A happy beginning Nearly 30 years later, Theresa Pitner connects with son she gave up for adoption
Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 28, 2014
People sometimes ask Theresa Pitner if it’s hard for her to foster a dog and then have to give it up when a permanent home is found for it.
Sometimes it is hard, says Theresa, a devoted dog lover and board member for Faithful Friends, but she takes heart in knowing the dog is going to a good home.
Theresa felt much the same way almost 30 years ago when she made the decision to give her baby up to a couple who had waited nine years to adopt.
For many years, Theresa knew very little about that infant. When she did talk about him, mostly with her husband, Andrew, he was simply The Baby.
The Baby now has a name — Bobby. And Bobby Krebs is 29 years old, with a history that Theresa is catching up on.
Theresa and Bobby met for the first time over the Christmas holiday in Dayton, Ohio, the town where Theresa grew up and gave birth to The Baby.
Theresa had been living the life of a rebellious teenager long after high school when she found herself pregnant and unmarried at the age of 23. She wanted to make the best of a bad situation, so she got her act together, gave birth to a healthy baby and mentally moved on from that chapter in her life. She was satisfied knowing that her baby had been adopted by a loving couple.
Theresa went back to school in 1985, majoring in social work. In a psychology class at Wright State she met Andrew Pitner, whom she would eventually marry. She graduated in 1990, and she and Andrew moved to Idaho, then to Tennessee, where Andrew went to graduate school. They eventually landed in Salisbury, where they’ve lived since 1999. They’re so Salisbury now, in fact, that their Wiley Avenue home is featured on this year’s OctoberTour.
Theresa works as a volunteer coordinator for Hospice and Palliative Care of Cabarrus County. She and Andrew have a son, Watson, a senior at Salisbury High School. And now, Watson has a big brother.
Bobby drove to Salisbury from Ohio with Samantha, his fiancée, to visit the Pitners over Labor Day weekend. The whole family, including Andrew’s mother, Gavine Pitner, shared brunch Sunday morning and talked about the improbable reunion.
Bobby knew from a very young age that he was adopted. His parents were very open about it, frequently remembering and honoring his birth mother: “We prayed for you, we thanked you,” says Bobby to Theresa.
Although Bobby thought about his birth mother over the years, he began to get serious about meeting her several years ago. He didn’t feel guilty about it, since his mother had always thought it would be a good idea for him to reconnect with his birth mother.
As the years went by and attitudes and laws surrounding adoption changed, Theresa had considered that her son might want to make contact eventually. She’d taken steps to make it easier for him to contact her, going to registry.adoption.com and submitting everything she knew about the birth.
Eventually, Bobby found Theresa through Facebook and sent her a message, but it landed in that obscure message folder many people don’t ever notice, and she didn’t see it. Bobby’s fiancée Samantha then called Theresa, which is when Theresa learned The Baby had grown up. Samantha arranged a phone call between Theresa and Bobby the next day. In the meantime, Theresa looked Bobby up on Facebook and was struck by how much he resembled her.
Before that phone call, Theresa says, “I sat in my office and talked to no one,” she said.
Bobby was equally distracted. Samantha remembers him paying for gas at a filling station and then driving away — completely forgetting to pump the gas.
Finally, Bobby and Theresa spoke for the first time.
“Hey, what’s new?” Theresa said.
“My whole life,” Bobby replied.
“The first time we talked, it was the easiest conversation ever,” says Bobby. “She answered all those questions that I had brewing for all those years.”
They began talking on the phone two or three times a week, for hours at a time. The connection was immediate and intense. Theresa realized that Bobby wanted more than just information about his medical history and the basic circumstances of his birth. He wanted to know about her and her life, what she was like as a child.
And Theresa felt the same way about Bobby. She wasn’t expecting for such a strong bond to develop so quickly.
“I kind of like him,” Theresa told her husband. “He seems like a cool guy.”
Theresa kept her family in Dayton abreast of the phone calls, and her sisters Mary and Sarah decided they wanted to meet Bobby.
Samantha was there for that meeting, which seems to have been a relief on both sides. Everybody liked each other and got along and noticed lots of quirky family similarities.
“They all talk with their hands,” Samantha says, laughing. Bobby agrees, noting that neither of his parents do that.
Finally, the day after Christmas, Theresa and Bobby met for the first time and saw one another frequently over the holidays until Theresa and her family returned to Salisbury in early January.
Separating at that point was “really hard,” Theresa says. So hard that she couldn’t stay away for long: she returned to Dayton to see Bobby in February, April and July, when she normally only travels to Dayton once a year.
She loved getting to know her son, but the experience also created some negative emotions. Feelings about the birth and adoption that she’d submerged threatened to overwhelm her — feelings of grief, guilt and fear of rejection. To handle these emotions, she sought counseling and therapy. It helped her to learn that what she was feeling is very common for birth mothers who reunite with a child.
She worked her way through all of that, and now she’s happy to tell her birth mother story, especially if it encourages others to share theirs.
For Bobby, Theresa has been “an automatic best friend that came out of nowhere,” he says. He feels like he has a second family now, with all the joys and challenges that entails.
Finally learning about his origins has given Bobby a sense of freedom. “Now that I know where I came from, it’s a bunch of weight off my shoulder,” he says. “My days became more sunny.”
For Theresa, reuniting with Bobby has been a profound experience that’s brought joy and some unexpected benefits.
“It’s brought my family closer together,” she says.