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  • Writer's pictureMary Ellen Gambutti

Resounding Voices


Adoptee associations, writing groups, and mentors, bloggers, podcasts, informed counselors, and individuals who self-represent on every social medium are burgeoning--lifting their voices into the wind of the institution of adoption.

We are speaking up and speaking out in huge numbers as we attempt to define the source of the pervasive sadness and pain, and sense of oppression that is a primal wound of relinquishment. Our adoptee movement is a force to be reckoned with! We are intelligent women and men with opinions and demands for adoptee justice.

And I just know the day will come when we'll have unrestricted access to our original birth certificates and early records. If they still exist on microfiche and databases, we ask for nothing more nor less than what is our human right to true identity and heritage.

At first, it was my deep curiosity, not a sense of entitlement, that led me to my early, tentative attempts to learn my biological mother's name and the circumstances of my birth. I began with calls and letters to South Carolina Catholic Charites. The agency matched me, at five months, with a childless Air Force couple who adopted me the year after I came to live with them.


When my flight left Allentown, PA for Greenville, SC on an October morning about two years after my quest began, I carried a heavy bag, high expectations, and brave hopes of acceptance. No photos had been exchanged between my half-sister and me during those pre-internet days--no digital camera phones. The calls and letters between us the summer before I embarked assured me they welcomed my return home.

My first and final moments with my mother outside her womb, before that fall day forty-something years later, were in the sterile labor and delivery suite at St. Francis Hospital in Greenville. It had been an abbreviated introduction to the woman with whom I was attached for nine months. Her disengagement irreversably affected my fate. A fragment from that moment remains--the one a.m. hour, the weight of 9 lbs. 8 oz--recorded by my adoptive mother's fountain pen. The letters I retrieved from my parents' home fifty years later, spoke of their belief that I came to them, a gift from God in their infertility--only later to become an enigmatic child.


It troubled me to learn during my search that the Rock Hill hospital and infant home was not my birthplace, as stated on the baptismal certificatte. I believe it is our human right to know our origins. The doubt and pain, the shame and secrecy of relinquishment accompanies many of us throughout life and is made intolerable by archaic state sealed birth record laws.

Welcome, Beth Steury, Author ~

Beth is a genetic genealogy enthusiast and "search angel" who writes and speaks about her experiences as a "foundling" who located her birth parents. Her journey to find and connect with her biological family is chronicled in the blog series “A Doorstep Baby’s Search for Answers.” She also serves on the executive board of the National Association of Adoptees and Parents. All of her writing endeavors can be found on her website.

An Adoption, A Search, and a Reunion

by Beth Steury

I always knew that I was adopted, as did my three younger brothers, each of us adopted as infants. On the few occasions when the topic of our adoptions came up, our parents said they knew nothing about our origins. But one day my mom let slip to my daughter that “it was big front-page news when your mom was born.” She had almost revealed the one piece of information my parents did know about my beginnings. That I’d been found on the back doorstep of a residence, estimated to be three days old, wrapped in a man’s black wool shirt and a blanket. I had not been born in a hospital.

It took my internet-savvy, genealogy-loving daughter fifteen minutes to find the archived front-page news article reporting my “foundling” beginnings. She showed it to my mom who announced, “Now we have to tell her.” That conversation happened the next day. And when she said, “You don’t tell a small child that someone left her on the doorstep,” I agreed. It wasn’t that they had intended to keep the secret forever. But they’d never made a plan as to when to tell me.

What had been mild curiosity about the details surrounding my birth suddenly exploded into an intense desire to uncover the who, the what, the why. Thanks to social media, we connected with the granddaughter of the couple who had found me on their back doorstep just after 5 a.m. on a cold November Sunday morning. And two weeks later, we stood with her on that doorstep, mesmerized by her retelling of that day as her eight-year-old self had experienced it.

With zero clues to aid our search, we turned to DNA testing. As we waited for my test results, I felt the need to examine my motives for searching for my bio family. I had always wondered who I looked like and if I had a sister because I’d always longed for a sister. But I was not looking for a mother or a father. And I did not feel there was hole in my life. What I did have was an overwhelming desire to let those involved know that I’d had a good life and that my story, despite its rocky beginning, had a happy ending. I understood that my appearing on the scene could be shocking, devastating, even painful for people who never dreamed the truth would someday come calling. Still, I wanted to try to find anyone who might be wondering what had happened to his/her daughter, granddaughter, sister, niece.

What the DNA revealed in no way resembled the story any of us had imagined, that of a young, scared teenager, desperate to hide a pregnancy and a baby. Instead, my birth mother was 37-years-old when I was born. Divorced and the mother of two teenaged sons, she lived behind the home where I was found. She had passed away 26 years ago, and apparently, took the secret of me to her grave. To say I was stunned barely scratched the surface. Shocked and dismayed summed up the reaction of the one half-brother who tested to confirm the relationship. Even so, he shared photos and details about our mother as well as lots of family history.

Several months after the bio mom confirmation, we pieced together the identity of my birth father. This second revelation left me dazed and numb. At the time of my birth, he was a 21-year-old married college student with a toddler and a baby at home. He knew nothing of a pregnancy, let alone a baby on a doorstep. A month after my birth, he had graduated and moved his young family to a nearby state to begin his career. Now, he was very much alive and well, living in Hawaii. Without a second thought, he welcomed me into his family of three sons, one daughter, and two adopted daughters from Thailand.

A whirlwind of catching up and getting acquainted all at the same time continues even after five years in reunion with my paternal family. How do you make up for fifty years? The short answer is you don’t. I can’t imagine that the processing, or the sudden, random, raging waves of emotions, will ever end.

After resembling no one my entire life, I now look like everyone! My maternal brother remarked, after watching me so closely that I began to squirm, that talking with me was like talking to our mother. My mannerisms were so similar to hers, and the resemblance quite noticeable. And then my birthfather announced that my face was a perfect blend of his mother’s, my paternal grandma, and my sister. One of the coolest things about finding my family has been discovering who I look like.

I regret that I’ll never meet this woman whose mannerisms I share. I’ll never hear her perspective on what happened. I’ll never have the chance to tell her I understand the decision she made in those long-ago days of a different era. I am grieved that the relationship with my maternal half-brother transitioned from a stunned yet cordial welcome to a strained connection that has become increasingly fraught with distress. I cannot dispute his conclusion that we are half-siblings by an unbelievably unique set of circumstances who have no history or shared experiences. As secrets tend to do, this one oozed beyond my brother’s ability to keep it contained. Recent introductions proved both welcoming and soothing, offering further glimpses into the woman who gave birth to me.

Reunion is an often unpredictable, frequently overwhelming, and always intriguing journey that melds the past with the present and forever changes the course of the future, creating a ripple effect that cannot be undone. Am I happy that I searched for and found my birth families? I am indeed. As difficult as it was to wrap my head around the reality, I’m glad I know the truth.

Amazon Author Page:

Website: Beth Steury – Life Matters Publishing

Amazon Author Page:

Facebook: Beth Steury, Author:

Twitter: @Beth_Steury

Thrilled with N.N. Light Book Heaven's review!

"Can a woman’s search for identity and belonging lead to connecting with her birth family? Born Ruth Ann, her name was changed to Mary Ellen by the couple who adopted her. The adoption process was grueling for the couple and unfortunately left scars hidden beneath the surface. A disruptive childhood as a result of her adopted father’s career in the air force, Mary Ellen could never put down roots. Where was home? A constant reminder of being adopted stalked her as she grew up and entered adulthood. She craved answers and so a search began. Obstacles impeded her search for the truth, but she wouldn’t be deterred. Her fortitude kept her going, even after great loss. Will she finally discover her birth mother and family? Join her on this epic emotional journey.

I Must Have Wandered: An Adopted Air Force Daughter Recalls is an emotional, gut-wrenching memoir I couldn’t stop reading. I’ve never been adopted but I can empathize with those who have. I Must Have Wandered: An Adopted Air Force Daughter Recalls is written unlike any memoir I’ve read before. Filled with letters, prose, and poetry, Mary Ellen Gambutti shares her story in a very intimate way. You feel and experience everything and at times, the emotions overtake you. The sheer pain felt by the author tore my heart out. I cried for her so many times while reading. This would make for an excellent tv program or movie. If memoirs are your reading jam, you’ll want to read I Must Have Wandered: An Adopted Air Force Daughter Recalls. If you’re adopted, I highly recommend reading this book. If you’ve ever wondered what an adopted child/adult goes through, you’ve got to read I Must Have Wandered: An Adopted Air Force Daughter Recalls. Highly recommend!

My Rating: 5+ stars

Thanks so much for being here!


Mary Ellen

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