How a Mother and Daughter Were Reunited After Being Apart for 50 Years
“Who was that?” Mary Beth DeSanto asked her husband as he closed their Erie, Pennsylvania, front door. “A registered letter for you,” he said.
Glancing at the return address, Mary Beth’s brow furrowed seeing the unfamiliar name: Victoria Rich, Brooklyn, NY. But when the 69-year-old opened the envelope, time slowed as the words swam before her eyes. I was born at the Lady of Victory Infant Home on August 20, 1970.
Shaking, Mary Beth sat down. “It’s Bridget…she’s finally found me,” she whispered.
Years of Longing
Mary Beth had been a senior in high school when she’d learned she was pregnant. Her boyfriend had made it clear she was on her own, and after a discussion with her parents, it was decided that Mary Beth would give up the baby for adoption. After graduation, she’d gone to stay at Our Lady of Victory Infant Home in Buffalo, New York, where she gave birth to a baby girl.
You can’t give her up! Mary Beth’s heart urged when they let her hold her baby. She had become attached to this tiny being — she’d even named her Bridget Lynne. But Mary Beth wanted her baby to have a family who could give her everything she deserved. So she tearfully kissed Bridget goodbye and let her go.
Mary Beth went on to have a good life, marrying Randy and welcoming two sons. But there was always a lingering sadness…a longing to know that Bridget was okay.
Despite her pain, Mary Beth never searched, fearful of upsetting the young woman’s life. She also worried what Bridget thought about her. She must think I’m horrible for abandoning her, Mary Beth grieved.
Still, as she’d watch her favorite TV show, Long Lost Family, seeing so many happy reunions, Mary Beth would think wistfully, I would love for that to happen to me.
A Heart Healed
New York Adoptees Can Now Access Birth Certificates. The headline caught Victoria Rich’s attention one morning in January 2020. The 50-year-old had always been at peace about being adopted. Her parents adored her and told her often how her biological mother had made a big sacrifice out of love for her.
About 10 years earlier, Victoria had read a book about women who had given up children for adoption, and her heart ached when she learned they were often wracked with guilt and worry about their babies. Suddenly, she longed to find her birth mother and let her know that she had a good, happy life. But her records had been sealed.
Reading about the new law, Victoria immediately requested her birth certificate, which provided her birth name and her birth mother’s name. Victoria began searching online. It took a bit of sleuthing since Mary Beth now had a different last name and wasn’t on social media. But eventually, she tracked her down. Not sure how she would react, Victoria decided to write Mary Beth a letter and included her phone number.
Ironically, Mary Beth had been watching Long Lost Family last March when the letter arrived. Shocked but thrilled, she called Victoria and her story poured out — the pregnancy, her desire to give her baby the best life possible, the guilt. “I’m glad you found me,” Mary Beth said. “I hope you’re not disappointed in me.”
“Of course not!” Victoria insisted. “It was a selfless, gracious thing to do.” They were anxious to meet, but due to the pandemic, had to wait several months. Then last August, Victoria finally visited Mary Beth and they got to hug for the first time. Both were amazed at how alike they are, from appearance to mannerisms to their sense of humor. Today, the two call and text and can’t wait to get together again. “I’ve got my happy ending, just like in the show,” says Mary Beth. “My heart is finally whole.”
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.