To My Dearest Son,
I am your mother and also the mother of your sister . . . Kaylene Yoro is my name and I am 17 years old.
So begins a six-page letter, handwritten on school notebook paper, from a Yorba Linda high school student.
Ryan, it is so hard for me to express to you how much I love you and how hard it is for me to let you go. . . .
Giving up children for adoption is so difficult that 96% of teen-age mothers do not do it. (The percentage of teen-age mothers giving up children for adoption has dropped from 13% in 1971 to the current 4%.)
"A lot of girls say I couldn't give my baby up, not after carrying him for nine months," said Kaylene, who now lives with her father and stepmother in Yorba Linda and attends school in Orange. "I think they're selfish. You have to think of the baby."
Kaylene speaks in a soft, deliberate voice. Her serious hazel eyes are carefully decorated with wide blue bands above and thin black lines below. Above two large blue seashell earrings, her blond ringlets are swept back with lacquer. At school, she is a B student. She wants to be a cosmetologist. She attends church regularly.
Kaylene does not believe in abortion. In the last two years, she has borne and relinquished two children--a daughter conceived during her first sexual encounter with a boyfriend at 14 and a son, whose father was another boyfriend whom she later married.
Kaylene's first boyfriend, who was 16, pressured her daily for sex, she said. She didn't want to, she said, and when she did, she didn't like it. "I had heard about birth control, but I didn't think I'd need it," she said.
She was then an eighth-grader, living at home with her mother and stepfather. She hid her pregnancy from them and her boyfriend for six months, wearing tight jeans to keep her abdomen flat.
"It was a nightmare," she recalled. "The whole time I was crying at night and waking up with pains." Finally, when the pains became severe at school, a teacher carried her to the office and called her mother.
Her mother was sympathetic and favored adoption, Kaylene said. She believes the decision was her own, although in retrospect it seems to her the only choice was "go to a lawyer and give up your baby."
Her mother found a lawyer who specialized in adoptions. Kaylene knew she wanted the adoptive parents to be Christians, she said, "well-off, not real old, not real young, with a really secure marriage." The couple located by the lawyer paid for all Kaylene's expenses, from her prenatal vitamins to her maternity clothes and hospital bills, she said.
Kaylene stayed in her private school (for kindergarten through eighth grade) until she was seven months pregnant, then stayed at home until the child was born.
At the hospital, she was given the infant to hold for an hour. But then a nurse took the child away. "I'm thinking, this is the last time I'm going to see my baby and this is real neat," she said sarcastically.
Kaylene returned to school for her eighth-grade graduation, then entered a private high school the next fall. She was 16 when she met and fell in love with a senior at the school. She considered getting birth control pills, as her gynecologist had suggested. Minors do not need their parents' consent to obtain birth control, but Kaylene thought she needed her mother's permission to get the pills. And, she said, her mother disapproved on the grounds that condoning pills would condone sex.
This time, she said, "I was really in love . . . We talked about marriage, but it never became a reality until I got pregnant." Sometimes, they had used condoms; sometimes they hadn't. (It's hard for her to say why not. "It's just a pain at the time . . . You don't really think.") She told him she was pregnant, and he wanted to help, she said.
Kaylene was 17 and a few months into her second pregnancy when they married, intending to keep the baby after it was born.
They moved in with his parents. He went to work as a box boy; she entered the school district's teen mother program as a high school junior.
But before the baby was born, it became clear the marriage wasn't going to last. They separated and Kaylene, because of disagreements with her mother and stepfather, moved in with her father and stepmother.
Again, adoption seemed to her to be the best solution.
Kaylene said she called James Kelly of Fullerton, the same attorney who had arranged the adoption of her first child. The adoptive couple, he discovered, wanted another child, so he arranged for them to adopt Kaylene's second child as well.
For Kaylene, having her two children placed in the same home was important. "I didn't want my family spread all over," she said.
While more young fathers have been successful in gaining custody of children whose mothers have put them up for adoption, Kaylene said her ex-husband hasn't objected. "He didn't want the responsibility. I guess it was hard on him . . . He's going to sign relinquishment papers. He has to or else he can go back and get the baby in a couple of years . . ."
As in traditional adoption arrangements, Kaylene and the couple with whom her children live do not plan to meet face to face. She knows about their background, life style, income and hobbies, and she knows they have given her children, whom she called Roxanne and Ryan, new names.
She gave up her second child in the hospital the third day after he was born. He had been crying most of the time and had finally fallen asleep. "I thought I'd better do it now," Kaylene recalled. "I strollered him to the nursery, and he started crying again. I picked him up until he stopped. I gave him a kiss and tucked him in his bed. The nurse put me in a wheelchair and wheeled me out.
"It was hard for me. I didn't expect it to be so hard." When she went home to her mother's house, she would wake up at night, hearing his cries. She'd start to go to him, then realize there was no one there.
I cry deep down in my heart because I was not given the opportunity to experience this bonding with your sister. I love the both of you more than anything on this earth. This love that I feel for you is so strong, so different and so very special.
Letters from birth mothers to their children are not uncommon. Normally, adoptive parents keep them sealed until the child becomes curious or reaches 18, said Kaylene's attorney. Kaylene sent her daughter a similar letter (through the attorney) and said she will send this one, too. She also wants the children to have pictures of her, but the portraits taken at her church weren't flattering enough, she said.
As she said goodby to her son, Kaylene was aware of a couple watching her. Later, she saw them in the nursery office signing papers. She knew they were the ones, she said. "I was so glad I saw them. They looked like neat people."