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.


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.


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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    blissfullycaffeinated August 20, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Oh my. Like everyone else here, all I can really say is wow. What an amazing and gut wrenching story.

    Wow, wow.

    Best of luck with your search. My thoughts are with you and your mom.

    ms. changes pants while driving August 21, 2008 at 12:17 am

    amazingly beautifully painfully gently written.

    beautiful. whatever you do, whatever directions you take in this search, listen to your gut. listen to that little voice.

    good luck, and all beautiful things to you and your family.

    Lady M August 21, 2008 at 12:38 am

    My heart aches. That was so beautifully expressed.

    You will find him!

    Mandy August 21, 2008 at 12:48 am

    Wow. Nothing profound to say. I’m just sending support. I hope that you find him… for everybody’s sake.

    andrea August 21, 2008 at 1:23 am

    Chills. Goosebumps. What pain your mother went through. I hope you find him and the reunion is sweet.

    Maria August 21, 2008 at 2:38 am

    I am overwhelmed by the love you and your mother have and by how beautifully and powerfully you’ve expressed it. I hope you find your brother and you have the opportunity to share it with him in person.

    Nina August 21, 2008 at 3:08 am

    I hope to God you find him. Your mother, your mother…I can’t even imagine.

    I hope to God you find him.

    domoshar August 21, 2008 at 4:22 am

    You made me cry!
    Wish you all the best of luck to find him as soon as possible and hug him!!!
    PS: Do you believe you will make it?
    You do, don’t you? It will happen!

    Syko August 21, 2008 at 7:57 am

    Totally beautiful post.

    My mother had the unfortunate habit of falling in love with married men. I was 11 when she told me that she was pregnant and going away to have the baby. She went away and I stayed with my grandparents. I don’t know if she actually had a child, and in later years she denied it. But she was mentally ill all her life.

    I knew about the second one, I was 14, and one day she bought bus tickets for us and we were going on a vacation – we got to Hannibal, Missouri before her water broke, and she made it to a hospital where she gave birth to a baby girl she called Hope. She lied on the birth certificate, and said that my father, from whom she’d been divorced for years, was the father of Hope. A nurse in the hospital knew a couple who wanted to adopt a child, and a private adoption was quickly arranged. The adoptive parents drove the two of us back home, and my mother made them let us out of the car downtown and we walked home to my grandparents’ house.

    The third was born when I was 18. I’d just finished high school and she woke me one night – “you have to help me, I just had a baby.” Health classes at school told me what to do, and I tied and cut the cord and wrapped the little girl in a towel. My mother got up and drove 50 miles, with me holding the baby, to where our old family doctor was located. We ran out of gas in the middle of the night. Someone came along and gave us a gallon. We got to the hospital and they took my mother and the baby, she signed away her rights to the child, and in the early hours we drove back home, where she pretended to have flu.

    My mother died a few years ago, she never seemed to have any curiosity about the children she gave up. We never talked about it, any mention I made was met with denials.

    I’ve thought about those little girls all my life. I’m fairly sure there is a third child, but other than “born in Kirksville, MO in 1953″, I know nothing. Hope was adopted by people in Quincy, IL in January, 1957. And the third was left at Still Hospital in Jefferson City, MO in 1960. I don’t know if they ever wonder about their birth family, or if they’d want to know anything about their mother. But they have a big sister who’s never stopped thinking about them and hoping they’re happy.

    Britt August 21, 2008 at 8:31 am

    your post made me cry. i really hope you find him.

    i always wished me father would look for me because i am so easy to find, but he never did. i’m 28 and i still wonder all the time if he ever thinks of me. he was only 16 when i was born and his parents moved him away before i was born. i wonder if i have any siblings. i have only pictures of him as a child that are now so faded you can’t make them out anymore. but i remember what they look like and i have some of his features and so do my kids. its hard.
    i hope you find him.

    -The Shiny Happy Mama- August 21, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Amazing. I hope you find him! Wishing you strength and love…

    Liza August 21, 2008 at 10:23 am

    I hope you find him, and that at the very least, he is open minded and curious about the rest of his first family.

    Your mom showed so much courage. I can’t even imagine going through something like that, particularly in so much isolation.

    Jenna August 21, 2008 at 11:02 am

    I’ve always been too intimidated to comment on your blog.

    I’m a birth mother. And I wish you the best.

    Stefanie August 21, 2008 at 11:31 am

    Gawd, I am totally teared up and that’s through massive amounts of Zoloft. That post was written amazingly well. I felt like I was reading a novel which made the punch even harder when I realized it was your momma. I’m so sorry that she is still grieving and I hope someone can help find him.

    lavandula August 21, 2008 at 11:46 am

    oh catherine how sad and heart wrenching for you and your mom. i hope and pray thAT you find william soon. and that he has a big open heart. i can’t help but i can and will pray for your mom that you find him.God bless you and your mum….

    Sarcasta-Mom August 21, 2008 at 11:46 am

    What a beautiful and heart breaking post. I was tearing up the entire time, just imagining the pain of having to hand over one of my own children.

    I wish you the best of luck with your search…

    Veronica @Toddled Dredge August 21, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Beautiful and heartbreaking.

    My brother-in-law met his brother and sister for the first time when they were all in their forties, after his father had died. They have become real friends. I hope the same happens for you.

    Bon August 21, 2008 at 11:54 am

    wow. beautifully told, with dignity.

    i hope you are all able to find each other. and i wish your mother, with her courage, peace.

    Andrea August 21, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I hope you find him and that it’s everything you hope it would be, and more.

    Tammy August 21, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    I hope with you that you find your brother are are reunited. Many blessings in your search…

    Dana August 21, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    I hope that you find and him and when you find him it is all that you hoped it would be.

    Lots of love.

    Momily August 21, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Although I only know you through this blog, my thoughts are with you as begin this search. I can only imagine how difficult this is and how emotional it must be to have heard the whole story so soon after having your son. I wish you lots of courage and luck as you begin your search.

    As for the research process, I’m not entirely sure how it works in BC with adoption records, but there are public records such as hospital registries, baptismal records and so on that you can access through the BC Prov. Archives or individual churches if they have not sent their records over to the Archives. Often homes for unwed moms also sent their records to the archives, but they are probably FOIP protected, so you would need to apply . . the librarian in me trying to be helpful.

    Mary P Jones (MPJ) August 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    What a beautiful post. I wish I could do more to help than just sit here at the computer choked up on your behalf. I hope you find your brother.

    Kristy - Where's My Damn Answer August 21, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Wow – powerful entry. As an adoptive Mother I cried reading this. I know the name of the biological mother and have it tucked away in my brain – I wasn’t supposed to know it but I saw it and thought that one day my son might want to go searching for his own answers.

    I hope that you find him – thank you so much for sharing this – I hope you’ll let us know the outcome.

    BabyShrink August 21, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Thank you for posting this beautiful, powerful story. Any parent’s heart aches, reading this. Mine included. I am a firsttime reader: Wow. Can’t wait to hear what happens. Good luck.

    ALI August 21, 2008 at 3:59 pm

    you will find him, because it is right that he know he was loved. and he will be amazing.

    Kristine August 21, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Wow, I have chills! As the mother of a child through adoption I can say from my heart that your mother gave an amazing “gift” to another family.

    As a mother through birth, I have to say that I can’t even imagine the pain it must have caused her, and clearly still does.

    Jozet at Halushki August 21, 2008 at 4:52 pm


    And more hugs.

    Many, many hugs.

    mrinz August 21, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    You must find him, you must!

    catnip August 21, 2008 at 5:01 pm

    I keep coming back and reading this and it blows me away every time. I wish you all the best in your search.

    Lotta August 21, 2008 at 5:32 pm


    I found my birth mother about 5 years ago, and then lost her this year when she died of liver cancer.

    Having a relationship with her was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I know that once I set my mind on finding her nothing would stop me. But please, take care. Sometimes we find more than we were looking for and it’s pretty overwhelming.

    Leah August 21, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    What a story. What a quest. Wishing you the best luck, C.

    Pamela August 21, 2008 at 5:46 pm

    So touching and heartfelt. As the mom of four angels, I cannot begin to know the pain of giving up a piece of yourself and losing it forever.

    All the best in your search and may it bring your mother the peace she so craves.

    Dawn Johnson August 21, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    A dear friend of mine went through a similar situation recently as her family realized they had a half sister when her mother’s alzheimer’s reached such confusion that she finally started to tell her story. It was an awkward but magical reunion and relationship that continues to grow. My prayers are with you and your family through your new journey.

    HollowSquirrel August 21, 2008 at 8:20 pm

    Oh honey. I’ll do what I can, too. Anything to help. Your poor mom. And you? I’m glad you two have each other. And your brother will be lucky to have you, too.

    Anonymous August 21, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    I just wanted to give you a glimer of hope. I have a half sister that I have been in contact with for just under a year. My father left her mother when she was 2 and had no contact with them after that. She didnt even know that my siblings and I exsisted. We only knew her name (hoping that her mom didnt change her last name) and her moms name. It took us 10 years but we finally found her. It was worth all of the time effort, stress and tears we put into it. She is now an even bigger part of my life.

    Your brother is out there some where. It might take some time but I have faith that you will find him.

    Rocks In My Dryer August 21, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    Wow. This was incredibly beautiful. Really, really wishing happy thoughts for you, that you find him.

    Ruth Dynamite August 21, 2008 at 9:08 pm

    You will find him.

    Anonymous August 21, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Wow- long ago a family member told me my father had a son before his marriage, for he started a family. The young girl went off with family, my dad went to Vietnam. I am not suppose to know this, I can not tell my dad I know this. I still question and wonder-
    Thank you! had to be hard! S

    Michelle August 21, 2008 at 10:08 pm

    I agree. Wow. I just recently found your blog and I LOVE IT. You write beautifully. I wish you the best of luck in finding your brother.

    Shannon August 21, 2008 at 10:29 pm

    I’ve said this before – I love your mother. Not that I’ve ever met her, but I feel as if I have. I could hardly read this, even so, I’m still crying….

    Rusti August 21, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    wow… I’m saddened, heartbroken, and hopeful… I wish you all the luck and best wishes in finding him…


    Charlene August 21, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    There really is nothing worse then loosing a child, either by choice or by fate. It does’t matter. I lost my first baby a few months ago (I was 12 weeks pregnant) and I’m still hurting. But, I thank whatever powers that I never had to make a choice like so many people I have met since loosing my baby. I had no control and I’m gratefull for that. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to let go. I am so sorry for you and your family and I really do hope that you get the answers you so bady want and that they are the answers that you need to put yourselves at rest.

    Anissa@Hope4Peyton August 22, 2008 at 1:27 am

    I was adopted and often wondered what it would be like to have my birth family find me. I hope that you find him so your mother will have some peace in her heart. I hope that it answers questions that always rumble around the minds of an adopted child. I hope that your brother is open to the love so freely being offered to him. Best of luck in this.

    MamaMichelsBabies August 22, 2008 at 1:28 am

    Oh wow.. I’m sitting here pregnant and wondering if I could do it thinking about the amazing love and strength it took to do it and weeping like a child.

    May you find him and may your mother find peace, however that may come.

    Suki August 22, 2008 at 11:55 am

    I hope you find him… .

    Michelle August 22, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    I don’t even know what to say.

    I so hope that you are able to find him, and to love him, and to be loved by him.

    This post puts so much into persepective.

    Kristen August 22, 2008 at 1:58 pm

    I am terribly choked up right now… the ending completely through me. I hope, hope, hope you are able to find your brother!

    Sandra August 22, 2008 at 11:39 pm

    Oh Catherine. Sending you so much love.

    You’ll find him. And he’ll be so lucky to have you in his life.


    ::::wifemothermaniac:::: August 22, 2008 at 11:52 pm

    I lived most of my adult life in Vancouver until only recently and have hundreds of contacts there, I’ll forward this on.

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