November 3, 2009
Mother reunited with child she gave away 26 years earlier
October 30, 2009
By Sean Rose
She gave up her daughter for adoption in 1978 in a decision fueled by
panic and desperation. In doing so, Marcie Roth, now 54, lost not only
her child but also the love of her life.
And then, almost three decades later, she found one, which helped her
regain the other.
Marcie Roth's life is a story of regret, acceptance, forgiveness, and
finally, joy; of walking away from her child's father, then
rediscovering their love 26 years later; of coming to terms with the
fact that she was a birth mother of an adopted child who was a
stranger to her.
One thing she knew for certain: She needed to search for that child
and reach out to her — if her daughter would have her.
On Father's Day, 2008, she placed the call that she both longed for
and dreaded. She identified herself to a person who answered.
"Momma," the voice on the telephone replied. "Is that you?"
An adoption tinged with regret
Thirty years earlier, Marcie Roth was a divorced, single mother in
Ephrata, Pa., raising one daughter while juggling a full-time job and
school. She didn't know what to do when she found out she was pregnant
Her boyfriend, Roger Roth, told her he wasn't ready to be a father.
With little money and no plan, she confided in her doctor, who
suggested she give up the baby for adoption and arranged the
proceedings with a nearby couple.
It seemed the smart move for Marcie and a blessing for the couple.
But in the hospital, as an exhausted Roth glimpsed her infant daughter
for the first time, and felt her tiny fist wrap itself around her
pinkie, Roth regretted her decision.
Yet she kissed infant Jessica Dale Roth on the forehead and said a
prayer as her baby was taken away.
She said she didn't see Roger Roth for two months. One day as she
walked the neighborhood as a light snow fell, Roger pulled his car
next to her and rolled down his window.
"Want to go to breakfast?" he asked.
She got in. The snow grew heavier. They waited in the car, hardly
speaking. Then Roger took her hand and they both cried over the
daughter they had given up.
He asked if they could get her back, Marcie Roth said, but she told
him it was too late. Their daughter's original birth certificate and all records of the adoption were permanently sealed. Neither knew where she had been placed.
The two got back together, but they never spoke about their missing
Marcie Roth felt the loss acutely. She said she would be perfectly
fine, then see a baby on the street and break down bawling.
"When you are a birth mother, it's like something is just ripped out
of you, and it's never acknowledged," Roth said. "And so you go on
thinking, `I made a hell of a mistake.'"
Her anger at Roger Roth for not stepping up to fatherhood immediately
and her inability to turn to him for comfort drove them apart. Two
years after the adoption, Marcie Roth moved back to New Albany, where
she had grown up.
"Somebody dies, you have family, you have friends, you have coworkers,
you have support groups and then there's an end to it, there's
closure," Marcie Roth said. "There's no closure to an
adoption, it's just there.
Daughter struggles to fit in
The child that Marcie gave away, meanwhile, grew up as Kara Gianna
Cerullo. She and her adopted mother, Sandra Cerullo, lived in Berwick
and then Harrisburg, Pa., just hours from where she had been born as
Jessica Dale Roth.
By age 10, Jessica said she knew that she was different. Her blue eyes
and blonde hair did not fit with her mother's dark complexion. And her
loud, outgoing nature did not match the quiet home in which she was
being raised. She started asking questions about her biological parents.
When Jessica Roth was 11, her adoptive father drove her to meet with
the doctor who arranged the adoption, who refused to tell Jessica Roth
the names of her parents.
Instead, he described Marcie Roth to her, telling the young girl she
looked just like her mother.
While Jessica Roth described her relationship with her adoptive mother
as good, she was a troubled teen. She began doing drugs and drinking
at 13, and by the time she was 17, she was a mother herself, she said.
With little money and no father to help raise her daughter, she gave her
first child up for adoption.
Jessica Roth had begun searching for her birth parents as a teenager,
scanning adoption registries online. But two events, the death of her
grandfather, who she was very close to, and her father's death four
years later, made her redouble her efforts.
The urgency to find her own medical history was clear as she Jessica
began experiencing seizures and even suffered a stroke in January
2008, she said.
The odds were stacked against her. Although by now her adopted mother
had given her birth parents' names, Jessica didn't have much to go on.
Because adoption proceedings were closed, Jessica Roth's birth
certificate was sealed under Pennsylvania law.
A majority of states, including Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky,
require court orders for adoptees to access their original birth
certificate or identifying information about their natural parents as
adults. The three states have some measures to allow access to records
as long as there is consent from the biological parents.
Medical reasons are often not enough for a court to unseal the
records, said Robert Stenger, an adoption and family law professor at
the University of Louisville.
By 2008, Jessica Roth had been searching off and on for more than a
decade — with nothing to show for it.
Re-ignited love spurs search for daughter
Marcie Roth, meanwhile, remained paralyzed with guilt, which kept her
from trying to find to her daughter, she said.
"I felt like I didn't have a right," Marcie Roth said. "Who was I to
go marching into her life after all these years and turn her world
She figured that if her daughter wanted to find her, she could.
Roger Roth changed her mind.
They had not spoken in 26 years, until the day he unexpectedly called
her. They visited each other, and on their first date, he apologized
for not being a father for their daughter. He proposed. She accepted,
and the two were married in April 2008.
Marcie Roth saw a reason behind their reunion and began searching for
their daughter two months before the couple married. For the next five
months, she would stay up late into the night searching online
adoption registries online for any sign of her daughter, she said.
Reading strangers' stories online, she began to open up to others and
learned to forgive herself.
"I punished myself, and that's what every birth parent does," she
said. "You mentally beat yourself up over it, what you should have
On Father's Day, 2008, Marcie Roth received a call from a woman named
JoAnne Stanik. Earlier that day, Roth had registered with Stanik's
adoption search Web site, adoptiondatabase.org.
On it she had left a typed message intended for her daughter:
"If you are looking for me and want to hear your story, I am ready to
Stanik started looking, and in just four hours, found Jessica,
who was now Jessica Roth-Jendrick after marrying and had moved to
Marcie Roth was stunned, but Stanik assured her that she had verified
her daughter's identity. Stanik gave her Jessica's phone number.
Marcie Roth hung up, picked up the phone again and dialed. It rang and
a young woman answered. Marcie Roth identified herself.
The response was clear: "Momma? Is that you?"
Reunion creates new family
A week later, on a summer evening, at Louisville International
Airport, Marcie Roth and her husband waited at the gate. Jessica
walked forward, surveyed the crowd and — even with no photo —
recognized her mother right away.
"I could spot her a mile away," Jessica Roth said.
That first night, the questions and answers flew as Marcie, Roger and
Jessica tried to catch up on 30 years of lost time. What were her
birthdays like? Did she go to the prom? Any boyfriends?
Jessica stayed for a week. Then she and her parents traded visits
until last June.
She started classes at the end of September at Daymar College studying
medical coding and billing moved into her own apartment in early
October. Cerullo, who'd been diagnosed with liver cancer earlier in
the year, joined her daughter in her new home, as did her husband, who
came from Florida.
Marcie Roth began sharing her story online with others struggling with
adoption. She said she's dedicated to raising awareness about the
anguish the adoption laws can cause.
She is also writing book about her experience and hopes that any
profits will further help Jessica and also go toward Stanik's search
And when there is friction in their relationship — as there sometimes
is, Marie recognizes it as inevitable as the two get to know each other.
"I just kept saying, `Honey, it's going to get better.' The main thing
is that we're together."