I’ve been thinking about this project a lot lately – mostly out of guilt because it has been laying nearly dormant for quite a while now – and I know that it’s time to get back to the work at hand. I won’t bore you with the gory details of my hiatus, just suffice it to say that I’ve made some pretty big changes to my life and lifestyle in the last few years, and those changes have really monopolized my time and attention – in a good way. However, this morning, one of my daughters jolted me to action: she had posted a thread on Reddit about my Adoption Reunion and sent me the link so that I could reply to some of the questions. One of them really hit a chord with me:
Has the reconnection (with her birth family) caused any major changes mentally to your mom or grandma?
Honestly, it changed everything for me, in ways I never could have imagined. Every Thing. Clear down to my core self-image. I like who I am now. It sounds so silly, but that’s a big deal – to like the person you are, and not need other people to validate you, your abilities or your choices constantly. It made me so much more confident, and clear about who I am and what I want in this life. It’s been 7 years now since my reunion, and in that time, I’ve gained the courage to make some huge, critical changes in my own life. My daughter (who posted this thread) probably doesn’t even know how profoundly my reunion affected me, and consequently her and her sisters. I’m writing a book – working title is Little Circles.
There’s a lot more to my answer than that, but that’s the nutshell version. I know that it took me a number of years to be able to see the changes my reunion made to me, and likely I will continue to see changes as time goes on. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had this experience either, so I thought it would be good to pose the question here:
How has your reunion with your birth-mother/family changed you?
Susan R. ~ 87.100603
I was in White Shield. In 1987. I had a roommate, her name was Jackie. She had a son named Tyler. There were many young mom’s there at the time I was there.
I would really like to get in touch with Colleen, she had a son named Steven (Stephen). I would like to reconnect with her and others that were there at the same time I was. There was another young mom there. Her name was Ruth. We both were from the same town. Before we went into White Shield. I believe there was a girl named Sheila, she had a girl. I think she named her Chantel. This was a long time ago. And I am trying to remember who I can.
Susan's baby, Sam
I truly would love to get in touch with my old counselor from White Shield. His name was Keith B Baker. Married to Jill M Carter Baker. They had two boys and a one girl. Natasha. I think was her name. It would bring me great pleasure in reuniting with some girls and staff from there. I hope someone will see this. And recognize that they were there, when I was.
I have often thought of the babies in the daycare. As us girls would go to school. Take turns in the home with different chores. Attending a group therapy class. That the home had on sight.
Susan, Sam and grandson, Eli (1st boy in the family in 23 years!)
I was there with my son. His name is Samuel. After leaving the home. I ended up putting Sam up for adoption. I have to say it was the most toughest decision one had to make. It was better off for him. I could not offer him nothing but my love. My family members were never supportive. They still are not till this day. Anyway, 5 years ago, I was reunited with Sam. And he actually just moved back home with me after us being apart for 20 years. We kept in some letters and photos over the years. But I had a hole in my heart the entire 15 years we where apart. Before I got to see him again. I cannot tell you the VOID it has filled for me.
Please if anyone remembers me, or the people I have spoken of. Please let me know. If you know them still today. I really want to be reunited with the girls that shared the home with me at the time.
"All my kids with me. I adopted two and had three." ~Susan
You may contact Susan by email at anybodyinthere71(at)msn(dot)com.
Teresa ~ 61.100508
I have to say that any digging, no matter how slight, into my adoptive past is usually done with an equal mixture of interest and dread. I have often thought about the White Shield home, imagining it as something along the lines of a dark, awful orphanage (think Jane Eyre). I imagined strict, nun-like disapproval of the young girls and women who found themselves pregnant and in need of a place like White Shield. However, I just finished reading your story about your visit, and it has eased a burden on my heart that I have carried for my birth mother.
I was born Mary P., (now Teresa) at White Shield in 1961. I was at the Home for three months before I was adopted, from what I understand. I always wondered if my birth mother and I were in the same building for at least part of that time.
I have always been grateful for my birth mother’s selflessness (hopefully by her choice, but most likely she didn’t have much of one), and guilty that she was forced (as she was from back East, I am assuming she was ‘sent away’) to spend her pregnancy and childbirth in a bitter, hostile environment.
To find out that she was in a place that, although not a perfect one, seemed to be at least not the awful, fearful place I had always imagined it to be is such a relief to me. Hopefully she made friends with some of the other young women there, and had their support and love.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day – for adoptee, first parent, and adoptive parent alike, a day that stirs up a complex stew of emotions. It is also, coincidentally, my first mother’s birthday, and with that in mind, I thought it appropriate to share with you a little window into my own story – a portion of the first contact that I had from her, sent June 2, 2006 – shortly after my sister and I found one another. The subject line of her email…Checking In.
“Now how is that? Checking in. Like I have known you all your life. Knowing maybe not; but you have been with me all your life. You just didn’t know it.
… I am so thankful to know you are alright and that you have a good life. When I found out you were going to be born, the most important thing to me was that you had a wonderful, happy childhood, with two parents who would love you as long as they lived. I knew I would love you always but I didn’t know if I could give you that happy childhood so I did what I thought I could to ensure you what I had always wished I could have.
I remember just like it was yesterday, the day you were born and the 30 minutes they let me hold you before they took you away. You were the most beautiful baby I had ever seen. Like a porcelain doll. Your tiny hands and feet and your angelic face. You have always been with me…”
Receiving that email changed my life, and I am so grateful to my first mother for her inner strength and her kind heart, both of which I like to believe I inherited. I share this very private message with you today because I know that it is one silently repeated every Mother’s Day by thousands of birth mothers throughout the world. “You have always been with me…”
I wish you peace, hope and great love this holiday.
Renee ~ Founder, The White Shield Project
Share your story.
Diane ~ 72.070908
My name is Diane, I am 51 years old and am a birth mother who lived at the Salvation Army White Shield Home in Portland, Oregon in 1972… I have many memories from my 3 month stay at the home… When I stayed there is was still very secretive. Birth mothers used fake names (so no one could look us up later), were not allowed to tell very many people where we were (only close family in my case) so my memories seem like a dirty little secret but I know they are real and I have a very big need to let them out… Just to let you know, my son and I found each other 10 years ago. The reunion has been wonderful in so many ways and we are both thankful that we know each other and know “our story”.
V.T. ~ 40.070726
I am just beginning the process of trying to locate the son that my mother relinquished for adoption in the early 1940’s. She stayed at and gave birth at the White Shield home. I did not learn about this child until after my mother’s death in 1989. It was, sadly, something she could never have disclosed. What prompted my search was the book The Girls Who Went Away. I was so moved by the words of both the mothers and their children that I felt compelled to find the child, even though I could no longer talk to my mother about this event. There is no doubt in my mind, however, that the birth and relinquishment of this child changed my mother’s life immeasurably, irrevocably, and in ways that none of her other 6 children and her husband (who did not know about the birth) could imagine.