There are numerous reasons a woman considers placing a child for adoption. Whether she is single or married, a teenager or not, with a good support system or not so much, the ultimate decision to abort, keep, or place is one that will haunt her for the rest of her life. For me, I was 16 years old, with a loving, supportive family and an awesome boyfriend. I was simply too young. It was 1984 and choosing to place was a forever deal—closed and sealed with no choice about who the parents would be and with no option of ever seeing your baby again. This is my story about grief and healing but most of all, about love. I dedicate this series for all birth moms, whether their adoption was closed, partial, or open, for their sacrifice and grief and loss that is so profound and so deep and complex that even their closest loved ones don’t truly understand. May you find healing and peace.
Read the previous article in this series: My Experiences As a Birth Mom Have Enabled Me to Help Others
As the years went by, I scanned the faces of young boys and then young men to see if I could see any similarity to myself or to my own children. The year that I taught students the same age as my lost son, I discovered that one of the boys shared my birth son’s birthday. I looked through his school records to find some clue, but when I met his mom, I knew there was no way he was mine because he looked just like her. While the pain of placing a child lessened over time, the longing for him didn’t.
When I had signed away my parental rights, I had promised a judge that I would never search for him. I am a woman of integrity, so it was important to keep my promise. By the time that he was a legal adult, however, the Internet had arrived, and I found myself trolling through adoption websites to see if I could find any information. I decided that I wouldn’t be breaking my promise if I put my information out there, and then if he wanted to find me, there was a possibility that he could. I chose Adoption.com’s Reunion Registry to place my information.
Occasionally I would check to see if anyone had looked at my information. There were a few views, but I was not contacted. In the spring of 2007, it seemed like every day I was reminded of my birth son or adoption or had an experience where I watched open adoptions and longed for the ability to know SOMETHING about him. I found myself on my knees frequently pouring out my grieving mother’s soul for peace and solace. I was restless but didn’t know why.
The Monday after school got out for the summer was a good day. I slept in and then tackled a bunch of little cleaning projects that had been put aside until summer. I usually check my email several times a day, but that day was full of work and family. After a fun family dinner and a living room drive-in movie, we were all settling down and going through the routine of settling down for bed. I checked my email. There was one that was unfamiliar. We had been receiving a bunch of spam lately, so I was in the habit of just trashing any unknown emails. Just as I was about to delete it, I had a strong feeling to open it. I told myself that it was foolish to open it because it could contain a virus, and I was just about to delete it, when, once again, I had a feeling—stronger this time—to open it. I did.
“Hi. My name is Ben Angus. I was adopted and was looking on Adoption.com and found that your information matched mine. I want to know about my medical history for the sake of my son. I don’t want to disrupt your life or anything, but I would appreciate any information you could give me.”
I stared at the computer screen and began to hyperventilate. I was totally freaking out. “Barry!!!!” The sound quality of my voice made my husband hurry into the computer room. All I could do was point at the screen.
His eyes lit up. “Oh, Lisa. I am so happy for you!”
“What do I do?” I had dreamed and prayed and hoped and wished for this moment, but now that it was here, I was afraid. I had heard the horror stories about adoption, and was concerned that I was embarking into a mess I didn’t want.
It was 10:30 at night, and it was a family policy to not call after 9:00 except in an emergency. I couldn’t help it. I called my parents. My mom answered. Shakily, I read her the email. I asked her how many hospitals there were in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. She didn’t know. We both did an online search and found that there were three, but two were specialty hospitals and only Lutheran Medical Center delivered babies. It began to seem unlikely that another baby boy could have been born on November 17th, 1984 in Wheat Ridge Colorado. I sent a very tentative email in return.
Over the next few days, the emails were sent back and forth. We both hounded our computers all day as we exchanged information. The adoption agency was the same. I contacted a friend who worked for them, and she said she would do some digging. He sent me a photo of himself now and as a baby. His features, coloring, and even size, fit, but I couldn’t be sure.
My friend from the adoption agency called and told me that they couldn’t open the records without a court order and explained the very expensive and lengthy process that this Ben Angus would have to go through to do that. She did tell me that the records ended up in Castle Rock, Colorado. I sent a long email to Ben with the information I had received.
The next thing I knew, I received an email from Bridget, Ben’s wife. She said that Ben was a mess and needed her to write. He grew up in Castle Rock, Colorado, and the adoption was finalized there. Even though I was from Wyoming and he was born in Colorado, we had both ended up in Utah. He was only two hours away. The first thing I did as soon as I got up was check my email, so I received that email first thing in the morning. Bridget asked if we could meet up for lunch that day.