Oftentimes, the Right Thing to Do is also the Hardest
In early 1991, a young woman named Teresa found herself pregnant with her second child. Teresa feared she would not be able to adequately care for two babies on her own. Without her family’s knowledge, she carried her baby to term knowing the best decision would be to place her baby for adoption.
“Nobody knew,” said Teresa. “I was all alone in the decision. I knew that if I told anyone that they would not support me even though I knew I couldn’t give this baby everything I felt she deserved.”
On November 12, 1991, Teresa delivered a healthy, beautiful baby girl. Working with Mississippi Children’s Home Services, now Canopy Children’s Solutions, Teresa placed her baby for adoption. The baby, named Danielle, was placed with a family in Vicksburg.
“It was the hardest thing I had ever done,” said Teresa. “Even though I knew I made the right decision, I had so much guilt. Every time I looked at my other daughter, I thought of her sister. It broke my heart.”
A few years later, Teresa married and confided in her husband about the adoption. Her husband encouraged her to reach out and try to find Danielle. Teresa returned to Canopy for information. In the early 90s, adoptions were a very private matter. Parents often did not disclose information about the adoption even to the child. The agency was not able to provide Teresa with any information about her baby or the adoptive family, although they assured her she was safe, cared for and dearly loved. Teresa continued to hope that one day she would see her baby girl again.
Where Did I Come From?
When Danielle was 12 years old, she learned she was adopted. She had always wondered why no one ever mentioned her having her mother’s eyes or her daddy’s smile. While grateful for the wonderful life her parents had provided her, she desperately wanted to know about her birth family.
“All my best friends looked like somebody,” said Danielle. “It really bothered me. I had questions I needed answers to. More than answers, I wanted to know where I came from and who I looked like.”
After Danielle turned 18 in 2009, she reached out to Canopy to begin searching for her birth mother. While she was legally old enough to receive limited information about her adoption, she had to wait until age 21 to gain full access to her personal adoption file.
In 2016, Canopy’s Lakeisha White took over the search. Searching new family ancestry cites, public information databases and social media platforms, Lakeisha finally got a hit. A Facebook search gave her hope Teresa was still in the area. After reaching out to the owner of the account on numerous occasions, she received no response.
“It was a little disheartening when I didn’t hear anything back at first,” said Lakeisha. “I told myself she could have been scared or maybe she didn’t check her messages, so I stayed positive and gave it time.”
A Lucky Break
One day, Lakeisha walked into a local restaurant. Glancing up at the staffer’s nametag, she couldn’t believe her eyes. It was Teresa! Overcome with emotion, Lakeisha collected herself and asked to speak with Teresa briefly.
“I handed her my card and asked her to call me when she was off work,” said Lakeisha. “Looking at my card, her eyes welled up. She knew what I was going to tell her. She began to cry and pulled me into the bathroom. ‘Are you my daughter?’ she asked me. ‘Do you know my daughter?’ she repeated.”
Lakeisha explained that she worked for Canopy Children’s Solutions and her daughter had contacted the agency looking for her [Teresa]. She explained that Danielle wanted to meet her and asked if that was something Teresa would be willing to do. Lakeisha took down Teresa’s contact information and gave her a few days to collect her thoughts.
“I was excited, but I was also very afraid,” said Teresa. “This was a secret I had kept for nearly 25 years; even my mom didn’t know. So many things ran through my head.”
A few weeks later, Teresa and Danielle spoke over the phone for the first time.
“It was crazy the connections we had,” said Danielle. “The things that we liked that were similar, we even had mutual friends.”
Danielle and Teresa met face-to-face on October 28, 2016 at the Canopy office in Jackson. Surrounded by family and friends, the birth mother and daughter reunited just before Danielle’s 25th birthday. When the door opened, the mother and daughter embraced. Smiles and happy tears filled the room. Teresa was accompanied by her daughters Madison and Tanesha, her mother Dorothy, and other extended family. Danielle was also accompanied by family. Everyone in the room cried and hugged.
“Tell your sister thank you for giving my baby a good life,” Teresa told Danielle’s aunt Patricia with tears flowing down her face. “Thank her, thank you, thank you all so much,” she repeated.
Danielle brought along photo albums of her life to show to Teresa. She also offered tokens of love: matching necklaces for her mother, birth mother and sisters each with a half charm matching a necklace she wore.
Laughter filled the room. They acted like old friends catching up.
After an hour or so, Danielle, Teresa and their families left to enjoy a family gathering at a local restaurant where other family members, including Danielle’s biological father, came together to celebrate.
For Danielle’s birthday two weeks later, she celebrated with her family she had always known as well as her new extended family. A day that for so long was filled with questions was finally filled with closure and overwhelming joy.