A letter leads a birth mother and daughter to their reunion after 40 years. Meet Lesli, who is a birth mother and is getting ready to meet her daughter Shannon for the first time today since giving birth nearly 40 years ago. We invite you to enter in to their reunion story, before they meet...
When I was a senior in high school, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl and then placed her to be adopted by parents who were far more ready and able to care for her than I was. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t always loved her, had hopes for her and a hope for myself, that one day, I would have the opportunity to know her.
I became pregnant in 1974. I was in a committed relationship with a dear boy, although we both thought we were so very grown up then. When we learned that I was pregnant, we were terrified! Mortified about what our parents would say, what our friends would think, what would we do? We talked briefly about marriage but it was really obvious that with school and our part-time jobs in fast food, we were wholly unprepared to undertake this. Our parents would have helped, of course, but we saw this as our problem, and it was up to us to solve it. I think we both contemplated abortion independently for about a half of a second and rejected it. Whatever the context, this was a result of our love for one another and there must be a reason for this child to come into existence. We began to talk about adoption, something we didn’t know very much about. I had an aunt and uncle who had adopted two children and I loved my cousins, but beyond that, I knew very little. We contacted an agency that we found in the phone book and met with the social worker there. She seemed surprised that my boyfriend came with me and actually wasn’t very nice to him at that point. Closed adoption was the only option at that time.
I knew that adoption was the right decision for me before I gave birth, although I am not sure that my boyfriend felt the same peace with the decision. But there were some surprises. First, I loved being pregnant, I loved to hear her kicking and turning cartwheels. I loved listening to her heartbeat. I even loved giving birth, although it was very bittersweet. She was so beautiful, with all her fingers and toes. I knew that I was trusting in God, the agency and these unknown parents to love her and care for her. It was such a leap of faith.
The agency allowed me to write a letter to her and they gave it to her parents. Years later, when open adoption was getting more attention, I contacted the agency and requested that they make my information available to her if she or her parents requested it. Seventeen years later, by then I was all grown up and had another baby. I remember being so grateful to be a parent then, because I knew what it was like to let go of one.
What did I learn from my experience? I learned that life is full of unexpected surprises and developments, actions have consequences, life is to be cherished. I learned that sometimes, you just have to trust.
About five years ago, after the death of my father, a number of events pushed me to start a more active search. One influence was my cousin, who had been adopted and had met her birth mother when she was in her twenties. She helped me to understand that maybe it was my responsibility to take the risk, to do the reaching out, to risk the response. I had always thought that it was not my place to intrude on my daughter’s life but my cousin helped me to see this in a different way.
Our re-connecting hasn’t been without challenges. I worked through the agency I had used as a teen, as they now offered post-adoption services, including searches and serving as an intermediary for initial contact. The first time the agency reached out to her, she wasn’t ready, she had a lot going on in her life and wanted to wait. About a year and a half later, she was willing to accept a letter from me through the agency. My cousin encouraged me to send a few pictures- not big family pictures but pictures of me at different stages. I sent a picture of me as a child, as a teen with her birth father and a current picture. A month later, I received a letter from her with pictures of her and nearly fell on the floor. She looked so much like me, it was amazing and I had not expected that. In her first letter to me, she told me that she had been raised in a loving family, who completely loved and cherished her which was one of the best gifts I have ever received!
We have been emailing, texting and talking occasionally on the phone for about a year now and I have been quite amazed to discover what a truly wonderful person she has become. She is funny, bright, beautiful and exceptionally warm and kind. We have discovered that genetics can be powerful, but not everything. She now says that she can blame my genes for being clumsy and having a sweet tooth.
Today, we will meet face-to-face and I am so excited and grateful. I am grateful to the agency that placed her in an awesome loving family, grateful to her parents who were ready and willing when I was too young, grateful to my parents for their support throughout my whole life, grateful to my son, born years later who benefitted because I really understood what a privilege it was to raise a child and grateful to God for everything.
What do I most want from our meeting today? To give her a hug and to hear her laugh!