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Mother and daughter meet after 40 years

First slide

The elderly gentleman seemed a bit bewildered as he hovered at the threshold of the Birthright of Fredericksburg office. Director Rosemary O’Grady was just opening the office and invited him in. Sensing some confusion and hesitancy in him, she suspected that the visitor was probably in the wrong place. Actually, he was right where he wanted to be, and he had a story to tell.

He first handed over a check as a donation to Birthright of Fredericksburg. He then explained that, at that very same hour in Rochester, N.Y., his daughter Beth was meeting her firstborn child, a girl named Rachel, now 39 years old. He said Birthright had facilitated her adoption all those years ago, and now he wanted to show his gratitude and share the family history.

In a later interview, Beth filled in the details of her story. Just 19 and starting college, she discovered she was pregnant. She didn’t feel ready to be a mother. Additionally, the father of the baby denied paternity, which devastated her. She was afraid of sharing the news with her parents and tried to hide the pregnancy for a few months. When she did divulge her condition, she found them completely and lovingly supportive; in fact, they offered to help her raise the baby.

Parenting was not the best option for her, she felt, and she decided to go to the local Birthright office for advice and help. There she met Mary Jane Kittredge, the volunteer client advocate working that day, who welcomed her warmly and discussed alternatives like adoption. Consulting with her parents, she decided to place her baby for adoption through the aegis of Bethany Christian Services. Throughout the entire pregnancy, Beth appreciated the love and support of the Birthright organization, especially the kindness of Kittredge.

Life went on for the young college student after she gave birth in October. Eventually she married and became the mother of three children and two stepchildren. The Stafford County resident continues in her successful career as a federal worker in Washington and has added “grandmother” to her resume.

Meanwhile “Baby” Rachel, approaching 40 years old in October, is a busy mother of two children and a career woman. She grew up in a loving family in Rochester and had a happy childhood. Her parents told her from an early age about her adoption and always were open to her searching for her biological mother if she was interested.

Rachel wanted to learn more about her roots and made several attempts over the years but ran into roadblocks at every turn. She stepped up her efforts when she was preparing for her marriage. She even contacted Oprah Winfrey for help in her search. (There was no response from the famous personality.)

A friend who knew of Rachel’s wish to find her biological mother gave her a present: a DNA test kit which she submitted to Ancestry.com. Over several months, she messaged 40 people and received 12 responses. There were some false leads at first, but at last Rachel hit pay dirt.

Beth’s extended family members were all together at a friend’s house enjoying dinner Aug. 4 when Beth’s youngest son, Michael, noticed an email from a stranger. Along with a lot of probing questions about his origins and locale, the woman mentioned the DNA test and the fact that she, Rachel, and Michael were an exact match. This startling communication that began at dinner continued on the phone until about 2:30 a.m.

When Beth finally got an opportunity to talk on the phone, Rachel’s first words to her were, “Thank you so much. I’ve had a wonderful life.” Mother and daughter talked at length on the phone again the next day, and Rachel’s adoptive parents also called Beth. They made plans to meet in person as soon as possible, and it wasn’t long before Beth and Michael flew to Rochester for a joyous reunion.

In October, Rachel visited Fredericksburg, where she was born at Mary Washington Hospital, and met many members of Beth’s clan. One stop in the local tour was the Birthright of Fredericksburg office where she and Beth received a warm welcome and where the organization’s mission statement remains the same: “It is the right of every pregnant woman to give birth, and the right of every baby to be born.”

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020