by Amber (Schatz) Danks  | Submitted Photos

*Jeanne is writing a book of her life adventures, so will sometimes refer to herself in the third person, as per her stories.

Jeanne Church was 17 years old when she had her first baby, a girl. She had been living at an unwed mothers home in the Seattle, Washington area, away from her loved ones. According to PBS, homes for unwed mothers were a national trend from the beginning of the 20th century until the 1970s.  Jeanne spent the months there doing chores, homework, and growing a baby out of the public eye. That’s because she was not married, and her pregnancy was unplanned.

“An unfortunate rape that would cause much pain to both parties. Him, a judgment that would cause the end of his military career. Her **(Jeanne)**, a trip to an unwed mother home away from her family and friends.  But, a beautiful baby girl was born from this negative situation.”

Jeanne chose to place her baby girl for adoption. She says while the process was not physically painful, it was mentally painful. Little did she know, her decision would change so many lives. And little did she know, she would someday see her baby again.

“I wish I’d had the privilege to carry a child, but I couldn’t. This was my answer.”

After suffering from fertility issues, Marge French and her husband, Jack, got their paperwork in order to adopt a child. After around a year of waiting, they received word their baby had been born. They knew it was meant to be.

“Our caseworker called and said, ‘Your baby is here.’ She didn’t say a girl or boy, just that our baby was born May 18. He (Jack) said, ‘What is it?’ I said, ‘I don’t know!’ Of course, she was a little girl.”

May 18 happens to be the couple’s anniversary.

“I told Jack she was meant for us.”

Marge chose the name Davina for her baby because it means, “the chosen child.”

“We were so concentrated on her. We were both looking at her, cooing. Jack looked at the caseworker and said, ‘How many people turn you down?’ She said, ‘None,'” Marge remembers with a laugh. “So we dressed her up, put her in blankets, and took her home. It felt so right. I had been waiting so long for that wonderful day.”

Marge says they had to wait six to nine months until the final adoption paperwork was complete and they didn’t have to worry about Davina being taken back.

Within three years, Marge and Jack adopted another baby girl named Melissa.

“They’re ours, that’s all there is to it. That’s the way you feel.”

“I started my quest to find Davina 30 years ago, when I was 42 and Davina was 25. It was the times when it was very difficult to find out any facts about an adoption, for both the birth mother and the adopted child.”

With the blessing of her family, Jeanne searched files from the unwed mothers home, only to find they had been lost in a fire.

She kept looking. She went to the hospital where her baby was born, and found the birth information, but not placement information. After five years of looking, she saw a TV program in the Seattle area featuring “searchers,” people who help families find each other.

“I was overjoyed and called this searcher directly. I was so excited. I gave her all the information I had accumulated, and she found Davina within a few days. And as luck would have it, she was in the Tacoma area.”

“There has never been a time that I didn’t know that I was adopted. I can remember as I grew up that I was told how special I was because they actually got to pick me out!”  

Davina says the yearning to meet her birth parents increased over time.

“I remember in my teens when I would struggle with my parents and their strict rules (which looking back I really needed!) and my inability to follow those rules that I started to wonder what my birth parents would be like, mostly in the realm of hoping they wouldn’t be as stern. But as an adult my curiosity changed to complete wonder about if ‘out there somewhere’ was there someone who might just look like me. Also, after joining the military I felt a need to know what my medical background consisted of.”

She was in her 30s when she received a phone call that her birth mother would like to make contact.

“Hidden behind the mask of initial optimism was a fear that meeting a birth mother who ‘gave you up’ for unknown circumstances; [it] had the possibilities of bringing negativity into my world that I loved and had very little life drama. I also felt very guarded for the parents that raised me.  What would they think? How would they feel? Would they know that no matter the outcome of meeting my birth mother, that they were my parents?”

Because they were adults, Davina’s mom, Marge, encouraged both of her daughters to meet their biological parents.

“We’re in our 80s now, the biological mothers are in their 60s. I said, ‘You need to spend some time with your other family, you need to connect with them. They’re their biological families,’” says Marge.

“My excitement was undeniable and outweighed any skepticism, and so as the day for the official meeting grew closer, I started to write questions down, then rehearsing opening remarks and wondering what she really looked like,” says Davina. “The first time we stood face to face I had this underwhelmed feeling at first. She had blue eyes; mine were brown. She had blonde hair; mine was brown. I was average height; she was really short. But all the anxiety disappeared as soon as we started talking. There was a familiarity in the rhythm of her voice as she excitedly chatted away. I may not have looked like her, but boy, oh boy, did I have her extraversion and some very specific physical mannerisms!”

Along with her biological mother, Davina has met many other family members, including her brother.

“Amazingly, without me and my brother being raised together we share in some unique qualities of service. For instance, qe both joined the military and were deployed to the same area of assignment in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. He was in the Navy and I was in the Army. Our initial careers of choice were to serve the public within our communities; he was a firefighter and I was a police officer.  Every time I have the opportunity to spend time with him I find myself witnessing that our sense of humor has similarities, our physical builds are comparable, and we even stand alike with our right hands nestled into our jeans pocket.”

“Since our first meeting 20+ years ago, Davina has met her maternal grandparents (who have since passed) met her half-brother (they have the same sense of humor and zest for life) and met many of my friends and family. The bond has gotten stronger over the years and this year I had the opportunity of going to North Dakota and being Davina’s ‘nurse’ after a difficult back surgery. We shared a lot of tears, a lot of laughs, and grew from being mother and daughter to being friends.” says Jeanne.

“It’s an interesting kind of love.  It was natural with no boundaries and with both of us being adults it was to love a person for who they were and not through the eyes of a child. A touch of friendship, and a touch of thankfulness for having the courage to give me up for a life that was brighter than the one I may have had at that time. My mother is who I was raised with and made me who I am, and Jeanne is a bonus mom who gave me life and the understanding of what I’m made of.  It’s about understanding the nurture and the nature of my life,” says Davina.

Jeanne has spent her life traveling the countryside and world.  That being said, nothing compares to her quest of finding her birth daughter and meeting her daughter’s “life mom.”

“In my personal journey, I would make the same decision today that I made years ago. I will never be able to forget the smile on Davina’s life mother’s (Marge) face when we first met, and she held me so close and thanked me for giving her a beautiful daughter. This made the decision and the heartache and the lonely spots in between all worth it.”

Both Davina and Marge agree that adoption is something they would encourage others to consider.

“Sure, you don’t carry that baby, but you raise that child to adulthood, there’s nothing more satisfying, they both have turned out very good. I wouldn’t miss it for the world, I’m so proud of them, they’re wonderful people,” Marge says about her daughters.

“Children in need are available to come into your life in all shapes and sizes, and if you have the desire for children, adoption can ignite that desire within your heart. Absolutely follow your dreams and make the first step. Give a child a home, a place they can return to forever and always be with their family!  Love has no boundaries and adoption touches more than just a child and a parent. Adoption is a lifetime of knowing that one is wanted as much as the other needed!” says Davina.

Jeanne gave another daughter up for adoption shortly after high school. Her boyfriend had made the choice not to marry, three weeks prior to delivery. She eventually tried to find both girls through the same adoption search service.

“The searcher found my second daughter, but unfortunately, Julie made the decision not to see me in person but would accept a letter from me and she also sent one in return. I contacted her again five years ago, through the searcher and she still did not want to have contact with me.”

Jeanne says if it’s meant to happen, it will.  In the meantime, she’s sharing her story and hoping to help others considering adoption or living with their own stories of adoption.

“I would encourage anyone who is contemplating an adoption to go 100% full speed ahead with the process. I know there are open and closed adoptions today; it will have to be your decision as to what you wish the journey to look like. Not every journey ends with smiles but knowing that a child has a loving home and loving parents and also that in the future there may be not just one mother and father, but two, a life mother and father, and a birth mother and father. It is a journey that God has designed to join hearts together.”

Jeanne’s husband of 36 years passed away recently. She has since settled in Tacoma, Washington where she is “sort of” retired, but staying busy.

“I love to dance and try to go dancing at least once a week. I love people, I love life and I enjoy every day.  No matter what is put into my life, we are all put into each other’s lives to teach or to learn. It depends on the month what you will find me doing. As ever I’m still a chameleon. Bloom where you are planted.”