Ray Liotta and Adoption

I don’t remember him actually making any kind of strong impression on me but I did see the movie “GoodFellas” back in 2020 (thanks to Netflix keeping track of these things for me).

It is interesting how ideas for this blog come to me. This one was from a short acknowledgement in Time magazine about the man’s recent passing. Something about his adoptive mother dying during the filming.

I thought, so another adoption story. It never ceases to amaze me how many people in our society are somehow touched by adoption more broadly (meaning not necessarily adopted themselves but in their extended family). I went looking to learn more about this aspect of the man’s life.

The story I read was about how he found peace with his adoption. He said, “At first, I didn’t understand how a parent could give up a child. So, I had that kind of energy of just being like, that’s just f***** up.” His perspective changed after the birth of his own daughter in 1998, at which point he felt he had to trace and locate his birth mother.

Ray was born in 1954, the same year I was, in Newark New Jersey. He was adopted at the age of six months. He was in an orphanage at the time. His adoptive parents were Alfred and Mary. Liotta knew he wasn’t his adoptive parents biological child growing up. He also had an adopted sister, Linda.

His drama teacher in high school asked him if he wanted to appear in a play during his senior year. Liotta didn’t take it seriously at the time (he was into sports) but it led to him eventually studying acting at the University of Miami. After graduation, he got his first big break on the soap opera Another World.

In his 40s, he hired a private detective to locate his birth mother and younger siblings. He subsequently learned from her that he is mostly of Scottish descent (like I learned regarding my maternal grandmother’s family). He then met his birth mother and siblings – a half brother, five half sisters and a full sister. She explained to him that she had given him up for adoption because she was too young and couldn’t contend with the responsibility.

He said that then, “I realized that she did it for very valid reasons from her perspective and for 99% of the kids put up for adoption, the birth parent believes that it’s for the betterment of the kid… Often, the household, the situation, the age just dictate that’s the best thing to do for the child.” After the meeting her, Liotta honestly said that he was “disappointed” by his mother’s story. He reminds me of my own mom in saying that he was “really grateful that [he] was adopted.” When Larry King mentions there is a book for adoptees called “You Were Chosen,” Liotta admits that his was “I was given up.” Most adoptees hate the “chosen” narrative.

Liotta died in his sleep while filming Dangerous Waters in the Dominican Republic. Foul play is not suspected in his death. At the time of his death, he was engaged to fiancée, Jacy Nittolo. That had made him a happy man. He wrote, “Christmas wishes do come true. I asked the love of my life to marry me, and thank God she said yes!!!” Liotta is also survived by his 23-year-old daughter, Karsen, who he shares with ex-wife Michelle Grace.

They Grow Up

Image Created by Irene Liebler

We currently have baby birds in a nest at the end of our back porch getting ready to fledge. We have witnessed many such events. When I first married my husband, my mother in law said “We are nest builders.” She had a lifelong love of birds and of her family. So today, an adoptive mother lamented. She adopted a 12 year old from foster care. The child is now 21 years old. I have a 21 year old myself who sometimes gives the impression of getting restless though he has not yet flown the nest. This woman’s son has joined the army reserves and is on his way out of the country on assignment.

She was trying to say goodbye to him, when he replied – “I don’t want to talk. I’m trying to get away from you guys (ie her husband and herself). I’m an adult now and you can’t force me to live with you. I was trying to leave on a good note.”

Much like the advice – “If you love somebody, let them go, for if they return, they were always yours. If they don’t, they never were.” – attributed to Kahlil Gibran, I thought these were very good insights –

The best thing a former foster parent and adoptive parent ever said to me was that you spend the short time you have with kids teaching them right from wrong and hope they take that with them into adulthood.

When they turn 18, they will leave to find their biological families. It’s not a matter of if, it’s when. If their first families are doing well, then great! If they are not, you pray that what you taught them sticks and that they navigate their relationships in a way that keeps them mentally/physically safe.

If kids come back to you/stay in your life is dependent on your relationship with them before they became adults. It’s also dependent on how you spoke about their first families and if you encouraged a relationship.

Kids are people that grow up and become their own people. They have the RIGHT to leave the nest for a reason, a season, or forever.

The Archaic Shadow Of Secrecy

Parent Child Match

The closed, sealed adoption records of yesterday are much easier to pierce with today’s inexpensive DNA testing. Today’s story from Severance Magazine.

It begins this way – in 1967, I’d given birth to my first-born child in an unwed mothers maternity home in New Orleans, Louisiana. I had been a typical 17-year-old high school senior with plans for the future that evaporated overnight. In the sixties, it was considered close to criminal for a girl to become pregnant with no ring on her finger. The father of my child had joined the Army, preferring Vietnam to fatherhood. After my parents discovered my shameful secret, I was covertly hurried away and placed in an institution for five months. There, I was expected to relinquish my baby immediately after giving birth to closed adoption and I was repeatedly assured my child would have a better life without me. After his birth, I was allowed to hold my son three times. My heart was permanently damaged when I handed him over the final time. The home allowed one concession—I could give my baby a crib name. I named him Jamie.

In the Spring of 2016, this woman and her husband submitted DNA tests to Ancestry.com. By October 2016, a  ‘Parent/Child Match’ message popped up on her iPhone, causing me to stop me in my tracks, as my knees gave out from under me. After 49 long years, Jamie had found her. Who was he? Where was he? Would he hate me? How would this affect my life? My family? His family? She had always dreamed of finding Jamie but never thought past that point.

She relates – that night I heard my son’s voice for the first time. The wonder I felt when he said, “I know your voice” transformed me. In minutes, the secret of my son changed from fear of anyone knowing about him to wanting to shout out to the world, “My son has found me!” She also learned she had three new grandchildren.  Within four days, her son flew from Louisiana to California to meet her. She describes that first meeting as magical. She says, “My son was back in my life, and suddenly I was whole.”

Due to severe depression brought on by the COVID pandemic as a messy divorce, the loss of his job, and unhealthy isolation began to destroy him, she worried from a distance. In February 2021, they had what would be their last conversation. Before hanging up, her son said, “I love you, Mom. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me.” Two days later, the son she had mourned for 50 years, the son who had found her, left her again. He took his own life. Now she had lost him twice and this time was forever. Even so, she cherishes that phone call.

She ends her story with this – “I wish I could speak to all the birth mothers out there, who continue to carry the shame and guilt that society placed on us. For those who refuse to allow their relinquished child back into their lives. I want to say I know your fear. I know your uncertainty. I lived it and still live it. It is deep-seated in us, regardless of the circumstances that resulted in us leaving our children. Please know if you are brave enough to welcome that lost child into your life again, you may create a peace and a bond worth all the fear and guilt. There is nothing quite like reuniting a mother and her child, and you may be giving a gift of connection to that child and yourself, as it should have been all along.”

Not Reality, Scripted

There were a bunch of adoptee reunion programs on TV in the 1990s. I think seeing these really made my adoptee mom wish for a reunion of her own. It was not to be. Even as Tennessee was turning down her request for her adoption file, they broke her heart by telling her that her mother has died several years earlier.

As today’s story reveals, you really can’t believe what you see on these programs.

In early 2020 pre-COVID, I was contacted by a TV producer asking if I would be interested in being on a show. I won’t give the name, but it’s a show about finding lost family members. I immediately knew it was probably about my bio mom or dad.

I agreed, a little out of curiosity, but mostly because they offered me $4000 to be on the show and an all-expenses paid vacation to LA for filming.

Sure enough, it was my mother. She put forth this sob story. She was 15 (which I already knew) and that she felt like she had to give me up, in order to escape shame and disownment from friends and family. Also that her boyfriend pushed her to do it. She said, she always wanted to find me – blah blah blah. I felt completely awkward doing this around cameras.

I found out that ALL reality shows, even the feel-good ones, are SUPER scripted, and the producers kept trying to feed me lines to say, like “I’ve waited for this moment all my life.” At this time in my life, I really couldn’t care less about finding my biological family and had negative feelings about my firth mom, so I don’t think I played the “grateful daughter” role that they wanted. Anyways, the show ends and I go back to my life. I got my biological mom’s info and we text a few times a year.

I was just notified that the show will be airing in the summer, and I have had a lot of anxiety over it. I cannot shake the feeling that none of this was necessary and that it was all for show, and that my biological mom did this to give the world an emotional story to make herself feel better.

There was absolutely NO reason she needed to go on national television to find me. For one, I have researched, and closed adoption files can be accessed by the biological mother, if she goes through the proper steps. She could’ve found my adoptive parent’s information and gone from there. It’s also literally 2022 (actually it was 2020 at the time but still).

Everyone is taking Ancestry DNA tests. She could’ve spent 60 bucks to get a 23 and Me test and found out that I’m already in the data base. I just feel like she completely went to the extremes to do this and put our personal business out there for the world. What if I am portrayed as being an ungrateful bitch or something ?Or future employers search for my name and find the episode!!

One commenter noted – I hear you on the “reality” shows. I also did a pilot many years ago in which they wanted me to react a certain way, so did my daughter. Basically they’re all fake (not real at all). As for the biological mom, everyone is different in how they come to the decision, and what they do with it. She could’ve been looking for her 15 min of fame, or possibly she did feel so pressured and now finally felt like it was time to stand up to those who pressured her. 

And yet another added – or she wanted the money.

Is Infertility A Disability ?

Sunshine, Angel, Rainbow

This morning has been a learning experience for me. Infertility is a leading cause of adoption. One adoptee wrote – I find it hard to sympathize with infertility and I’m aware it’s because that was the only reason I was adopted by my adoptive parents. I’m angry because of the abuse I’ve suffered because of that issue. In the adoption community, women are counseled that they must deal with their mental and emotional issues related to infertility before choosing to adopt a child. An adopted child will never be a replacement for a baby you lost or failed to conceive. An adopted child was conceived and birthed by another woman who will always be that child’s first mother.

Is infertility a disability ? – turns out that legally it is.

In 1998, the US Supreme Court found in Bragdon v Abbott that reproduction is a “major life activity.” And the Court held that the risks of passing the disease to offspring constituted a “substantial limitation” on reproduction. Consequently, infertility met the ADA’s criteria as a disability.

According to the World Health Organization – Infertility has significant negative social impacts on the lives of infertile couples and particularly women, who frequently experience violence, divorce, social stigma, emotional stress, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. A diagnosis of infertility is determined as the inability to get pregnant after a year or more of trying. Infertility can trigger feelings of shame and a sense of failing to live up to traditional gender expectations. Infertility can strain romantic relationships that included the expectation of shared parenthood. (We watched the 2020 movie Ammonite last night which dramatizes that strain.)

The National Institutes of Health notes that – infertility could be a source of social and psychological suffering for women in particular. In some communities, the childbearing inability is only attributed to women, hence there is a gender related bias when it comes to a couple’s infertility.

Psychologists also must understand that infertility is a kind of trauma, often a complex trauma. Anxiety, depression, grief and loss are part of the psychological impact of infertility. There may even be more to the experience when defined by the individual. At the extreme, the process can be so stressful that a woman who undergoes fertility treatments may develop a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While defining infertility as a disability may have legal and medical applications, most women do not see their infertility as a disability. When I experienced secondary infertility, I never thought of myself as disabled. I simply had reached an age where my own fertility (I gave birth to a daughter at 19 and had a pregnancy aborted at age 22 or 23) naturally had ended. While it did make me sad that my husband now desired fatherhood after I was too old to gift him with that, I still did not think of myself as disabled. Women in my adoption community who have experienced infertility do not consider themselves disabled either.

Part of my learning experience today was learning about all the “baby” symbolic concepts that I didn’t know before. Angel baby always was understood by my heart. I find it interesting that a mom’s group that I have been part of for over 18 years initially gave our group the name Sunshine Babies because our babies were all born between April and August. Later, we simply changed that to Sunshine Moms. We knew nothing of the use of such words when we chose that concept as our group symbol. We never knew that word “sunshine” had a larger meaning outside of our group.. We all conceived via assisted reproduction. Therefore, a sunshine baby can have different meanings for different families.

My own daughter experienced a still birth prior to giving birth to my grandson and later my granddaughter. It was a sad and traumatic event to be certain. The terms acknowledge the complexity of pregnancy and infant loss as well as any pregnancies that follow such a loss. For those as clueless as I was before this morning – here are some commonly used phrases related to pregnancy outcomes.

The term rainbow baby refers to a baby born to a family after a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. The concept of a rainbow baby relates to the concept of a beautiful rainbow appearing after a turbulent storm. The concept symbolizes hope and healing. I always have loved rainbows. After every storm there is a rainbow. A rainbow baby brings an unimaginable amount of joy and a sense of peace, knowing that you now have a beautiful, precious little baby.

The sunshine symbol is often used to refer to calm moments before a storm. Therefore, a sunshine baby is the child who was born before you encountered a loss. Your loss could be the result of a miscarriage which is defined as the loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 to 24 weeks. A sunshine baby represents hope. Their presence allows you to believe that you can conceive a baby successfully. Your sunshine baby is a reminder that you are fully capable of maintaining a pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby.

There are even more terms as well – a Golden baby: a baby born after a rainbow baby, a Sunset baby: a twin who dies in the womb (I did experience a “vanishing” twin in my first son’s pregnancy), a Sunrise baby: the surviving twin of a baby who dies in the womb.

If you have a biological child, you are simply lucky. Some people will never have that chance or will have had the opportunity to parent taken away from them by miscarriage or infant death. When an intractable infertility may become an awareness after a first pregnancy results in a loss. Some women will mourn that loss all the more, realizing that they will never, ever experience having a child of their own genetic biology. This can be extended as well to a birth mother who loses her child to adoption for whatever reason, especially if that mother never experiences a reunion with her child (as happened to both my maternal and paternal original grandmothers).

The truth is, when you lose a baby from any cause, you develop a permanent psychological scar. In some women, it is difficult to imagine that they will ever have another baby. Losing a baby can change a person’s dreams and hopes of any future that includes being a parent. Some people will tell you that you should just “get over it.” This is not helpful advice to extend to a bereaved parent. The overwhelming feelings experienced following a loss are normal. Usually with grief and sorrow, the intensity does lessen as time passes.

Ugandan Adoptee Reunion

From an article in Intercountry Adoptee Voices by Jessica Davis. She is an American adoptive mother of a Ugandan daughter, who successfully returned to her daughter back to her Ugandan family. She is also a co-founder of Kugatta which brings families together who are impacted by Ugandan intercountry adoption.

Jessica writes – Every year I think I will not cry and it will not hurt as deeply as it once did. But each time I see all what was almost permanently taken from Namata, the pain returns just as deep (if not deeper) than the first time when I realized what I had participated in — and what needed to be done. I still have extended family members who refuse to admit that reuniting her with her Ugandan family was the RIGHT and JUST thing to do.

There are many people that believe it is okay to take children from LOVING families if these families are poor, living in the “wrong” country, practicing the “wrong” religion, or for a number of other irrational reasons. It is incredible how much money, time and resources contributes to the separation of families who should never be separated in the first place.

I will never stop speaking out against the wrongs being perpetuated within the intercountry adoption system. I won’t stop fighting for those that have been exploited by this system and I will certainly never forget the amazing little girl that came into my life and taught me to do better. As much as I miss her, my heartache pales in comparison to the joy I feel seeing her home with her family and thriving.

We did everything “right”. We used a highly rated adoption agency, followed all of the proper protocols and procedures and reported everything that was wrong as we discovered it. In fact, even though it has been proven our adoption agency was corrupt, Namata’s paperwork was fabricated, the Ugandan judge was bribed, the embassy interview showed Namata’s mother did not understand what adoption was and we were not told this at the time, our adoption of Namata from Uganda was and still is considered LEGAL. What does this tell you about intercountry adoption?

Namata didn’t get to go home because it was the right and just thing to do. Serena’s rights being violated and Namata’s best interests ignored were irrelevant by those that should have cared. The reason Namata got to go home and be reunited with her family was because Adam and I refused to accept that this was all okay or “for the better”.

Rarely do I hear anyone express concern for these injustices or what has been lost, rather people use good intentions gone awry to ignore these realities and press on as if nothing wrong has occurred.

If people won’t listen or can’t understand the problem at hand, maybe they will SEE it when they look at this family and realize all that was almost lost and there was literally NO reason for it at all.

Jessica did her research.  Due to her findings, Jessica appealed to the authorities for an investigation into the American adoption agency, European Adoptions Consultants, Inc. (EAC) that had facilitated this adoption (I wrote about them in yesterday’s blog). As a result of that investigation, EAC was debarred and as of August 2019, one of their employees pled guilty to federal charges of visa fraud, wire fraud and bribing Ugandan judges and other officials in order to facilitate illegal adoptions abroad.

My Life Could Have Been Different

Someone in my all things adoption group posted this – no biological, genetic offspring EVER HAD TO CONSIDER, what if they had been given away. Kept children never wonder if their life “would have been different if..” Not even IF it would be different, but HOW it would be different. No biological kept child will have a day where they realize that there was a whole other route that their life could have taken and that they could be a million miles away in a completely different situation and WHAT would that life be??

I replied – So, this touched something deep in me. I have. It came as a distinct understanding as I learned about my adoptee (both of them) parents original parents and the fact that my mom was an unwed high school student when she conceived me. Given how “normal” adoption was in my family – especially to my adoptive grandparents – how could it have been in the mid-1950s Baby Scoop Era, that my mom was not sent away by her socially prominent adoptive parents to have and give me away – just as she had been given away (and in truth, just as my dad had also been given away) – well, it is staggering to me that I wasn’t. Of course, with all I have learned about the traumas of adoption since joining this group, I am understandably grateful. Not bragging that I wasn’t, just realizing how I missed having that outcome by a hair’s breadth.

Yet, because of ALL of this, I have a satisfied feeling as I approach my own 68th birthday with both my parents now gone from physical life, that preserving me in my original family allowed me to care about reconnecting the broken threads of our family’s genetic, cultural, biological roots. Had I been given up for adoption, I doubt that would have ever happened.

If I had been given up, would I have had that same yearning as my own mother had to make contact with her mother ? To let her know that she was okay. My mom once said that as a mother, she would want to know what had become of her child. But by the time, my mom became seriously active in trying to make that happen, the information reached her that her mother had been dead for several years. Would my mom have searched for me, like she did for her mom ? Would my parents have been open to a reunion ?

I don’t know. Having adoptee parents is a rather complicated experience. While they were “good” parents – we were provided for, cared about, loved even – they were also strangely detached as we matured. I always knew I was expected to leave home after I graduated from high school. To become independent. After all, my parents were married at a young age and had to do adult things. So no wonder I did that – married, then had a child and went to work, even tried to pursue a higher education. I pretty much failed at all of that . . . but then I wasn’t the Super Woman the women’s liberation activists had made me believe I should be.

And I also think it was something to do with having those biological, genetic bonds severed that made my parents the kind of parents they were to us. Not judging them for that. They did reasonably well all things “adoption” considered.

Adult Adoption

I read a review today of a TV reality show I will NOT be watching – Adults Adopting Adults. Yet I thought it would be an interesting topic to explore in today’s blog. I’ve come across the concept before within an all things adoption group I belong to as some adoptees in reunion with their biological family, wish to be adopted as adults by their original family. And in doing a quick google search – it really is a thing – and there are lots of law firms willing to help anyone through the process for a fee.

Beyond the adoptee in reunion with their original family, why would anyone else want to do this ? Certainly in that reality show, there are some sexually nefarious reasons and so, I really have no interest in watching it. By the way, the question has come up regarding immigration and no, adopting a foreign national does not automatically grant them citizenship.

Adult Adoption is very common in Japan and it actually goes back to business inheritance laws that no longer apply but tradition suggests they still hold a lot of sway as I learned in an article for The Economist. The country’s declining birth rate has limited the likelihood of a male heir for many business families. Many legal adoptions are coupled with a form of arranged marriage (known as omiai) to one of the family’s daughters—but the son-in-law (or mukoyoshi) then changes his name to hers. Today a host of matchmaking companies and marriage consultants recruit voluntary adoptees for Japanese companies.

To be selected as a mukoyoshi is to be awarded a high executive honor. This prompts fierce competition among managers, ensuring that the business has access to as good a talent pool as non-family companies. In fact, researchers have found that adopted heirs’ firms outperform blood heirs’ firms—although the prospect of being overlooked for an outsider can serve as motivation for sons to knuckle down, too.

In the US, the primary drivers of adult adoptions are where a step-parent wishes to secure inheritance rights for their step-child and in situations of disability requiring long-term care. I have a friend with an autistic daughter approaching legal age who has been informed to maintain support requirements, she will have to adopt her own daughter. I can also imagine this happening where a parent needs the legal guardianship of their child (though I do believe having flirted with that issue regarding my dad, adoption isn’t necessary to secure that support).

In June 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark civil rights case of Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right of same-sex couples to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples, with all the accompanying rights and responsibilities, is guaranteed by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Before the advent of federally legalized same-sex marriage, some couples utilized adult adoption in order to pass on inheritance rights and medical decision making to their partners.

You Don’t Want To Parent, What To Do ?

An acquaintance is pregnant and you know they absolutely don’t want to parent that child after it is born but abortion is not option for your acquaintance. As an adoption trauma informed person, what do you suggest to this person ?

Note – decisions about pregnancy can be really complex. All-Options Talkline may be a resource – (888) 493-0092.

Deciding to not parent seems easy because of what our society has ingrained in us, but the reality is birth mothers hurt deeply their whole lives from making that decision, whether they are conscious of it or not. The same with the child, it sounds so easy to adopt out a baby because “they won’t even know” but in fact they have trauma their whole life, whether they are conscious of it or not.

For those pro-Adoption people who are also Pro-Life and believe that outlawing abortion will yield more babies for you to adopt – I have some bad news. According to The Turnaway Study, 91% women who were denied wanted abortions didn’t choose adoption. The vast majority parented their child. 

And the fact is – abortion is safer than common procedures like tonsillectomy and wisdom tooth removal. And it’s certainly much safer than going through childbirth. Far more adoptees than one would think will say “I would rather have been aborted than adopted.” 90% of American women who have abortions have them in the first trimester. I am one of those. I had an abortion in the later 1970s – after already having given birth to a daughter. At the time, she was being raised by her father and a step-mother.

In the study there was an association between abortion and mental health. But it was exactly opposite to what has been said in the popular media. It’s not that receiving an abortion was associated with worse mental health, but in the short run, being denied the abortion was – so higher anxiety, lower self-esteem, lower life satisfaction. For up until the first six months, the women who were denied fared worse. They were forced to come to terms with the fact that they were about to have a baby that they had previously felt that they weren’t able to take care of. 

What are the actual implications of giving up a living, breathing child to adoption ? Adoption is not death, but it is LOSS. The grief and trauma are life long. Birthparents cannot ever escape it. Naming that child? Loving that child? Losing that child? Living the rest of their life without their child? From a birth mother – My son is 11 years old and I have never heard him speak. I don’t know what his voice sounds like. I barely know anything about him, and it all comes through a filter. Is what his APs say actually true? I don’t know. I genuinely have no way to know if my son is being loved and cared for the way he deserves. It’s honestly terrifying. It is definitely more difficult to know the child is still out there. It’s an ambiguous grief that’s hard to understand or explain.

So the answer could be kinship! Why doesn’t anyone ever think, oh yeah, this child has family on the paternal and maternal side? At least, adoptees can then stay in their genetic family. Most adult adoptees will tell you it is better than being given to strangers to be raised. It also allows the mother time to change her perspective on parenting, have lifestyle or relationship changes while remaining in her child’s life.

In fact, I talked to an adoptee recently who didn’t know she was adopted until she was in her 30s. Attempting reunions with her birth parents yielded a mother who wasn’t interested in trying to forge a relationship but on the father’s side – it turned out that there was a paternal grandparent who did want to parent her but the birth mother had blocked it.

At least family members on either side are genetic mirrors for the child to grow up around as well as the ability to hear family stories as they are passed down. History and heritage – both matter. I know. I didn’t have either until after my adoptee parents had died and I began the search to know who my original grandparents were. Not only did I learn about my cultural heritage but I’ve been given priceless family history stories and digital photos that add value to my new sense of wholeness. That real sense of wholeness was not acquired until I was over 60 years old.

Reuniting His Birth Parents

Karen and Roger Caldwell

Such an irresistible story, I just had to share it today. The story is “old” but still sweet. The baby that tore two Kentucky teen-agers apart 25 years ago united them in marriage in August of 1991. Mark Kitts officiated at the wedding. His adoptee effort to reunite with his birth parents prompted them to speak to each other again for the first time since his mother learned she was pregnant.

“I’ve always been in love with him,” Karen Caldwell said of her high school sweetheart and now husband, Roger Caldwell. “I’ve never been in love with anyone else.” Karen Waterfill was a 15-year-old Western High School cheerleader in 1966. Roger Caldwell was an honor student and a basketball player at the same high school but by then a freshman at the University of Kentucky.

This is so much like the story of my parents. My mom was a junior in high school and my dad was a freshman at the U of NM at Las Cruces when I took up residence in her womb. My story turned out happier (I believe) than their son Mark Kitts, though he has no complaints. My parents were also high school sweethearts – both of them adoptees – and they remained married for over 50 years until death did part them.

Karen was sent away to a Lexington home for unwed mothers. On Sept 11 1966, she gave birth to a boy. I will always be forever grateful that this didn’t happen to me and my own parents. It could have so easily been my story as well as that was the norm in the mid-1950s. “I remember him crying, but I never got to hold him,” Karen said. The baby was adopted within a week.

A few months after the birth, Roger Caldwell, who did not know the child’s birth date or sex, married another woman, joined the Air Force and left town. But he told his wife, whom he divorced in 1988 after they raised two children together, that he really loved someone else. Karen eventually would say the same thing to two husbands. About six months after the baby was born, Karen returned to the home to ask about him. They would tell her only that he had been adopted by “good people.”

This is so much like what happened to my mom’s mother with Georgia Tann who wouldn’t tell her anything about who adopted my mom or where she went.

Mark’s adoptive parents were Gene and Linda Kitts of Lexington, who adopted their second son, a baby they named Mark. In all, the Kittses, who lived in Louisville when this story was published, eventually had six children — five of whom are adopted and three of whom have found their birth parents. It was a search that the Kittses supported. Linda Kitts said that she often wondered about the women who gave birth to her children.

John Ellis was a mutual friend of the Caldwells in high school. Karen and Roger each quizzed Ellis about how the other was doing. Roger occasionally drove by Karen’s house, hoping she would be outside. Karen got dressed to go to the visitation after Roger’s mother died, but then changed her mind.

When Mark’s wife Dee-dee became pregnant, he start thinking about his own birth. He obtained a court order for the state to attempt to locate his birth mother. Karen Williams was married and living in Frankfort. She eventually agreed to meet Mark Kitts and to see whether Roger Caldwell would meet him as well.

They agreed to meet and discuss Mark’s request. So. Roger came to Kentucky and picked Karen up. The couple cried and talked, then began seeing each other every day. Their relationship went so smoothly that when they met Mark, he thought, “Wow, this is odd. This couple really gets along well.” Karen said it was like giving birth to Mark all over again. Only this time Roger was by her side.

Karen Caldwell also had a 22-year-old daughter and a grandchild living in Frankfort but she quit her job in Kentucky to marry Roger and move to Tennessee. Karen filed for divorce — something she says she had been considering anyway — and then Roger asked her to marry him. Three days after the divorce became final, Mark officiated at the couple’s wedding in Covington, Kentucky.

Mark said, “I’ve been very happy with my life. I don’t wish it was different. We’re trying to build a relationship on the future, not the past.”