I Reunited With My Birth Daughter 17 Years After Giving Her Up For Adoption

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“I laid back and let my entire body sink into the bubble-filled bathtub. I have always said, I do my best thinking soaking in a hot bath. But tonight I wasn’t thinking. I was praying.

The double red lines on my pregnancy test kept presenting itself, in my mind, like flashing neon lights. Positive. Positive. Positive. That $6.99 plastic stick read everything about me, my past, my future, and who I would be labeled as for the rest of my life. I didn’t need a mirror to look into, that stick showed my reflection perfectly, a teenage pregnancy, a statistic.

I would dunk my head completely under the water and tell myself, ‘I’m fine. I can do this. It’s okay. I’ll be okay.’ By the time my head would reach the surface, I’d be sobbing again. I’d try and stop myself, slide my body deep into the water and again say, ‘I can do this. I’m okay. I’ll be okay.’ Every time I resurfaced my emotions would break through.

I was 19 years old when I found out I was pregnant. I was single and living away from home. I knew very little about adoption and being a birth mother, but I knew that was the path I would be taking. In 1999, I picked the couple who would raise my baby girl from a double-sided, lined paper of facts about them, their hobbies, and a handful of pictures. When I announced they were expecting a baby girl, they informed me that they were expecting a baby boy- due six short weeks after me. They would be raising twins!

In the fall of 2000, in the mix of sweat, white knuckles, and tears that stemmed from emotions much more in-depth than I could comprehend, I delivered the most beautiful baby girl, my little butterfly. She was perfect in every way. I had four priceless days with her. ‘Be a good girl. Remember how much I love you. Remember my voice. Be a good girl.’ I whispered, into the tiniest ear that I had ever seen. After I placed her in the arms of her adoptive father, I got into my parents’ car and sat next to her empty car seat; its hollowness confirmed the emptiness I felt inside. That first night without her was unbearable.

Teen lays in hospital bed looking at newborn swaddled in her arms
Courtesy Gina Crotts

A month after I placed my little butterfly for adoption, I was engaged to a wonderful man who I had previously known, four months after that I was married, and three months after that I was pregnant again. It was a whirlwind of changes and emotions. My first son was born in February 2002. I spent the next 18 years navigating a rugged path through grief.

My placement was considered semi-open. I received pictures and letters for the first five years, and then a letter and picture yearly, on her birthday. A year after I placed my baby girl for adoption, I started a non-profit organization to serve birth mothers. I put together gift baskets that were full of pampering items, just for a birth mom, and delivered them to local hospitals and adoption agencies nationwide. Each basket contained a letter from a fellow birth mother, letting them know they were not alone in their journey. I traveled all over the states telling my adoption story and delivering birth mother baskets. After 14 years, and a thousand plus baskets later, I turned the non-profit over to new hands.

I put a lot of effort into trying to fill this hole in my heart, where my little butterfly once was. The hole was always there, tainting every positive thing in my life. I could be joyful, but with a tinge of emptiness. Grief followed me everywhere I went. Every year on her birthday, every Mother’s Day, every holiday, every moment that passed I felt her absence.

I have been fortunate to have three children, since placing my baby girl for adoption. Who I am today, has everything to do with being a birth mother—I love deeper, I appreciate more, and I never take a moment for granted. Living the majority of my life with grief on my back has not been easy. Teaching my children about their sister, who does not live with us, has not been easy. Learning to live without my little butterfly, has not been easy; and yet this is the only life I know. I started to find more peace in my life once I accepted the hole in my heart, where my little butterfly belongs and stopped trying to fill it with something or someone else.

My goal has always been to become someone my little butterfly could be proud of. I wanted her to have a desire to meet me, to know who I am, to know my family. I felt I had to become my best self for this to happen.

‘Mom, that girl standing in the hallway, wearing a Brigham Young University (BYU) sweatshirt, looks just like your little butterfly.’ My daughter, Evie (then 13 years old), was in the middle of a dress rehearsal at a local mall. All three of my children, at some point, would point out my little butterfly. We would see her waiting at the bus stop, driving in the car next to us, or the grocery store. She was very much a part of our lives and Evie had a picture of her in her room. We celebrated my little butterflies’ birthday every year with a cake. As I turned to see this mysterious look-alike, I paused and thought about her being in a BYU sweatshirt. I was aware of her desire to attend law school, possibly at BYU, and for the first time, as I turned to look, I thought to myself— could it be her, after all of this time?

I didn’t see my little butterfly when I turned around; I saw her adoptive father! He raised his hands in disbelief. She was there, and I was there, and the only thing between us was a door and the hallway of the mall. As I placed my hands on the doorknob, I stopped- I can’t walk out there, I thought. What if she doesn’t want to see me? In that short time, her adoptive father had pulled her aside and said, ‘Your birth mother is in that room. Would you like to meet her?’ I looked out the storefront window, and I saw him motion for me to come out.

I took two steps into the hallway before I was standing face to face with my little butterfly.

I reached out and grabbed her without hesitation and pulled her into my chest. My arms tightly wrapped around her tiny body. Her oversize BYU sweatshirt engulfed her and so did I. My left hand tight around her waist my right hand resting on her silky, light brown hair. There was no space between us, not thousands of miles, or legal papers saying I could not hold onto her. My baby was now an exquisite young lady right before my very eyes, right back in my arms once again, seventeen years later. Every pore in my body combined with hers, at that moment—we were as one. We were connected, as we had always been, all of these years.

Woman hugs teen she gave up at birth at reunion
Courtesy Gina Crotts

That seemingly unfillable hole that had unknowingly prompted every decision early in my life, and that I had accepted as a constant heartache for over a decade was instantly spilling out unconditional love all around me. I was whole! For the first time I realized what a wonderful decision I had made. She was alive, she was happy, she was sitting here with me now, and all I could think about was how I created her. Had I never found the courage to go through with the pregnancy, had I chosen to get an abortion and let her and all of it disappear as if nothing happened, she wouldn’t be sitting here next to me.

We spent the next year getting to know each other via text. Our relationship has evolved slowly, and I have allowed her to decide how much contact she desires, at this time. My heart is filled to the brim with love, pride, and gratitude for my little butterfly.

‘I guess I will be seeing you on Tuesday.’ The text pinged my phone, from my little butterfly.

I messaged back, as quickly as my fingers could type. ‘You will be?’

We had four days to prepare for her arrival. She was ready to meet my husband, my children, and my entire extended family, two days before Thanksgiving. It had been a year since I saw her for the first time, and our time together was too short. This time she would be coming to my home and meeting everyone.

The abundance of love exploded in my body, as she entered through the front door. The excitement and anticipation from my family, waiting behind me, could not be more fitting of my entire adoption journey, they have always been supportively behind me with their loving gestures and words.

I wrapped my arms around her familiar body, as I had done once before, and pulled her into me and allowed the light to flow between us. When I looked into her eyes, I saw my eyes. When I heard her laugh, I heard an echo. Watching her smile and laugh in the space that I call home felt nothing less than surreal. She was home, and a part of her is my home, we together as one are home. My door will forever be open to her, to her family, to her parents who have guided her, raised her, loved her to become an amazing, grounded, young lady! No gratitude is large enough to give to them.

Woman stands hugging teen daughter she gave up for adoption at birth
Courtesy Gina Crotts

The treasured sound of all of my children, together, laughing and getting to know one another is a gift I never thought I would be given. No other gift could be as sweet for a mother. I have never felt such completeness as I did watching my little butterfly talking with my parents, my husband, my in-laws, my sister, and my nieces and nephews. I don’t know where our story will take us next, as I could never have predicted such a beautiful moment as this. I do know this- I could never appreciate the light without experiencing such darkness. For the first time in my life, I can say my heart is whole!”

Mother smiles with three children and daughter she gave up for adoption at birth
Courtesy Gina Crotts

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gina Crotts. Follow her on Instagram here. Submit your own story here.

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