Nancy Womac woke up from sedation to find her child had been taken away from her in 1979 and was left wondering what happened to her.
Nancy Womac baked a cake every year for her daughter's birthday but never got to share it with her. Womac's baby had been taken away from her before she could even see her in 1979 and all Womac ever wanted was to let her know that she was loved. Forty-two cakes later, Womac got to meet her daughter, Melanie Spencer in August earlier this year and got to finally tell her that she "never stopped loving her." The pair reunited following a DNA test and Womac gained not just a daughter but two grandchildren as well, reported TODAY. Womac had given birth to Spencer in a Tennessee hospital in June 1979 and Spencer was gone when she woke up from sedation.
"Forty-two years of questions," said Spencer. "It feels like coming home." For Womac, it was a moment she dreamed of all her life. "She’s just what I thought she would be," said Womac. "She’s beautiful. She’s smart." The reunion was an emotional one for the pair as they hugged and cried. Spencer said she always wanted to meet her mother, but her search intensified after she became a mother herself. "I loved her from the first time I knew I was pregnant," said Womac.
In 1979, Nancy Davis Womac was pregnant and living in an orphanage when she was sent to the Bethesda Home for Girls on the outskirts of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 11, 2021
It was run by Baptist preachers. Staff members beat the girls with wooden boards if they broke a rule. pic.twitter.com/msk5JgKO7U
Womac was just 16 when she learned she was pregnant. She was living in an orphanage in Dalton, Georgia at the time. The orphanage director found out and sent her away to Bethesda Home for Girls in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, a network of children's homes founded by preacher Lester Roloff. The home was believed to be a place for troubled children. The home would eventually be shut down after court filings stated that the girls who lived there said they were physically abused and lived in constant fear. Womac was among those who were abused. "It was like a nightmare. You just learn after a while, after being abused and slapped I guess survival mode kicks in. Just let me get through this day," she recalled thinking.
After six months of torment at Bethesda home, she was moved to East Ridge, Tennessee, where she delivered the baby. "I remember going into labor, and they just give me a shot and put me out," she said. "I don’t remember having her. I don’t remember them wheeling me into the delivery room. I don’t remember nothing. She was then gone by the time I woke up." Womac was left wondering for almost 40 years what had happened to her daughter. "It’s something that you never really get over," said Womac.
Spencer was adopted by missionaries and grew up in South Africa and Indonesia. She was a constant in Womac's thoughts. At every milestone, she couldn't help but wonder what her daughter would be doing. "I remember thinking, 'Well, she should be taking her first step now,' or, 'She should have lost her first tooth,' or, 'Her first day of school should have started,'" said Womac, before adding that she baked a cake every year on her birthday. Spencer always wanted to learn more about her mother but added that she was apprehensive as well. "I think there was fear that it could be very hurtful if I dug more and found out that she didn’t want me," said Spencer. She would eventually move to the US for college. After becoming a mother to two children, she renewed her search for her mother. "I decided to do Ancestry. The most interesting part was that it came up with a DNA match. It had been almost 40 years, and I thought, 'Why not?'" she recalled.
The DNA tests linked to Womac's sister, Cheryl Blackwell. Spencer messaged Blackwell but it was more than a year before she checked the message and replied. "She said, 'Yes, I know the story,'" Spencer recalls crying. She connected with her mother on Facebook and then via texting. "How are you? It's good to finally find you," wrote Womac.
"I’ve wondered about you for a long time," Spencer replied. "It’s a little overwhelming."
"There’s not a day goes by that I have not thought of you. I want you to know that you are loved so much," Womac replied. Finally, Spencer drove from Maryland to Georgia to meet Womac. She stayed there for several days, catching up with Womac and her other children. Womac is hoping her story helps other Bethesda survivors to continue searching for their own children.
Cover Image Source: YouTube screenshot/TODAY