In 1956 Lois Nelson, a 16-year-old high school junior, walked into the Salvation Army Booth Women’s Home and Hospital, a safe haven for unwed mothers, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Before she knew she was pregnant, Lois ended her relationship with the child’s father. By the time she told him, he had married his new girlfriend.
Lois’s parents were dismayed. They insisted she move away from home during her pregnancy and place the baby for adoption. Lois gave birth to a baby girl she named Deborah. A week later, the child was placed in a foster home. Soon thereafter, the baby was adopted by a family in Minnesota. They named her Laurie.
Several years later, Lois married. She and her husband had three children in less than three years and adopted a daughter from South Korea. “I think having all those kids in such a short period of time was my way of trying to fill a void,” Lois said.
The daughter she placed for adoption was never far from Lois’s thoughts. “Ever since she left my arms, I repeated a mantra: ‘Keep her safe. Keep her safe. Keep her safe.'”
Lois’s concern for her daughter became more focused in the mid-1980s when her nephew, who had been adopted as an infant, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. That family tragedy prompted Lois to contact our post adoption team with one request: Could they help her find out if her daughter was alive?
“I just wanted to know she was okay,” said Lois.
A Letter Reveals the Past
Laurie Peterson always new she was adopted. She was curious about her birth parents but never felt the need to connect with them. “My life was full and happy with a loving family,” Laurie said.
In 1987 Laurie was living in Texas and about to celebrate her 30th birthday when she received an envelope. Inside was a letter from Lois, her birth mother, who wrote: “I want you to know there hasn’t been a day I haven’t thought of you.”
Laurie was overwhelmed with this sudden connection to her past. She wrote a reply and sent it to the post adoption worker, who sent it to Lois. “That was the end of the correspondence,” said Laurie. “I figured she wanted to know I was alive, and when she found out, she could rest easy.”
A Door Opens
For Laurie, knowing more about her birth opened a door. Thirty years later, she contacted Children’s Home post adoption staff who connected Laurie and Lois through emails and eventually phone calls.
The two talked for hours. Lois expressed something to Laurie she had held close for more than 60 years: “Since we started talking, I no longer have any shame. I gave you life. Your mother and father gave you an upbringing I wasn’t capable of. I am very content.”
Today, Lois lives in Kansas. She longs to meet Laurie in person but knows it’s risky to travel during the pandemic.
Laurie is a pediatrician, living in Wisconsin with her husband. They have three daughters and an infant grandchild. Laurie, too, looks forward to the day she can meet Lois.
“With a new grandbaby and newly discovered birth mother,” Laurie said, “it’s like my identity has exploded in both directions. It’s a gift beyond words.”