“In February of 2017, I was sitting in our local Dairy Queen with two of my best friends sharing the seasonal ‘Cupid Cake.’ A message request on Instagram lit up on my phone.
‘I know this is weird because you don’t really know me… But you are adopted, right?’
I accepted the request and replied that yes, I was. After another moment, a reply came back from this girl asking if I would mind answering a few questions about my experience because she had just placed her son for adoption a couple days prior. My heart ached for this girl, Callie, as she opened up to me about her experience placing and the backlash she experienced from friends and family leading up to her decision.
She wanted to know how I felt about my birthparents having grown up knowing I was placed. I love them, and I told her that. She asked more questions about my relationship and found hope in the positive nature of my experience.
She was from Mississippi and the adoptive family was from Utah. She was my age; 17. She had a lot of similar interests and was also an avid soccer player prior to her pregnancy. We kept chatting over the next couple days, which turned to weeks, which turned to months. Every day I would come home from school pretty much glued to my phone waiting for replies and typing back as quick as possible. It’s crazy how a simple Q&A session that first evening escalated pretty quickly into what I considered to be one of my best friendships.
A few days into our conversations, I asked how she had come to find me. She told me about her pregnancy and how she never felt like her baby was hers to keep. Then, one evening, she found a song I wrote as a freshman in high school for my birthmom called ‘Right Thing.’ She said she would listen to that song over and over until she decided that adoption would be the best option for her and her baby. She continued to listen to my song as she poured over hopeful adoptive parent profiles and said that ‘Right Thing’ was the only thing that gave her the strength to go through with signing papers the day she did.
We eventually ditched Instagram and exchanged phone numbers. It was so cool to call Callie. We talked often and for a long time. We sent pictures back and forth and I was able to see pictures she would get from her baby’s parents. Porter was such a doll.
But Callie had a lot of hardships. She would text me often asking for pep talks to get her through the day. Her mother found out she was pregnant but not with her fathers’ baby. She later miscarried. During that time, Callie felt a lot of pressure like the things happening in her family were somehow her fault because of the stress she put on her family from placing Porter. She was in a car accident that totaled her car. She had to have an emergency appendectomy one evening. Before she went into operation, her sister, Emilee texted me and said Callie was in recovery and that she was so grateful that Callie had support in me.
At some point, Callie started talking to my mom as well. They would talk on the phone too, probably or longer on the phone than I had with her. Callie confided in my mom a lot of things. It almost felt like with so much chaos in her own home-life, she found solace talking to my mom. They had a really unique relationship. She was also in contact with another birthmom from Utah that my mom and I have been able to become friends with. She had a good support system, just not from her family. In a sense, we were her family. My dad grew to love her too. Even though he didn’t have contact with her directly, he checked in with my mom and I regularly and worried and prayed for her.
There was one night towards the end of March that she told me if it weren’t for me, she wasn’t sure if she would still be here. I was her best friend, and we still hadn’t even met in person.
In May, I sat down and wrote a new song for her. This song was called ‘I Wish.’ I decided to take it to Facebook live one evening, and it had incredible reach. People loved it because it related to them. I wrote it specifically for Callie, but was careful to leave it open enough that it could apply to a lot of people in whatever walk of life they may be in.
That song gave me nationwide connections and led me to be able to travel to other states to speak at support groups and retreats within the adoption community. That was such a blessing.
Months continued with our daily conversations. I loved my friend. But as my mom talked to her, some things weren’t adding up. Details changed, and motherly intuition came in. With some probing and a phone call to her supposed high school, we came to an unbelievable realization; Callie was not a real person.
We confronted her and told her we knew she wasn’t who she said she was. She asked us not to be angry, and we asked for answers.
She wasn’t Callie Coleman. She wasn’t 17. The pictures she had sent us of her weren’t really her, and the pictures of her baby, weren’t really her baby. She was a 26-year-old woman who hadn’t placed for adoption, but had just wanted to know more and didn’t know how else to. She told us how she had genuinely come to know and love our family, and that’s why this relationship lasted as many months as it had.
I was devastated. I felt like a best friend had died, but how can you mourn for someone that never really existed? My mom watched as her usually bubbly 17-year-old was reduced to a blubbering mess. I couldn’t get out of bed, and my body literally ached. But life had to move forward. I had a gig that I was supposed to sell CDs at. My mom took me out for a photo shoot and I couldn’t muster a real smile for even one picture.
My mom did what she thought was best, and emailed the address ‘Callie’ had given us. She explained how much pain I was in, and asked that if she meant it that she had genuinely grown to love our family, then she would FaceTime us and let us see her real face. Eventually, she replied and said she would let us call. She came up on the screen, and looked nothing like the girl we had received pictures of for months. But that was her voice. It was surreal to hear the voice we had talked hours to, but coming out of someone we didn’t recognize. She apologized profusely.
That conversation brought me closure and helped me to start to pick up my pieces. My mom took me to my favorite breakfast spot and I was able to get Blueberry French Toast Cobbler. That was my first smile in days. That same day, my two real best friends had made me cookies, got me my favorite candy, and showed me that I would be okay.
So, I put on a shirt that said ‘Happy Camper,’ and took the picture that became my CD cover.
Why do I still tell this story years later? Because it mattered for me. I had to decide if I was going to be angry and hate the girl that had cause all that pain, or if I was going to forgive her and love her. I chose the latter. I chose to look at the experience with gratitude. Because of her, I learned how to answer questions about adoption. Because of her, I wrote ‘I Wish’ and have been able to make invaluable connections. Because of her, I don’t always trust people on the internet. I looked at all that time and how I could think of it as a waste, but how it was a blessing because I learned. No, the things ‘Callie’ went through weren’t real, but the lessons I learned were. And, even if they weren’t problems she actually told me about, this girl had problems and needed help nonetheless.
I wrote another song. ‘Hindsight’ is defined as ‘understanding of a situation or event only after it has happened or developed.’ The song I wrote following this experience was called ‘Hindsight’ because I only understood the gravity it would have in my life when it was all said and done.
I tell this story to remind people to look for lessons, and not just reasons they feel they were wronged or things weren’t fair in life. I’ve been told I shouldn’t share it because if I weren’t so naïve, it wouldn’t have happened. To that, I wrote another song. (Do you see a pattern?)
My takeaway would be this: Sometimes experiences suck. But it’s what you do with those moments that matter. You can let them define you because they hurt, or you can think of them as growing pains. I’m impressed by people who use their seasons of heartache to propel them forward into someone they didn’t know they needed to be.
Wherever you are in life, look at all the things you can learn and things that you have the experience to help others hurdle. Because we were never meant to hurt on our own.”
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This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah Jennings. 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 Hannah’s powerful backstory of being an adoptee, and her relationship with her bio mom:
‘My birthmother went into labor. Her secret would soon be out. Lying on the floor, she called her sister in pain. ‘What’s wrong?,’ she frantically asked. ‘My baby is coming. I need the hospital.’
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