Read the previous article in this series: After 22 Years, I Reunited With My Birth 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.
How do you build a relationship with someone to whom you are connected by blood and genetics but not by decades of experience? How do you love someone physically that you have loved in your heart each and every single day? How do you become someone’s sort-of mom without hurting or diminishing his mom’s place? How do you allow an adult stranger to be your child without taking away the relationship you have with your husband and children? For 22 years I had prayed and longed for the day in which I would be reunited with the son I had lost, but, to be honest, I never even really thought about what would happen afterwards.
I drove home from our reunion lunch elated, not quite believing what had happened. I knew that because of this moment everything would change, but I didn’t know how to make the next step. I was nervous about that. I ached to have his family in my life, but I was afraid, and I was certain that he was, too. The week after Ben and I met, my husband, children, and parents and I would all be in Salt Lake to get on the airplane to meet my sister and her family for a family vacation. Would Ben and his family be willing to see us all? I was relieved when Ben agreed.
We met the evening before our departure at the hotel in which we were staying. Along with my family and parents, my grandfather also came. We found a conversation area in which we could have our reunion. Hugs were shared and, to my relief, the conversation freely flowed. I could hardly keep my hands off of James, my grandson (!), and the baby of the baby I had not been able to watch grow up. After a while, I took him to my mom and placed him in her arms. She immediately teared up as she had the unmistakable witness that this baby was really and truly ours. She was a great-grandmother.
No one wanted the evening to end, but our plane was early the next morning, so we said our good-byes. For the next year, I always had with me the photo of our reunion. I tentatively invited Ben and his family to join us at Bear Lake at my grandfather’s cabin. I didn’t expect them to come and to stay the night with us, but I was delighted when they did. A few times that year, I had business in Salt Lake, and I would meet up with my new family at a restaurant. We learned about each other’s lives and were simply amazed at the similarities that Ben and I shared in mannerisms, speech patterns, and how much we looked alike. We shared emails and Facebook.
Our reunion was over eight years ago. Ben and Bridget have added three other grandchildren to my life—Tyler, Alex, and Vivilynn. I was able to be there when the youngest two were born. We have continued to share Bear Lake vacations each summer, have gone to the zoo several times, and Ben’s family has joined us for a Thanksgiving or two. I have done the grandma thing and have gone to watch the kids play baseball and soccer. I was able to attend Bridget’s college graduation. They came for two of my children’s high school graduations. Ben’s family also came to support us through the deaths of both my grandfather and my father as well as the wedding of another of my kiddos. They have braved family reunions and meeting so many other relations.
As the years have passed, we have become a family. Our relationship is tender and special and unique. Ben shares traits with each of his biological siblings, and he and Kevin are especially alike. The gaping, oozing, debilitating hole in my heart is completely gone. In its stead, there is a space for Ben which has been expanded to include Bridget, James, Tyler, Alex, and Vivilynn as well as Bridget’s family. I have yet to meet Ben’s parents and siblings, but I hope to. I so want to meet Ben’s mom and tell her how lucky he is to have such a wonderful mom.
Ben and I have both said frequently that it couldn’t have worked out better if we had designed it ourselves.
Just a few weeks ago, we were able to be together for my dad’s family reunion. There were lots of cousins I hadn’t seen in a long time, so there were conversations going all around. Ben was sitting down the table from me trying to get my attention, but I didn’t hear. Suddenly he said, “Mom!”
As I turned, he was grinning at me. “I knew THAT would get her attention!”
My eyes widened. “You called me mom for the first time.”
“Actually, I have called you mom many times, but never to your face.” He was grinning from ear to ear.
“You called me mom.”
“Well, you are, aren’t you?”
“I’m one lucky guy having two moms.”
No more will I ever grieve the loss of my son.
I am frequently asked how many children I have. For years I proudly said three, but there was a twinge in my soul knowing about the fourth. Then, after our reunion, I didn’t know what to say. Should I say three or four? I finally asked Bangus (that is how we differentiate between my Benny and my Ben—Ben Taylor and Ben Angus) how I should answer that question. He told me flat-out that he would be offended if I didn’t say four.
So, now, when I’m asked, “How many children do you have?”, I say, “Four. Three boys and a girl.”
“How old are they?”
“30, 26, 25, and 22.”
“What are their names?”
“Ben, Ben, Kevin, and Katie.”
“Yes, I have two sons named Ben. Do you want to know the story?”
Read the next article in this series: A BIrth Mom Interviews Her Birth Son About His Adoption Journey
Read this author’s other series: “Silenced by Society: A Birth Mom’s Tale.“