Happy National Birth Mother’s Day to the woman who carried me for nine months during trying, uncertain times, gave birth to me, then gave me up to protect me and give me what she hoped and prayed would be a better life. At least that is why, deep in my heart, I believe she made the decision she made.
It’s just one of the many reasons I love Betty — whom I never met — so very much.
I won’t go into all the details here. I’ve written about them over and over for the past 17 years since finding my three older full siblings and learning some of the sad fragments of the difficult life Betty endured both before and after I was born in February 1961. For Mother’s Day 2011, I wrote a narrative about her and my journey for The Dallas Morning News, where I’ve now worked for 22 years.
Countless adoptees must live with discontent and feelings of bitterness, even hatred, toward their biological mothers for what they perceive as rejection, which in many cases is far from reality. Many haven’t met their bio moms to hear their stories and learn the true circumstances in which they were often forced to give up their babies as teens.
But I prefer to believe that Betty, a 39-year-old, divorced, single mother of three, chose adoption for me not only because she feared for my safety but because she loved me just as much as she loved her first three children, who at the time I was born were 17, 13 and 6 years old.
My siblings — brother Crys, who turned 17 the day I was born; brother Robin, who turned 14 five months later; and sister Terry, who’d just turned 6 two months earlier — were raised and nurtured with love and devotion by Betty Louise, born in July 1921. For 20 years, she also loved their father, Bob — who was mine, too — and did her best to look past his love affair with a woman who held him closer than any lover. He could never escape the seductive ways of booze.
After their divorce kept them apart for only so long, a pregnancy blindsided Betty. With the regretful facts that I waited so long to search for her and that lung cancer took her at 71, making it impossible for her to answer the untold number of questions I have, I’m left to speculate about so much of what happened — since my sibs don’t know either.
But because of Bob’s problems and the likelihood that he never knew about her pregnancy after being arrested in a drunken rage, never to be seen again, I’m convinced Betty decided — perhaps with the help of relatives — early on that she couldn’t keep me. The reasons would’ve been multiple, including her inability to support a fourth child as a single mother working the kinds of jobs she’d been holding, including department store and drugstore clerk.
Most telling, though, knowing what my siblings and others have told me about her loving and compassionate nature, I’ll never have a second guess about Betty’s concern for my welfare and safety — and that of her children.
What if Bob had found out about me? He could make a mess of things and try to take me away from her, and surely she knew I’d be in dire circumstances if he were somehow successful. And although he ended up moving to Florida, we don’t know if Betty knew that or, if she did, when she found out. So she must have feared that if he learned about her pregnancy and returned, her children’s safety would also be at risk.
The whole situation was extremely delicate, and Betty had to be very careful. That’s why, for several months of her pregnancy, she and the kids moved out of our hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, to Ironton, Ohio, where she took a job singing with a small dance band in an upscale hotel’s bar. I can only assume Bob tried unsuccessfully to find her, and by the time they moved back to Huntington when she was about six months along, he was already in Florida — where he drowned, homeless, in a tragic accident in July 1962.
That’s more detail than I meant to get into. But all this is to say that I’ll never stop believing that the decisions Betty made where I’m concerned came straight from her huge, selfless heart. She loved her children more than anything, and that included her unborn son about whom she had to make a painful choice.
I’m sure she knew it to be the right and necessary one — for me, for Crys, for Robin and for Terry.
Thank you, Betty. Because of you, every day will always be Birth Mother’s Day for me. ❤