‘Do you have something to tell us?’ I was 15, pregnant. I wasn’t allowed to hold her.’: Birth mom has unexpected reunion with daughter’s adoptive family in Disney World, ‘I couldn’t even blink my eyes. I was shocked.’

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“I was 15 when I found out I was pregnant in July 2005. My parents found out soon after when I accidentally slipped a note into their hands intended for the birth father.

In this note, I explained my fears, concerns, and how abortion wasn’t an option for me. When I arrived home from school that day, my dad and stepmom were both home sitting at the kitchen table.

‘Do you have something to tell us?,’ they asked me.

‘No,’ I said.

They asked again, and I replied with the same answer. They then asked me directly, ‘Are you pregnant?’ I remember laughing because it caught me so off guard. That nervous kind of laugh that you can’t stop no matter how hard you try. That night, we discussed options for what pregnancy looks like at 15. They expressed they did not want me to keep the baby, but rather place it up for adoption. I wasn’t open to this idea at all. I think when I found out I was pregnant, I had this storyline play out in my head of what it would look like. It was going to be a hard road, but it was happy. Giving my baby over to strangers was not part of the story in my head.

A few weeks after this initial conversation, my parents informed me that I would be moving to Virginia. I would be staying in a maternity home there until the baby was to be born in February. Adoption was the choice that was made for me. There would be no other discussion. I was not happy with the decision of adoption or being sent away. At the home in Virginia, they had many different classes on choosing to parent or choosing the adoption plan. When I knew there was no way I would be allowed to bring this baby home, I started looking through the ‘life books’ made by the awaiting families to tell about their life. It’s so hard as an expectant mother to flip through those pages, see the pretty pictures, read though nice stories, and yet also knowing the weight of this decision. I had finally picked a family after days of searching.

Courtesy of Brittany Whatley

The next week, before meeting the family I choose, my father called to inform the home that he would be coming to get me. He had found a family for me to give my baby to, and I would not be returning to the maternity home. I was devastated. Everything was out of my control, and I felt so hopeless. I met the adoptive family on my 16th birthday. Honestly, I don’t remember much of that night. We looked through some of their family pictures and they shared some stories of their life. They seemed like nice, sweet, and loving people. I didn’t see them again until the birth of little ‘J.’

I was induced in January 2006 to ensure their presence at the hospital. That day held the most deep -rooted sadness I have ever felt. She was such a beautiful baby. I wasn’t allowed to hold her, but I was able to meet her finally that night. There were many fears from the adoptive family of me bonding with her and changing my mind, but they had no idea that my mind wasn’t allowed to be changed.

Courtesy of Brittany Whatley

Upon leaving the hospital a few days later, we all cried and prayed. I was able to kiss her on the head before they drove away with my baby and my heart. The weeks and months that followed are really all a blur. I was adjusting back at home, being homeschooled, and struggling with who I was now. I couldn’t see any of my old friends or have any kind of a social life, and that was hard on me as a person, as well as a teenager. I was suffering, and another decision was made by them to send me away to a Christian boarding school for a year. I think they thought this would help me refocus.

I left early the next morning after they broke the news. This time away was hard. I was away from family and everything I knew as home. I was the oldest girl at the home, so trying to be a positive and encouraging was a hard task amidst the many emotions in my 17-year-old self.

I ended up staying longer than my intended year and graduating high school there in 2008 and went on to attend college for a semester in Pensacola, Florida, in 2009. I ran out of money, drive, and passion. I was continuously trying to gain acceptance from others. I eventually went to Texas to live with my mom who was heavily addicted to prescription pills and alcohol, and that eventually turned to crystal meth. It was very hard going from such structure to her chaos. I lived with her for almost three years before working enough to save for a car and a place of my own. I then started to nanny on the side, and that quickly grew to full time. One of the families I was very close to moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas, and after begging me every day for about a month, Fayetteville, Arkansas, became my new home. I have been here for the last 7 years now and I am so blessed. This was the first time in my life I’d been able to truly make decisions for myself. I found a wonderful church and such a sweet church family. I was able to work at a large church in Springdale for a few years, and I was able to finally see what the love and grace of Jesus can look like in your life. I was able to understand that everybody has a mess. Everyone can be forgiven. Everyone can have a new start. God has provided many people in Northwest Arkansas that allow me to be a part of their families, and I will always treasure them.

Gareth Paterson Photos

I recently was able to share my story on a radio program in Colorado. That interview sparked a conversation between my dad, stepmom and I that I know would not have happened otherwise. This was the first time in 10 years that we were able to sit down and discuss those events that had happened all those years ago. There were tears and we were all able to be honest about feelings, where we were then versus now, and where we ideally want to be. I truly believe we are all on a road to healing and to a true relationship, which is something I have been missing for a long time. My mom is still battling addiction, but I am hopeful one day she will make a full recovery. I’m hoping the jail time and rehab stays will be a true wake up call for her, and she can start living a clean and healthy life.

I had always had a dream of going to cosmetology school – something on that ‘one day’ list we all have. In 2017, I started the year-long journey. I made some of my dearest friends, and, even better than that, I was there for the next part of my adoption story.

I was a few months from graduation, browsing social media, and saw a post from ‘J’s adoptive mom. We had only semi-recently become Facebook friends, and I was always very careful to not like or comment on anything. I just wanted to observe from the outside. I was so thankful to be able to see all of the pictures or funny stories of ‘J,’ and never wanted to do anything to mess up or overstep this privilege. The post I saw was about their family getting ready for a family vacation. I chuckled, because I was also getting ready for a family vacation with a close family I have in Arkansas. We go to Disney every year, and we were just a few days from leaving. I didn’t think much more about it and went on about my day. A few days later, I saw another post. This time, it stopped me in my tracks. This post talked about the weather where they live and the weather in ORLANDO… where they would be vacationing with their whole family. You know, the same place that I will be going… I just sat there, looking at my screen, feeling like I couldn’t even blink my eyes. I was shocked. I was a few days away from making this SAME trip, and was flooded with excitement, nervousness, and had so many questions.

When I tell you, we went to the same place at the same time, I just hope your heart is beating as fast as mine. I could write a book on how all of the story worked out, but, honestly, just know it’s nothing short of a beautiful miracle, The family I am close with decided to send a simple message exchanging the craziness that we were going to the same place at the same time. I had no idea she was doing this because I was always too scared to say anything to them! We all were able to meet. In Disney World, of all places… Jesus is funny sometimes. It wasn’t quite the time or the place to spring up a meeting with my ‘J,’ but it was the most perfect reunion between her parents and I. I hadn’t seen these faces since I was 16, leaving a hospital, and now, at 28, I felt like a totally different person. Let’s be honest… I am a different person.

Courtesy of Brittany Whatley

There were so many emotions in those few hours we sat across from one another. Truthfully, as soon as I saw their faces I burst into tears. Our meeting only lasted those few hours but felt like a blink after all these years. We were able to go back to the beginning of our journey and ask/answer questions we have had over the years. They told me such sweet stories of my girl, and the person she is. It is the strangest feeling to know there is another mini version of you out there that you have yet to meet. ‘J’ will be 14 in January. She’s in the 8th grade, and I am told she is brilliant… like literally. She loves to craft, and her parents say she has a natural gift with music. She loves Jesus and anything that sparkles, which makes my momma heart so proud. Her parents are the most amazing, generous, thoughtful, and most Jesus-loving people I know. They have really gone above and beyond the closed adoption agreement to send me updates, pictures, and we have even had a few phone conversations. They didn’t have any idea of the events surrounding the adoption. It all happened so quickly – and we are really just within this year learning about one another as people, rather than the birth parent/adoptive parent relationship. This part is the unexplainable happy… looking at a picture of her, but yet seeing my eyes or my grin in her. Seeing how happy she is with her family and hearing sweet updates on her life makes it all so happy.

Courtesy of Brittany Whatley

They assured me that they are committed to us knowing one another when the time is right, if that’s what she desires. My heart swells at that statement, and also fills with doubt. I am so thankful to them and grateful for the models they are to her. I meet so many adoptees that have no desire to meet their birth parents, and they have valid reasons. I just have to leave it up to Him and have faith that because of their commitment one day, I’ll meet my ‘J’ once again.

Since this day in November 2017, her family and I have been able to stay in contact a little more. I even like a few posts here and there on social media – baby steps! I have finished up my cosmetology course and have started my own hair business. As with any business, the first year has had its ups and downs, but I have loved being able to pour back into the community. It has been such a joy to mix my passion for making my clients look and feel beautiful with volunteering and giving back around Northwest Arkansas. I have truly loved it here for many reasons, but especially for the abundance of resources available. This area has crisis pregnancy centers, shelters, birth mom support groups, and the huge hearts of men and women that consistently give so well – there’s truly so much support around every corner.

I have been connected with so many amazing people here. One of those people is my boyfriend, Lukas! He has been so supportive of my story and always makes himself available, even on the hard days. Dating after a story like you just read is hard. Will they treat you differently? Can you actually trust anyone? Will they be supportive if there ever is a meeting day? Only time will answer these but what I do know is… some stories are hard and messy, but are also so beautiful and undoubtedly written by Him. I’m so thankful for my ‘happiest sad’ and its continuing journey.”

Courtesy of Brittany Whatley

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brittany Whatley of Fayetteville, Arkansas. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more inspiring stories from birth mothers:

‘At 18, I hid an entire pregnancy all the way up to delivery. I refused to tell anyone. I was ashamed and afraid.’: Teen birth mom’s candid lessons learned after choosing adoption for her daughter, reuniting with her 18 years later

‘I got knocked up by the first guy I ever met from Tinder.’: Woman courageously places son for adoption after unexpected pregnancy

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