She wasn't planning on making the video when she woke up that morning. But when Noelle Geno saw a Facebook post about Birth Mother's Day on Saturday, May 12, she decided today was the day.
"I just gotta do this," she said to herself.
"So I took a shower, I did my hair and my makeup, and I sat down, and I recorded it," said Geno. "It was one take."
The video, uploaded to Geno's Facebook page, now has well over 400 shares and has been viewed over 10,000 times.
"I can't believe I'm doing this, but the time has come," she wrote in the post. "When you know you just know. Thank you in advance for your help with this! Please listen to this message and pray we find her! Please share this video and help me find my Birth Mother!!!!"
Geno's video is her latest attempt in her 19 year-long on-and-off effort to find her birth mother.
An educator for Pregnancy Decision Health Centers, a network of pregnancy help centers in Columbus, Ohio, Geno says that she has experienced just about every outcome of pregnancy—good and bad: She was blessed to be placed for adoption as an infant; she has two daughters of her own; and regrettably, she has also experienced an abortion.
Now, she is dedicated to speaking out for human life, encouraging healthy relationships, parenting, and adoption as positive options for women.
Born July 17, 1981, at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, Florida, Geno was taken in by a foster family as a newborn. Five months later, she was adopted by another couple—Rosemary and Manuel Geno—through Catholic Social Services (now Catholic Charities of Central Florida).
Growing up, Geno always knew she was adopted. Her parents were very open about it.
"My mom did a really beautiful job of just telling everyone and us before we could even talk, that she didn't birth us but that she was our mother," said Geno. "That because of someone else's kindness, she was able to have a family."
Filled with questions and fantasies, young Geno was fascinated by the idea of one day meeting her birth mother.
"As far as I was concerned, my mom was like a princess," said Geno. "She had to have been... She had put down (on the adoption forms) that she liked to ballet dance, so in my mind, she was always an amazing ballet dancer."
On the day of her eighteenth birthday, prepared to get some information, Geno contacted Catholic Social Services—only to discover that her records were completely sealed through a closed adoption.
"It was a really eye-opening experience. I kind of had a rude awakening," said Geno. "I didn't understand what 'closed adoption' meant. I was bummed, and it kind of just took the wind out of my sails for a number of years."
Then, several years later, Geno's brother, who was also adopted, gave her a reason to continue her search. When Geno was 33, her brother was found by his biological mother on Facebook.
"It totally rocked his world," Geno said. "We were there the day they actually met face-to-face. We were all piled up looking out the window while he was going out there to meet her. We were crying, we were so happy."
Curiosity and Faith
And with that, Geno's curiosity persisted.
"I have questions," she said. "When I look in the mirror, I don't know whose color eyes I have. I don't know if I have any brothers or sisters. For all I know, my parents could have married each other and gone on to have ten kids. So there's just little things that I want."
But Geno has reconciled herself with the reality that her birth mother may not reciprocate her curiosity.
"I've settled within myself that—and I feel very peaceful about it—that there is a strong possibility that she may not want to meet me simply because I want to meet her," she said.
It's an outcome she doesn't think she would have been able to face a few years ago.
"I think I would've been devastated...I wouldn't have understood," she said. "I would've thought maybe it was selfish or, 'How could you not want to meet me? I'm your family.' Now I understand. She made that decision almost 37 years ago, and for all I know, she's not ever told anybody because that's kind of the way that it happened back then."
She attributes her new outlook on that possible outcome to her Christian faith.
"God's just been working on me in many areas," Geno said. "I'm a single mom, and I have, for years, just been trying to reconcile past decisions and understand why I did certain things. Obviously, I know the bulk of that is because I had absolutely no sense of spiritual morality. I had no relationship with Christ so I was very much just a leaf blowing in the wind.
"Now I'm so much more rooted in who I am and what it is that I'm supposed to be doing, that it's easy to absorb different outlooks a little bit better," she said. "I'm able to understand that not everybody's in the same place at the same time. I mean, she may not even be alive. I don't know. These are all things that I have to keep at the forefront as very real possibilities."
As she prepares herself for the wide range of outcomes, she finds herself embraced by the loving support of her mother and her daughters, all of whom are almost as excited to meet Geno's birth mom as Geno herself.
But even if she never finds her birth mother, Geno says the video she posted on Birth Mother's Day serves another purpose, too.
"I really wanted the birth mothers out there to know just how special it is," said Geno. "Because I've had children, and I can't imagine handing them off. I can't imagine the pain that she must have felt. Even though she knew that placing me for adoption was the right thing, I can't imagine the pain."
Geno, who has worked at pregnancy help centers for the last six years, is especially keen on encouraging adoption for young women facing unexpected pregnancies. This video, she prays, may help on that front, too.
"I just said, 'God, you're gonna do with this (video) what you want, and maybe this helps somebody else. Maybe this video is only to reach one girl who's sitting there freaking out about a positive pregnancy test thinking that she has to terminate because there's no other option for her,'" Geno said. "I even said that to God, 'If this is the meaning of why you want me to do this video...so be it. You'll do whatever it is you want to do with this video.' I had no idea that it was going to get shared so many times."
But Geno has no doubt that God is using her to reach people. Since committing her life to Christ, she has felt called to be a voice for life at every opportunity.
"I will tell them."
Geno first heard her calling six years ago, a few months into her faith journey. After months of pouring her heart into her newfound relationship with Jesus, she was feeling spiritually restless when she felt the Lord tugging at her to read the Book of Jeremiah in her women's study Bible. Unfamiliar with the Old Testament at the time, she thought it was strange.
But she turned to Jeremiah anyway.
Reading from the book, she was more confused than ever. Then, she turned the page, and something clicked. There, at the bottom of the page, was a whole section under the heading, "Abortion."
"I saw it and I was like (gasp) and I read it, and I knew right then that He wanted me to share my story," said Geno. "I wrote in that Bible and underlined it that day, six years ago, 'I will tell them.'"
Since that moment, "telling them" has evolved from serving clients at a local pregnancy help center to sharing her post-abortion testimony at speaking engagements. Now it has evolved again as she celebrates her own adoption in a video that has been seen thousands of times across the internet.
And with that, Geno's story has come full circle.
"I always say to people—in more of my post-abortive talks—I say, 'My mom did the thing that I wasn't brave enough to do,'" she said. "That is, to me, the definition of courage. In a time when it would have absolutely made more sense to people to have an abortion, she chose the harder thing.
"That's not just a one-time decision," she said. "My abortion was not just a one-time decision. I have dealt with that decision every day of my life since it happened. Placing a child up for adoption is something you think about, I'm sure, every day for the rest of your existence. People don't understand that those two things are so, so difficult to deal with because you don't have that face to look at every day."
Miracles and Hope
To Geno, this act of love is nothing short of miraculous.
"People say miracles don't happen anymore, and I point to things like this," she said. "It is miraculous for a woman to carry a baby for that long, knowing full well, that she is not going to be that mother, and still taking care of her body, and being healthy, and going through all the motions, and signing the papers, and essentially saying, 'I am going to step into the unknown for the rest of my life, and I'm okay with that.' That is a huge, miraculous thing."
As she continues to marvel at the miraculous act that gave her life, Geno is hopeful that her video will reach her mother.
"My biggest hope is that she will see this, or someone that she knows will see this, and her and I can be in connection with each other," she said. "I am, as they say, 'cautiously optimistic' that that will be the outcome."
Her secondary hope is that her birth mother will simply know how grateful she is—even if they never meet.
"I have to release the idea into God's hands that I'll meet her, and know that my responsibility was to let her know how important her decision to give me life was," she said. "Because really, at the end of the day, that's all that matters. I have a responsibility, as a believer in Jesus, to say, 'Life is important, and it's valuable.'"
If anything, Geno hopes to assuage any questions, concerns, or doubts that may have crossed her birth mom's mind in the last 37 years.
"I don't know if my mom was a believer," Geno said. "But what I do know is that I don't think there's a woman on the planet that could go through a pregnancy, knowing she was going to place that kid up for adoption, and not pray to whatever God they believe in. I mean, you have to. I know that at some point, even if it were just in a hospital, she said, 'Please let this turn out okay,' and He has honored that for her because my life has turned out beautifully.
"You know? I want for nothing. There's nothing in my life that I feel like I've missed out on. I am just so grateful. I mean, really, just wholly and humbly grateful to the fact that she really could have...she could have ended this thing, and she didn't. I am grateful, and I just want her to know that."