by Sharon Fieker Cummins
I placed my daughter for adoption in August of 1969. The social worker told me to go on with my life— like the adoption didn’t happen. I did just that and didn’t discuss it with anyone for 25 years. I hemorrhaged after the birth and almost didn’t make it. Although one niece tried to get me to talk about it, I told her not to ever mention it again, as I didn’t want to talk about it.
I started working for the local police department in February of 1974. Soon after, a former coworker told me we would have a new employee named Jeanette starting in June whom she knew from her hometown. She continued, “She is a birth mom! She gave up a baby for adoption! Can you believe that?” I immediately changed the subject.
Jeanette was the first birth mom I ever met, and we worked side by side, but I couldn’t tell her I knew she was a birth mom or tell her that I was one also.
Fast forward to February 2, 1995, I received a phone call I’ll never forget. “Hello, is this Sharon Fieker? (Yes) In 1969, you gave up a baby for adoption; her name is Lori, and she wants to see you now.” The floodgates of tears opened wide, as I made up for all of the years of unresolved grief. With each person I called, the tears would start again.
Jeanette was on vacation when I told my other coworkers I would get to meet Lori in a few days. I didn’t want Jeanette to come back to work and hear my news in front of everyone. I called her at home to ask her to meet me for breakfast the next morning. Over breakfast, I confessed, “I’ve known you were a birth mom since before we met, but I couldn’t tell you. I’m a birth mom too.”
Jeanette said, “I wish you would’ve told me. We could’ve been there for each other.”
I wished that too.
Meeting Lori was everything and more than I had ever hoped for. More on that journey can be found in my published book, I Choose This Day, Mournings and Miracles of Adoption.
Because Lori found me so easily, I wanted adopted adults born in Missouri to be able to request their original birth certificates (OBC), and I became an advocate. I joined with many others across Missouri, making trips back and forth, talking to legislators, and attending hearings.
Jeanette and I retired from the police department the same day after 28 years. Several years after Jeanette’s first husband died, she saw her son’s birth father at a Springfield Cardinal ballgame. Eventually, they started seeing each other again and got married in October 2015. She later had a near-death experience but recovered. She told herself she needed to find her son before she died.
Jeanette started joining me on those trips to Jefferson City. I introduced her to Heather Greene who found her son for her. He was born in October of 1970, and Heather said he was shocked to learn Jeanette had retired from the SPD since he also had a career in law enforcement.
We, along with many others across Missouri, succeeded in getting the laws changed, and we had informational meetings in libraries across the state to talk about the changes. At one of those meetings, Jeanette met her son for the first time. What a glorious occasion for all of us.
Lori, Jeanette, and I shared our Secrets Told, Masks Unfold, presentation at our Breaking the Seal conference in Jefferson City, Missouri, on January 1, 2018, the day before Missouri-born
adoptees and lineal descendants of deceased adoptees could make their requests for their OBCs. I cofounded Adoption Triad of the Ozarks: An Adoption Constellation, a group for any and all whose lives have been affected by adoption. We celebrated our 20th anniversary earlier this year.
Jeanette and I both attend our monthly meetings, and we have had many other similarities in our lives. For example, neither of us had more children although we are blessed with stepchildren. We each have a biological grandson and granddaughter. We each are married and live with our husbands and our dogs about a mile from each other. Our lives have been much better now that we have met our children. I am grateful the masks have come off and the secrets revealed.
Sharon Fieker Cummins has a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, Psychology, and Sociology. She’s given keynote addresses at adoption summits across the nation and remains active in the adoption community, as both a speaker and advocate. Sharon volunteers her time with AKA as a facilitator for our Birth/First Parent Support Group. To order her memoir or learn more about her work visit ichoosethisday.org.