My name is Bethaney. I am a Doctor of Audiology. I grew up in what I thought was a perfect example of a “nuclear” family. I was an only child up until the age of ten with both parents, a dog, and family and friends all around.
However, that perception of my nuclear family was shattered when I was 12 years old. It was then that I found an obituary for a stillborn baby girl that my mother had. The date was April 7 th 1974. My birthday is March 30 th 1974. As a result of this and other discoveries, I was coerced into the reality that I was adopted.
Prior to this, I had no idea that my parents weren’t my real parents. Thus began a process of molding my emotions into feelings of being unwanted, worthless, insecure, and angry. As a result, I withdrew and never told any of my family or friends about the about the moment that changed my world forever.
I did not open up to anyone until I was in college when I told my best friend that I was adopted. When she still accepted me for who I was and was not ashamed of me, I began to realize that adoption is not necessarily a bad thing.
A few years later my mother died. It was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to deal with. She was 44, I was 23, and my brother was only 12. I moved out shortly thereafter to attend graduate school. In 2000 following graduation, it was then that I decided to start searching for my birthparents. I definitely did not want to replace my own parents; however, I just needed answers.
In December of 2000, I received a letter of non-identifying information. Reading that letter for the first time was incredible. In a period of five minutes I found out so many things about me; my given name at birth was Stephanie, I found out my birth weight and length, the time of my birth, and my maternal family history. Finding out so many things about yourself at one time really is indescribable. I could not take my eyes off that paper. I just sat there for the rest of the evening, holding that paper in my hands and staring at it.
Two weeks later, I contacted Catholic Charities and started the search for my birthmother. Now all I could do was sit back, be patient, and wait. And wait I did . For over four years I did not hear anything from them.
By May of 2005, I was now residing in Florida. It was then that I received a phone call by Catholic Charities. The case worker who was working on my search said “Bethaney, we found your birthmother. I will give you her phone number and you can call her.” She started by saying “813.” “813, I interrupted! That is Tampa!” “Yes,” my caseworker said. “She lives in FL near you.” What are the chances of that? I lived in Florida for less than one year and within those few months, I find my birthmother living only 20 miles from me! I called her and we met on Memorial Day.
It was amazing to meet her and see what she looked like. She brought pictures of her family and I showed her pictures of me growing up. Finding out some things were incredible. She was in the medical field just like me. She told me that she thought about me every day, especially on my birthday and mother’s day. She had always wanted to look for me but decided not to interfere with my life. She respected me enough to wait until I was ready to contact her. So many of the things she told me were positive. However, others were not quite so uplifting. My birthmother remained single and had a tough life. She grew up without her mother around and still has no communication with her. She got pregnant with me at age 19, placed me up for adoption, and one year later had a hysterectomy. This was difficult on her because she had always wanted many children. She just was not ready to be a single mother to a child while she was still a teenager. The following year, her older brother and sister, whom she was very close with, died in a car accident. Later on she almost killed herself and another person in a terrible car accident where she was at fault.
In addition to finding out about her difficult life, I also found out many things that no one would really want to hear about their genetic heritage. She told me that she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, as was her father. Almost all of her family dealt with severe depression and took anti-depressants, and my first cousin, who was seven days older than me, committed suicide a few years before.
In the midst of finding out all of these things about her and her family, I still had a burning desire to find out who the father was. Catholic Charities reported that the birthfather was unknown. My hope was that my birthmother knew who the birthfather was but just didn’t divulge that information to Catholic Charities. When I asked her who the father was, she was slow to answer. “I knew you were going to ask me this. I don’t know.” Then she told me that she left Pittsburgh and moved to Tampa for six months in 1973. It was during that time that she started using drugs and drinking heavily. She would go clubbing in downtown Tampa and after those late evening she got involved with many men. As a result, she had no idea who the father could be and could not even begin to guess on names. Although this is the answer I had been expecting, I was still disappointed that I would never be able to find out where half of my DNA came from. I am never going to be able to look my father in his eyes. I am never going to be able to see what traits we share. What made it even stranger for me is that I was conceived in Tampa. My birthfather and his family might be living right next door to me and I would never know it!
After realizing that more conversation on this topic would do nothing to gain more information, we moved on. However, later on in the evening when I was telling a story, my birthmother abruptly interrupted me and said “By the way, I was raped by gunpoint.” For a second I just sat there. I was prepared for her to tell me that I was conceived through a one night stand. And I was prepared for her to tell me she was a prostitute. However, I never thought about the fact that rape could have resulted in my conception. All I could think to ask her was “So, that could be my father.” She responded by saying “Yes, but that doesn’t matter.”
I was so shocked to hear that I might be alive because of someone else’s anger, lack of self-control, and need for dominance, that I had no idea what to say back to her. I had always assumed that my conception was my birthmother’s fault for not being responsible. But, finding out that I might have been conceived by rape; that is a whole new ball game. Now the birthfather’s selfish behavior led to my birthmother having to endure nine months of horror and a more or less a lifetime of pain and regret.
Knowing that I was a probably a product of rape, I asked the big question that many adoptees want to know. “Did you want to abort me?” The answer was one that I expected, but one that stung never-the-less. “Yes” she responded. “I did.” In 1974, although abortion was legal at the time, it still it wasn’t as accepted as it is today. So, as a result of that and her Roman Catholic upbringing, she chose to give me life.
In the midst of finding out all of this new information from my birthmother, I also spoke with my adoptive grandmother to figure out some of the other missing pieces of my adoption story. One day I found a calendar from 1974. Under June 19 th, it read “Bethaney came to us.” I always wondered where I was from March 30 th until June 19 th, almost two and a half months. Being a healthy, white baby girl, I should have been adopted out by Catholic Charities as soon as I left the hospital. Since there is a long waiting list for white adoptions, I could not figure out how my family got through the entire process so quickly considering that they planned on having their own child up until April 7 th. After years of wondering, I finally asked my grandma about that situation. She told me that my mom was devastated by the news of her stillborn baby and no hope of having any more. My grandfather knew someone who worked for Catholic Charities. When my grandpa met with that person, the man said that in fact there was a baby girl in foster care waiting to be adopted. That baby girl was me.
All of the prospective parents on the list to adopt were told about me…a healthy, white baby girl. However, due to the negative maternal history and lack of paternal history, no one wanted to take a chance on raising me. Everyone thought that I would turn out like my birthparents, a promiscuous drug addict and alcoholic, with very little education and no hope for the future. My parents on the other hand had a different opinion. My mom didn’t care anything about my birthparents and they were willing to give me an opportunity to have a productive life. My parents chose me despite the rejection I faced from the rest of the world.
So the process of meeting my birthmother enlightened me to many things about my negative genetic history, possible traumatic conception by rape, and the unimaginable pain and loss felt by my adoptive mother as she gave birth to a stillborn baby. The awareness that not only was I unwanted by my birthmother, but that I was also unwanted by the entire Catholic Charities adoption list, hit me hard. I had no strong connections while in Florida that year – no family, no network of friends, and no church home. I began to question why I even existed. I was taken to the lowest point that I have ever been in my life.
Then in September of 2005, without any prospective jobs available and not enough money to get me through two months, I quit my current job in Florida and I moved to Decatur, Alabama. I needed to get connected into a good church home and decided on one that I had visited several times where my best friend’s husband was one of the pastors. It was during that first year in Alabama that I began to take a step back to the basic foundation of my life and rediscover who I really was.
I got saved in August of 2003 and baptized shortly thereafter. For the next eleven months I was planted in a strong Bible believing church where my spiritual life grew tremendously. I learned more about the Bible in those eleven months than I have the entire 29 years prior. Having learned so many new and troubling details about my life, I realized that in order to experience healing, I would have to go back and apply those Biblical principles that I learned to the overall picture of my life.
I already acknowledged the basic foundation that God created the heaven and the earth. As I began to search the Bible for answers, I slowly realized the magnitude of God’s love and plan for each one of us. In Acts Chapter 17, it states that God made the world and all things therein. It continues on to say that not only did he create us, but he created each of us to live in a specific time period and a specific locale. God has a reason for me living here in the south in 2007. If God plans for us to live in specific regions in certain decades, then that shows me that I am definitely not a mistake. God wants me here for a purpose and planned out my birth, life, and death to accomplish that purpose long before I was ever born.
Earlier on in Matthew, it states that God knows the number of hairs on my head. I have heard and read that verse many times before. However, this time that verse meant something different to me. For God to know the number of hairs on my head, a number that is constantly changing, that must mean that He cares about me. That He thinks I am important. That I matter. That I have value and purpose.
While I was now understanding that God created everyone no matter what the circumstance of their conception, I still needed to process why being adopted had to be part of my life. Essentially adoptees are not wanted by their birthmother and in most situations adoption is not the first choice that couples use to have children. It is a “plan B” scenario when “plan A” does not work.
By opening my eyes and allowing God to show me His divine plan for each of us, I found many verses describing how adoption is the method that God chooses to bring us into His family. I learned that adoption is God’s way of picturing His love for us.
After reading the prevalence of adoption in the Bible and internalizing that, I have realized many things. Since God used the spirit of adoption to call us to be children of God through Jesus Christ, I definitely know there is no stigma in being adopted. Look at the life God chose for Moses, one of the most famous adoptees in all of history. Through being raised in the midst of his enemies, Moses learned the tools and skills that were needed to make him a leader in order to take his own people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
By acknowledging the power of God in my life and the truth that He has a purpose for me and loves me for who I am, I have accepted the fact that I am an adoptee. I no longer feel the need to keep that fact a secret. I am just as important and can make as much impact here on earth as any planned human being.
Through acquiring knowledge and regaining a close relationship with God, I began to see my life in a whole new way. A life with purpose. A life made through love; the opposite of what most people would say, but it’s true! A life made through His love, which is so much more powerful than any human parents love could ever be!
I began to internalize that the rapist is not my creator. Neither is a promiscuous mother my creator. I am not of child of either one but rather I am a child of God. That is all that matters. Genetics and environment both play a role in whom a person grows up to be. But ultimately, a person who allows Jesus Christ to be their savior and turns over the control of their life to Him can become anything that God intends for them to be.
When I first heard the lyrics of a song written by Avalon, I knew that God was using them to teach me a lesson.
“There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God
So many fallen, but hallelujah
There are no orphans of God”
I was unwanted. I was unloved. I was orphaned. But God has no orphans. He gives us that promise when he says in Hebrews 13:5 when God tells us that he will NEVER leave us! He will NEVER forsake us! Listen to the magnitude of those versus. God will NEVER abandon us. He will NEVER deny that we are His children. Once we are children of God, we are Children of God forever!
It doesn’t matter how I was conceived. It doesn’t matter that I was not planned by a couple madly in love. What matters is that I am here now and that God planned me. I am glad that I am alive. I am thankful that my birthmother gave me a right to live. Thanks to her, I now have the opportunity to share God’s love to the world.
Have you ever felt the way I have; unwanted, unloved, worthless? We weren’t all born into the ideal family environment, with plenty of money, family love and devotion, and a strong social support network. Many of us were unwanted, orphaned, abused, and taken advantage of. It is impossible to understand how those things have affected each of us and to feel comfortable with whom we are without the love of Christ. The Bible offers so many promises to us, many of which I have seen come true in my life once I began to follow Him. Won’t you consider doing the same? I promise you, praying this simple prayer and restoring your life through Jesus Christ will change your life forever. It did mine.
Won’t you consider beginning a new and exciting journey by praying the following prayer?
Thank you for speaking to my heart. I know that I am a sinner. I am truly sorry and want to turn away from my sinful past. Please forgive me. It said in your Word, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). And so I am calling on your name to come into my heart and be my savior. You also said, “…if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). I believe in you and believe with all my heart that Jesus died for my sins and was raised from the dead. Thank you for your unconditional love and for eternal life. I confess Him, right now, as my Lord. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
If you have prayed this prayer, Congratulations! You have just made the most important decision of your life. I would love to hear from you about this life-changing experience. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org