I am a birth mother; a name I kept hidden from everyone except my parents and my sister and my husband for over 30 years. I was told that I would forget. I never did. This is my story.
I dated a boy, K, who was a year older than me, when I was a teenager. My mother didn’t meet K until we had been dating for a little while. As soon as she met him she forbade me from seeing him. So, I snuck around behind her back to see him. I got pregnant when I was 15. I hid the pregnancy from my parents until I was 6 ½ months along and could no longer hide it. K and I wanted to get married, but we were young and scared. We didn’t feel that we could go to either of our parents about this. Mother took me to the doctor who confirmed that I was 6 ½ months pregnant. She said to the doctor, “Well, you’ve got to get rid of it.” Thankfully, the doctor told her I was too far along. Mother was hysterical and kept talking about what people would think of her when they found out.
The doctor told her about a maternity home that his daughter had gone to years before when she was in the same situation. So, within 48 hours I was dropped off at the maternity home. I didn’t get to tell K goodbye or even tell him what was happening. I just disappeared. It was an awful time. The staff at the maternity home told me that the child I was carrying was not my own. I was given a false name for “confidentiality” reasons. If a worker saw me with my hand on my stomach I was scolded and told to move my hand. They did everything they could to prevent me from bonding with my baby. I didn’t receive any counseling about how to cope following the birth and surrender of my child. I was told that I should put it behind me, forget about it and go on with my life.
Toward the end of my pregnancy my mother told me she went to K’s house and told him that he needed to go with my parents to sign papers giving up his parental rights. Mother later told me that when she told K this, he denied being the father. However, he did sign the papers. I was very sick at the end of my pregnancy. I was admitted to the hospital and was put on complete bed rest. I had pre-eclampsia. I was all alone and scared. I don’t remember if my parents were told about my illness and hospitalization. I never received a phone call from them. I was totally alone.
I went into labor on September 25, 1978. I remember being wheeled into the delivery room and the next thing I remember is waking up in another room. I kept asking about my baby and was told that I had a girl and that everything was fine and to just rest. They told me that I would sign the relinquishment papers two day after I had the baby. They discouraged me from seeing the baby because they said it would be too hard on me. I told them that I wasn’t going to sign the papers until after I saw my baby because when I held her I wanted to know that I was holding MY baby. Well, that sent them into panic mode. They didn’t want me to see my baby until I signed surrenders and the nurses and social workers did a lot of whispering. I remember standing in the middle of the hall yelling at the social workers and nurses, “I WILL see MY baby and then I’ll sign your damn papers.” They finally agreed.
I went into this room with a rocking chair and they brought me my beautiful baby girl. She was wrapped up tight and I held her and told her how much I loved her and how I didn’t want to do this; that I wanted to take her home. I unwrapped the blanket and counted her fingers and toes. I tried to memorize her face. About that time the nurse walked in and got upset that I unwrapped the blanket surrounding my baby. As the nurse was taking the baby away from me I looked at her ankle band and it said Baby Boy. They took me back to my room as I was crying and saying that they told me I had a girl but the ankle band said boy. I was pretty much hysterical because I thought they had lied to me. They finally took me to the nursery window where the nurse showed me the ankle band and opened the diaper to show me that it was a girl. They said they had just labeled the band incorrectly. I was then taken to the chapel (of all places) and that’s where I signed my parental rights away.
My parents picked me up that afternoon, signing me out against medical advice, and took me home. I remember falling asleep on the couch and waking up to Mother watching me. Mother asked me if I knew what I had and I said “Yes, I had a beautiful baby girl.” She didn’t say anything or ask any questions.
I had the baby on a Monday and was at school the following Monday. I had exchanged names and addresses with my roommate at the maternity home. I wrote her a letter and she replied. Mother got the mail, opened and read the letter. She was livid. She was so mad that I had given someone my real name and address. She tore up the letter before I could read it and told me never to write that girl again. That girl was the only person I thought I could talk to and Mother put a stop to that. My mother never asked how I was doing or mentioned anything about my baby from that point on.
K and I continued to see each other, but we didn’t speak about the baby either. I never asked him if he denied being the father. He was a year older than me and when he graduated from high school we just drifted apart. I think there was too much pain between us. I met S my senior year of high school and we started dating after we graduated. After we had been dating for about 5 months I told him about the baby. He was wonderful and told me it didn’t make a difference to him because he loved me. I was amazed at his acceptance. I had been told that it would be difficult to find love and acceptance because of what happened. S has been the one who has held me as I cried over my lost child. He’s the one who has sent me a dozen roses each September 25th since 1980 with a card that reads, “Thinking about you on your special day.”
In 1996, when my daughter turned 18, I contacted the maternity home and registered. At that time I was told my daughter’s name is C. That is all the information they gave me. They told me they would contact me if and when she registered. Every year since then I have contacted the agency periodically, always on her birthday, but also at other times throughout the year to see if she had registered. I was always told no.
Since 1996 I began to wonder a number of things: 1) Was she ever told she was adopted? 2) Does she even want to know about her biological mother? 3) Is she even alive? As time went on those questions would haunt me. Several nights throughout the years I wouldn’t be able to sleep. I’d get out of bed and get on the computer and search for C. I always came away empty.
My greatest fear in finding C was the fear of the unknown. Once I opened that door I would not be able to close it again. I just wasn’t sure if I was ready and I was afraid of being rejected. Not just being rejected by C; but of my 4 children (ages 27, 24, 22, 19) and my friends. It was so ingrained in me that this was to remain a secret. But during the summer of 2009 I felt if I continued keeping this secret it would destroy me. So, in July 2009 I decided, with my husband’s support, to tell our children about C and to search for her.
At the end of July 2009 I told my husband I didn’t want to tell the kids about C over a holiday weekend. It’s hard to get all four of the kids together at the same time, but I told S that we needed to pray that God would clear schedules so that a weekend would be available. On Saturday, August 8, 2009 I logged onto Facebook and had a friend request from K, C’s biological father. I told S and he said it was God’s plan because we had just decided to tell the kids and now C’s biological father, who I hadn’t talked to in 29 years had contacted me. K called me that Monday night. He said he had two questions for me: 1) Was I okay? and 2) Had I ever heard from our daughter? Well, I lost it. I started crying and told him that I never thought he ever thought about me or our daughter. He said he had been looking for me for 12 years. His father still lives across the street from my parents. He said whenever he would visit his dad he’d ask him if he had seen me. His dad always said no. K said that he thought I was no longer in this world because I was never at my parents, even during holidays.
I asked K about my mom telling me that he said he wasn’t the father. K said that my mom had come to the house that day and he and his mom came outside. Mom blurted out, “D’s pregnant and you need to sign some papers giving up your rights.” K said he told his mom that he couldn’t do that without talking to me first to see if that was what I wanted. He said that we had talked about getting married. His mom said that I could move in with them, marry K, and she would help us raise the baby. Mom said, “That is not going to happen.” K said he doesn’t remember what Mom said to convince him to sign the papers. He says he remembers riding in the back seat of their car with tears streaming down his cheeks. He said he looked at my parents in the front seat and they were smiling. He said he felt sick to his stomach.
I told K our daughter’s name and that I had registered with the maternity home when she turned 18 but she hadn’t registered. I told him that my husband and I had decided that we were going to find her. K said he wanted to be a part of this. I told him that I had to tell my children first and that I was telling them soon.
I had already found who I was going to use to find C. My husband thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and contact her to tell her my plan to make sure she would take on the case. She had also placed a baby at the same maternity home. She has reunited 2,000 adoptees with their birth families. So, I emailed her over Labor Day weekend 2009. She called me the following Tuesday to tell me that she could help me and she would find C. She told me to meet with my children that Saturday, tell them about C, and then call her the following Monday and she’d get to work. That evening she called me to say she had been thinking about my plan and thought it might be best to find C first because my children may have specific questions and we would know if C wanted any contact. I told her I would have to talk to my husband and K. My husband thought it was a great idea. K said he wanted to talk to her first to make sure she was legitimate because I had already been hurt enough.
K called and talked to her that Wednesday. He called me and said she would find C. I gave her all the information I had about my time at the maternity home and she said she’d be in touch. I hung up the phone at 6:15 p.m. on September 9, 2009. At 7:30 p.m. that night K called me crying. He said, “D, we found her and she’s beautiful.” He told me I had to go to a certain website and register because C was registered on that website. One of the things that I had been praying was that God would somehow let me know that I was doing the right thing in searching for C; that she did, in fact, want to have contact with me. I had confirmation that she was looking for me. She had registered through adoption.com in 2006. She also had a MySpace page and this was how we were able to see a picture of her. I got off the phone with K and told my husband. I registered with the website and the whole time my husband is asking me how will she know that I’ve registered; will she receive some type of notification? I told him if she has a MySpace page then she probably has a Facebook account. I typed in her name and she came up. My husband told me to send her a friend request. So, I typed in, “Check the adoption.com reunion registry. I’ve finally found you!” It wasn’t 5 minutes later that I received a message that said, “Is it really you?!”
She later told me that when she saw my name and Southern Georgia she immediately knew it was me. You see, she had called the maternity home when she turned 18 to register. They told her my first name; that I was married, had children, and lived in Georgia. She asked them at that time what she needed to do to contact me. They told her they would send her a registration packet to fill out and return. Once they received her registration then they would call me. She sent in the information, but they never called me. I even called them 2 weeks before I found her and was again told she hadn’t registered. C told me she thought I had changed my mind and didn’t want to have contact with her. But she also told me she always knew she would find me. I told her I wasn’t as confident so I prayed every day for her salvation because I knew if I couldn’t be with her on Earth then I wanted to spend Eternity with her. God has blessed me two-fold. I have found my daughter and she’s a strong Christian woman.
My husband and I told the children on Saturday, September 12, 2009. They were shocked as would be expected. They were angry that we had lied to them all their life. They have each worked through these feelings and have told me they are so happy for me and are genuinely glad C is part of our family. My middle daughter told me that what made the difference for all the kids was that they couldn’t imagine not having me as their mom and that C had missed out growing up with me as her mother. She said they have all talked about this and that’s what helped them reconcile what happened. My husband continues to be my rock and has welcomed C as if she were his own.
Those first few months were intense. C never knew the circumstances surrounding her conception and couldn’t allow herself to “go there.” K and I were able to share with her that we loved each other (even if it was teenage love). She told me that was such a healing experience for her and she felt that a huge weight had been lifted. She had been led to believe the maternity home was a wonderful place. She had lots of questions and I had difficult answers to give her. There have been and continue to be things we’re finding out that are difficult. The maternity home gave her parents wrong information about how old I was when C was born. They were told that I never saw C. Her dad told me that he has cried for me so often because his heart broke for me that I never saw my child. Her dad is absolutely wonderful and has embraced me and my family and says we’re all family now. Her mother is much like my own mother. That has been very difficult for me. C’s parents divorced when she was 6 years old. C and her mother moved to the same town K lives in and for 11 years C actually lived less than one mile from him.
C and I met in a neutral location on October 16, 2009. We live almost 900 miles apart. It was just the two of us and we spent the weekend together. It was such a sweet, intimate time for us. It was as if we had a rebirth.
She has come to my home and met my family. We have made several trips to her home to visit with her and her family. C is married and has 3 beautiful children; She had her first child when she was 17-years-old. Her mother took her to the same maternity home that I went to look at it since her mother wanted her to place her baby for adoption. C told me she just couldn’t do it. She said wasn’t as strong as I was. I don’t think I was strong at all. I wish I would have been strong enough to stand up to my mom back then, but I know God’s hand is in this. I wouldn’t have the wonderful husband and family I have and C wouldn’t have the wonderful husband and family she has. I don’t allow myself to think about “what might have been.” We are building and defining our relationship. I tell people that reunion is HARD. But it’s so worth it!
I have worked in the field of adoption for the past 4 years, but I have lived it and studied it for decades. It has been a way for me to work through my own issues surrounding the surrender of my child. Before I found C, it was a way for me to feel close to her. It’s given me the opportunity to protect, empower, and advocate for birth mothers because I don’t want any birth mother to have my experience. I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t freely place my child for adoption. I LOST my child to adoption and I’ve carried that pain and anguish for over 30 years. I’m so thankful for the progress that has been made with adoption. Birth mothers do have choices and I’m thankful for the small part I’ve had in making changes.