In the Bethesda Home for Girls, a 16-year-old girl gave birth to her daughter but never held her. She met her daughter for the first time in her life in an emotional reunion four decades later.
Nancy Womac grew up in an orphanage in Dalton, Georgia, before realizing she was pregnant. The orphanage administrators sent her to Bethesda Home for Girls after learning she was about to give birth.
The adolescent had no idea what was in store for her in the new location. Strange things happened behind closed doors, turning Womac’s stay into a nightmare.
Womac and her brothers were raised by their grandparents. Following their deaths, Womac was sent in the care of a Dalton-based orphanage.
She fell in love with a man and became pregnant when she was 16 after spending a few years there. Because the orphanage couldn’t handle the responsibility of raising a child, she was sent to Bethesda Home for Girls, which specializes in raising difficult girls. She remembered:
“From the main road down to Bethesda, it was a long dirt road. It just kept going and going until it came to an end at this long white building. It was a nightmare come true.”
The home promised to educate youngsters in accordance with religious teachings, but there was something else going on behind closed doors. The women admitted to having no free will.
Womac’s life was so tightly regulated by the homeowners that she had decided to flee the area. She couldn’t go out, though, because the main doors were constantly shut.
They whisked her daughter away from her before she could see her.
The Bethesda authorities made decisions about the girls’ life and where their children would go. Many moms were forced to give up their children to families ready to pay a high price for them.
Womac gave birth to her daughter in June 1979, but she never had the opportunity to hold her child. She had desired to see her child for decades before eventually meeting her.
When it came time for her delivery, Bethesda officials brought her to East Ridge, Tennessee. She recalls losing consciousness after being given an injection. She explained:
“I don’t recall having her before. I don’t recall being rolled into the birthing room. Nothing comes to mind. When I awoke, she had already left.”
The 16-year-old girl was ready to start a family and care for it, but Bethesda officials had other plans. They whisked her daughter away from her before she could see her.
She had created a mental image of her daughter and would often wonder what she would be up to. Every year, she baked her a birthday cake and toasted her accomplishments, expecting she would reach them. She admitted:
“I recall thinking to myself, ‘Well, she should be taking her first steps now,’ or ‘She should have lost her first tooth,’ or ‘Her first day of school should have begun.’”
Melanie Spencer, her daughter, was just as interested in learning more about her as she was. In Indonesia and South Africa, she was adopted and reared by a missionary couple. Her mother wanted her to go to a “decent Christian household,” they said.
The small girl was dissatisfied with the information provided by her parents. She was interested to discover more about her birth mother and had many questions about her. She remembered:
“I wanted to track her out and learn more about her. I believe there was a fear that if I probed further and discovered she didn’t want me, it would be devastating.”
Spencer relocated to the United States to pursue her higher education and began working as a counselor. She didn’t think about Womac until she had children and wondered what she would tell them about their ancestors if they inquired.
To understand more about her birth parents, she opted to take an Ancestry DNA test and eagerly awaited the results.
Fortunately, the test results led her to Cheryl Blackwell, Womac’s sister. She sent her a message in the hopes of connecting her with her mother, but Blackwell didn’t check her mailbox for another year.
After reading the note, Blackwell quickly connected Womac and Spencer. They added each other as Facebook friends and chatted through their emotions.
Womac expressed her delight at finally being able to speak with her daughter. Spencer also mentioned that she had always wanted to know who her biological mother was, and that conversing with her on Facebook was bizarre. Womac responded.”
“There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of you. I want you to know how much you are cherished.”
Spencer chose to drive from her home in Maryland to her mother’s home in Georgia after speaking with her mother. It was difficult for her to think she would see her mother after four decades.
When she saw her mother for the first time, her anxiety changed to tears. Womac, on the other hand, was overcome with joy to behold her firstborn – the girl who had hitherto only existed in her thoughts. Before Spencer returned to her home, the mother and daughter spent many days together.
By sharing her fortunate story, Womac hopes to inspire other Bethesda survivors. She never expected to encounter her long-lost daughter, but fate had other plans for them when they were separated.