Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Three Births, One Family — by Samantha Lee

The First Birth:

Forty-one years ago this May, a beautiful twenty-one year old woman gave birth to a healthy, pink baby girl in a hospital in Durham, North Carolina. The delivery was a tough one — but not due to medical complications.

This delivery would mark the single most difficult moment in the young woman’s life. She would deliver her baby girl alone, while the father of her child was thousands of miles away fighting a war in Vietnam. She would deliver her baby girl alone, while her family in Utah was completely unaware of the pregnancy. And because she lived in a different time, when single motherhood was a public shame, after only a few days, she would deliver her baby girl alone into the arms of a social worker with a plea to “make sure the adoptive family knows I love her and have given them the greatest gift a human can ever give to another”.

The young woman who made that difficult choice so many years ago is my mother. Eventually she married the soldier after his return from Vietnam. And he is my father. But the baby girl born in Durham, North Carolina is not me.

A Second Birth:

Growing up as an only daughter sandwiched between two brothers suited me fine. Instead of boohooing about not having a sister, I chose to develop and maintain lasting friendships with women from all walks of life and embrace my seven sisters-in-law. In each of them I have found sister spirits who have walked with me along my journey.

Then one night a year and a half ago, my parents gathered me, my two brothers and our spouses together at their home for “a meeting”. They began by expressing great love and appreciation for us. Their words were carefully chosen and their gratitude was evident by the tears that rolled down their cheeks. Next, they handed each of us large manila folder, asked us to read its contents, and promptly left the house. Confused and intrigued, we began reading.

What happened next is one of those life moments that is hard to recapture in writing or even in words. In the folder were a series of remarkable letters detailing the birth, adoption, search and eventual reunion of a daughter with her birth parents — MY parents. From us, her existence had been kept a secret for forty years. The reality of this secret, of her life, became etched on our hearts as we watched a DVD filled with pictures of another daughter — one who bore a remarkable resemblance to me.

Five days later, this daughter walked through the door of OUR parents home and I knew instantly that the words on the pages, the face in the pictures and this person standing in front of me all were beautifully encapsulated in one word: SISTER. On that day, to me, (though she was almost forty years old) she had just been born.

The Last Birth:

That God would choose to give me a life with my sister after thirty-five years was a miracle I sometimes struggled to understand. Weaving her threads into the already complicated tapestry of my life took effort and was not always without pain. At the same time this all occurred, my husband and I were also dealing with a very personal struggle — three years of unexplainable infertility and miscarriages.

After exploring many options, we had finally come to the conclusion that our family must be complete despite lingering feelings to the contrary. We moved on, enjoying the three children we already had, while insulating our hearts from the sorrow, disappointment and sense of failure our decision had left with us.

Then one sunny Fall day the unimaginable happened: a pregnancy test gifted us with a pink line and even more unimaginable, the pregnancy decided to stick!

My sister rejoiced with me in the happy news. She sent me darling maternity clothes and called frequently to see how I was feeling. She even flew out to be at my baby shower. I felt prompted to ask her if she would like to be present at the baby’s birth and she readily agreed. A little less than a week before I was due to deliver, however, her grandmother passed away and we realized that our plans were not to be.

The night before my scheduled induction I went to my parents’ house for a “Last Supper”. Minutes after my arrival, my sister walked through the door surprising me. I was suddenly reminded that after missing a lifetime of ‘life events’, she would do whatever it took to be present for such an occasion.

My son was born in the early afternoon the next day. My mother, sister and two sisters-in-law were there as cheerleaders of my effort. As my husband held my hand, I sobbed tears of true joy when sweet Oliver’s tiny body was placed in my arms for the first time — thinking of how long we had waited to call him ours.

But my tears were also for my mother. The woman who had just lifted my shoulders with each round of pushing — who forty years earlier had been in a similar room doing the exact same thing in order to give birth to my sister whom she would have to let go.

For one brief moment as I looked into both of their eyes, I could see that it had all come full circle. Birth, pain, joy, sorrow, loss, grief, joy, birth, forgiveness, love.
And I felt myself tied to these other two women, my mother and my sister, forever.

It is one of the greatest gifts I know I’ll ever be given.

From Samantha Lee of Compound Eye of a Dragonfly.
Copenhagen Sisters drawing by Tollipop.


Note from Design Mom: for the duration of my pregnancy, I'll be posting advice, memories and stories about pregnancy, childbirth, adoption and growing a family on Wednesdays. You can find them all by clicking here. I'd love to hear your story or memory or advice, feel free to submit it to


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Blogger Christy said...

I've read this story once before and it still brought tears the second time. Such a beautiful, miraculous story.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 9:37:00 AM EST  
Blogger Apis Melliflora said...

I'm so glad my sister is such a great writer. But more than that, that she feels and thinks so deeply. I'm here to encourage all to love your family in whatever form it takes.

--The First Birth

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 9:51:00 AM EST  
Blogger Kiasa said...

Hello tear jerker! I was there with you! Sandwiched between 5 brothers and not having an emotional connection to my much older sister until I was an adult. And recently giving birth to my own Oliver after several complications put me overflowing with tears. So touching. So amazing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 9:55:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Jeanette Mc. said...

Lovely story - just lovely.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:19:00 AM EST  
Blogger R-Eight said...

Incredible! Your parents, your family, your story. I'm amazed and so thrilled that things turned out so happily.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:20:00 AM EST  
Blogger Jenny said...

Okay, more tears. This is just amazing. They could be twins!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:23:00 AM EST  
Blogger Sarah said...

Amazing. Beautiful. Touching. Lovely.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:25:00 AM EST  
Blogger liz stanley said...

what a beautiful story, and what a miracle reunion for this wonderful family

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 10:49:00 AM EST  
Blogger Mandy said...

Beautiful reunion story. Thank you for sharing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 11:08:00 AM EST  
Blogger aiketa said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 11:09:00 AM EST  
Blogger aiketa said...

Great story and really well written Samantha.

One of your silly-little-blog-about-nothing reader.

Mariona (from Spain)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 11:14:00 AM EST  
Blogger Sarah said...

I am so intrigued by this story. It's fascinating, and so well-written. Thanks for sharing.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 11:24:00 AM EST  
Blogger Tali said...

This is my favorite post yet. Thanks for this series Gabrielle and thanks to Samantha for sharing this wonderful story!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 12:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Sparcam said...

Amazing! Heart-warming and happy ending in the best possible sense. And I LOVE that Sam's parents are together today. Good stock!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 12:23:00 PM EST  
Blogger Mir said...

That was a really touching story. I was trying really hard not to cry while at work.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 1:07:00 PM EST  
Blogger Bree said...

Amazing! I am balling at work but thank you for sharing this story. Amazing!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 1:08:00 PM EST  
Blogger likeschocolate said...

What a remarkable story! Thank you for sharing your story with me.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 1:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Petit Elefant said...

Tears, tears streaming down my face.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 1:39:00 PM EST  
Blogger by Sara Hicks Malone said...

You're killing me with these posts! I literally cry every day I read them- but they are awesome, thanks for sharing them!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 3:06:00 PM EST  
Anonymous tiny twig said...

this is the most beautiful story. thank you for sharing. that could be a stinkin novel.

p.s.--wednesdays have always been my favorite day of the week, but now i have another reason to love them! love this series and will be sad to see it end when the time comes. :(

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 3:13:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Ana said...

Incredible story. So happy for you, your sister, and your whole family!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 3:17:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jenna said...

Wow...What a beautiful story!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 3:25:00 PM EST  
Blogger squeezeme said...

Every time I hear or read this story I am moved. Thank you for sharing your lives with us.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 4:03:00 PM EST  
Blogger michelle said...

What a beautiful story - I'm so happy all were united again.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 4:27:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tobi said...

I'll never get tired of this story Sam! I love it and I love your writing. You got the goods girl!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 5:13:00 PM EST  
Blogger The Queen Vee said...

I remain awed by this miracle in my life. I'm still living the dream and hope that as others read this they will recognize that miracles and forgiveness still happen.

I'm a Cinderalla mother with two gorgeous daughters.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 5:18:00 PM EST  
Blogger Tollipop said...

What a lovely, moving story and a sweet honor to see my drawing accompany it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 5:35:00 PM EST  
Blogger JulieB said...

Seriously, these posts are too much for a teary pregnant woman to handle! Samantha is a beautiful storyteller, and I'm so glad she shared this with designmom readers.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 6:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger gummylump said...

Just a lovely, beautiful story. I'm glad you shared it!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 9:12:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Totally cried! What a beautiful story!

Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 9:00:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love this story! Brought many tears to my eyes. Simply Amazing! Thanks for sharing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 9:17:00 AM EST  
Blogger Design Mom said...

I just try and imagine what it would be like to see someone you've never met, but who looks very much like you, walk through your door. What an experience!

This is such a beautiful story. Just amazing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 10:45:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

as a birth mother I wonder how I will tell my future children about their other sister. I wonder if I tell them from the beginning or if I wait till they are older. It is the most painful experience of a life to give away your child. I know she lives a better life now then I ever could have provided on my own. It gives me hope to hear of this reunion.

Friday, January 8, 2010 at 2:13:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Stephanie said...

Beautifully written. Made me cry.

Gabrielle, how do you find such talented writers with such inspiring stories? I've been mesmerized by these guest posts...and normally I skip right over guest posts!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 9:54:00 PM EST  
Blogger Lyz said...

All these lovely stories are really making me want another pregnancy & baby! Hubbie is not quite so eager for #4, however.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 6:02:00 PM EST  
Anonymous Katie said...

That is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever ever read.

Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 10:25:00 PM EST  

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