THEIR eyes locked and with each step closer, Jenny McMillan knew she was meeting her son for the first time.
Eighteen years earlier, the Armidale woman had been thrust into a hell not of her own making, ordered to give up her first child for adoption.
Still at high school and madly in love with her boyfriend, Ms McMillan’s parents refused to allow her to keep the baby, using hardline forced adoption laws that compelled her to hand him over to authorities.
Ms McMillan still shakes with rage when she thinks back to the ordeal.
“It was just shattering because if my baby had been born a few months later, I would have been 18 and able to keep it,” she said.
Moments after giving birth at Newcastle’s Mater Hospital, her baby boy was snatched away from her.
“All I could see was that he had 10 fingers and 10 toes and he was gone,” she said.
“The nurses made sure I had a bad birth because they had no respect for me. They drugged me to sedate me and put me in a room as far away from the nursery as possible. They even gave me a drug to dry out my milk.”
Her relationship soon broke down and it wasn’t until more than a decade later that she married.
But despite having two children to her new husband, the fate of the baby boy she named Ryan gnawed away at her.
In 1997 when he turned 18, she tracked him down and organised to meet him at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
“I knew it was him as soon as I saw him from a distance ... there was no mistaking it,” she said.
“He had my face and his father’s eyes.
“We just hugged and howled – it was an unforgettable moment.”
Despite her express wishes, his adopted family had changed his name to Nathan, a young man who has since completed an economics degree and works as a triple-0 operator.
The pair still speak regularly, and Ms McMillan never misses sending a birthday or Christmas present.
“It’s not as close as a mother-child bond,” she said.
“He has no resentment towards what happened, but it just can’t be the same.”
Ms McMillan has urged anyone affected by adoption to attend a special information session in Tamworth next month.
Held from 6pm at Tamworth Community Centre on February 19, the session will include information on searching for lost family members and being reunited.
To RSVP, call 9504 6788 by February 5.