Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • Candy Wagner, pictured here in 1965, lived with her parents and siblings in upstate New York. The next year her father would leave home and never come back, leaving her mother devastated. Wagner started dating a high school senior.
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • Wagner's boyfriend John was the love of her life. "[He was] my first for everything," Wagner, pictured here with him in 1966, told ABC News' "20/20." "He was my rock, and there was no question that I was in very deep young love."
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • Pictured here together on Dec. 5, 1966, Wagner and her boyfriend didn't know that life was about to change drastically for them. Wagner was a few months pregnant when this photo was taken. "At that time, in a small town where there's no place to hide, it is absolutely traumatic," Wagner said. "There's a huge degree of shame attached to unwed motherhood at that time."
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • When Wagner began to show, her mother sent her to a Salvation Army home for unwed mothers at Booth Memorial Hospital, now New York Hospital Queens, in Flushing, New York. Babies born in these homes were often immediately put up for adoption. Wagner and other mothers like her were kept in a wing in the hospital separated from the mothers-to-be in the main maternity ward.
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • On April 17, 1967, Wagner's daughter was born, but she was discouraged from seeing her. A nurse eventually gave in and walked her to the nursery where she saw her baby for the first time. "'Please let me hold her,'" Wagner recalled asking. "And they said, 'No, that would not be a good idea.'" Within two weeks of giving birth, Wagner was back in school. Wagner, pictured here at her high school graduation on June 19, 1970, graduated second in her class.
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • The one time Wagner saw her daughter, she noticed the baby had a red mark on her cheek, a burn left by forceps. Not realizing the mark was temporary, she planned to look for a girl with a scar for years to come. After her high school graduation, Wagner went to college and worked as a physical therapist for almost 40 years. She eventually married her husband John Wagner, pictured here with her.
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • While Wagner adopted a son of her own, questions about the daughter she surrendered still lingered in her mind. "'Did you get what I couldn't get you, what they promised me you would get? Were you loved by two people the way I would wish that you would be loved?'" Wagner recalled wondering. Every April 17, on her lost daughter's birthday, the heartache would come back.
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • In 1996, Wagner, pictured here with her son, finally gathered the courage to actively search for her daughter. But after 17 years of dead-ends and frustrating encounters with New York's adoption court system, Wagner almost lost hope.
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • Wagner turned to investigative genealogist Pam Slaton, who, after a negative experience tracking down her own birth mother years ago, made a career out of helping adoptees search for their biological families. It took Slaton less than 24 hours to find Wagner's daughter. It turns out Wagner and her child, Barbara Jo Gowan, were practically neighbors and lived in the same community in upstate New York.
    Courtesy Candy Wagner
  • Forty-seven years after giving her daughter up for adoption, Wagner (bottom right corner) finally reunited with Gowan (center of the front row) this summer. "She had a hard time opening the front door, trying to hold back the tears," Gowan told "20/20." "And then [she] opened the door, and the first words out of her mouth were, 'You're beautiful.'" "It's just wonderful," Wagner said. "I feel liberated. I'm not living the lie. I can let that go now."
    Courtesy Candy Wagner