Peggy Dyer-Bland was 15 years old when she went through a birth that she wouldn’t remember.
The year was 1969, and she was pregnant as a result of abuse. At that time, most young girls in her situation were quietly sent away to homes where they could hide their pregnancies and eventually place their babies for adoption.
Peggy was thankful to have had parents who stood by her.
“I was one of the lucky girls that didn’t go away to one of the maternity homes,” she said.
Peggy gave birth in February, but remembers none of it. She assumes she was sedated. Indeed, up until the 1970s when epidural analgesia became available for pain relief during labor, “twilight sleep” was commonly used during birth. Women who used twilight sleep had no memory of their births.
In more recent years, Peggy has read about other birth mothers who were put under twilight sleep and were treated poorly in the hospitals. From one book, The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler, Peggy was able to piece together why she had no memory of her daughter’s birth.
The experiences that she and so many other women endured decades ago are the reason behind a project Peggy is working on today in earnest.
The project, based in North Vernon, Indiana, is called Missy’s Hope. It’s a yet-to-be-opened modern day maternity home–drastically different from what young women were sent to in Peggy’s day.
“I want girls who live here to know that they’re loved–not like when I was pregnant and girls were sent away,” she said. “It wasn’t a happy time for them.”
Peggy has named the future maternity home after Melissa (also known as “Missy”)–the baby she placed for adoption more than 50 years ago.
The two were actually reunited in the 1980s when Missy discovered she was adopted. She was 19, and it only took her a few days to find Peggy, as her mother had Peggy’s name. Peggy was also looking for Missy.
Over the years, Peggy and Missy have formed a relationship that Peggy says is much like other relationships with its ups and downs. Although Missy lives several states away, she and Peggy (as well as the other two daughters Peggy eventually had) keep in touch. Missy has two children and three grandbabies, making Peggy a great grandmother. One more great grandbaby is expected to be born in Indiana in March.
Now, Peggy is working to open a home in Missy’s name, hoping to serve moms in a way that so many women were never served.
Once open, Missy’s Hope will welcome young girls and women 15 years and older. Peggy plans to hire a house mother who will live with the girls and is currently accepting applications. Residents will take part in caring for the home and cooking meals for one another. They’ll be equipped with lessons in parenting, finance, assistance in completing their education, finding employment, and securing health care.
But Peggy needs funding to achieve this dream. She has formed a board of trustees and is proud to have recently launched her organization’s website. On November 3, Missy’s Hope will host a fundraiser at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in North Vernon at 5:30 pm. There, she will share her story alongside Melissa Coles, whose story the recent film Lifemark is based upon.
Peggy knows she needs massive funding to make her dream a reality. But she feels a strong calling to pursue it.
The dream has been in her heart for a long time. And after surviving a near-fatal car accident several years ago, she feels a still stronger urge to make it a reality.
“I know that God let me live for a reason,” she said. “I know the reason is coming out now.”