Just before Christmas 1962, when she was 20 and unmarried, Freddie Stewart gave birth to a baby girl. At the hospital, she refused to hold her firstborn; she remembers thinking that if she saw her daughter, she couldn't handle giving her up for adoption.
"I went away from this experience and tried not to look back," said Freddie Stewart Lussier, now 70. "I thought I'd dealt with it. I just put it out of my head."
She lives today on a 10-acre property in the El Dorado County foothills, where she has goats, chickens and dogs. Kelly Camber, a daughter she raised after a brief marriage in the mid-1960s, visits often, and Freddie's grown twin granddaughters and their children spend time with her.
But as with many other mothers of her generation, the loss of her birth child was deep and lasting, a permanent wound. Over the next five decades, Freddie carried a burden of guilt and grief. She couldn't even talk about her firstborn.
Not when her brother, Wendell Alderson, 60, tried to raise the subject.