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.
“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.