Dedication Ceremony of the Adoption Stamp|
On Friday, 9 Jun 2000, at the Library in Traverse City, MI, I was given an opportunity, by Liz Rockershousen from Child & Family Services of Northwest Michigan, to help with the dedication and unveiling of a US Postage stamp to commemorate "Adoption".
Several dignitaries were present including: former Lt. Governor Connie Binsfield of the State of Michigan; Kalkaska, MI Probate Judge Lynne Buday; Traverse City Postmaster Phil Williams; several representatives from the various political entities in Michigan and Master-0f-Ceremonies: Jack O'Malley from WTCM.
By the time the ceremony began at 11:00AM, over 125 people were in attendance to witness the dedication; including family members, volunteers, and caseworkers touched by adoption. The purpose of this ceremony was to hear from selected speakers' perspectives on adoption, to unveil the design of the new US postage stamp, and to introduce the local artists who participated in a pictorial contest. I was deemed the 'keynote' speaker and was third on the agenda.
After I was introduced, I stepped up to the podium, adjusted the microphone and began.
First of all, "Thank you" to Liz for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to tell you how I've been touched by adoption. I am truly honored.
My name is Denise Frederick and I live in Petoskey, Michigan. My family consists of my husband Terry, and my children: Kevin-28, Tiffany-26 and 16-year-old twins, Danielle and Ben. For years, when someone asked me how many children I had, my voice said, "3", but my heart always said "4". I could never be truthful about my motherhood and the true number of children that I had given birth to because I gave my oldest child up for adoption and I couldn't lay claim to him.
I've had many titles in my life that I've worn with ease. I've been a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a granddaughter, a wife, a sister, and an Aunt. For 20 years, the only title that I had to wear that was deemed 'shameful' was the title of Birth Mother. I was 20 years old when that title was bestowed upon me on January 24th in 1972. That's when my son was born. This beautiful, perfect baby boy with a head full of dark brown hair and ten fingers and ten toes. I loved him so much but knew in my heart that without the support of my parents I would be doing my son an injustice if I tried to raise him on my own. I was educated, but unsure of myself in a world full of uncertainty.
Our culture during that time was so unforgiving, so opinionated when something out-of-the-ordinary happened. Having a child out-of-wedlock fit that description. I came from an upper middle-class family and being pregnant without benefit of marriage was a difficult position to be in. My parents were raised with a different set of values and just couldn't accept the fact that I was pregnant and although I loved the birthfather very much, he didn't offer marriage to me. My parents did the best they could in accepting my condition, but just couldn't go that one step further in helping me to raise a child. They were humiliated and felt that I had ruined my reputation. I didn't have their financial or emotional support so my options were very limited. I was placed in a maternity home to wait out my pregnancy and although the staff was understanding and supportive, it was a difficult time in my life being separated from family members and friends. Four months later, I delivered my son. I was able to care for him during the 5 days we spent in the hospital. I talked to him and told him of my plans of giving him to a loving couple that would love him as their own. I told him about the love that he would inherit not only from his new family, but also from me, in the distance, far away. I walked out of the hospital empty-handed, knowing I had made the only decision I could for both our well being. Two weeks later, I signed his adoption papers, vowing that someday I would find him and explain to him the decisions I made were out of love.
Throughout the years, I kept in touch with the adoption agency informing them of name changes when I got married and address changes when I moved. January 24th came and went year after year and it became my own special day to remember my son. I wondered if he was happy and healthy. I wondered what changes were happening in his life, what he looked like or what his interests were. I wondered about his health but knew that I had to place my faith in God to see him safely through life. The most important thing was that I 'never' forgot.
My life moved forward. I married, had children, made a home for my family, had gains and losses. The one thing that remained in the back of my mind, though, was the thought of some day finding my son and reuniting with him. I had made a promise to myself to wait until he was at least 21 years old, however, starting a search made me scared of who I might find. I had to work through those feelings and I also had to get passed the thought of possibly being rejected by my son once I located him. I had to accept whatever fate might be handed me. Once again, I placed my faith in God.
I started my search in August of 1996 and about two weeks later placed a successful call to, who turned out to be, the adoptive father of my son. Dave was shocked but pleased that I had contacted him and said they had been waiting for my phone call. His wife, Ruth, got on the phone and welcomed me with an open heart and expressed her gratitude to me for giving them the privilege of raising my son. I was astounded at their generosity and openness. They couldn't have been more gracious or more accepting of my contacting them. We made plans to meet the next day, which brought forth deep-seated feelings of joy and revelation. My husband and I traveled downstate to meet my son, Kevin, who although was raised knowing he was adopted, didn't know that I had contacted his parents the day before. Dave and Ruth broke the news to Kevin that I was nearby and wanted to meet him. He said, "Yes."
My husband and I drove to Kevin's home and as I got out of the car, Kevin came out the back door of his home and approached me with outstretched arms. We locked into a pressure hug that I didn't want to end. As we stood there, the first words that Kevin softly spoke to me were: "It is my great pleasure to finally meet you." My heart was exploding with happiness at the thought of seeing my son again and all I could do was cry. We agreed to keep in touch with each other and had three short months to create some wonderful memories before Kevin moved to California to pursue his dream of being in the film industry in the computer graphics and special effects area. It's been three and a half years since our reunion and we still keep in touch by email and phone calls. Because of the distance, seeing him has been infrequent and it's been two years since we've spent any time together. Last week he surprised me with a phone call about his upcoming trip to MI for his High School reunion and a 2-day trip up north to spend the weekend with us. I'll get to hug him again.
Dave and Ruth have become our friends and will continue to be a very special, loving couple to my husband and me. I have been so blessed with their thoughtfulness and how they understood my need to reunite with my son. Ruth said to me, "We've had him for the first 24 years, now it's your turn to bond with Kevin."
Times have changed and I no longer feel any shame for bringing Kevin into the world and for wearing the title of Birth Mother. I feel tremendous pride in how I have been able to help others who have been touched by adoption, never knowing the impact my words would have on others. You see, I've written a story about the quest for my son and our reunion and it's on the Internet for the entire world to read. It's called; "Denise's Story" and I felt compelled to write it to sort out my feelings from the experiences I had in regards to adoption, my search and ultimate reunion. Readers of "Denise's Story" have left messages at the website telling me the impact it's had on them. I am grateful for their words, for it makes me realize the risk of writing and posting the story was worth taking if I ended up helping just ONE person from the experiences I had. You've been given a piece of paper this morning that has the website address on it. If you have access to the Internet, please take the time to read the words of my story
I was given a gift from God who I passed along to a deserving, loving couple who then raised him and returned the gift to me. Each one of us has been blessed. Thank you."
As I ended my speech, the audience began to clap their hands to show their appreciation. I said, "Thank you", again and turned my back to make my way around the table. I returned to my seat and looked back around to the audience, it was then that I realized I was looking back to a spontaneous standing ovation and thunderous applause. I was overwhelmed with gratitude in this display of appreciation and respect and to know the words I had said had touched so many in the audience.
Please let it be known that I didn't make it all the way through my speech without tears in my eyes. I tried so hard to keep my emotions in check but as I started to read about Kevin's first words to me, the memories came flooding back in regards to the impact of our reunion. I finally composed myself and continued on to the end of my speech.
After the ceremony was over, people came up to me to offer their congratulations. I, again, was overwhelmed at this outpouring of emotion from so many people attending the ceremony… some shook my hand, some gave me hugs… some talked softly about how my words impacted them… No matter what was said, though, each person gave me a gift that I will always remember. They took the time and made the effort to connect with me and make me feel worthwhile and special, and for that, I will always be grateful.
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