Seen or unseen, she was the most beautiful baby


Terry had been raised to believe that sex was an expression of love and belonged only in marriage.

But then she went off to college, she met a guy, and, well, you may have heard this one before.

"I got pregnant only the second or third time we made love," Terry said. "I was using birth control. But it didn't work."

Marriage, she decided, was out of the question.

"We just weren't ready," she told me. "We couldn't have handled it."

Terry went to an abortion clinic. Her boyfriend went with her. He stayed in the waiting room upstairs, while Terry went downstairs.

She told him not to worry.

"I was on a table," Terry said, "and the doctor came in and examined me and sprayed me with an antiseptic and I just sat up on the table and said: 'I can't do this. I can't go through with this.' "

She got up off the table. "I walked through the recovery room and saw all those women with such sad eyes looking at me. The women who do this aren't vicious murderers like some people say. It is not something they want to do."

Terry contacted a reputable adoption agency. And during her pregnancy, she would go there and read through the profiles of )) the families who wanted to adopt.

Terry settled on a family in which the wife taught Sunday school and she and her husband had taken in her brother, his wife and five children for seven months when her brother lost his job.

"That told me that they not only talked about loving other people," Terry said, "but they practiced it."

Terry's daughter was born on a beautiful spring day.

I asked Terry what her daughter looked like.

There was a long pause.

"I don't know," Terry said. "I didn't see my daughter. I knew if I saw her, I wouldn't be able to let go of her."

There was another pause.

"Sometimes the reality hits me and I know I have a daughter somewhere and sometimes I want her so badly," Terry finally said. "I want to hold her and watch her grow and see her smile and know everything about her."

Two days after the birth, Terry could have changed her mind and kept her baby, but she didn't.

"I want my child to have a mother and father," she said firmly. "But I'm going to write her a letter on every birthday and I hope someday she gets to see them. I made a contribution. I made some family very happy. I gave them the most beautiful little girl in the world."

I first wrote about Terry years ago. On the day the column appeared, I got a phone call.

"We're the ones," the man said.

"We adopted Terry's baby," his wife said.

Terry does not know their real names, and they do not know Terry's. Except for the adoption agency, only I know both. I called the baby Cindy.

Cindy's new parents had been trying to have a baby for five years. Finally, they went to an adoption agency, where they were interviewed, screened, and told to wait.

Then one day they got the call. And they rushed down to see Baby Cindy.

At that point, adoptive parents get to do something that birth parents do not: They get to say no.

"I never worried about that," Cindy's new mother told me. "My only worry was: Will I be the mother I want to be?

"She didn't even cry when I first held her. I just took her in my arms and we started talking to her and she just smiled at us. I don't even care if it was just gas. When your baby looks up at you and smiles, it is the most special feeling in the world.

"And I just wanted Terry to know that we are going to give Cindy all the love Terry wanted her to have. And some day I will let Cindy know how much Terry loved her.

"And one more thing: Terry was right. Cindy is the most beautiful little girl in the world."

And that's where it rested.

Then, a few days ago, Terry called me and told me she wanted to talk about Baby Richard and Baby Jessica, two cases in which birth mothers sued and got their babies back.

And for a few terrible moments I wondered if that is what Terry wanted.

But she put my mind at rest.

"I think giving those children back was wrong," she said. "And I wanted you to hear it from a mother who has gone through it."

MONDAY: Terry's story

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