Seventeen

She’s spent her life wondering. She wondered what color of hair he had, and what his parents named him. What kinds of foods he liked. And which sports.

She wasn’t a bad kid. She was seventeen, an all-American girl, pretty, the daughter of a Baptist pastor.

She got pregnant.

It happened so fast that it confused her. She thought she was in love. She wanted to marry him. She envisioned a small house, a decent neighborhood, shutters, hanging ferns, and a swing set in the backyard.

He told her he wanted to to have the pregnancy “taken care of.”

It broke her heart. She wanted to keep it. He pleaded with her to end it. She refused. He pushed.

He drove her to the clinic in a bad part of town. They sat in the car. She cried.

“I can’t do it,” she said.

“You HAVE to do it,” he said.

And so it went.

A big argument erupted. She jumped out of his car. He sped off.

She never told a soul about the baby.

In fact, she even managed to hide her pregnancy from her parents that summer—she left town to live with a friend and worked a summer job.

She went into labor one July night. She remembers it like yesterday. She drove herself to the hospital.

It was a boy.

“Soon as I had him,” she said. “I wanted so bad to touch his face. That was an instinct, I think.”

But she wouldn’t. She told nurses to take him away, or else she’d never say goodbye.

She called an adoption agency. She signed papers. They took the baby. She left the hospital the same way she came. Alone.

It was the hardest thing she ever did.

She grew up. She went to college, she pleased her parents. She got married to a man who loved her. She had three kids. She drove an SUV. She lived her life.

And it was a good life, she should’ve been happy.

But.

“I always hated myself,” she said. “I mean, how can anyone give up a baby?”

She’s spent her life wondering. She wondered what color of hair he had, and what his parents named him. What kinds of foods he liked. And which sports.

“Sometimes,” she said. “I’d just pray God would let me feel some sorta connection with him, wherever he was in the world, but it never never worked.”

At age fifty, she told her parents about her pregnancy.

Fifty. It was long overdue. It didn’t go over well. Her mother was in shock. Her father left the room. She walked away liberated.

“Was like a huge weight lifted,” she tells me.

Two years later, more weight lifting. She got a phone call. A private investigator. A man who asked questions on behalf of someone looking for his birthmother.

After the conversation, she cried until she was out of tears.

Five days later, she drove to the airport. She wore nice clothes. She walked through double doors and hiked to an airline gate with her husband.

They waited. She watched passengers deboard. She saw him.

She covered her mouth. She ran. She threw arms around a six-foot-four stranger and told him she was sorry.

“There’s not a day that goes by…” she started to say.

But that was all she could get out.

Then she touched his face.

18 comments

  1. Jady - May 6, 2018 7:03 am

    Damn. I just took a seat. You have to really think about that one Sean.

    Reply
  2. Laurence - May 6, 2018 12:04 pm

    Thanks for this.

    Reply
  3. Nix LaVerdi - May 6, 2018 12:51 pm

    Wow. Your stories. Phenomenal. Thank you, Sean.

    Reply
  4. Jack Darnell - May 6, 2018 1:01 pm

    I know this girl, another town, another family, I know this girl, she has a heart of goal and a husband who loves her!

    Reply
  5. Michael Bishop - May 6, 2018 1:27 pm

    Pretty sure that many stories worldwide parallel this one, and it’s hard not to feel sympathy for the seventeen-year-old young woman whose history you relate all the way to her fifty-second year, and for the infant she surrendered to insure that it could have a life better than she (at that age and with that degree of societally dictated shame) could provide it.

    Still, my heart goes out more strongly to her, for there was another person in this story who abandoned her to that shame, who used her and then sidestepped a responsibility that he too shared, even if he was no more ready for it than she.

    But who showed the greater love?–even if her shame prevented her for years from telling her story to her folks and also her husband, who, clearly, did not rebuke or turn his back on her, knowing that she had already carried her secret burden for 35 years.

    An old story, but a powerful one, and it demonstrates clearly the pitfalls to which women are subject that some men never acknowledge or comprehend. Thanks for telling it again, succinctly and well. I am not surprised that there are so few comments about it here today.

    Reply
  6. Cathi - May 6, 2018 2:00 pm

    Thanks Sean for that smile with tears!

    Reply
  7. Barbara - May 6, 2018 2:16 pm

    Sean, I Always read your writings of the day. Sometimes they make me cry, sometimes they make me laugh, but they ALWAYS touch my Heart. 💕 Thank you.
    BTW, our dog Kai says hi!

    Reply
  8. Edna B. - May 6, 2018 2:23 pm

    This sounded very personal and truly beautiful. And yes, it brought tears to my eyes. Someone I know had to give up her babies many years ago. Last year, they were reunited. Awesome! Awesome! I’m so happy for this woman and her grown child. She asked God for help, and when He thought she was ready, He answered. God bless you and thank you this beautiful story. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  9. Deborah Roberts - May 6, 2018 3:01 pm

    Sean, a friend of mine recently shared the link to your website with me. I started reading and couldn’t stop. What an inspiration you are to all who read your stories, so please keep writing. God bless you and yours, always! Have an awesome day!

    Reply
  10. Sue Cronkite - May 6, 2018 3:41 pm

    Fine heart-touching story.

    Reply
  11. Jack Quanstrum - May 6, 2018 4:07 pm

    Absolutely beautiful story. So heart warming!

    Reply
  12. Louise Harris - May 6, 2018 6:27 pm

    You are amazing.

    Reply
  13. Janet Mary Lee - May 6, 2018 7:07 pm

    That touch meant everything and it was a lifetime in coming. I know it doesn’t always end this good, but I am so happy for her and her son that it did! Obviously Mom who raised him did a fine job, it sounds like! We should never be so proud we think we can turn our backs on people who need our help. Or forgive people who did not measure up to our expectations. In the long run, this woman and her son displayed the best humanity has to offer. And the missing biological father and her parents lost more than they can measure. That is why we do not judge, (false pride), and should have love and forgiveness in our hearts. We are all those people! Just differing circumstance… Love you, Sean…Good one…kiss Thelma Lou from Jan and May May!!!

    Reply
  14. Barbara Pope - May 6, 2018 7:38 pm

    Times have changed–really no stigma now–they give baby showers for unwed mothers today. Sounds like progress–the terrible choice doesn’t have to be made anymore. Unfortunately, the unwed mother generally makes the ultimate sacrifice–unwed fathers should step up and share the burden.

    Reply
  15. Edy F Holmes - May 6, 2018 7:43 pm

    That really blesses me!

    Reply
  16. Pam - May 7, 2018 2:15 am

    Speechless
    Wonderment
    Love

    What an amazing thing she did for her baby.

    And she got to touch his face ♥️

    Reply
  17. Sharron - May 7, 2018 2:15 pm

    So many young girls and young men make adult choices before they are ready. The young woman in this story was so strong. Years ago I worked on a street that had a “Home for Unwed Mothers” close by. To see these young girls walking down the street for exercise was heartbreaking because you know the only reason they were there was because they refused to end a life before it began and had no support from their family or the father of the child. Kudos for your young mother and for the relationship I hope she was able to establish with her grown son.

    Reply
  18. Pam Walker - May 8, 2018 11:16 am

    Thank you. I mean it. More than I can choke up the words to write. I was nearly her…except “old enough to know better” as my sister put it. I went through my pregnancy, picked out the adoptive parents (the Agency I used allowed birthmoms to have input). Gave birth. Held him and loved on him and kissed him and hoped it was enough to last a lifetime. Then I “surrendered” him (their term) to foster care for one month before he would go to his “new” family. But WE were new too! Me and his two sisters. But I wanted him to have a “whole” family. Then, three days in, I knew exactly what this woman expressed: that I’d always wonder if he was ok. Was his new family good to him? Did he play sports or paint pictures? Did he fall and skin his knee today? What funny things would he say? And I knew at that moment that I’d never be the same Mom my precious little girls had known, without him to complete our “whole” family. SO: I got him back. The adoption agency was furious–they’re a business after all. I felt bad, terrible about the waiting adopting parents–still do, if I tell the truth–but he turned 19 last month and I wrote down all those funny things I could grasp and watched him draw more pictures than Walt Disney! Every single year, it’s the same: his sisters and me, remembering how we almost gave away our sunshine.

    Reply

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