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“My name is unimportant, but the story that I am about to tell you is. For you to understand the ending, I must first go back to the beginning.

My story starts in San Jose, California. It’s the beginning of autumn, a brisk, cold morning. The sun was barely coming up. I am sixteen years old and did not yet know I was pregnant with my second child. I was living with my mom and dad in the bottom of a four-plex apartment. My parents were not very happy with me at this time because I was dating a twenty-one-year-old man named John. (Hey, don’t judge me. Pay attention to the story.) John and I had been dating for about eight months. We were very happy with each other. As a matter of fact, he was the one I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.

Unfortunately, there were a lot of obstacles in front of us, his age being the biggest one of all. For this reason, I never brought him around to my house to meet my parents. They knew of him but never met him. I was in a constant struggle between my parents and the person I was in love with. I tried and tried over and over again to explain to my mom how I felt about John, but she would yell at me or strike me across the face saying, ‘Don’t you ever bring that man to this house.’

On the other hand, I had John telling me to make a choice between my parents or him, and that I had the weekend to decide. What was I going to do? This was not going to be easy. I had struggled for hours that Friday afternoon weighing the options on whether I should stay with my parents or leave and live with John. I did not know what I was going to do.

The next morning I woke up feeling sick, but I had no fever. I just felt nauseous and very sluggish. My mom came in, yelling at me for no apparent reason. All I could do was roll over and cry into my pillow. I stayed in my room all that Saturday, just my daughter Tiffany and I. Come Sunday morning, I felt a little better, and after two days of thinking about nothing other than the ultimatum that was given to me by John, I had made up my mind on what I was going to do. I could not wait to see John on Monday to tell him what I had decided. I had already started to pack some of my things so that when I saw him, I was ready to leave with him. I was walking on air. Now, it was a matter of the waiting game. I was waiting anxiously for Sunday to be behind me and Monday to be the beginning of my future. I was ready for this new life with him and my daughter.

The minutes seemed like hours and the hours seemed like days. I thought Monday would never come, but finally I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion and woke up at 8:27 a.m. the next morning. I was supposed to meet John around the corner of the house at noon to let him know what I had decided. I remember thinking, ‘He is going to be so happy.’ I jumped up out of bed and ran to the bathroom to take a shower. Then, I got all fixed up and ready to go. I slipped my suitcase out of my bedroom window so that my mom would not see me leaving with it. Once I got outside, I picked up my bag and ran to the agreed meeting place that John and I had set. I arrived a few minutes early, but it was okay because it gave me a little time to fix myself up from running all the way. Noon had finally come, but there was no John. I waited two more hours and still no John.

Was I confused? Where could he be? I tried to call his cell phone from the payphone at the store, but it went straight to his voice mail. I started to think that he had maybe decided that he did not want me anymore. I began to feel sick to my stomach again wondering if my thoughts were correct. I felt about as low as one person could be. I didn’t even want to go home, so I started to wander around trying to figure out what I might have done to make him leave without me? I felt all alone. What to do? What to do?

After wandering around for about an hour, I went back home. There, I got a phone call from the police. They asked me if I knew John and I acknowledged that I knew him. ‘What’s going on?’ I asked. They told me they found my number in his phone and they were contacting me to let me know he was in a car accident and was in serious condition. I asked the officer which hospital he was taken to, and he told me. I rushed there as fast as I could, but once I arrived, I was told I could not see John because I was not family. I begged and pleaded for them to please let me see him, but my pleas fell on deaf ears.

I sat in that hospital for hours, asking over and over again how John was doing. Eventually, a nurse came out and told me to go home because his family didn’t want me there. My heart dropped. I broke down and cried, and for the longest time, I could not move. After a while, I called my stepdad and asked him to please come and pick me up. Once home, I went straight to my room and cried the rest of the night.

That evening, my friend told me John did not make it. I was not sure if it was the truth. I tried to see his family, but they sent me on my way. I started feeling sick. I wasn’t sure if I had a bug or if it was because of John, or what? But I kept having to go to the bathroom to throw up. This felt different, and it went on all night until daybreak.

I felt really funny, so I got dressed and rushed to the store to buy a pregnancy test kit. I rushed back home and took the test, and again all I could do was cry. The test was positive. ‘Oh my god, what am I going to do?! The father of my baby is dead. I have a one-year-old. What am I going to do?’ I made an appointment with Planned Parenthood. As soon as they could get me in, I went through the exam and found out that I was not only pregnant, but that I was four months pregnant and I didn’t even know it. I figured I would keep the baby to remind me of John, so for the next four months, I carried what I was told would be my baby girl.

Now, during this whole time, my mom despised me because I was having this baby. She tried doing everything possible short of hitting me to get rid of my baby. My mom told me to choose: ‘Either you keep the baby you’re having and you get rid of the one you raised for a year, or you get rid of the baby you’re having now.’ I was so upset. How can you choose between your kids? How can she do this to me? I told her my children were not pets; you can’t make me give them up.

Well, my daughter was born on April 5th, 1990. As soon as I gave birth, all I overheard was a faint cry, and then my mother telling the doctor to ‘get the baby out of here’ because we were ‘not keeping it.’ That crushed my soul. I was never allowed to see my daughter; she was taken away from me the moment she came out. I was in shock, horrified by her own words.

My mother told them to put the baby up for adoption; I was told I had no choice in the matter because I was a minor, and my mom was my legal guardian. Things seemed to get worse and worse for me thereon. I felt like my life was spinning out of control and to make things even worse than they already were, my mom comes back in my room and tells me my daughter looks just like my first child. Talk about a stab to the heart.

That evening, the adoption agency came and made me fill out paperwork. I pleaded to write the baby a letter, telling her this was not my choice. Then, I overheard the nurse saying the baby had a ‘severe infection.’ I cried even more. The next day, my mom told me the baby had complications. ‘She didn’t make it.’

With the news of my daughter’s death, I did not think there was any coming back from this one, but somehow with the grace of God I made it through. Don’t ask me how because I could never even begin to tell you, but I will tell you this. Every year, on April 5th, I would sing happy birthday to my daughter, and every year, I went into the worst depression you can imagine.

I bet that you thought that this was the end of my story, didn’t you? Well, this was just the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

Courtesy of Tina Bejarano Gardere

You see, I met a wonderful man only two years later by the name of Eric, whom I have been married to for twenty-eight years now. We have three children together, two boys and one girl. He has given me all of the joy back that was taken from me at such an early age. If it were not for my husband, I might not be here today. I can proudly say things happen for a reason, and you may or may not believe me on that, but maybe you might believe this…

Twenty-nine years after the birth and death of my daughter, I received an email from Ancestry.com. The message came from a young man by the name of Kristin. He told me, ‘I believe you’re my mother.’ WHAT? You can imagine how I must have felt. For one, the child I gave birth to was a girl; second of all, my daughter died at birth. He told me he had taken a DNA test from Ancestry and that it matched mine from a year prior. I was in class when I got this message, and I ran out crying.

I called my husband and told him, ‘I’m on my way home!’ I gave Kristin my number told him he could call or text me, whatever he felt was more comfortable. Somehow I knew deep in my heart, this was my child. He then tells me that he was born a female, but is transgender. I was shocked for a few minutes because my mind was racing so fast. Could this be? After twenty-nine years? Could this be my child? He then begins to tell me he was born on April 6th, 1990, in the same hospital at the same time that my daughter was born. He also tells me he was adopted six days after he was born and that a loving family adopted him. I began to cry.

Courtesy of Tina Bejarano Gardere

My husband and I have been communicating back and forth with Kristin for the past eight months. He is married and has a baby girl. They live in New Jersey, and he and his family came down for the week of Thanksgiving. What a time to be grateful!

Courtesy of Tina Bejarano Gardere

My husband and I met our son for the very first time. I met my child that I gave birth to, the child taken from me who I was lead to believe was dead for the past twenty-nine years. My child I will be able to hold in my arms for the very first time, finally. So yes, I would say that this is a very Happy Ending to a tragic start.

Courtesy of Tina Bejarano Gardere

Reflecting on things, I often ask myself if I had the chance, would I have done things differently? If you would have asked me this question a year ago, I would have had a different answer, but because of the outcome, I would not change a thing! Losing John, the one man that my world revolved around when I was younger, and then my child after I gave birth took a considerable toll on me. I felt as if I could never love anyone again. I did not want to go through that pain ever again.

But I have honestly learned from all of this…

Things do happen for a reason. Through it all, I have learned to never give up on the Lord. John passed for a reason. Otherwise, I would have never met the wonderful man that I have been married to for the past twenty-eight years. It was God’s plan for him to come into my life now. Now I can be the mother I should be.”

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Courtesy of Tina Bejarano Gardere

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Tina Bejarano Gardere. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more stories like this:

‘This is weird, but I feel like I know you.’ My heart dropped. ‘Were you adopted?’ Yes. ‘How old are you?’ 40. ‘I gave birth to a child 40 years ago.’: Woman gives son up for adoption, runs into him 40 years later at supermarket

‘What do you mean we’re siblings?!’ We’d been dating for months, loved each other. We had NO IDEA.’: DNA test reveals couple adopted by separate famlies are related, now navigating ‘unique trauma’ together

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