The Experience of this Adopted Child

Note: I was adopted at birth, and the following is a letter written about 15 years ago to my birth mother. I have never felt a deep yearning to find her, nor do I know if she still lives. I do know that writing it was meaningful to me, and that whenever I've published it I hear from a wide variety of people for whom it was meaningful to them. It still represents my feelings and beliefs about my adoption, and I hope provides a positive perspective for people who struggle with their own adoption or for those who have, or are thinking about, allowing their own child to be adopted.  T.E.

Let your gracious kindness be evident to all. Philippians 4:5

Dear Darlyne,

Let’s begin with what I know about you. Most importantly, I know your name and that you are my birth mother. I know that you were single when I came along; that you had at least two other children by your deceased husband; and that I was the unintended result of a relationship you had with my birth father about whom I know nothing.

I know you realized that having a baby in your situation in 1958 would have been a challenge for both of us to say the least. Also I know that you developed a plan to find a good home for me, and that you did a very good job in that task. That’s really about it.

The reason I am writing you now is three-fold. First, I want to thank you for giving me the chance to live. I’m not sure that abortion was an option for you back then, but obviously it was not your personal choice. I’m glad. Life is good and precious, God’s greatest gift. You chose to let me enjoy that gift. Thank you.

Second, I want to let you know that I am fine. I suppose every February 13 you must wonder what happened to me. Well, I have turned out very happy and fairly normal depending on whom you ask. You made a good choice in Bill and Dottie Ellis. They are both deceased now, but I could not have had a better set of parents. You need to know that. Whatever good or worthwhile I have accomplished is due in no small degree to their love and wisdom. They gave me a good foundation, and on that I have built a life that is positive and, I hope, fruitful.

Third, and this may be most important for you, I want to relieve you of any doubt you may feel about your decision. Over the years I have noted what others have said about the “adoption experience of the child,” and I have to say that it puzzles me. I have never felt a sense of loss because you allowed me to be adopted. It was a gift that I could do with whatever I wanted. I chose to see it as a wholly good thing. It made me unique. Again, I am sure that Bill and Dottie helped me to interpret it that way, but you need to know that I have.

So, don’t worry about birthdays being a problem for me. Or Mother’s Day. Or Father’s day. I have never had any discernible sense of guilt or shame, grief or any identity crisis. I don’t want this to hurt your feelings, but I really did not spend a great deal of time thinking about you. I think that is the way you would want it. I know who my parents are, and they were terrific. When I do think about you I realize that your decision must have been a very hard one, and I cannot relate to what it must be like to conceive a child and then give it up. But to me your decision has always been courageous and selfless.

You are a hero to me, Darlyne. And if this message could in some way find you in the twilight of life, I pray it is for you a benediction that will relieve you of any burden you have carried over these years.

I cannot say that everyone who is adopted feels the same way. Feelings and human personality are very fluid and defy strict categories and sure predictions. I’m writing about me. And you. You did a good thing. Thank you.


Dr. Terry Ellis

October 22, 2016

  1. Thank you for letting us into that space of your life history. Bill and Dottie helped you to become a kind intelligent thought generous and caring individual. Part of Darlene (and your birth father) had a part in that, as the Lord created them as well. And the grace and energy he infused in them was passed to you, in no small part. Who knows, maybe they were also skilled writers. Maybe one of them loved (Greek) language as well. Maybe one of them was as persevering as you, as demonstrated by your unfailing drive to keep helping others even though it became excruciating. Grace to you, Leslie, kids and grandkids!

    Terri Jo