Edith from Downton and Me

Unknown
Like me, Edith had a secret child.

Binge watching Downton Abbey

I binge-watched the first season of Downton Abbey after coming down with a horrible flu. I’d heard about it ad nauseum, and finally succumbed while feeling a bit nauseated myself. The show hooked me, and I avidly watched the next couple of seasons until I grew weary of the problems of the English upper class. This year, well, here I am, grieving the loss of the man who loved me. Why not sit on the couch for an hour and escape? And then Lady Edith gets unexpectedly gets pregnant and gives birth to her secret child.

How Lady Edith and I are alike

Edith and me, we have things in common. Edith got pregnant after her first (so it seems) tryst with her boyfriend Michael. The same thing happened to me with my high school boyfriend. She had to keep her pregnancy secret and went away with her aunt as her confidant. (Somehow Granny finds out, but I missed that part.) In my case, only my parents and boyfriend knew, and I went away to live with a foster family in the Iowa countryside. My siblings were in the dark just like Edith’s.

Secrets and shame

Shame and ruination figured mightily in English society in 1924, just as it did in my small Catholic town in Iowa in1970. Edith manages to keep her secret, as did I, and returns home with her reputation in tact. Life goes on, right? Well, no. Sadness overtakes everything. My son was adopted by stranger in a closed records adoption. And though Edith can see her little girl occasionally since she’s been a adopted by a couple who work on Downton Abbey’s farm, she’s beset with grief. Giving one’s child away to someone else whether they are known or not, close or far, is impossible to bear.

An elaborate plan

Edith concocts an elaborate plan to be her daughter Marigold’s special guardian and bring her to the Abbey to be with the other grandchildren in the household. And then she runs away to London with her. At the 11th hour before I signed the papers relinquishing my son, I concocted my own plan to adopt my son.

I asked for a special meeting with my social worker. One evening after supper, with a thunderstorm brewing, he drove out to the farm where I was staying with a foster family. My boyfriend comes to the meeting too, and the three of us sit at the kitchen table while I tell them my latest plan. “I want to keep the baby with a foster family instead of doing a permanent adoption,” I say. “I’m staying with a foster family, and I get to go home in a week or so. The baby can do the same thing; it’ll just take longer. We’ll go to college at the end of August, just like we planned,” I say, looking at my boyfriend. “We’ll get engaged at Christmas and get married next summer.” I’m thinking we’ll be ready to be parents when we’re just a little older. “Then we’ll tell everyone that we can’t have our own kids,” I say, feeling my idea is pretty smart, “and we want to adopt.”

None of that worked out.

I hope Edith makes it work. That she keeps her little girl as her own.

And I’m not the only birthmother breathlessly praying for Edith and Marigold. There are probably thousands of us. Here’s one.

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