be-especially some of the remarks made by some of the viewers. One little boy I remember was beautiful(as were they all) and had a cleft in his chin. The woman peering at him asked me if he would always have that awful mark in his chin. I closed the curtain in the window. Got a lashing from the Dr. after the event, and told him that I was not going to be a part of the “showing” any more ! I was so mad The pictures that are shown of the babies are ones I took-wish I had taken more and had more information to help the adoptive ones to find some trace of their parents.
Sheila.. god love you for doing this.. I am glad there is finally a page for the Peacock babies.. so glad. HUGGGG
I am all to familiar with the story, I have /am living it daily, unfortunately I have heard it many times with few variations. I used to have a website that did help some. I took it down many years ago for many reasons. I have just recently started reviving the site. I hope to maybe once again help those of us ” Peacock Babies” that are still searching for our roots, medical histories, answers. I am hoping and praying for all of us out there that we are successful in our quests.
Brian.. thank you for reviving the site… when you are comfortable with sharing it..let me know.. I cannot even imagine..:( HUGGG
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