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National Adoption Awareness Month: A Chance at Life

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It was the summer of 1952. The Olympics were in full swing, and I was a newly minted high school graduate. I was also 17 and about a month-and-a-half pregnant.

Neither my mother, nor my boyfriend found out until after graduation, and they didn’t seem too interested in helping me decide what to do. In fact, my mother chose to wash her hands of the entire situation and provided me nothing by way of help or comfort. We weren’t a Christian family at that time, so I didn’t even have a church family I could go to for help.

What I did have, though, was an uncle who worked hard to help me. Uncle Dick was 13 years older than me and seemed more like an older brother than an uncle. When my mother told him about my situation, he found the solution. To this day, I do not know how he found it, but near where I lived in the Chicago area, Uncle Dick came across the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers, and I moved in immediately.

Uncle Dick also found me a position with Kemper Insurance Company, so I could earn money to help contribute to the “home.” His plan was to help me through the pregnancy as best he could. If I had come home to small-town Evanston with a child and no husband, I would have been treated like a leper. So, Uncle Dick thought the best thing to do was to give the baby up for adoption. (That the suggestion of an abortion never came up — and yes, they were being done back then — is something I definitely consider a blessing.)

He contacted an adoption agency for me — Catholic Charities, if memory serves — and I knew that when I gave birth, the baby would be turned over to them. And that is exactly what happened. On February 3, 1953, I gave birth to a healthy baby girl. I had hoped to hold her before she was given to Catholic Charities, and they even offered. For some reason, though, they never brought her in to me.

In the end, I never got to see her face; I never got to feel her warmth in my arms. I never got to hear her laugh or cry. My daughter was just … gone. I knew then that this loss would haunt me for years to come. Even now, recalling that moment, I am brought to tears.

But those tears were for me. God honored my decision, and my daughter was given to a wealthy couple who were able to love her and give her a good upbringing.

Fifty-three years would pass before God showed me His hand on this situation.

Twelve years ago, after the passing of my second husband, I began to look for my daughter. I wound up visiting only one website that had anything to do with adopted children, and I entered my personal information. Not long after that, I was contacted by Nick, a man who thought that I might be his mother. Why? Because my last name matched that of his birth mother who had given him up for adoption on Christmas Eve in 1946.

We discovered that I could not have been his mother, because I would’ve only been 12 years of age at the time he was born. However, when we started connecting notes, I began to have a very strange feeling about it, as if God had orchestrated this entire thing and connected me with this young man through my search for my daughter. I began to understand that the woman listed on his birth certificate was also my mother. I sent him my graduation photo, and he immediately sent his graduation picture back to me right next to mine. I could definitely see the resemblance. Two of my four brothers joined Nick and me in taking a DNA test. The results were positive that we were related through the maternal side of my family.

Since Nick had already started this process, he was able to give me pointers. He said that contacting the health department for the state of Illinois was the best way to connect with my daughter. Best of all, I could do it online.

Days later, the office called me to verify the birth date. I was unable to give them that, as all the papers relating to her birth and my stay at the Florence Crittenton Home were destroyed during my first marriage. Having no written documents, I could only give them an estimate.

Apparently, that was enough. Within a couple of weeks, I held a letter in my hands that left me breathless. Not only had they located my daughter, they had included her personal information; she had been searching for me as well! Now the question was, “Why?” I hesitated to contact her for fear that, rather than wanting to connect, she might only need my medical history information.

A few days later, the phone rang, and that question was answered. The voice on the other end said, “Hello Mom! This is your daughter, Betsy, and I want to thank you for giving me a chance at life.” I nearly dropped the telephone! Within a week, I was able to connect with my daughter and her husband during a trip to Las Vegas.

The rest, as they say, is history. Betsy and her family have been in my life ever since.

Do I support adoption? I certainly do — but not just for situations like mine; I support adoption for anyone who finds themselves pregnant with a child they do not want or cannot keep. If the birth mother is willing to be a part of the process, all the better for her. Mothers should be able to choose an agency that makes them the most comfortable, and people of faith should have the opportunity to work with an agency that shares their beliefs.

Beyond consenting to give up my daughter, I was not involved in her adoption. I never got to hold her, and for 53 years it left a hole in my heart. Now that hole is filled with love. To those women considering abortion, I urge you to choose adoption instead. Giving up your child — either through adoption or abortion — will leave a similar hole in your heart, but with abortion, it’s a hole that you have no hope in filling during this lifetime.

Please give them a chance at life. You won’t regret it.

Barbara J. Ferraro, State Director, Concerned Women for America of Hawaii