In 1985 my husband was adopted by some of the greatest parents possible. His birth mother handed him over to Hope Cottage in Dallas (I talked a little bit about them in a previous post on alternatives to natural conception). James loves his adoptive parents and to him they will always be his Mom and Dad, but he’s also always been curious about his heritage and the birth family he comes from.
In 2016 when we had our daughter K2, James and I both became curious about where he comes from and what kind of health risks may run in his family. James decided he was ready to start looking into his DNA, and if possible, finding his birth parents.
Taking the Test
Not long after we set our minds to it, a friend of mine directed us to 23andMe. We both took the DNA test, hoping to learn more about our genealogy, wondering if it could somehow give us an inkling about James’s biological parents.
The story James had been told was that his birth mother had just graduated college and his biological father owned a company. While that isn’t much to go on, it was kind of fun dreaming up crazy scenarios about who these mysterious people were and what they might have been like. Maybe his father had been married and his mother was his young mistress? Maybe she just wasn’t interested in caring for their child alone?
Results are In
When the test results came back, James didn’t immediately start looking for his family. He was excited to learn about his lineage and links to countries around the world. While it was no surprise that he was mostly European, seeing his ancestors also came from the Middle East and Africa was pretty interesting.
The test linked James to a woman who had also taken the 23andMe test named Carolyn, who was predicted to be his grandmother. But when James messaged her to connect, she didn’t respond. With no idea how to continue, James just let it go.
That is, until his adopted brother John started looking into his own birth parents.
With a Little Help From Brother John
John and his wife Chandra did their own 23andMe tests after seeing James’s results, and John was eager to use the website’s resources to find his biological parents.
One night when we were over for dinner, John let us in on exciting news – he had found his birth mother! He was still working up the courage to reach out to her at the time, but wanted to know more about how James’s search was progressing. They got to talking about test results and the people 23andMe had linked to James. John suddenly become Mr. Detective, wanting to look more into the woman who was labeled James’s grandmother. With the help of clues from her ancestry and stalking people on white pages, John discovered a connection to a woman, Sherry, who we thought might be James’s biological mother. James, John, Chandra, and I, could hardly believe it.
James sent a friend request to Sherry on Facebook along with a message about their biological connection. She responded almost immediately with her phone number.
“WHAT?” We thought, “She could be it!” But when James called her, she let us know that she had never had a child, so it couldn’t be her.
Sherry called her mother Carolyn on another line and filled her in on the situation. Carolyn had no idea how James could be related to her. I wouldn’t have been surprised if she thought we were a bunch of crazies!
We immediately questioned whether we had the right family. Was the Carolyn from 23andMe the same Carolyn connected to Sherry? We listed off all of the information on the 23andMe profile – where her family was from, family surnames, and more. Yep. It was the same Carolyn.
“But then who else could be James’s parent?” we thought. Does Carolyn have any other children? That’s when Sherry mentioned she had 1 other sibling – a brother.
Piecing Together the Timeline
We started talking about the year 1984, when James’s mother and father would have gotten together. He was born in January of 1985, so his mom would have conceived around April 1984.
Around that time, Sherry was friends with a woman named Cindy. She had actually hooked Cindy up with her brother Rob so that they could double date, but after a couple months, she disappeared. They had no idea where she went, and Cindy was never heard from again.
Keep in mind that would have been right around the time James’s mom would have been pregnant.
Cindy worked for a friend of Sherry’s at the time. Sherry believed that Cindy could have been hooking up with him around the same time she was hanging out with her brother Rob. It was quite possible that young Cindy was with both Rob and Sherry’s friend around the same time, but believed the baby belonged to the latter. That would have explained why James’s adoptive parents thought his dad owned a business.
Once we heard the story about 1984, we were on the edge of our seats. We asked Sherry for a photo of Rob when he was about 30 so we could compare him to James now.
When I saw the photo, I almost fell out of my chair. Here’s a side-by-side of Rob on the left and James on the right, both in their late twenties.
There was no denying it. He had to be related to James!
Surprise! You Have a Son!
Sherry decided it was time to connect with her brother Rob. She had to break the news.
She told us she would reach out to her brother’s wife Laura first and ask them to come over. At this point, it was around 10:30 pm, kind of a strange time to invite people over. Rob later told us that when he got back home from walking the dog, Laura simply said, “We’re going to your sisters.” He didn’t think anything of it; his only response was “Okay.” (That part is especially funny to me because James would have reacted the same way.)
After Sherry broke the news to her brother and his family, James got a call on his cell phone. It was Rob. For the first time ever, James was able to speak to his father.
It was surreal watching and hearing them connect for the first time. Their mannerisms and sense of humor were so similar even though they had never met each other.
Meeting the Family
The very next day, our two families met up at a local restaurant for the first time. James’s biological family is full of the most welcoming people we could have ever imagined. We hugged, we swapped stories, Sherry brought tons of photos, and we all marveled at the craziness of the past 14 hours.
I asked Rob how he felt about all of this. James always knew he had a biological dad out there somewhere, but Rob never knew James existed. He admitted his mixed emotions. On the one hand, he’s happy James had great parents and a good life, but on the other, he feels cheated never getting to be part of it.
When I asked James what he thought about all of this, he said he was overwhelmed with gratitude because of how welcoming and accepting his biological family has been. They could have ignored him, told him they weren’t interested, and never given him a place in their lives. Instead, they’ve welcomed him with open arms. And not just toward him – but all of us – including me and K2. They’re even excited to meet his stepdaughter, my daughter K.
Pretty amazing, right?
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