Amanda Rector found herself deep in addiction when she welcomed her second child in 2004.

Her baby boy, Hunter, entered the world dependent on opioids and was promptly taken from his mother's care. Already having lost custody of her elder son, Jameson, Rector was engulfed in self-loathing for using drugs during her pregnancy.

“I despised myself for using while I was pregnant," Rector shares with “When Hunter arrived, he was so uncomfortable, and my heart … I just shut down. I knew if I gazed at him too long, the pain would overwhelm me, and I couldn’t bear that.”

During an assessment, a care coordinator posed questions to Rector. Did she have a car seat? No. A crib? Also no.

"I had absolutely nothing. And she told me, 'You know you won't be able to take this baby home,' and I replied, 'I understand,'" Rector recounts.

At that time, Rector was in an abusive relationship. Yet when offered an additional night in the maternity ward, she declined.

“I just turned away and told them I wanted to leave,” Rector reflects.

Days later, Rector found herself back at the hospital — this time in the ER. Her boyfriend had developed an abscess from injecting heroin.

“We waited for a good two hours before it even crossed my mind that I could visit the baby,” Rector recalls. "That's how lost I was."

@prison_story Imagine wondering for 18 years if he hated you only to find out he saw it as an act of love #adoption #birthmom #update #grace #forgiveness #Jesus #God #HolySpirit #setfree #recovery ♬ original sound - Amanda Dove ❤️

In an elevator, on her way to the nursery, Rector glimpsed herself in the mirror. Her hair was thinning, bruises and track marks covered her skin, and she couldn't recognize her own reflection.

She debated turning back, heading back to the ER. But "something inside" propelled her forward, and she made her way to the nursery where Hunter lay sleeping.

Summoning courage, she asked a nurse if she could spend time with him. The nurse, aware of Rector's situation, was visibly saddened but granted her request.

“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 recalls.

The nurse led Rector and Hunter to a dimly lit room with a rocking chair. Before leaving, she left the door slightly ajar and encouraged Rector to take her time.

“Once she left, I looked down at him and whispered in his ear, ‘I’m so sorry. This isn’t who I am. I’m sorry for the life you have,’” Rector says. “All the emotions I had been holding back burst forth.”

Four months later, Hunter was adopted by a local family. Shortly after, Rector was incarcerated for an armed robbery, serving two and a half years of a five-year sentence. It was in prison that Rector found solace in her faith, joining a choir and attending 12-Step meetings.

“I did anything positive or healthy that came my way,” Rector reflects.

Hunter as a young childCourtesy Amanda Rector

Before her release from prison, Rector took the initiative to send a letter to Hunter's adoptive parents. Knowing that her father attended the same church as them, she wanted to assure them that she would be attending a different church to avoid any discomfort or unease.

“I wrote to inform them that I would be attending a different church than my dad,” she explains.

Unfortunately, Rector never received a response from them.

Occasionally, there were sightings of Hunter. After regaining custody of her son, Jameson, they encountered Hunter at a fundraising cancer walk.

“He had this vibrant red hair and fair skin,” Rector recalls. “I took Jameson’s hand and whispered, ‘That’s your brother!’ Just then, lively music played over the intercom, and Hunter began dancing.”

“We stood there, quietly watching him dance throughout the song,” she continues. “I felt a sense of peace wash over me. It was like a message from God, saying, ‘He's dancing. He's happy.’”

Despite the heartwarming moment, Rector chose not to approach Hunter, a decision echoing her practice of writing letters to him without sending them.

“It didn’t feel right for me to intrude,” she explains.

Fourteen years later, while at Walmart, Rector spotted Jameson, now 21, talking to a teenage girl.

“She asked him his name, and when he told her, she pointed down the aisle and said, ‘That’s your brother,’” Rector shares.

Later on, Rector discovered that Hunter had become curious about his biological mother and had recently learned her identity.

“I was stunned. I couldn’t believe it was happening,” Rector says. “I didn’t know if he would be angry and lash out at me. And I would have accepted that.”

However, when Rector and Hunter finally met, it was with a warm embrace.

Amanda Rector with Hunter and JamesonCourtesy Amanda Rector

“I was the one who let go first because I didn't want to make him feel uneasy, but he held on,” Rector explains. “After that, we sat down and chatted.”

Hunter, now 19, shares with that he was in utter disbelief.

“I had literally just mentioned wanting to meet Amanda, and then she appeared,” he says. “If I wasn’t grounded in my faith, I don’t think any of this would have unfolded.”

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

Before parting ways, Rector and Hunter exchanged phone numbers and discussed the possibility of meeting again.

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

Hunter, who expresses his deep love for his adoptive parents, now spends time with Rector at least once a week. Rector, who has been sober for over 17 years, works as a certified peer support specialist, offering help to those battling substance abuse. She also shares her experiences of life in prison on TikTok, where she has nearly 1 million followers.

“I’m incredibly proud of her,” Hunter shares. “She completely turned her life around, and now we're building a relationship that was never possible before.”