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She placed her son for adoption. 18 years later, they had a chance encounter at Walmart

“I didn’t know if he was going to be mad at me and cuss me out. And I would have been OK with that.”
Amanda Rector and Hunter.
Amanda Rector and her Hunter Bouchette snapped a picture the night they reunited at Walmart.Courtesy Amanda Rector
/ Source: TODAY

Amanda Rector was at the height of her addiction when she gave birth to her second child in 2004.

The baby, a boy named Hunter, was born dependent on opioids and swiftly removed from his mother’s care. She had already lost custody of her eldest son, Jameson.

“I hated myself for using when I was pregnant," Rector tells TODAY.com. “When Hunter came out he was so uncomfortable, and my heart … I just shut down. I knew if I looked at him for too long, I would start to hurt and I couldn’t feel that hurt.”

A care coordinator asked Rector questions. Do you have a car seat? No. What about a crib? Also no.

"I literally had nothing. And she was like, 'You know you're not going to be able to take this baby home,' and I said, 'I know,'" Rector recalls.

At the time, Rector was living with an abusive boyfriend, but when she was offered an extra night in the maternity ward, she said no.

“I just rolled over onto my side and told them I wanted to go home,” Rector says.

Days later, Rector was back at the hospital — this time in the emergency room. Her boyfriend had developed an abscess on his arm from shooting heroin.?

“We were waiting for a good two hours before it even occurred to me that I could go and see the baby,” Rector says.?"That's how far gone I was."

In an elevator, on the way up to the nursery, Rector caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. Her hair was falling out and she was covered in bruises and track marks.?Rector says she didn't recognize her own reflection.

She debating turning around and going back to the ER. But "something inside" took over and Rector made her way to the nursery, where Hunter was sleeping.

Then in a moment of courage, she decided to ask a nurse if she could visit with him. The woman remembered Rector and knew her story.?

“You could see she was heartbroken by the sight of me and the whole situation, and she was like, ‘Of course you can see him,’” Rector says.

The nurse led Rector and her baby into a dark room outfitted with a rocking chair. Before leaving, she cracked the door and urged Rector to take as much time as she needed.?

“After she left I looked down at him and started whispering in his ear, ‘I’m so sorry. This is not me. I’m so sorry that this is your life,’” Rector says. “All those feelings I had been bottling up cracked wide open.”

Four months later, Hunter was legally adopted by a family in town.?

Shortly after that, Rector went to prison for committing an armed robbery. She was sentenced to five years and ended up serving two and a half. Rector says she found Jesus on her first day in prison. She began attending 12-Step meetings and joined the choir.

“Anything that was positive or healthy, I did it,” Rector says.

Hunter as a young child
Hunter as a young childCourtesy Amanda Rector

Before Rector was released from prison, she sent Hunter’s adoptive parents a letter. Rector’s father attended the same church as them and she didn’t want them to feel nervous about running into her.

“I wrote to let them know I going to be going to a different church than my dad,” she says.?

Rector never received a response.?

There were occasional Hunter sightings. After Rector regained custody of her son, Jameson, they spotted Hunter at a fundraiser cancer walk.

“He had this bright red hair and pale complexion,” Rector says. “I grabbed Jameson’s hand and I was like, ‘That’s your brother!’ Right as he looked over, this happy music came on over the intercom and Hunter started dancing.”

“We just stood there like creepers and watched him for the duration of the song,” she continues. “I felt a peace come over me. It was as if God was saying, ‘He’s dancing. He’s happy.’”

Rector didn’t approach, for the same reason she would write Hunter letters but not send them. ?

“It wasn’t my place,” she says.

Fourteen years later, Rector was at Walmart when she noticed Jameson, 21, chatting with a teenage girl.

“She was like, ‘What’s your name? And when he told her, she pointed down the aisle and said, ‘That’s your brother,’” Rector says.

Rector would later learn that Hunter had gotten curious about his biological mother and recently discovered her identity.

“I was speechless. I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Rector says. “I didn’t know if he was going to be mad at me and cuss me out. And I would have been OK with that.”

Instead, Rector and Hunter greeted each other a warm hug.

Amanda Rector with her son Jameson (brown hair) son she placed for adoption, Hunter.
Amanda Rector with Hunter and JamesonCourtesy Amanda Rector

“I let go first because I didn’t want to make him uncomfortable, but he held on,” she says. “And then we just kind of sat there and made small talk.”

Hunter, 19, tells TODAY.com he was in disbelief.

“I had just been talking about wanting to meet Amanda and then she appeared,” he says. “If I wasn’t God centered, I don’t believe any of this would have happened.”?

Amanda Rector and Hunter.
Amanda Rector threw Hunter a 19th birthday party.Courtesy Amanda Rector

Before saying goodbye, Rector and Hunter exchanged phone numbers and talked about getting together.?

“As soon as they were out of sight, I just broke down sobbing,” Rector says.

Hunter, who says he “adores” his parents, sees Rector at least once a week. Rector has been sober for more than 17 years and works as a certified peer support specialist helping others who struggle with substance abuse. She also shares stories about prison life on TikTok where she has nearly 1 million followers.

“I’m so proud of her,” Hunter says. “She completely turned her life around and we’re building a relationship that we never could have had before.”

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