Read the previous article in this series: What it Was Like to Become a Mother Again After Placing My Son

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.

Secrets destroy lives.  I had learned that during my teenage pregnancy, and I worked to not only believe that motto but also to live it.

A lifelong dream of mine was to be a school teacher. I worked on my degree as I became the mother of two boys and one daughter and developed a very serious health condition (side note . . . during this time I was given five years to live, but I was one of the first to go through a new procedure, which saved my life). My first teaching job was in a program for pregnant and parenting teenagers. The girls (and even a few boys) connected with me because I was the only one of their teachers who had been there, done that. After one of my students had her baby, I hauled my three kiddos along to visit her.

While visiting, she said, “Mrs. Taylor, going through that was the hardest thing ever. I can’t believe you have done that four times!!!”

My oldest son, Ben, was about six years old. He heard the comment about me having had four babies, and I watched him put up one finger and mutter, “Ben,” a second finger and mutter, “Kevin,” and a third finger and mutter, “Katie.” He then put up the fourth finger. He did it again. With his four fingers, he looked up and me and said, “Mom????????!!!”

I knew the time had come for me to talk to my children about a brother that they didn’t know, and I wasn’t sure if they ever would. As we got home, I told them in the simplest way that I could. Ben asked a few questions, Kevin didn’t seem to care, and Katie was simply too young to understand. After that, their older brother, Joey, was simply a part of our family. Occasionally questions would arise, but it was never a big deal. The kids learned that “Momma is sad because she misses Joey.” Katie especially loved to tell everyone about her three older brothers. I couldn’t have kept it a secret if I had wanted to.

As the years went on, I shared my story at times. I would reach out to other teenaged girls and their families. During one particularly poignant moment, I was stopped in the grocery store by the mother of a pregnant daughter. She grabbed me by the shoulders and, with tears streaming down her face, pleaded, “Please tell me she will be OK. Please tell me she will be OK. You are OK, right?” Occasionally, moms would ask me to talk with their pregnant daughters about the option of adoption. While a few did place their babies, the vast majority did not.

I began to be involved in Families Supporting Adoption, a faith-based adoption group that provided adoption services. In this group, before parents could adopt, they had to go through a series of classes. One required class was to hear from birth parents. Several years in a row I participated in the birth parent panel. Most of the time, I was the only older birth mom who placed in the era of only closed adoptions. I had several adoptive parents tell me that my story was the reason they chose an open adoption.

Become an adoption advocate helped me in my healing process. I was able to take a very painful part of my life and turn it around and help others. I was able to share my longing to know my son and was able to simultaneously grieve and celebrate my Joey. Even though I could not be his mother, I was able to be motherly to those who were in crisis and to help them, whether they chose to place their child or not.  I was truly able to live my mantra that secrets destroy lives.

Read the next article in this series: 22 Years After Placing My Son for Adoption, a Young Man Reached out to Me

Read this author’s other series: “Silenced by Society: A Birth Mom’s Tale.”