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Piedmont man ‘Baby Freeman’ searches for birth mother 40 years after being left at hospital

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- 40 years after being abandoned as a newborn by his birth mother and grandparents at N.C. Baptist Hospital (today known as Wake Forest Baptist Medical), Steve Edsel is hoping social media will help him find his birth family.

"If it's ever going to happen it's going to be now," said Edsel, who shared his plea on Facebook this past Father's Day after hearing of other people having success finding their birth family using social media. "Even when I was little, I always knew the story."

He said he is also grateful to have been adopted and raised by Mack and Betty Edsel, of Rural Hall.
"They are my parents, loving parents, who treated me as if I was their own," he said.

"Baby Freeman" is born


Jan. 3, 1974: "Baby Freeman," a baby boy abandoned at Baptist Hospital, is taken by Mrs. Cindy Merola, social worker, to the foster home of Mack and Betty Edsel. (Winston-Salem Journal archives)

Newspaper clippings and his birth records, obtained from Wake Forest Baptist in 2003, tell Edsel he was born on Thursday, Dec. 27, 1973. At 4:30 a.m. a couple by the name of William L. and Jane E. Freeman, of 4517 Reidsville Road, asked a Winston-Salem police officer for directions to the nearest hospital as their 14-year-old daughter Deborah was in labor.

At 5:10 a.m. Deborah Freeman entered Baptist and at 5:30 a.m. gave birth to a baby boy weighing 6 pounds, 4 ounces.

"That night around 8:00 p.m. her parents came back to the hospital, they got her and they left," Edsel said.

Nurses in the then maternity ward named the infant boy "Baby Freeman." The baby would leave the hospital seven days later, on Jan. 3, 1974, in the arms of a social worker and was placed in the foster home of Mack and Betty Edsel. Later in the year of 1974 it was discovered the baby boy had a heart murmur and, knowing his health condition would make it harder to find him a permanent home, they adopted the boy and named him Stephen.

The Birth Family

A composite picture of the mother (left) and a revised composite (right). (Winston-Salem Journal Archives)

A composite picture of the mother (left) and a revised composite (right). (Winston-Salem Journal archives)

Investigators believe the birth mother and the couple, claiming to be her parents, left Baptist hospital in a ‘69 GM model vehicle. Using descriptions from hospital staff, investigators created two composites of the birth mother who was described as: 5'7”, 145 pounds, large frame, shoulder length reddish brown hair and a fair complexion. The man claiming to be the birthmother's father told nurses he was a salesman with K & E Electronics of Baltimore, Md.

Reports show that police would later discover the couple gave a false name and address, maybe taking it from the phone book, as a real William Freeman lived on Reidsville Road. Police questioned him and his wife but found no connection to the case.

"[The Freemans] invited me into their home," said Edsel, who visited them in 2003 at the beginning of his search. "I went to them at least three or four different times. They remember police coming to question them 40 years ago and they wanted so much to help me."

It is unknown if other information given to hospital staff, including the birth mother's name and date of birth (Jan. 23, 1959), was factual.

The Social Media Search

The only concrete evidence Edsel has to his mother are fingerprints from a teenage mother's hand found in his birth records.

"That's the only thing physically concrete that I have of her," said Edsel. "Everything else is a hope and a prayer."

After hearing of other people finding their birth parents using social media Edsel shared his story on his Facebook page in hopes that his birthmother will come forward.

"No hard feelings," he said Monday from his home in Walnut Cove. "If I could just see her one time."

If you have any information that can help, contact Edsel via Facebook or email.


  • FaithC

    Why? He has loving parents and he seemed to have had a good childhood. Consider yourself lucky, move on with your life. Did this guy ever think that they did not want you then and they may not want anything to do with you now, or that he may be hurting the parents who raised him.

    • cnlambeth

      I get what you are saying. But, you cannot explain the power of biology and the pull one feels to be connected. He will always love the adoptive parents and they will always be his real parents, but he would be able to connect to his birth mother on a level we cannot understand or explain.

    • Bonnie

      Let me just say….I too was adopted an knowing what he is feeling an thinking…you have questions an want answers…you don’t know who you look like you don’t know anything an it’s hard to handle…..
      So don’t sit there an says oh consider yourself lucky….that don’t answer the questions you have as an adopted person..,,I didn’t meet my birth mother till I was 16 yrs old an I’m 46 now an I have know from day one that I was adopted at 3 days old !!! But to this day my mother will not tell me the truth about my birth father..,,I have figures it out over the years but she will not tell me herself an that hurts so bad….she tells me it’s someone else an I look nothing like that family at all…..but the man that adopted me an raised me I have come to find out thru friends a close family that he was my real father…,an it was told the way it was to protect reparation!!!!
      Well I need to know my kids need to know an my grand children needs to hear the truth!!
      Yes I was blessed to have my adopted parents they were awesome…..but it hurts in a way so bad in your heart when you have questions that no one will answer !

  • Bo

    What if the birth mother doesn’t want to be contacted? She gave him life. He was adopted by a loving family. Why does she owe him the rest of her life? I don’t believe for a moment that seeing her just one time will be enough.

  • Brandi

    The girl was 14. She probably didn’t have a choice in the matter. Yes, he was fortunate enough to be raised in a loving home, but there are things people like to know. Heritage, family medical history, and so on. Good Luck to you sir! I hope you find your answers.

  • Katie Carman

    I was born to a 14 year old. It was forced conception. She gave me up because the social workers said she couldn’t change her mind after she’d signed the papers. I myself was put in foster care until I was 6 months old. When my mom and dad adopted me it was a few days before my first Christmas. I also had a heart murmur. I have been truly blessed to have had such wonderful parents raising me. I have had poor health all of my life, and have had a child with a deadly birth defect who spent 7 months at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. In January 2008 while my daughter was in the hospital I was the first person in Catawba County to work with the new law that January where social services will contact the birth family and ask if they want to contact me or give me medical information. My birth mother called me the evening that they contacted her and met me the next day. Most of my biological family has the same medical conditions as me, and one of my biological cousins lost a daughter to the same birth defect my daughter was born with. It is very important for an adoptee to find their birth family to find out medical information as well as to have the questions they have about their birth answered. It’s not a matter of just being thankful, it’s a matter of needing to know about genetics and biological family traits as well as possibly saying hi to the one that gave you life. I am a part of my biological family as well as the family that raised me. I love each side equally. The people who raised me are my Mama and Daddy, and they always will be. I do not call my birth mom by her first name because I believe that is disrespectful. I call her Maw or Momma, since the other names are reserved only for my adoptive parents. I wish him luck in his search and hope he finds the answers he is seeking.

  • Lisa

    Maybe he just wants to tell the birth parents they did the right thing and he was adopted by a great family…….

  • J

    Sometimes the birth parent wants to contact the child too, but doesn’t want to intrude. I have a friend who was adopted at 3 months. She always knew she had been adopted. When she had children of her own she decided to try to find her birth mother. Her parents helped her. When she did find them, she found out they were teenagers when she was born. Their parents had not given them a choice to keep her (pushing the point that their relationship would never last). After high school they married and had 3 more kids together. They had wanted to look for her, but did not want to intrude into her life.

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