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Real Stories From Real People

On this page are two inspiring stories of adoption – one from the adopted child’s perspective and the other from the birth-mother’s point of view.

The Baby She Loved – An Adopted Child’s Own Story

Todd Vandererwerff

The entire course of my life was determined for me one muggy summer day in 1980 before I was even born.

It was decided by a woman I have never met, a woman who was probably undergoing the biggest trauma of her young life.

Everything I have in my life is because of her. And I’ve never even met her. My blond hair and blue eyes come from her.

Part of my musical and writing talents come from her, although surely much of it also comes from the encouragement of my parents.

And in twenty days, when I turn eighteen, I will legally be able to find her. It’s an odd feeling. I have anticipated the moment when I will finally meet her and hear her voice.

I long to know about the events leading up to the time when my mother sat me down and told me about how I came to South Dakota: “There were some people who didn’t have the time to take care of a baby, so they decided to give it to someone else.”

I imagine the moment in time when it all happened. The young woman peers down at the tiny sleeping bundle that twitches every so often in a fit of coughs. She leans down to kiss the child’s forehead, knowing she’ll never see him again. Then she hands the child to the nurse who takes him to the adoption agency.

And 700 miles away, on a cold January day in southeastern South Dakota, a woman in overalls receives a message from the adoption agency in Michigan: “We have a late Christmas surprise for you and your husband.”

The farmer’s wife leans on the wall, crying tears of joy and praising God. She rushes to find her husband and tell him about God’s special gift to them: a baby boy, probably perfect in every way. Long distance calls go out to relatives in every corner of the nation. Grandma dives into her yarn pile to begin crocheting baby jumpers, socks, blankets, and afghans.

And through it all, a young woman in Michigan lies weeping in her hospital bed, preparing for the inevitable task of getting on with her life. And that is how I came to Armour, South Dakota, from Grand Haven, Michigan.

My mom has all of the newspaper clippings from that time. President Reagan had just taken office and the American hostages in Iran were freed. I was mentioned in the Colonial Manor newspaper, the church bulletin, and a few thank-you ads. My baby cards fill an entire 100-page scrapbook. It seems that everyone was happy.

But I wonder about her. I wonder where she is and what she did when she let me go. I wonder if she thinks about me anymore. . . if she wonders whether or not she made the right decision. Maybe, just maybe, I would have been just as happy in Michigan with her. But how would she ever know? I wonder if she dreams about me and whether I’m a football star or a Homecoming king. I wonder if she would be disappointed in what I’ve ultimately become.

She was a college student caught in the vise-grip of an illegitimate pregnancy. I assume she had friends who urged her to just terminate the pregnancy and get on with her life, but something stopped her from doing it. I am here today for that reason. And for that, I thank her a million times over, even though my echoes of gratitude fly out into emptiness. What ifs plague my waking hours like phantom hounds emerging from my past. What if she had decided to keep me? What if she had selected parents for me in Florida rather than in South Dakota? What if she had chosen abortion?

She was courageous, thoughtful, and compassionate in a way that few people are today. I love her. I want to reach back into time and see her just once . . . but my memories don’t go back that far. They flicker and fade like evening light. At times, people ask me if I hate her for giving me up. I don’t understand where they are coming from. How can I hate someone who gave me life? It is impossible for me to hate her. She loved me. I know it.

The adoption files say that she wept when she gave me up. I know in my deepest thoughts that she still thinks of me on occasion. For all of my complaining, I have a loving family and caring friends whom I’ll miss when I go to college. I’ve confronted death, hope, faith, God, my own future, and love. I can thank her for that, too.

The time is drawing near when I can seek her out. And I am afraid. What if she doesn’t want to see me? What if she doesn’t live up to my expectations? What if she has died? I don’t know what I’m ready for. When people ask me, in a well-meaning manner, “Todd, are you going to find your birthparents?” I reply, “I don’t know.”

My answer shocks some, but they don’t understand what it’s like to be haunted by the ghost of a woman I have never met or talked to. When the day comes for me to seek her out, I will know. And that day will come, eventually. But until then, I’ll live each day dreaming of her, for her voice still calls to me through the mists of time.

And somewhere in Michigan, a thirty-something woman goes through her daily tasks – washing dishes, fixing supper for the kids, checking homework. She always gets restless in November, and no one really knows why. Maybe it’s the leaves falling off the trees, marking the onset of winter. Or maybe it’s the shorter days.

Her closest friends and family know it’s something else entirely.

It is her past calling to her, just as it does to me, reminding her of the baby she loved too much to keep.

“The Baby She Loved” is reproduced with permission from LifeLines, a publication of Bethany Christian Services. For an information packet about Bethany, call 1-800-613-3188 or visit us on the Web at

A complete listing of Wisconsin pregnancy help centers can be found online.

Marie’s Story: Tears of Sadness, Tears of Joy


This is Marie’s true story, told in her actual words. Marie became pregnant at age 18. Nine months later, she became the birth-mom of a beautiful baby girl. The only detail we have changed in the story is Marie’s name, to protect her privacy.

When I found out I was pregnant, I was scared.

At first, I didn’t know what to do. Then I realized that my mom loved me and that I could tell her about it. It would be hard to do, but I could do it. And it was such a good thing that she and I could communicate. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise.

When I first told her, we cried. My mom said, “What are we going to do?” And I said, “I don’t know.” I remember the first thing we did was pray. And we asked God to give us guidance and to help us through it.

After that, I knew that we were going to be able to get through it. And it felt like my mom and I were – kind of like – in it together. Just having someone there to hug me and tell me that I didn’t have to go through this alone really helped me.

Abortion was never an option for me. I just couldn’t do that. My biggest struggle was trying to decide if I should raise my child myself or choose adoption. I talked with a lot of different people about it and tried to get good counsel from friends and people I looked up to.

I thought that I could have raised my baby myself. And I could have. But as I thought about it, I realized doing that would have been very hard on my family and on me. It would have been especially hard for my child. Because I knew from the beginning that I wouldn’t be able to give her the important things that another family could – one of the most important things being a father.

If I’d kept her, everything would have been a struggle. I would have been trying to get along and make a living and my parents would have stood behind me, but they wouldn’t be able to help a whole lot either.

I went to a pregnancy counseling center to seek their counsel and get some information on adoption. And I found out that I could go through a lawyer who would work with me personally, so I wouldn’t have to deal with an adoption agency.

The lawyer gave me a big stack of profiles of about thirty different families that were looking to adopt. He said, if I needed to see more, there were plenty more where this stack came from. At the very bottom of that first stack I found a family.

And even though I hadn’t made my mind up yet (whether I would keep my baby or place her for adoption) when I read this family’s profile I knew it was right. It wasn’t long after reading the profile that I finally made up my mind, firmly, for adoption.

Everything seemed to fall in place for me after that. I could feel it was the right thing for my baby to have a complete family – instead of what I might have tried to give her. After my baby was born, I got to stay in the hospital two nights and spend time with her.

The second night, the adoptive mom came in. She and my mom and I had the most wonderful time talking. We must have sat there and talked for three hours. During that time we became very close. That conversation made the next day a lot easier for me. It was kind of a long drawn out process the next day when we handed (my baby) over, legally, to her adoptive parents. When the moment finally came, I felt prepared to give her to them.

When we got down to the lobby, everybody was there. And, I was doing fine until the adoptive family did something so sweet – they gave me a little Raggedy Ann doll – with the words “We Love You” written on it. That did it. I just burst into tears. I really just cried my eyes out.

But when it was finally time for them to leave – it’s hard to describe – I looked at them and I looked at my baby, and I guess I just knew that this was God’s plan. That this was the right thing to do. It was sad and I cried – but it was okay – and I was happy too.

As I look back on it now, I know for sure I made the right decision for my baby.

— Marie

Pregnancy counseling and more information about adoption can be had by calling, toll free, 1-800-395-HELP or 1-800-BETHANY or visit

A complete listing of Wisconsin pregnancy help centers can be found online.

Stories About Adoption
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