When I discovered that I was pregnant, I was confused, frightened, and lost. I had just left home to join a band of traveling gypsies, or so I called it. These folks traveled around the country knocking on doors selling magazine subscriptions. You kept half the money to live on and the rest, I assumed, went to the actual company. I don’t really know because I only stayed with them four days. I started getting very sick the second day, and one of the other girls took me to a clinic to take a pregnancy test; it was positive.

I called my ex-boyfriend and told him, and I asked him to come and get me. In the meantime, the same girl told the director I was pregnant. He approached me and said that they would pay for an abortion and set it up for the next day and that I would work off that debt to the company. This scared me even more, and I called my ex back again and told him to get there that night. I snuck out, leaving everything. There was one thing I was certain of– I could not choose to abort this baby. And so the slow pregnancy journey began.

Fights ensued when we told our parents.  My ex-boyfriend’s parents were adamant; they wanted me to place her for adoption. We were too young. We weren’t together. The whole time no one ever asked me what or how I felt. I was told how to feel, by both sides. Eventually I found a home for pregnant girls where I was given prenatal care and was educated about my options.

The day came that would change my life and soul forever. At 1:30 in the afternoon, Tara Ann was born. The hospital staff told me that normally they don’t allow babies and mothers to see each other, but the agency made an exception for me. You see, the caseworker was, I believe, trying to get me to think for myself. When I got to meet this tiny little girl, she was so small. She had brown hair– mine is strawberry blonde. I did not want to let her go. I even told her father to come to the hospital to visit. They brought her in to me, and my ex started to leave. I told him he needed to hold her. If anything, it was for closure. But he needed to know, in my selfish mind, what he was going to miss as well.

For three days, I got to hold, sing, bathe, change diapers, and sleep with my tiny daughter. Then the agency came to get her, and I left the hospital alone. One week later, sitting in the bathroom waiting for the caseworker to come to the apartment for me to sign the final papers, I decided that I would say no. I would find some way. I would not sign.

When the knock came at the door and the case worker was inside, I walked into the room, sat down, and in a split second signed the papers, then left. I have never been able to understand or explain to myself how I did that. But I do know this: this decision was not about me; it was about a child who I could not give what was needed at that time, what was necessary for life. This was not a selfless or selfish act. This was her survival.

It’s been thirty-five years, and my heart has hurt every single day. However, I believe it’s beginning to heal. In 2010, I found myself on Adoption.com. I typed in my daughter’s name and through the grace of God found that she had registered herself.  I still haven’t met her, but I like to imagine the wonderful parents and siblings that she has grown up with, and I realize that with me, she probably would have survived. But she has done far more than survive– she has thrived. That is the “how” behind my decision to rise up and sign the papers, giving her the chance for a far better life.