Lost Boy

August 20, 2008

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and she only saw him once.

Once, from behind the window of the nursery. He was wrapped in a blue blanket, and he was oh so small. They asked her if she wanted to hold him, and she said no. Just as she had in the delivery room, right after he was born, when she had squeezed her eyes shut so that she wouldn’t see him, her heart, the heart that she was giving away. She said no.

No.

It would have killed me, she said. It would have killed me. I couldn’t have gone on. I loved him.

She had loved his father. They had planned to marry, as soon as he divorced his wife. Nobody had believed her, but it was true. It seemed true. They’d run off together twice. They both went AWOL from the Air Force, running off into the night to be together. Her family pursued them, his wife’s family sent private detectives after them, the Air Force searched for them. They were wanted. They ran. They were found, and they ran again. He left his family for her, risked his career for her. He was happy that they were going to have a baby. They hid out in motels.

At the time, she said, I thought it was romantic. She shakes her head.

She was nineteen years old. He was nearly twice her age. When her family found her the second time, they didn’t bother to reason with her. They just took her. They took her and put her in a home for unwed mothers. She stayed there. She doesn’t know what happened to her lover. She never saw or heard from him again. She thinks that he probably went back to the Air Force, and to his wife.

I would have liked for him to know that he had a son, she said. I think that would have made him happy. She paused. Or maybe not.

When she went into labor, the nurses at the home for unwed mothers gave her some money and put her in a taxi. She arrived at the hospital alone, labored alone, gave birth alone. Gave up her child alone.

She was alone when the social worker came into her room and asked her if she knew anything about the parents who would adopt her child. It’s a private adoption, she told the worker. My doctor arranged it. The social worker nodded. But did she know that those parents were in their 60′s? That they were old? That the province would never approve it if it were a public adoption? She didn’t know. She didn’t want that. She wasn’t giving up her son to new parents, only for him to lose them in a few years. Like he was losing her, now. She wanted the best for him. That was the only way she could do this. She had to know that she was giving him a better life.

She called her doctor in. She told her that she wouldn’t do it. She wanted her son to go to a young family, to parents who had their whole lives ahead of them, to parents who had years and years and years to love him. Her doctor was furious.

I was terrified, she said. I’d never spoken up to anyone older than me, not to anyone with any authority. But I had to do it. For him.

Her baby went into foster care while adoption services sought new parents. She didn’t go to see him.

My parents went to see him, I think, she said. They never talked about it, but I’m sure they did. My mother put him in her will, and kept him there. Through revisions and revisions until the end of her life, she kept him there, always a member of the family, in her heart.

The man that she would some day marry came to her side during that time. They were friends. He held her hand, a lot. She grieved for her lost love and her lost baby, and he held her hand. He said, I’ll marry you. We can get your baby back. I will love that baby. With you. We will love that baby, together.

But it was too late.

William Frederick Hunter was adopted by a Vancouver couple. Professors at UBC, I think, she said. It was too late for me, she said. For us. Or so we thought. We didn’t know any better. We were so young. We might have been able to get him back. But we didn’t try. We didn’t know to try. We thought he was gone.

She grieved for years. Her husband held her hand. She couldn’t bear the idea of having children. Just the thought of seeing another baby in another blanket it was too much.

The grief became less acute, as time passed. One day, she realized that she could have another baby, and bear the pain. She could imagine not transposing her lost boy upon a new child. She could love again.

It took seven years, she said. Seven years before I knew that I would be okay. And then I had – then we had – you.

And I loved again.

I squeeze my own baby boy, pulling him tightly against my chest, wondering how it would feel to let him go. Even if I thought it best, for him – could I let him go? My heart screams.

I understand why she couldn’t hold him, her lost boy.

I’ve thought about him every single day of my life, she says. Every single day. Every single day I see that little baby in that blue blanket, and I wonder.

I wonder.

She pauses. I imagine that her hand trembles as she lifts her wine to her lips, but I can’t see in the dim light of the late summer evening. I’m glad that I can’t see, and that she can’t see me. Tears are streaming down my face and wetting my baby’s head.

I’ve never looked for him. I couldn’t. What if something had happened to him? What if he hated me? What if he didn’t want to know anything of me? What if he never forgave me? Her voice cracks. I couldn’t stand knowing.

We sit quietly. I reach for the wine bottle between us and fill her emptied glass.

Still, she says. Still. I’ve often wondered whether you or your sister would ever look for him.

Would you want me to?

She takes a sip of her wine. She doesn’t look at me.

Yes.

Then I will.

Thank you.

We sit.

I just want him to know how much I loved him. How much I love him still.

I know.

Thank you.

His name was William Frederick Hunter, and he’s my brother. I’m going to find him.

*********


PS: Because you are asking: he was born in July of 1963, at Grace Hospital in Vancouver. William Frederick Hunter was the name given to him to at birth. One or both of his parents were – we think – professors at UBC. That’s all I know.

PPS: Those of you who are offering to help – oh god the tears – your generosity makes my heart ache – please e-mail me, if you haven’t already. And, all of you, with all of your tremendous words of support: THANK YOU. Going off to weep now.

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    { 287 comments }

    Frankie August 20, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    What a beautifully told story. Best of luck to you and your family. I wish I knew how to help but I like you have a brother and sister (twins) that have been lost in the adoption process.

    They were born in 1972, my mother was only 14. I found out when I was 21 and haven’t been able to get any farther than that in 6 years.

    But you, You have a name, a beginning, a start. I will keep you in my thoughts. I can truly say I know how you feel.

    Kyla August 20, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Oh Cath. Do it, find him. I can never imagine you regretting finding him, but not looking, that you might regret.

    What a lot to process. Hugs, you.

    Design Mom August 20, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Wow. I’m crying. With a start this beautiful, how can the resolution to this story be anything but positive.

    nic August 20, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    @Marie: Talk to a hospital social worker or someone you trust who will be honest with you about your resources, the commitment required, your options. Do not make any hasty decisions either way.

    crunchycarpets August 20, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    big big stuff…if you want to find him there are some websites..I can look em up for you.

    I was told by my mom that I have a half sister out there somewhere…dad had an affair and they put the girl up for adoption right away….

    It was a huge deal for her to tell me….

    she gave me all the info in case I want to try and find her someday

    flutter August 20, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I love you. I have been there, not able to hold her but at least I knew where she went, for my heart it keeps me sane.

    I will help you find him, having been on the birth mother side of things I know a few tricks.

    You know where to find me if you want me to walk with you.

    Ree August 20, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    Catherine – you are truly amazing and fearless….

    West Coast Grrlie Blather August 20, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    My mother gave up her first baby too. That baby grew up & found my mom, so now I have an older half sister. It was a long search (in the dark ages before the internet too) but worth it. I wish you all the best, and trust that healing will come.

    heels August 20, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Marie- You probably have some time. Take it. Don’t rush to a decision like this. The adoptive parents backing out just bought you a little more wiggle room. Try to maybe think past keeping or not keeping into other options. Is an open adoption a possibility?

    Stay strong, for yourself, that baby, and your other 2 children. Best wishes.

    Listen Up, MoFos! August 20, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    You’ll find him, I just know you will!!! You made me cry. So much I could say, yet I can’t say a word… Thanks so much for sharing!

    Jessica August 20, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    A very amazing story. My Aunt gave up a baby when she was 16. 30 yrs later he found her. He expressed to her how grateful he was that she choose to give him up for adoption. He had an amazing childhood and wonderful adoptive parents. He and my Aunt are very close now and he has welcomed her and the rest of us into his family. It was truly a blessing all around.

    Good luck in finding your brother. I will keep you in my prayers.

    Keely August 20, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Wow. My husband has a sister out there and I often wonder if we could find her… but we’d need his mother’s blessing for that. Reading this makes me realize how hard that must have been for my mother in law and especially after having my own child – and another on the way – I feel like I understand her even more.

    I hope that you find your brother. Best of luck to you!

    Carolyn...Online August 20, 2008 at 5:00 pm

    Oh my. I want to run out and start googling and help find him for you. Good luck. Sending strength to you and your mom.

    for a different kind of girl August 20, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Oh, the crying I’ve done today out there in this world. Your mom sounds like a truly strong woman. I hope this is the first step toward giving her a reunion with her son, and a new facet to your family by which to learn from and love. It could truly be such an amazing thing. I hope he’s out there, somewhere, waiting joyously for you all, and that you find him soon to experience that.

    flutter August 20, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    Marie-

    I am a birthmom. While I do not for a moment, think I made the wrong choice, I ache for my daughter every day.
    Your want to be a good parent, your concern, your struggle…it all leads me to believe that the heart you have is strong, that the love you have for your child is insurmountable.
    There are resources to help you with money, if that is your concern. there are counselors to talk to you and guide you.

    There are birthmoms (me) that will hold your hand and hear your concerns and help you.

    You are shortchanging no one. This life, this love is beautiful.

    Amy @ Taste Like Crazy August 20, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Coming from someone who was adopted [and currently bawling] I would LOVE to be “found” by my biological family.

    I know that I have at least two 1/2 siblings and I’ve always wondered what they’re like…what they look like…if I pass them when I walk down the aisle at the grocery store.

    I truly believe that only someone in this situation can understand the yearning and the hole. Because there is a hole as cliché as that may sound and I know that finding my biological family is the only thing that will fill it.

    Understand that he may not want to know you. But, also understand that on some level you can’t care and that this isn’t about him. It’s about you, it’s about your mom, it’s about your family.

    I wish you luck from the depths of my heart.

    Tuesday Girl August 20, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Marie, deciding with your heart vs, your head must be impossible. Your baby girl needs a loving family, food, clothes. can you give that to her? Are you sure?

    Please talk to a social worker or your adoption agency.
    Good luck.

    anna August 20, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Wow, fantastic post. Even with my heart of stone, I am weeping a little bit and looking at my own baby son. I wish you all the best in your search, wish I had a means of helping you.

    The Introvert August 20, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    I don’t know what I can say that hasn’t already been said, but that was extremely well-written and throughly heart-wrenching. I pray that you will find him.

    susan August 20, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    This was an amazing post. One painful to read.

    I gave up a daughter at 20. The nurses kept trying to get me to hold her. It was gut-wrenching.

    You’ll find him. I know you will. Good luck!

    T. August 20, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Um. Yeah. I’ve got nothing wise to say. Speechless.

    I hope it works out the way you all want. To carry that hurt and guilt in her heart for all this time…I hurt for your mother.

    Sending prayers on your behalf and your brother’s, as well.

    T.

    T. August 20, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    Oh and you f’in rock…and your mother, too.

    T.

    Stacy August 20, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    So beautiful. So raw. I hope you find him. You will.

    crazedparent August 20, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    one of my dearest friends recently found her birth mom and it was the most amazing, positive experience of her life.

    i wish the same for you in your quest to find your brother. and you *will* find him!

    fairytalesandmargaritas August 20, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Oh the heartbreak
    and the hope.
    I pray that you find him and that he understands and that he can love her.
    I could’ve been him, but my mom chose at the last minute to keep me and I could’ve been her, but chose to keep my daughter.
    But, I know I could’ve been there.

    Heather.PNR August 20, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    @Anonymous/Marie -

    I wish I could give you a big hug.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting to raise your daughter. Nothing at all.

    It’s not “an adoption plan gone wrong.” The decision to place a child for adoption really has to be remade after the child is born. Sometimes after the birth, moms realize that adoption isn’t right choice after all. And that is FINE. That is normal.

    You sound like you really don’t want to place, but you’re trying to talk yourself into it. Please don’t. It’s a decision that can never be undone and will be a loss that you and your other other children carry with them the rest of their lives. If you give parenting a try and eventually realize that it really isn’t working out, adoption will still be there. Don’t feel like you need to rush into it right now.

    I say that as an adoptive mom who what it’s like to be on the other side of the equation, waiting to see if a child will come home with me. The prospective adoptive couple might have some sadness over this change, but that’s just part of the adoption process for us. They will be okay.

    Best wishes to you and your new daughter. I will be thinking of you. I sincerely hope things work out for you and your family of four.

    Manic Mommy August 20, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Oh. My. I hope you find him. I hope he’s had a good life. And that his parents (birth and adoptive) gave him a good heart.

    Crunchy Domestic Goddess August 20, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    wow. what a story and so beautifully written. best of luck with your search to you and your family.

    supertiff.com August 20, 2008 at 5:13 pm

    i was about to go to the mall, but now i’m a teary mess. your mother’s story is my mother’s story…and we found my brother. it’s been 9 years now, and while there were very trying times along the way, i’m (exceedingly) happy to report that these days it seems like he’s always been here…always been with us and part of us.

    i guess in some ways he always was.
    if there’s anything i can do to help you in this journey, let me know.

    p.s.
    when i was growing up, i never thought my mom was unhappy. but, now that her son is back in her life? she’s a completely different person. a huge weight has been lifted from her soul, i think. it has been the most incredible thing to see. we are so very, very blessed. i hope that someday you will get to share this unusual joy with your mother, as well.

    Heather August 20, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Oh good luck! I’ve got a giant lump in my throat from reading that.

    kidsandcrittersinwyoming August 20, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    Wow, I really don’t have any words other than to say thank you for this. As the mother of an adopted daughter I always wonder what will her mother feel at some point, what will she feel? What will potential other siblings feel (as I believe there will be more her mother is young). I am thankful our adoption is open so we can answer these questions in time for all involved. I hope you find him.

    sam {temptingmama} August 20, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    That was so beautiful, as always. I am totally speechless.

    I hope and pray that you find him. I really do.

    daysgoby August 20, 2008 at 5:18 pm

    Whatever I can do, C.
    Whatever, whenever.

    Mr Lady August 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I live in Vancouver, and I will help you.

    Stacy August 20, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    I am in awe – of your amazing writing ability and the courage it took to help your mother to heal. It can happen. You will find him. My sister found me. I’m sad to say that we’ve since lost touch, without ever meeting. There is no heart-wrenching story to it. Just parents without the capacity to be parents. Your mother – just wonderful. Give her a huge hug and tell her somehow, someway, he knows he is loved.

    Avonlea August 20, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Your mom is amazingly strong. Prayers from me too that you will find him.

    I’m also sitting here crying at the heart-hurting beautifulness of this post.

    The Ex August 20, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    My aunt gave up a baby for adoption when she was 13. He’s in his mid-thirties now and I found him. I found him and she won’t talk to him because she’s too afraid of what he’ll think.

    My dad also gave up my two half-siblings when the mother disappeared and when they were reunited we found out they had a horrible life.

    This is so….unbelievably touching. I just hope so much that works out and that he’s been happy and that no one gets hurt.

    kittenpie August 20, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    OMG HBM, totally sobbing heaving sobs at work here… So sad, so beautiful, so… much. Godspeed on that voyage, honey.

    Lisa V August 20, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Catherine, two of my children came to us through adoption. Luckily they were both open adoptions and we have loving relationships with their other families.

    No matter how much my children love me, it doesn’t negate their ties and bonds to families the were born to.

    I hope you find your brother. Adoption should be about joining two families, not losing one.

    whensheworeponytails August 20, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    I just thought about how my comment might sound. I sure hope it wasn’t thought that I was trying to dissuade you with my fears. I really do have high hopes you find him.

    Liz Henry August 20, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Oh! this made me cry!!! Good luck. I’ll help you spread the word.

    Natalie August 20, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    wow. i’m not even sure how to comment. i was adopted as an infant as well. as a child and into my teenage years i always wondered about my birth mom, and even made a tiny attempt to find her when i was 16. it was more of a curiosity because i had a friend who found her birth family. i never tried to find her again, and honestly never cared to. i appreciated all she did in giving me away…giving me a chance at a life she knew she couldn’t give me, but i had no desire to know more. when i was pregnant with my first child i got a letter from the adoption agency saying she had sent them a letter for me and wanted to know if i wanted it. i got it and learned a little of her story. she was 16, from a large family, and money was scarce. it made me even more grateful to her…knowing that it was the hardest thing she ever did. she also told me she was registered with a finding agency so if i ever wanted to know who she was i could find her. i didn’t want to know. i wrote her back and told her how much i appreciated what she did…told her about my childhood and my life, but told her i wasn’t ready for any kind of reunion. 6 years later i felt like i was supposed to at least contact her and give her my name and contact info if she ever needed it. i did very reluctantly. i talked to her on the phone, and she just cried and cried she was so happy to hear from me. i honestly felt sorry for her, because although i could understand her feelings…her attachment to me…i felt nothing of that attachment for her. again…i was so grateful and told her that. i told her that i just wasn’t in a place where i wanted to meet her in person. i wanted to give her the same privilege she had given me. the opportunity to be able to contact me if she needed to. she was great. she has been great. i hear from her about once a year as she checks in, but she has never pressured me to become part of her family. some people may think it is heartless of me that i don’t desire a relationship. i am one of 4 children and the only one adopted. i was never treated like an adopted child. not ever. my grandparents even forgot i was adopted saying that my son looks just like my brother and why shouldn’t he. i think if i had felt a hole somewhere in my life or had been treated differently i might have responded to my birth mother differently. i am glad i know her story. the reasons why she gave me up. and when i had my children i always thought of her when they turned 2 weeks old. that was when she left me at the baby home. her last look at me. so i looked at my 2 week old babies and couldn’t imagine having to give them up. and i said a prayer of thanksgiving for the woman who made that sacrifice.

    Isabel Kallman August 20, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    gripping.

    thank you for sharing.

    Lisa V August 20, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    Oh, and to the anonymous commentor considering becoming a birth mother- head on over to openadoptionsupport.com, post your question (or even email it) and you will have some birth moms who are likely pretty supportive responding to you. No one will try to push you either way, they will just be some good sounding boards.

    If you’d like to email me vindaugablog at yahoo dot com I can privately give you the names of some birth moms who blog.

    the weirdgirl August 20, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Oh damnit. I really didn’t feel like crying today.

    I hope you find him. Big huge hugs to you!

    marymurtz August 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    As an adoptive mother, this hit me so hard; I have, as you know, tried in vain to make contact with our daughter’s birth mother and just saw her walking the other day. The case worker won’t return my calls, and all I want to do is send photos and an occasional update so they know she’s okay.

    Honey, if there is anything I can do to help, you have only to ask. There are a lot of people out there who know the hoops to jump through and the sites and agencies that can help track down the information you are seeking. I haven’t read through all the comments yet, but I will.

    This was so beautifully written, and it broke my heart. Tell your mother we are all going to help you.
    xoxo

    Jenifer August 20, 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Wow. Of course you are in my thoughts as you begin your search. What a journey you are beginning.

    Genevieve Hinson August 20, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    An amazing, heart-wrenching post. I hope you find your brother.

    The women at BirthMomBuds.com might be of some help and emotional support (for your mom, you and your family). I know there are search angels out there — perhaps they can help suggest one. These folks have a lot of experience in doing exactly this.

    Mamma August 20, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    As an adoptee, I can’t even imagine that my birth parents have thought about me–let alone thought about finding me.

    Thank you for this perspective.

    Amy August 20, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Good luck finding your brother. I hope it’s a glorious reunion for all of you.

    Amy @ http://prettybabies.blogspot.com

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