Survived an Abortion

Survived an Abortion

I survived an abortion.  I was the smallest of triplets, born five months premature.  We all lived.  Samantha was born perfect.  Sandra was born with no legs.  I was a mess.  I weighed just over two pounds and was born without a lung, an ankle bone, a heel bone and three vertebrae.  Sandra and I were left on the doorstep of the Edna Gladney Home, an adoption service, by the doctor who performed the botched abortion.  Sandra was adopted by a family in Los Angeles.  My birthmother kept Samantha.

My adoptive parents, William and Frankie, had adopted a boy six years earlier and were anxiously waiting to adopt another child.  At 35 years old, Frankie had accepted that she would never be able to get pregnant, and her heart wanted a little girl.  Then one night they got a call saying that there was a very sick baby girl who needed a home.  Without hesitation, Frankie said, “We’ll take her.”  They got in the car and drove up to get me.  I needed special care for the first year of my life, but my new parents patiently nursed me to health, giving me every treatment I needed.  They said I was an answer to their prayers.

Most people can remember their parents fighting, at least occasionally.  I can’t.  Neither can my brother.  We prayed together every morning and we ate dinner together every night.  My parents were also very open with me about my adoption.  When I was seven or eight years old, I noticed that I looked different from my parents.  I have blonde hair and green eyes, and my parents both have dark hair.  They told me as much of the story as I could handle at the time, and they always allowed me to ask questions.

God blessed me with an amazing adoptive family, but I have had my share of struggles, too.  I am sixty years old now, and I have only been walking for the last four years.  I have had a total of 22 surgeries.  If not for these painful reminders that I was aborted – if my birthmother had carried me to term and placed me for adoption – I would have welcomed her with open arms when she found me recently.

I make and sell jewelry out of a small shop.  One day, a woman with blonde hair and green eyes walked into my shop.  Instead of browsing through the store, though, she came behind the counter.  My body tensed, ready to fight or flee.  Then she told me she thought I was her baby.  She asked me if I was the smallest of triplets.  Lord help me, I wished she was after my money instead.  All I felt was anger and deep resentment.  I asked her to leave.  She has contacted me twice since then.  Last time she showed me a picture of all three of us sisters with her on the day we were born.  She filled in parts of the story that I didn’t know.  She told me she loves me.  I told her I need some time.  I know I need to forgive her, and I have been praying every morning with my adopted mom for God to heal my heart, but I’m not there yet.

I have a good life, and I believe God has a purpose for me.  I have wonderful children and grandchildren, and I volunteer regularly at the local pregnancy care center.  I was even asked to share my story at a conference in front of 300 people recently, a terrifying honor.  I live with my adopted mother, who is 95 year old and still sharp as a tack.  She watched out for me for years, and now I’m watching out for her.  My dog loves me.  She was the runt of her litter, with a gamut of health problems.  Just like me.

I celebrate four birthdays: the day I was born, my due date five months later, the day I was adopted, and the day I gave my life to the Lord.  My life hasn’t always been easy, but I guess I have a lot to celebrate!

My Gift Of Life

My Gift Of Life

I grew up in Oregon with two of the most wonderful, loving parents for My Gift Of Life with Duke and Beverly Ricketts.  I had always known I was adopted; I can’t remember ever not knowing.  It was never a big deal.  I was never treated any differently by anyone in my family or extended family.  If anything, I always felt being adopted was something quite special.  After all, I was chosen.  I was truly wanted.  I was a special gift from God to my parents and my parents were God’s precious gift to me.  Wow.  I guess I never really understood how amazing and wonderful that truly was until I grew older, had my own children, and experienced life.

Last year, God started me down an interesting path, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

In January, my friend, Janey Rose, who has adopted two children herself, asked me to come speak to a bible study group she was leading.  It was a study written by an adoptive mom.  All the women in the group had adopted at least one child.  Janey wanted me to come, tell my story and have them ask me questions.  I couldn’t imagine what I would have to say that these moms would be interested in, but I finally agreed.  Well, I had the most wonderful time.  I told them about my completely normal existence.  I listened to their stories and realized they all wanted what I’m sure my parents had wanted:  to have their children grow up knowing how deeply they are loved.  It was such a fulfilling experience for me… I was excited to tell my parents.

When I told them what I had done, they were so interested to hear what I had to say.  You see, while I had grown up knowing I was adopted, it was never something we had ever truly discussed.  We had never talked about my feelings about it.  They are my family, my everything, but they didn’t know how wonderful I felt about being adopted.  This little bible study group had just brought I new level of admiration and appreciation to my family.  It brought out wonderful dialog and expressions of love.

Throughout the years, many have asked me, “Do you want to find your real parents”?  Hmmm, “real.”  Yes, “real” is the term most use without even really thinking about it.  I would simply answer, “No, my parents are my real parents.”   To me, the rest was just biology.  This is my family.  How blessed I have been with this family!

Over the course of the year, I had also been thrilled that my mom and I seemed to be getting closer than we had ever been.  I had always been a “daddy’s girl”; into my sports, a tomboy, if you will.  Mom had tried to teach me to cook and sew.  While I picked up some of it over the years, I really wasn’t connecting completely with my mom like I had started to last year.

In late July, I was at home, in Mom and Dad’s house with some friends of ours.  They were looking at some of our old pictures on the walls.  My friend, Jennifer, commented that she just could not figure out the whole “resemblance thing.”   She kept at it, so I told her that I was adopted.  She felt bad, but I asked, “Why?”  It wasn’t a secret; it had just never come up in our conversations.  My girls, who were 5 and 7 years old, heard the whole exchange.  Over the next week or two, they asked a lot of questions about this adoption deal.  They were trying to figure it all out.

And then it came.  The phone call.  It was August 10th,8:00 in the evening.  My husband, my girls and I were all hanging out together.  It was someone from the State of Oregon, the Human Services Division.  My birthmother was searching for me.  My birthmother.  The woman who gave birth to me wanted to find me.  I was positively stunned.

I needed time to think.  I needed time to feel… I was so numb.  I didn’t feel myself.  I was so emotional.  Suddenly, my life was different.  I was afraid, but my wonderful mother-in-law, Marianne Gowen, had asked that I not make my decision based on fear.  She was so right.  The last several months peaked in my thoughts.  I knew it, I just felt it.  This was from God.  All the signs, these last several months, pointing me to this door.  I had to open it and walk through.

I took a week to get back to the state.  Another week to turn-in the paperwork.  The next day, another call from the state.  “Here is her information.“ I had it.  I had never been curious before, and now I had the key to finding out so much more!  I waited for her to call me.  It was a short couple of hours.  My life changed!

Our first conversation was pretty basic.  Where do you live, are you married, do you have any kids.  A few other things.  But what’s that?  I share blood with a sister and a brother!  Wow, this is unbelievable!

On September 2, 2004, I met her, Baxter Billson Shelfer, the woman who gave me life.  This wasn’t just biology anymore.  This was an incredibly unselfish woman who chose to give me a better life.  This was a living, breathing, God-loving soul who gave me the most incredible gift I could have ever imagined.

God had carefully prepared the way for me.  He waited until we were all in the places we are today.  Ben, Baxter’s husband of 35 years; Scott, my new brother; and Spencer, my new sister; and actually everyone surrounding the situation has been welcoming and loving, with arms wide open.  This has been a dream.

This has done nothing but enrich our lives.  God has given us all the ability to love endlessly.  The more we love, the more that comes back to us.  It’s true.  We now have more people to love and that love us.  My daughters have more people to love them, unconditionally.  As a parent, I could ask for nothing more!

Although this has been a rough road on my dad, I see how God is working on him.  Prayers are helping him come to grips with these new people in my life.  Mom, well, Mom has been nothing but wonderful and supportive.  She feels incredible gratitude for the special gift she was given.  My life was placed in her hands.  Wow.  It’s hard to put into words all the emotion that follows that.  I’ll just leave with thank you. Thank you Baxter, thank you Mom and Dad, thank you Almighty Father God for this incredible gift of life you gave to me.

An Extra Special Day Because of Adoption

An Extra Special Day Because of Adoption

It was my daughter’s wedding day.  And though all weddings are special, this one was extra-special.  The church was beautifully lit by candles as I walked down the aisle first and took my seat up front so I could watch everything.  Then our beautiful daughter walked down the aisle into the arms of the wonderful man who loves her unconditionally.  But my daughter wasn’t the only special one who walked down that aisle.  Her four-year old daughter, whom she had placed into a loving, adoptive family, swished down the aisle as one of her flower girls, big sash flouncing about.

Just five years ago, our daughter had been away at college and made some choices she knew she shouldn’t make. As a result, she became pregnant.  She knew her life had gotten off track, and she would be the first to tell you that she knew this was her moment to step up.  Returning home, she sought guidance on the best thing to do for her baby by talking to some really great counselors who helped her understand her options.  Through much prayer and searching, and letting us listen to her heart, my daughter chose to place her baby with a loving family that was specially prepared for her little girl.  For her, having both a stable mother and father was very important and she very much wanted that for her baby.

My daughter and the adoptive family have chosen to continue the relationship in an open adoption. The adoptive parents share with their daughter freely about her birth mommy who still loves her so much.  My granddaughter knows her birthmother took special care to place her where she would be loved and cared for in a way that my daughter could not.  They live far away, but we do see her from time to time.  We receive pictures and love to hear about her dance lessons, fascination with volcanoes and many other things that the family wants our daughter and us – her other grandma and grandpa- to know about.

But that’s only part of the story.  I said today was extra special.  Today, I also watched my own birthmother walk down that aisle. You see, I am adopted, too, just like my granddaughter.  I grew up in a loving family who also told me how loved I was and that my birthmother took such special care of me, placing me in a family that would love me forever.  So, I watched as my birthmother held her head high (which wasn’t always easy for her during the past forty-six years) and walked down the aisle of her own granddaughter’s wedding, with her great-granddaughter carrying a tiny bouquet down the aisle. She sat right next to me, the daughter she placed for adoption so many years ago.

I was born at a time when all was kept secret.  No one could know.  My birthmother’s family even sent her away to have her baby.  There was so much shame tied in.  She was engaged, and when she became pregnant all the dreams began to fall apart.  But she, just like my daughter (her granddaughter!), did something so beautiful and amazing.  She placed me into a home where she’d been told “they are very nice people.”  And really, that’s all she knew.  Risking it all, she placed me into the home of what were truly “very nice people” where I lived my life, always knowing that I was adopted and specially loved, but not really knowing anything about my birth mother or father.  And she went on with a life that wasn’t very easy at times.  She always wondered about me.  Depression would sink in -especially around my birthday.  Guilt, sadness, pain.  She wondered if I was angry with her for what she did.

Our reunion after forty-six years was so amazing.  I’d left my name at an agency years ago that facilitates reunions in case any birth family was ever trying to locate me and then left it in God’s hands. The agency didn’t search.  It was just a way to link people together.   I’d never wanted to intrude into anyone’s life, and so many years had already passed.  Sadly, my adoptive parents had already passed away, but Istill had a loving family and many other family members around. I did wish that I could tell my birthmother “thank you” and let her know that I’d had a beautiful life and was happy and grateful for what she did, especially when it wasn’t an easy time to do such things.  Thirteen years passed and I figured it was not to be. Then one night I got a message from the reunion agency bringing such wonderful news into our lives.  She was looking for me!  I could finally look my own birth mother in the eye, hug her and tell her how beautiful she made my life.

So, we sat together at the reception.  The birthmother I’d met for the first time a year ago joined me and my husband, along with family and friends.  She watched.  We watched. Our daughter was glowing as she danced with her husband. Her daughter was twirling on the dance floor and her adoptive family was laughing as their girls danced around the floor, too.  Friends of ours leaned over to my birthmother and said something very special.  “Do you see all these people here?  Over three hundred people – both family and friends – are here today because of you.  You made a difference in so many people’s lives and you just never knew it.”  She knows it now.

Adoption – or should I say Love – has touched us all.  What a day!  No, what a life!!  You should see our wedding pictures.  They are truly extra-special.

The Right Decision

The Right Decision

I have an amazing life.  I am in the eighth grade at a private Christian school where I play basketball and take flute lessons.  Almost every year, I get to experience new places on vacations with my wonderful family.  This life was a gift to me from my birth mother.  You see, I was adopted.

I have always known I was adopted.  It was just a common thing in my family.  My parents have always been very open about my adoption, and they answer any questions I ask.  My birth dad was gone before I was born, but I can see my birth mother pretty much whenever I want – we go to a lot of football games together in the fall.  She’s not a mother figure, and I don’t call her “Mom.”  My adopted mother is my mom.  My birth mother is more like a friend.  I love them both.

When I was young, I didn’t really think much about the fact that I was adopted.  As I grew older, however, I started to have more questions about the huge decisions that my birth mother and adopted parents had made for me before I was even born.  For instance, my older half-sister and younger half-brother live with my birth mother – why did she choose to parent them and plan an adoption for me? Why does my family have to be so much more complicated than my friends’ families?  Between the ages of ten and eleven, I felt confused and angry as I grappled with my identity as an adopted child.

My parents were patient and loving toward me through this hard time, and they helped me to see that God had placed me in this situation for a purpose.  I still don’t know the full purpose, but I do know that otherwise my mom would never have been able to have a daughter of her own, for medical reasons, and she had always wanted a daughter.  Also, life would have been much harder for my birth mother if she had kept me, and she would not have had the time or resources to give me the life she wanted for me.  I still have questions sometimes, but I see now that my birth mother definitely made the right decision.

I would encourage anyone considering adoption to look into an open adoption. In open adoption, the birth mother is not involved in raising her child, but she can see her child on a regular basis. Every person and every situation is different, though, so you should pray about it and make the decision that you think will give your child the best life possible. I know my birth mother did.

Rape Leads to Selfless Heart

Rape Leads to Selfless Heart

My mother was raped. Patti was walking home after a long night shift at the mill when two men brutally attacked her in the early morning gloom. Several weeks later, Patti discovered that her nightmare was far from over.  She was pregnant.

Patti’s family was horrified that Patti was carrying the child of one of the monsters who attacked her, and they pressured her to get rid of the tragic accident. Abortion was not only legal, but even socially acceptable in the case of rape. For Patti, however, abortion was not an option.

After nine months of nurturing this unexpected new life in her womb, Patti gave birth to a baby girl. But Patti never looked into her newborn daughter’s eyes or stroked the baby’s soft skin. The nurse immediately whisked the child out of the room and out of Patti’s life.

Patti had made the most selfless decision a woman can ever make. She put me up for adoption. My mother knew she couldn’t care for me or give me the life she wanted to give me, but she believed that someone else could.

My adoptive family consists of two big brothers and the most loving mom and dad I could ever imagine. My adoption was never hidden from me. My parents told me that I was born just for them so that I could be the daughter they had always wanted.

Now I am married and have three children of my own. I am grateful every day for Patti’s choice. Without the selfless heart of an amazing woman, my life and my family would never have existed.


Adoption is a Gift

Adoption is a Gift

My story is not all that unique.  After all, a lot of children have been adopted.  I just want to share the incredible gift adoption has been in my life.

As an adopted child, I never felt that my birth mother had abandoned me.  Instead, I have known my entire life that I was an answer to my parents” prayers.  I was chosen.  I was cherished. I was the only child in my class who had both parents at every single function I was ever a part of – from school programs to track meets.  Most of my friends wanted my parents to adopt them!  I always felt just a bit more “special” than anyone else who was not adopted.  My parents always treated me and my two adopted siblings as precious gifts in their lives.

I was adopted in 1962, during a time when all adoptions were “closed.”  Because of this, I never knew much about my birth mom or dad.  And yet, I have always felt a deep connection to my birth mother.  Of course, I was completely in love with my parents.  I can”t even begin to put into words the depth of love I have for my mom and dad.  But when I looked in the mirror at age 16 (the age she was when she gave birth to me), I knew beyond any doubt that I looked exactly like her.  I can”t explain why… I just knew.  I was able to meet her later in life (at age 32), and I discovered that I actually do look exactly like this amazing woman.

Now I consider myself to be twice blessed.  I have the love of two mothers – one who gave me life, and one who gave me a wonderful, loving home.  I am so grateful that my birth mother was brave enough to give me life and then to let me go into the arms of my adopted family.  I know that, despite my beginnings, I was meant to be here.  My life has made a difference – not only for my parents, my two children, my friends and other family members, but for the thousands of children whose lives I have touched through my life”s work.  Today I am the CEO of a non-profit counseling and assessment program that also provides support for foster care in our region.

No, adoption is not abandonment.  It is the most courageous, loving act any human being can offer another.  It is the gift of a chance at a better life.