From Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul

Mother and Child Reunion

Until this past April, Kellie Forbes and Shauna Bradley had never met or spoken to each other. Their husbands worked at different companies, their children went to different schools. Now, as Kellie and Shauna prepare to celebrate their first Christmas together, their only regret is that they didn’t meet sooner. For more than 14 years, these two Utah women unknowingly shared a connection as close as blood; yet only through the most unlikely of circumstances did they find out exactly what it was. Call it chance, call it fate—or call it, if you prefer, a miracle.

In 1992, life looked bleak for Kellie, with three deaths in her family. Then just after moving to a new home, she and her husband were laid off from work. The accumulated problems left her feeling overwhelmed and depressed.

Her company offered layoff counseling with psychotherapist Shauna Bradley. Shauna couldn’t help noticing that her client bore an amazing resemblance to her son, Jake, whom she had adopted as an infant. She felt Kellie’s dimples, freckles, dark hair and hazel eyes looked exactly like Jake’s. But she passed it off as an odd similarity.

During their second session, Shauna asked Kellie about future plans. Kellie said, “I want to write a book about my adoption experience.” As a teenager, she told Shauna, she gave up a baby boy to a couple she never met. Kellie went on to a happy marriage and three other children, but she never stopped thinking about that first son, who would soon celebrate his 14th birthday. She hoped that writing about her experience might help other young women.

Kellie’s attitude impressed Shauna. She knew she’d be happy to meet her own son’s birth mother if she were like Kellie. She told Kellie that as an adoptive mother, this subject was close to her heart.

Grateful to have found a compassionate listener, Kellie tearfully spoke of her one regret: She had not been allowed to hold her son before surrendering him. When asked why, she replied, “Kanab is a small town, and that’s just how they did things,” referring to the town hundreds of miles away where she’d grown up.

Startled, Shauna dropped her notebook. Her son had been born in Kanab 14 summers ago. “Did you say Kanab?” she cried. Cautiously, Kellie replied yes.

Suddenly, Shauna felt like she couldn’t breathe, as if someone had hit her in the stomach. Then she started hyperventilating. She shook, trembling hands covering her mouth as she repeated, “Oh, my gosh! Oh, my gosh!”

Kellie’s words emerged slowly. “Do you have him?”

Shauna nodded, “I think I do.”

Taking turns, they shared their stories with each other. As a teenager, Kellie felt ridiculed by classmates in her small-town school. She told Shauna, “I allowed myself to have a physical relationship because I wanted so badly to be accepted.”

The result was an unexpected pregnancy when Kellie was 18. She broke up with her boyfriend soon after the pregnancy was confirmed and decided to place the baby up for adoption. When her child’s future parents were selected, all Kellie was told were their ages, descriptions, and religious and educational backgrounds.

Jim and Shauna Bradley were married for four years when they applied for adoption after “a lot of infertility work.” A year later, they were selected to be parents of a baby from Kanab. Three days after his birth, Jake was presented to the Bradleys. The Bradleys told Jake about his adoption as soon as he could understand, emphasizing that his birth mother gave him up because she loved him. On his birthday, Shauna would say, “You know who’s thinking about you today.”

Standing in the counselor’s office, Kellie didn’t know whether to rejoice or be wary. After all she’d endured in the past year, she felt she couldn’t risk another bitter disappointment if this woman wasn’t her son’s mother.

Kellie began, “So his birthday is...”

“June 29, 1980.”

“And the attorney was...”

“Mike McGuire,” said Shauna. “And wasn’t your maiden name Robinson?”

Her heart pounding, Kellie nodded yes. The impossible had happened.

“The odds that we would meet like this do not exist,” says Shauna. The two women talked long after the appointment ended. Shauna told Kellie that she wanted to wait until Jake was 18 to tell him about her, feeling he would be better able to handle the news as an adult. Kellie, happy in the knowledge that her son had a loving home, agreed.

That evening, Jim Bradley could tell that his wife was excited, as if she’d had the best workday ever. After their children were asleep, he found out why Shauna was so overjoyed and shared her excitement.

In the days that followed, Kellie and husband, Thayne, on a counselor’s advice, decided to tell their children about the amazing meeting. Their children already knew they had a half-brother who had been given up for adoption to another family. They excitedly asked when they would be meeting Jake.

In the meantime, the Bradleys experienced their own dilemma. Weighing options, they concluded Jake was old enough to tell now. They felt if they waited and he found out they already knew—or if someone else told him— he’d possibly lose trust in them. But if they told him, he could grow into the knowledge of who his birth mother was, and they could be there for him.

When Kellie heard that the Bradleys now wanted to tell Jake as soon as possible, it was her turn to be anxious. “Please don’t tell him because you think I want you to,” she urged. Now she felt apprehensive. What if she didn’t meet Jake’s expectations?

One morning, Shauna and Jim came into Jake’s room and woke him up. Shauna said, “Jake, the weirdest thing happened. I was counseling with a woman and we realized that she’s your birth mother.”

Jake burst into a grin. He asked, “What does she look like? When do I get to meet her?” His mother gave him a picture of Kellie. Thrilled, the teen ran off to show the photo to his grandmother.

When Shauna called to say, “We’ve told him. Can we meet for dinner?” Kellie promptly said yes, thinking: “I’d stop my life for this.”

Kellie was first to arrive at the restaurant, and tried to keep her emotions under control. Jim, driving straight from work, was next. Then Shauna drove into the parking lot with Jake. She hadn’t even parked the car before Jake jumped out and handed her a beautiful violet.

Kellie’s voice quavered, “I’ve got to give you a hug— I’ve waited so long for this.” As they embraced, Jake’s eyes filled with tears and he turned back toward his mother. Shauna comforted him. “It’s okay to be emotional, honey. This is a big deal!”

In the restaurant, an excited Jake told Kellie about his hobbies and activities. He was happy that his biological mother shared his love for music, and that his talent for fixing things came from Kellie’s father, a mechanic.

Both birth mother and son wept as Kellie said the words she’d always longed to tell him. “There were so many things I knew I couldn’t do for you. I wanted you to have a home with a mom and dad. Although I knew I was doing the right thing by giving you up, it was really, really hard.”

After their first successful meeting, Shauna and Kellie brought their children together. “Our kids acted as if they’d known each other for a long time,” says Kellie.

Today, Kellie and Shauna talk regularly, still amazed at the astonishing coincidence that brought them together. “I’m so happy for Jake,” says Shauna. “A piece of his life puzzle has been solved.” Adds Kellie, “I’m thrilled Jake has the family he does—they’ve far exceeded my expectations.”

Carolyn Campbell
Excerpted from Woman’s World Magazine

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