During the three days after my first son was born, I believed beyond hope in “happily ever after.” But 11,000 more days would pass before the fairy tale ending to my story would come true.
I had just turned 18 when Daniel was born. In 1968, unmarried girls were strongly encouraged to relinquish their newborns to real families with two parents. Adoption was the only way to give an illegitimate child a real name, to banish the “mistake” of his birth. My baby was no mistake, unplanned maybe, but never a mistake – that was my first belief.
Daniel was born on Christmas Eve. The babies in the hospital nursery were festive in red blankets shaped like Christmas stockings, except for my son, who lay in the back of the room, away from the others, and wearing an ordinary white blanket. Already he was treated differently.
Daniel would be branded if I caved to my selfishness and took him home. On the last day in the hospital, I held him and whispered these two things I believed with my whole heart, “I will always love you, and I’ll look for you some day.”
Back then, the idea of reuniting with a child given up in a closed adoption was reckless and fool-hardy. Everyone, from my family, to the county social worker, to the administrator in the unwed mothers’ home where I lived for four months, told me to walk away, to pretend as though Daniel didn’t exist, to get married and have another child. They wanted me to believe what was impossible: that my baby was forgettable.
It’s true I had nothing to offer him. All I had was a high school diploma and little else, not even a driver’s license. In the end, doing the right thing wasn’t a choice; I had no options. I handed Daniel to a nurse and walked out his life.
Still, I always believed I would find him some day, if for no other reason than if he were anything like me, he’d want to know where he came from and why I let him go.
I now believe in the power of the promises I made to Daniel in 1968 when those promises were little more than wishful thinking. I believe that the wisest choice I made in my life was when I was a desperate teen-ager who wanted nothing more than to do what was best for her baby. And I believe that the next best choice I made was to look for and find my son when he was thirty and I was forty-eight, when we both had lived long enough to form beliefs founded in truth.
It turns out, I was right. Daniel wanted to know where he came from and why I couldn’t keep him. Seven years after our happy reunion, we both know I did the right thing when I let him go, and when I found him again.
He’s part of my family now. I believe in happy endings.
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