Teanna Elliot made headlines across Canada before she even had a name.
Now the Kelowna woman is in the news again as she looks to put an end to a mystery that started with her birth, decades earlier.
It was Nov. 25, 1987, when two teenage boys skateboarding in a Calgary shopping centre parking lot saw something tucked between a parked Mercedes-Benz and the curb.
A green garbage bag contained a newborn that would soon make national news with the name “Baby Mary.” From the look of things she’d had just been born, still covered in blood and afterbirth and attached to her umbilical cord.
The boys called a passerby to the scene, and all three made their way to a medical centre where police were called.
“I was the first officer out at it,” said Staff Sgt. Rod Harbidger, of the Calgary Police Service, noting that his memory of the circumstances has been blurred.
What has lasted the test of time, however, is the great care and compassion he saw Baby Mary receive in those early moments from the boys— who were only around 13 years old — the passerby and the medical staff. And that she survived, against all odds.
“Just when you go look at the parking lot where she was found and how she was next to a tire and how cold it was that day … there’s no telling how long it would have taken for hypothermia to set in,” he said.
“The way it (came together) was very fortunate.”
No leads on who left Baby Mary behind ever came to the fore and the investigation ground to a halt not long after she was absorbed into the loving family who raised her and renamed her Teanna.
Mike and Teresa Guzzi were like everyone else in Calgary at the time, caught up with the story of Baby Mary. The difference in their case was that Teresa saw something else—the missing piece of their family.
“My mother had already had my brother, but they wanted another baby,” said Elliot, explaining it was impossible for her mother to do so biologically, because of a recent cancer battle.
“They were on an adoption list, and when they were watching the news that morning, my mom said, ‘oh my gosh, Mike, I want this baby.’”
Mike tried to discourage her, thinking it was a long shot, but she persisted and contacted a social worker.
It took nine days until the Guzzis took Elliot home.
At first she was their foster baby, then six months later they were given permission to adopt.
“My parents shaped me, and they made me who I am,” said Elliot. “They are so supportive. I know a lot of people say, ‘you should be grateful for your adoptive parents.’
“But they’re not my adoptive parents, they are my mom and dad.”
Elliot wasn’t always so at ease with the story of how she entered the world.
While she always knew she was adopted, she didn’t know she was “Baby Mary” until she was 12-years-old, when questions about her origins became more pointed.
“Then my mom had to tell me and at first, I thought it was cool,” she said, adding that she remembers going to her classmates to share her birth story.
In time, however, that changed. When she was around 16 or 17-years-old, what being abandoned actually meant started to sink in.
“I felt a lot of pain and hurt — somebody didn’t want me,” she said.
“Then, at age 20, I decided I’m not going to dwell on this. I have a great life and it is what it is. There’s no reason to be upset.”
She still, however, wants to meet her birth mother and this month she launched her third attempt at doing so.
Elliot has had a lot of time to think about what led her birth mother to abandon her in such unusual circumstances.
Someone once contacted her, after an early attempt to find her mother, and said she had seen a young girl, maybe 14 or 15-years-old, on a bench near where she was found, at around the time she was found, looking down and out.
“She told me she remembered thinking, ‘hey girl, you have your whole life ahead of you, why are you so upset?’” said Elliot.
It wasn’t until she saw the news that night that the woman thought maybe that was Baby Mary’s mother.
Although there’s no way to know if that really was her biological mother on that bench, the story does highlight how much traction that story got in the media and how long it’s stayed with people.
Elliot hopes that her birth mother will not be deterred from reaching out because of the media glare.
“I think after 30 years they’ve lived with enough,” she said. “They probably think about it every day. That’s good enough, if I do find them and they want to keep it private, I will keep it private.”