In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the fourth annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days. Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
Told in Two Parts By Kim Turner and Hannah
By Kim Turner
I wrote an anonymous piece for the 2011 Adoption Portraits series where I revealed that I had hidden a teenage pregnancy from my family and then placed my newborn daughter for adoption. For the first two years after she was born, the baby’s parents sent letters and pictures to me, but I could not bring myself to write back; it was too painful and terrifying. I was afraid to say the wrong thing.
We had an agreement that “the baby” could seek me out when she turns eighteen, but I was terrified that she would be uninterested in doing so. Fifteen years went by, and I lost contact with her family. I carried the burden and pain of my secret all this time, alone, and every single day, it hurt.
I had never shared my story with anyone before writing about it in Portrait of an Adoption. The response to my piece overwhelmed me. With the support from Carrie and this community, I found the courage to tell my own family about my daughter, all those years later. I felt such a weight lifted from my soul. I was not ever ashamed of my decision; I only held my secret to protect my daughter. But it felt so good to share her existence with those I loved.
The Portrait readers also encouraged me to reach out to my daughter’s family, but it still took me two more years to feel ready. I have been in private contact with Carrie all this time, keeping her up to date on the evolution of my thought process.
I really thought that seeing my daughter that one time before she left the hospital — along with pictures and letters her parents sent — would be enough. It wasn’t. There was not a day, and hour, that went by that I did not think of her. I have now spent eighteen years in the dark. Both in my heart and in my mind. Nothing filled that dark spot with any light. While I was completely secure in my decision to place her for adoption, and while I had complete faith in her parents, my heart ached to be close to her.
On Hannah’s eighteenth birthday, I took a birthday card to the agency where I placed her. I walked in the door and burst into tears. I could not even calm down enough to explain why I was there. The receptionist rushed to get a social worker who ushered me into a conference room and grabbed a box of tissues.
It took me several minutes to compose myself.
When I was finally able to talk, I told the social worker my whole story and handed her the birthday card. We spoke for almost an hour. When I left the agency, I called my husband, crying again. He talked to me all the way home (via bluetooth) and held me as I cried even more after I arrived home.
I was so afraid Hannah would hate me. I was afraid she wouldn’t understand and might feel as though I abandoned her. I was also afraid she would have no interest meeting me or knowing me.
I went through several emotions those first few days. I was scared, sad, stoic and then just resolved to the fact that I may just never hear from her.
Twelve days after I dropped off her card, my phone rang! IT WAS HANNAH!!!
That first night she and I spoke for a half hour on the phone and then another 5.5 hours through texting! She friended me on Facebook, and we spent that whole night getting to know each other. She invited me and the rest of the family to her high school graduation.
She wanted me to be a part of her life!!! I was in heaven. We began talking several times a week.
One month after Hannah’s eighteenth birthday, a school club to which she belongs planned a trip for a competition to a college that was only ten minutes away from me! (She lives two hours away). She asked me to meet her at the hotel where she would be staying. Of course I said yes, and then counted down the days until I could finally see her again.
Eighteen years and one month after I handed Hannah to her mom, I finally held her in my arms again.
We both cried and hugged for several minutes before we could even talk. And then we talked and laughed and hugged and took pictures and talked and laughed some more. For almost four hours!
She was in town for three days but was very busy. I saw her one other time while she was here, which was an unscheduled bonus. I felt like I won the lottery! On that second day, Hannah also met her two younger brothers, my sons.
The day Hannah left town, she sent me a text message saying, “I miss you already!” I burst into tears. My joy was unparalleled. After so many years of pain and constant ignorance where my daughter was concerned, I finally had the closure that eluded me for eighteen years.
A few weeks later, Hannah and her mom, Cheryl, attended a function we were having. I met them as they pulled up. It was so amazing to see Cheryl again. She and I hugged and cried. The first thing she said to me was, “I love you, Kim.”
I thanked her for raising such an amazing young woman and for making all my dreams for Hannah come true. She thanked me for allowing her the opportunity. The tears were plentiful. That day, Hannah was able to meet the whole family. We went shopping and then had dinner. She and her mom spent the whole day with us. I was floating on air all day.
A few weeks after that, Hannah spent her spring break with me. For the first time in my life, I had all my kids in the same house, all sleeping peacefully. I cannot describe the emotions.
Soon after that, I drove to my daughter’s town and watched her graduate from high school. I also got the chance to see her dad again, for the first time in eighteen years. Adoption reunion was so healing for me.
It was such a surreal moment to witness this big milestone. I had missed so many over the years. During the graduation ceremony, Hannah’s dad would periodically turn to me and tell me little stories about Hannah growing up. It was the sweetest thing and filled my heart with so much joy, I thought I would burst. Since then, we stay in regular touch, and Hannah spends with me when she can. During all those years I lived in darkness, I never could have imagined feeling this happy again.
My life was shaped by the decision of two people who decided to adopt over eighteen years ago. I received the chance to live the kind of life all children deserve. Actually, this decision was really made by three people: my mother, father, and birth mother.
On February 24, 1996, I was handed into the arms of my mother and father. My parents weren’t able to have a child, so they adopted. Adoption, in my eyes, is a wonderful thing. To me, birth mothers are the most unselfish people, having given up something so personal and close.
When was I told I was adopted? I am not sure. I feel that I grew up always knowing. My parents talked about it so often that it was second nature. As the years passed by, I kept getting the urge to seek out my birth mother. As my eighteenth birthday approached, I felt so excited — I could finally make my own decision to find “Her!”
My whole life, all I knew was my birth mother’s first name, and I had seen a few pictures of her. One of these pictures was taken around December of 1995, when she was roughly seven months pregnant. No one could even tell that she was pregnant. She kept the pregnancy hidden from her family the entire time. She had a master plan when it came time to give birth; she told her mother she was not going to be home for the next couple of nights, and she told her managers at her two jobs that she would be back in a few days.
Adoption is very important to me, not only because it is a part of me, but also because it has great meaning to my extended family. I grew up with many friends who, for years, I never knew were adopted.
I learned that my grandmother had unwillingly placed her child for adoption. She was forced to give up her child; she was forced to leave home for nine months to live in a home in Virginia, where she lived with other moms that were pregnant but not married. After the birth of her child, my grandma had to take care of the child until an adoptive family could be found, and then she had to say goodbye forever. During that period in time, it was seen as taboo to be adopted.
I think about how hard it must have been for my grandmother to endure her loss, how hard it must have been for my own birth mother to give me up. My grandmother passed away in 2012, and she never got the chance to meet the child she had given up so many years before.
As my eighteenth birthday came upon us, the thought that I could possibly find my birth mom myself, now that I am an adult, was unreal. My parents received a phone call from the adoption agency on the day of my birthday. The woman from the agency explained to my father that my birth mother had delivered a birthday card for me. She needed permission from my parents to send it, since my birth mother never knew anything about me, not my address, not my name.
When I came home from work the day after my birthday, my parents sat me down and told me that I had received a card from “Her.” I kept myself calm on the outside, but inside I was anxious, jumping with joy. At the bottom of the card, it read, “I love you!” I felt depraved, because for once in my life, I could not say it back. Not because she was not there, but because I was not sure who she was.
I mustered the courage to call her a few days later. Over the next month, I talked on the phone a few times with her, but I wondered, who is she, really? She could be anything or anyone, hooked on drugs or alcohol, or someone with whom I might not want to keep in contact.
March arrived, and I was still in contact with “Her.” I was headed up to Wilmington for a college convention. It was so convenient that she did not live far from there. We made plans to meet up the first night I was there. I had arrived and unpacked my things. My curfew for the hotel was 11pm, and I could not leave the hotel.
As I rode the elevator down to the lobby and walked out, I looked around searching for “Her.” I heard someone call my name from my left. I looked over, and this lady about my height with shorter hair than mine walked towards me. Inside, I was freaking out! I could not believe she was standing in front of me and talking to me.
We were sitting on the couch. I sat and just stared at her. She told me that I had two half-brothers and another one on the way. My whole life, I have been an only child, and now I am the oldest of four. This was crazy. I had wanted siblings all my life, especially a baby sister or brother, and now I have a baby brother coming!
As my teacher walked out of the elevator, she reminded me that I needed to get back to my room; it was getting close to 11 o’clock. That night, I could not fall asleep for hours; the excitement would not go away. I could not wait until I got to see her again and maybe even meet my brothers!
The next time I saw her turned out to be the very next day; the day of my competition. I had forgotten some of my supplies for the competition and needed help fast; but I was two hours away from home. I called my birth mother. When she came to my rescue, she brought my one brother Justin, who is sixteen.
The next time I saw her, it was at her baby shower. I met her husband, my younger brother Quinn (three years old!) and my real grandmother. It was a relief when I met my grandmother; I had lost one grandmother two years before, and it was special to gain another.
My graduation from high school was around the corner and she was due any day. When she gave birth to my new baby brother, Richie, I was scared she was going to miss graduation. But she was there. Richie was ten days old exactly, and he slept through the whole thing. I haven’t seen her since my graduation, but I keep in contact with her on a weekly basis.
My whole life experience has made me who I am today. Adoption has had influences on my life and on my family’s life. Today, I do not get to see my birth mother as much as I would hope for; I am a full-time student and have a part-time job to juggle. Looking into the future, I hope to see her more often.
So many people do not appreciate what they have in life and overlook their great experiences. Everything in my life has been a worthwhile experience, and I have been fortunate to have such an understanding family. My life revolved around my family and the hopes of meeting “Her” one day. And now I have!
Kim Turner is happily married and the proud mother of 4 beautiful children. She crazily decided to be a stay at home mama with her 2 youngest. Her days are filled with homeschooling and chaos and she would not change even one second. Through her experiences with adoption, she hopes to one day be a source of strength for anyone entering an adoption experience. Hannah is a hardworking college student who is proud to be reunited with her birth mom and who loves her entire family very much!
This year’s Adoption Portraits series is filled. You may send a submission for next year’s series to Carrie Goldman at email@example.com. Follow Portrait of an Adoption on Twitter and Facebook.
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