I am a natural mother. As I write those words, I sense the irony, for surely anyone who has given birth is a natural mother. But that expression is reserved for a certain minority: those who have given birth and, for one reason or another, have given the child up for adoption.

I hear a great deal about the problems and needs of adoptive parents, the problems and needs of adoptees, and the assistance available to them. I hear very little about the natural mother. But we do have needs. We are human.

It is not easy to give up something you love, something that is a part of you. Sometimes, it is necessary.

Eighteen years ago, I gave birth to a boy. I wasn't promiscuous. Despite what were considered adequate birth-control measures, I found myself pregnant by someone I loved very dearly, but couldn't marry. After weeks of soul-searching and counsel, I decided to have the baby. Those were not the days of safe and legal abortions.

I wanted very much to keep my baby, but I knew that by giving him up he would have the many things I couldn't possibly give him, including a normal family life. It was an act of love and faith, not of selfishness or neglect.

This is to you, son, whatever your name, and wherever you are. When you were born, I wanted desperately to hold you -- just once. I wanted to know that you were whole and healthy, that you cried, that your tiny arms and legs moved, that you actually were there in the nursery down the hall. You see, son, you didn't come into this world easily. At the last, you arrived by emergency Caesarian. I heard the whispered consultations.

"Too old," they said, "for a first birth." I was in my late 30s.

The truth, which I alone knew, was that I couldn't bear to part with you. When you were gone from my body, you would be gone from my life. I couldn't face that. I held on to you as long as the strength lasted.

A few weeks later the adoption agency sent me a photograph of a handsome sleepy baby boy, with a note saying that you had joined a loving family somewhere in Southern California and were bringing them much joy. I held the photo to my breast and cried all night. Then I wiped my swollen eyes and put the photograph away, but not too far away. I still have it -- bent, creased, somewhat faded and very tear-stained.

For many years, during the month of your birthdate, I cried all over again. I lived it all again. I consoled myself with the belief that you were happy in a normal family relationship, that you were enjoying all of those things you could never have had with me. But I wanted so much to hold you.

I don't think about you so much now. Time plays a magic horn. And we are both growing up.

You have reached maturity now. Perhaps as I write this, you will be entering college -- a time in life for stocktaking. I wonder if you are questioning your origin. You may be one of those adoptees searching for his real identity, fighting to have sealed records opened. You may not. I may never know.

But if you are among that group, or ever will be, then I want very much that you know this: I would not be embarrassed to see you. I would not be adverse to meeting you. I would welcome it. If your biological father were here (he died several years ago), I'm sure he would want the same.

I want to know if your eyes are blue or brown, if you play tennis or surf, if you excel in math or English, if you play the flute in the school orchestra, if you write poetry or drive fast sport cars, if laughing girls in flowered bikinis fall in love with you. And so many more things. Yes, I would like very much to meet you, and to know you.

So, I have taken a well-considered step. I have written the Adoptees' Liberty Movement Association in New York City, giving them the details of your birth and of myself. I am also writing the adoption agency asking them to cooperate if they receive any request for assistance in locating me.

Perhaps one day, if you have not already done so, you may take that step. But if you do, please take your adoptive parents into your confidence. Ask them to help you. Let them work with you. They are your real family. Whatever you are, you owe to them. Ifthey love you, and I'm sure they do, you action would not sever family ties. It would strengthen them.

Then, after you learned about your natural parents, you would go back to your family, and I would let you go.

You see, son, I still love you, and I would like to hold you. Just once.