The words hung between them. “You’re her mother, aren’t you?
And then a cascade of memories flooded *Laura’s heart. The moment life stirred inside her, a fleeting glimpse of pink softness – and then her empty arms opened wide to fill another’s.
“I knew she went to a good family,” the Tri-Cities businesswoman remembers about the 1984 open adoption and her decision to give her child away, “but still I wondered if I had done the right thing. It was such an empty feeling (after the birth) I can’t describe,” Laura says with tears in her eyes.
Even though she would second-guess herself upon occasion in the years ahead, from the moment the 18-year old discovered her out-of-wedlock pregnancy she knew her mind.
“I didn’t want to take the alternative (abortion),” the now “40-something” recalls of the choice she wanted for her baby. “Because there were so many people out there that can’t have kids, I wanted to give someone an opportunity.”
Opportunity was something Laura also wanted for her daughter. She herself had experienced the trauma of parental divorce at an early age, the struggle her mom faced as a single parent.
“We lived paycheck to paycheck, ‘dirt poor,’” Laura reminisces about the hardship she and her siblings experienced. “And at that point, I grew up saying I didn’t want to ever have kids or marry.”
Presented with her boyfriend’s offer of marriage, the pregnant teen feared a future similar to her own parents. Laura declined, resolving to make the journey alone.
“During pregnancy I vacillated some because I was by myself,” the attractive blonde relates about that difficult period. “All the girls at work kept asking if I was OK with giving up the baby.”
And even though her own mother supported her decision in the end, she was living in a distant state. A longtime friend seeing her plight opened her home to Laura during the months leading up to the baby’s birth. Unknowingly, this was a godsend.
“One day she told me,” Laura remembers the surprising news, “that ‘I know a lady who has tried to get pregnant that would like to consider adopting your baby.’”
Through an attorney, the woman and her husband were entered into the pool of prospective adoptive parents. After interviewing all, Laura again had to make a choice. “I chose the person that she worked with even though she hadn’t told me their names,” Laura says. “They took care of all my medical expenses while I continued to work and go to beauty school.”
A deciding factor had tipped the scale in the couple’s favor. They promised that they would always stay connected to this mother who carried their adoptive child. And even beyond pictures and letters through the years, they gave Laura a lasting connection.
“After the baby was born,” Laura says with a catch in her voice, “the adoptive mom asked if she could use my first name as the baby’s middle name, but spell it differently.”
The lifelong link soothed the teenager’s grieving heart in the dark days that followed. And true to a promise Laura had made to the couple, she never revealed herself to the child who was once hers; although she caught an occasional glimpse of her blonde hair as their paths crossed in their mutual community.
“It was kind of bittersweet – seeing her so happy, but not with me,” Laura says thoughtfully. “I always had to keep telling myself that I made the right choice because I wanted her to have more than what I could give her.”
Still, Laura longed to leave a legacy, a perspective of her difficult decision and a memoir of her life since giving up her baby. She created a 4x6 photo album and also slipped a handwritten letter inside. Only when the adoptive family felt their daughter was ready would she learn more about her birth-mom.
Time passed. Laura married and raised a family. The daughter she gave away thrived, excelling in high school gymnastics, leading her cheer team and then graduating from college.
Life was good, but Laura often wondered if her firstborn ever thought of her.
Then on a spring day, a medical appointment took Laura to a city on the west side of the state. What happened at a coffee shop was in Laura’s words, “a God thing.”
“Usually my husband goes in or we go through the drive-thru,” Laura describes their customary routine. “But this was a strip mall and there was no place to park, so he circled the parking lot and I went in.”
While waiting in line, Laura noticed the pretty barista staring at her.
“She asked for my order, but she kept looking back up at me,” Laura says as she remembers the scene, “like she knew me from somewhere.”
In casual conversation, Laura mentioned her hometown. And that’s when the brunette made the connection.
“You’re her, aren’t you?” the young woman said. “You’re my college roommate’s mother – and you look so much like her!”
Tears blurred Laura’s vision, but never the memory she took with her that day.
“And she cherishes the little photo album you gave her,” the young woman told Laura. “She talks about you all the time – and she wants to meet you.”
And at that moment, the empty place in Laura’s heart was suddenly full.
*To protect the family’s privacy, the birth mother's real name was not used.
Read more about this adoption story in a Light Notes Extra later this week. If you have a story idea for Light Notes, email email@example.com. Follow Lucy on Twitter @LucyLuginbill