‘I was 15 years old when I found out I was pregnant. I woke up one day, went to my email to see a subject line: ‘Looking for Bonnie Perry?’: Teen mom’s reunion with daughter she gave up for adoption

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“I was fifteen years old when I found out I was pregnant in 1981. This was not my first rodeo. A year earlier, at fourteen, I had had an abortion, which I sobbed for, before, during, and months afterwards. It was not an easy choice, that abortion, and if I had it to do over again, I would do differently.

When I found myself pregnant again just a year later, I knew I could not repeat the abortion. My only option was to have the baby, so I stood up to my father and refused to abort. My father only wanted the best for me, and didn’t understand how THIS could be ‘best.’ We fought for almost three months, until it was too late for me to have an abortion, and then the song and dance of ‘You will give this baby up for adoption’ began. My pregnancy itself was healthy and smooth but it was an emotional nightmare, one which I would never want to repeat again.

On my sixteenth birthday, I sat in front of my fireplace all day, crying over my life. It should have been Sweet Sixteen And Never Been Kissed but here I was, seven months pregnant and looking like I’d swallowed a basketball. My baby’s father had disappeared when I told him I was pregnant and I had very few friends who stuck by my side. In 1980, being an unwed teenage mother was still considered the action of a wanton girl, and nobody wanted to be part of that.

February 23 of 1981 dawned, and the day was long. I was restless, even cleaning the kitchen from top to bottom, which was not something I would normally do. When I went to bed, I could not sleep and around 2 AM, I felt my whole bed suddenly become a flood zone. My water had broken, with no sign of impending labor leading up to it. I called the doctor and he told me to head to the hospital. My dad and I grabbed my bag and out the door we went, me with a towel between my legs as amniotic fluid was still seeping out.

In the hospital bed, they did an exam and determined the baby’s feet were engaged in my pelvis, and that when my water had broken, the umbilical cord had washed down between her legs. We had no choice but to do a Caesarean section, as if I delivered naturally, the baby would absolutely and without question, die in the birth canal. I was terrified as they prepared me for surgery and gave me the spinal anesthesia. An hour later, Bonnie was born.

My father was the first person to hold her, in the operating room and he noticed her eyes were already focusing on his face. I said ‘Her name is Barbara Anne,’ and they put me under for suturing time.

My intent was to keep the baby, whose name we shortened to Bonnie, after Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone With The Wind, and after my high school principal, Bonnie Culhane. She was a beautiful, tiny girl of five pounds, eleven ounces, and perfect in every way.

After two weeks trying to take care of Bonnie, I knew it was beyond my ability. My father, whom I had lived with all my life since he and my mother divorced, was ill with cancer, and could not help me. Bonnie’s father was out of the picture from the moment he found out I was pregnant. So I was on my own, and totally in over my head. Worried about making any abrupt choices, I placed her in foster care while I figured out what I was going to do. I felt like the world’s biggest failure, here I was, a mother and I couldn’t even take care of my own infant.

I got to know Bonnie’s foster mother during our visitations. A wonderful woman, Kate loved my daughter, and took amazing care of her. During the months that Bonnie was in foster care, I was trying to return to my old life of school and parties, and not doing well. I was in a deep depression, which wasn’t helped by my father’s cancer diagnosis.

Teen who had an abortion smiles as she sits beside her mother
Jennifer Thomas

After about eight months, I knew I could not tear Bonnie away from the only home she had ever known, and so I asked Kate, ‘Would you and your family like to adopt my daughter?’ Kate was blown away and said she would need to discuss it with her husband. On our next visit, Kate told me, yes, they wanted Bonnie with all their hearts.

Teen who had an abortion sits smiling with arms around her mother
Jennifer Thomas

When Bonnie was eleven months old, I signed over all rights to her, and based on Massachusetts state law at the time, I did not see or hear of her again for sixteen years.

Woman smiling
Jennifer Thomas
Woman sits in chair holding newborn while teen sits beside her
Jennifer Thomas

The following four years or so were a living hell for me. I was in a depression that did not seem to have a pathway out of. I missed my daughter, I hated myself. I sunk into drugs and alcohol. And when I was 17, the cancer took my father from me and I found myself living on my own.

I met my first husband when I was 20, and we married soon after. With him, came healing, and we began working on a family. It took me six years to conceive, and when I finally did, I gave birth to another daughter in 1991, Amy. That was when my healing really completed, when I had a child to hold and love and not have to let go of.

In 1995, I got my first computer and went online. I learned other birthparents had gotten in touch with their children via internet message boards and I listed myself on the AOL Massachusetts Birth Parent Registry, thinking maybe one day, Bonnie would see it. Then I put it out of my mind, as she was only thirteen, and I doubted I’d hear anything until she was at least eighteen.

Four years later, and many spam emails from private investigators offering to help me to find Bonnie for a fee, I woke up one day, and went to my email, to see a subject line: ‘Looking for Bonnie Perry?’

I almost threw it away unread, because I was certain it was another detective wanting my money. But I opened it, and read:

‘I am Bonnie’s sister. My mother would like to talk to you.’

After I got my breath back, I replied to the email with my phone number, and ten minutes later, I was talking to Kate, who told me Bonnie was alive and well, had a four month old baby of her own, and had been raised knowing that she had two mothers, and would one day know me. Kate and her husband Tony had changed Bonnie’s legal name from Barbara Anne to Bonnie Jennifer, the Jennifer for me, and the Bonnie to honor the nickname I had chosen for my daughter. Kate also told me that she would not put me in touch with Bonnie unless I planned to be in her life from that point on, that Bonnie was very sensitive and anything less would damage her. I promised to do the best I could, and we agreed on a date for me to go from California to New Hampshire to meet them all.

A few months later, I was on a plane, going to meet my daughter. I was a nervous wreck. Would she like me? Would I like her? What was my GRANDDAUGHTER like?

Woman smiles in selfie with granddaughter
Jennifer Thomas

The reunion went amazingly well. The Perry family basically made me one of them, and Bonnie and I hit it off like a house on fire. Until I met Bonnie as a seventeen year old young woman, I never realized that personality traits could be genetic. Talking to her was like talking to myself at the same age.

Bonnie is 38 now, and the mother of three, and stepmother of four more. We are very close, like a mother and daughter should be. She calls me Ma, and Kate is Mom. Today, Bonnie and I talked for an hour about kids, dogs, and life in general.

Woman who was given up at birth smiles as she is grown up
Jennifer Thomas

Giving Bonnie up for adoption was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but it was also one of the best. At sixteen, and being an undiagnosed bipolar disorder, I think Bonnie and I would have become some sort of awful statistic. Instead, she was raised by loving parents, with seven siblings who all loved her and could support her as she went through some very turbulent teen years, herself.

I am now fifty-four years old, and have six children. Bonnie, her younger sister America, and the four boys I adopted when I married their widowed father in 2004. My life is rich and wonderful, and my daughter is in my life, like I always dreamed she would be.”

This is an exclusive story to Love What Matters. For permission to use, email Exclusive@LoveWhatMatters.com.

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Jennifer Thomas. Submit your story here. For our best stories, subscribe to our free email newsletter.

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