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Mothers Don't Always Know Best

As I've shared in a couple of my previous blog posts, adoption is a big part of my story. Judy, my birth mother, found herself pregnant in her early twenties. Throughout my childhood, my adoptive parents emphasized that Judy wasn't quite ready or able to care for me. Judy, working a full-time gig at a factory during the day, enlisted the help of who would later become my adoptive mom to look after me while she was at work. Come evenings, Judy took on the responsibility of looking after me.

However, things took a turn when the family taking care of me noticed signs of abuse on my face and body. They decided to step up and adopt me into their family. Already a crew of seven with a mix of three daughters and three sons, I rounded out the bunch, making it an even eight. Their eldest is a good twelve years older than me, while their youngest trails behind by six years. In the end, I became their fourth daughter, finding my place in their unique and loving family dynamic.

Mothers Don't Always Know Best article image

Quote and Credit:  Anne Lamott | #MeToo

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Abuse Comes In Many Forms

When I was around five or six years old, my adoption became official. My adoptive father's own upbringing had seen him spend years in an orphanage, his mother passing away early, and his father unable to care for him and his siblings. It wasn't until later that I discovered one of the primary reasons they chose to adopt me was because they doubted I'd find another family due to being biracial in predominantly Caucasian towns around the area. They feared I might face mistreatment and neglect, drawing parallels to the hardships my adoptive father experienced during his years in the orphanage.

My early years with my birth mother, Judy, weren't exactly sunshine and rainbows. I faced abuse from her and a few of her boyfriends. And let's not forget the peculiar incident with a German Shepherd she left in charge of guarding me in the bathroom of our trailer while she was off doing who knows what. The dog would bite me whenever I cried, creating a traumatic association that lingers to this day. However, I've come to understand that the dog was simply reacting to the environment imposed on him, not inherently evil. I can't blame the dog for the sins of my birth mother, but the experience left me with a lasting unease around German Shepherds.


One of Judy's boyfriends, whom I recall being called Bear (assuming it's a nickname, but I could be mistaken), stands out in my memories. Unfortunately, his interactions with me were far from pleasant. I endured spanking and slapping on multiple occasions. Bear, a hefty man with long dark hair, a beard, and a perpetual scent of cigarettes, made an intimidating presence. While it's crucial to emphasize that no child should face physical harm for any reason, I've often wondered whether my biracial identity played a role in his unkind treatment or if it was simply the fact that Judy had a child who wasn't his own that irked him. Regardless, it seemed like I became a stumbling block in his pursuit of having Judy all to himself.

Judy's house was a revolving door of men during that time, though as a child, I couldn't discern whether they were just friends having a good time or if they held a more significant role in Judy's life. It was, after all, the '70s.

According to my adoptive mother, she noticed burn marks from cigarettes on my body (the scars of which I still carry) and instances where I was dropped off unbathed with dirty clothes. There was a particularly troubling incident when I arrived at her house with an angry red welt in the shape of a handprint across my face. While I can't say for sure, this might have been the tipping point that led my adoptive parents to intervene and remove me from Judy's care.

Meeting My Birth Mother for the First Time

Back in 1994, at the ripe age of twenty-four, I decided it was high time to meet my birth mother, Judy. Armed with a free plane ticket on the verge of expiration, I embarked on a mission to track down my birth parents.

Now, keep in mind, that Google was just a twinkle in the internet's eye back then, so I had to resort to some good ol' detective work in the online phone listings. Armed with Judy's name, I speculated that she might have relatives lingering in my hometown of Havana, IL. Cue the search for phone numbers under her last name. After a bit of digging, I struck gold and found a relative's number. With a deep breath, I dialed.

Turns out, the lady who answered the phone knew exactly who I was and spilled the beans on Judy's whereabouts in Lincoln, NB. When I called Judy's number, she answered the phone and had been expecting my call as my informant contacted her following our phone call.

Judy seemed genuinely happy to hear from me, and she provided answers to the multitude of questions that I bombarded her with.  She spilled the beans about her college days, revealing a brief encounter with my dad who is Black (she is white). The plot thickened as she divulged that my dad was engaged during their time together. When she found out she was pregnant, she decided not to drop the bomb on him, not wanting to jeopardize his future or tether herself to him with a child. According to Judy, it wasn't a love story between them, just a fling with no emotional strings attached.

Face to Face with Judy

Following my phone conversation with Judy, I decided to take the leap and visit her in Nebraska.

When I landed at the Nebraska airport, I was met with the warm and welcoming smiles of Judy and my cousin, Stephanie. It's important to note that Stephanie, only a few months my senior, has her own unique story to share, and it's not my place to tell it. What I do know is that Judy has a sister, and both of them became pregnant around the same time.

Stephanie and I shared a close bond growing up, as cousins should. We even bunked together in our grandmother's crib, snapped annual photos, and spent as much time together as fate allowed. However, our paths diverged as she eventually lived with our grandmother, and I embarked on the journey of adoption.

In the course of growing up, I would occasionally encounter my grandmother and other blood relatives at the local pool during my summertime swims. Their attempts to approach me, strike up conversations, or persuade me to go with them became a source of concern. When I shared this with my adoptive mother, she advised me not to engage with them and to run home if I saw them again. Their presence seemed daunting, colored by the narrative my birth mother had conveyed to me.

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Love. Me and My Babies

Hello Birth Mother

Returning to the topic on hand (my birth mother), the initial encounter with Judy and Stephanie at the airport left me with mixed feelings. As mentioned, Judy embraced me with open arms and teary eyes – a display of emotion I wasn't quite prepared for. This wasn't an Oprah show, and forgiveness for her past actions while I was in her care hadn't been discussed and her being resolved or forgiven for her actions. While I allowed her public emotional moment, I held back from reciprocating.

We all crammed into Stephanie's car, making our way to Olive Garden for a meal and conversation. To the best of my recollection, Stephanie and I dominated the conversation, with Judy occasionally interjecting a comment. Post-dinner, we headed to Stephanie's house, stopping by a gas station where Judy worked. There, she grabbed some 40 oz beers, a sight I found somewhat unfamiliar (I'd never seen a white person drink a 40 – just putting it out there).

The highlight of the visit, for me, was spending time with Stephanie's adorable kids. I have a soft spot for children, and I engaged with her daughter Kate while Judy indulged in some beer. Unfortunately, Judy didn't have the answers I sought; it seemed she was looking for a fresh start, a chance to build a relationship with me. That was a hard pass. While playing with Stephanie's daughter and observing Judy's beer consumption, I spent a significant part of the evening on my cell phone, chatting with friends and my then-husband. The desire to catch an earlier flight and head home grew stronger.

Eventually, as the night wore on, I felt it was an appropriate time to bid goodbye and request a ride back to my hotel. My cousin Stephanie graciously took me back, and her daughter Kate spent the night with me.


Goodbye Birth Mother

The next morning, Stephanie and Judy stopped by to take me to the airport. As we bid our farewells, this time around, I embraced Judy with a hug, sensing it would be our final meeting. She handed me a pair of sapphire earrings, a thoughtful nod to my birthstone, and with that, we said our goodbyes.

In the aftermath of our visit, Judy reached out through cards, letters, and attempts at phone calls. However, I chose not to respond. Her words held no apologies or explanations that could have justified or rectified the impact of leaving me in a more abusive environment than the one she provided.

Though forgiveness has found a place in my heart for Judy, I've recognized the need to draw boundaries. While I wish her a long and joyful life, I've come to terms with the fact that I can't be a part of it. My capacity for love knows no bounds, but I've learned to surround myself only with those who reciprocate that love, show respect, and don't expect anything in return.

And a crucial reminder: if you observe signs of child abuse, speak up and report it. Your voice might just save a child's life.

Mothers Don't Always Know Best article image of Simply Amazing Living's Autumn Murray


Click to read an article about my birth father:   Who's Your Daddy

What is child abuse?

Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failure to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of child maltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse.

If you see signs of abuse with anyone you know or are a victim of child abuse, get help right away.

For more information, to seek help, or to find out how to help abused children click here:  Childhelp.

We hope you enjoyed Simply Amazing Living's “Meeting My Birth Mother for the First Time and Discovering Mothers Don't Always Know Best” post.


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  • Autumn, this is such a powerful story. Kudos to you for setting boundaries and holding firm. You are a strong woman. Hugs and love.

  • Child abuse is such an important and hard topic to talk about! Thank you for dedicating some space to it!

  • A powerful story indeed. So blessed you are to have been adopted because somebody noticed. Many times people don’t notice and the abuse continues in silence. What a strong woman you are to stand up and put it out there for others to take notice and maybe make a change for another child as well. Lots of Love from here. <3

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure that wasn’t easy for you. All the power to you for being able to forgive your birth mother even after all that abuse. My heart goes out to you.

  • I’m sorry for what happened but I’m glad you’re taking a stand and talking about it for others who may need it

  • I commend you for telling your story. I am a foster parent and know all too well how abuse carried long lasting effects on children, even into adulthood. I am glad you found a family at such a young age who loves you. God Bless.

  • Autumn!!! Thank you for sharing part of your story with us. this qoute…”My love is endless, but I can only have people in my life that love me and respect me and do not expect anything in return.” speaks greatly…and it is a powerful ‘testimony’ to forgive and let go. xo!

  • You are so brave for sharing your story, it looks like you had a brilliant life with your adoptive family after a horrible start and I am so very sorry you had to even live through such an ordeal. I too choose love. Very touching post.

  • So sorry you had to go through such abuse. I was adopted as well when I was three months old.

  • I’m so sorry for what you had to go through and experience but I really respect your bravery for posting about your abuse. Thank you for spreading awareness to the effects of child abuse.

  • Thank you for sharing your story! Abuse happens all too often and should be talked about more!

  • I love how people give awareness in Child abuse. This is a sensitive topic that everyone should pay attention.

  • You’re truly inspiring.. so brave and courageous. Thank you for this moving post. You’ve an amazing storytelling skills! <3

  • You are an amazing- strong woman and your kids have a fabulous role model. Thank you for sharing your story.

  • What a story! You are such an inspirational and strong woman, Autumn! I am sending all my love and a big thank you for sharing!
    xx, Theresa

  • Thank you for sharing your story. It breaks my heart to see how kids have been cheated out of love and treated so badly. I see it all the time through my work.

  • Oh my! I am so sorry for what you had to go through! I am so happy that your babysitter decided to adopt you! Thank you for sharing your story!

    Belle |

  • Such a sad, yet triumphant story! I think more people should read this and kudos to you for your bravery in sharing this. Hopefully it will inspire more people to take action when they think something may be going on.

  • Wow, this was incredibly powerful. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. This made me just call my mom and tell her what a wonderful mom she was and how grateful I am to her. I’m sorry you had to endure such things. I bet you’re an amazing mom to those adorable children.

  • What courage and strength you have to share this openly with all of us. Thank you for being vulnerable – your story will no doubt open the doors for others to also heal from their situations.

  • Your story is heart-breaking, and I wish nobody had to go through something like that in their lives. There is however a lot of strength in how you write, and i feel it comes from forgiveness. Thank you for sharing such a personal story, you write beautifully,

  • What a powerful story! Thank you for sharing! This is a topic we need to talk about.

  • You’re such an inspiration to your kids. Keep up the great work 🙂

  • Wow, your life has truly been quite the story. It’s so sad that you experienced that kind of childhood, but you are so brave to talk about your experiences in hopes of helping others. That’s amazing. I think your entire life shows strong signs of bravery. Wishing you the best as you continue your journey!

  • This is such a powerful article. I admire you for your courage and strength.

  • Happy you decided to share such a personal story about your life. Child abuse is not okay in any form. Glad you had adopted parents who saw you were taken care of.

  • You story is much like a friend of mine but she is the adoptive mom. She is going through court now to adopt two little girls who are a family friends because of their birth mother’s drug abusive and physical violence and what not and the kids have been passed around over the years as the birth mom tried to get her life together. I think the court will be in my friends favor and these little girls will have a safe loving home and they did get custody so far so fingers crossed.

    • Sending prayers and positive thoughts your friend’s way that she is able to adopt them and that she will give them all of the love they deserve. My adoption experience was actually worse than that with my birth mother. I will write about my experiences with my adopted family soon.
      Always Choose Love!

  • Wow, I applaud you for sharing your story. From what I can tell the abuse did not stop when you were adopted. I am sorry if this is true. Abuse on any level is unacceptable. Children should be cherished.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this brave story. I was abused as a child, and to this date, my parents won’t acknowledge it. It sounds like you were able to pull your life together with out your birth mother.

  • This was heartbreaking to read and I applaud your courage–I’m sure that you sharing your story will help other children, no doubt about it. I hope that you are well and happy!

  • You are such a strong and inspiring woman. Thanks for sharing your story!


  • No child should ever go through what you went through. I’m glad your adoptive parents took action and raised you and gave you love. Thank you for sharing your story, we must raise awareness and have a voice for the little ones.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. Unfortunately some women just shouldn’t be mothers. Not ready to sacrifice everything for their child.

  • An unbelievable story. You are a real strong person. Thanks for sharing it.

  • I recently had to watch a video for an in service type training. It was about abuse and although most of it was no surprise doesn’t make it any easier to watch. I now however look at kids differently and wonder if they are ok. I send my daughter off to school everyday with kind words and tell her to seek out those kids that may need a hi or smile. Everyone deserves to be recognized and if they are recognized they may seek help and be a little happier. Love your shirt and your message.

  • You’re strong for noticing something wasn’t right and taking a stand. It’s not always easy to do so.

  • So sorry you had to endure such pain as a child. I absolutely HATE abuse toward children. They are so helpless and are too often left without a voice and without advocates like your adoptive family to speak up and care for them. You are a brave woman for sharing your story to help stop child abuse from happening to any more innocent children.

  • Wow! I am so sorry for the pain that your endured as a child and so moved by the amazing message that your chose to give every day despite everything that happened to you! You are an inspiration to so many! Thanks for sharing your story!

  • I am really sorry to hear that you are abuse, I have a friend that adopted too

  • I’m glad that your story ended in a safe home because so many children’s do not. I respect the fact that you realized you could forgive your birth mother without having a relationship with her.

  • Wow Autumn, what an open, honest post, so personal and emotional. I applaud you for having the courage to write about what you went through with Judy. My parents were foster parents when I was growing up, so a lot of the abuse you’ve described rang true for the kids that would come and stay at our house. I’m happy to hear that you have your own loving family now x

  • What a powerful story! Thank you for sharing!