This story was originally broadcast on Aug. 6, 2004
Candace Buesing and Tammy Overholt's relationship is close — and complicated. Their bond grew from a simple story of sacrifice and love. They are two women who made mistakes as teenagers and lived to be deeply grateful for a second chance.
Buesing, a 19-year-old special education major at Minnesota State University, had been given up for adoption when she was 3 days old. Barb and Joe Buesing raised her in a small town in central Minnesota along with their biological son, Tony. From early on, Candace knew she had been adopted.
"We always felt it was best to be open with her … that she would always know she was adopted, and that she would always know that her birth mother loved her so much," Barb Beusing said.
Candace remembers crying herself to sleep, wondering about the biological mother she never knew, a 15-year-old who had given her up as a baby.
She couldn't imagine that her life would take the same painful turn as her biological mother's. But at 17, Candace became pregnant.
During her pregnancy, Candace considered her options. She ruled out an abortion. Marriage to the teenage father of her unborn child wasn't an option. The prospect of being a single mom, going to college and trying to raise a child didn't quite work either.
"There was always one fairly big piece of the puzzle missing, whichever way you put it together," Candace said.
Candace felt paralyzed by the difficult decision she faced. Was giving the baby up for adoption her only choice? Or should she keep the baby and give up her dream of a college degree and a career?
Her parents realized that the one person who might have the answers to these excruciating questions was someone they had kept secret from Candace — her birth mother.
The Buesings always knew who Candace's biological mother was. It had been an "open" adoption. But they hadn't decided when it would be best to tell Candace.
But with Candace pregnant and desperate, they knew there would never be a better time. On her 18th birthday, they told her what they knew about her birth mother.
Barb Buesing felt that giving Candace an option to contact her birth mother could be helpful, because she could speak with a woman who knew how it felt to place a child for adoption. "I had no idea how it felt," she said.
A day after her 18th birthday, Candace contacted her biological mother — Tammy Overholt, who lived about 200 miles away.
Overholt knew the baby girl she had given up had just turned 18. She had seen Candace only once, for a few minutes when she was born, but thought of her often.
Overholt says she still relives the pain of giving up Candace. "I knew in my heart the right thing was what I did," she said. "But, you go home and you think, maybe, what if. I spent so many years with people asking me, 'What if, you didn't try.' Maybe I could have done it."
She would have had to do it alone. The teenage father of her child quickly dropped out of her life. But seven years later, when she was 25, she married John Overholt and soon gave birth to their daughter, Alexis. And now her first daughter, Candace, was about to burst back in her life.