“I came into this world on November 16, 1967, spent my first day on this earth with my birth mother, then never saw her again. I was given up for adoption. The story of my life was re-written in an instant.
My adopted parents were caring, loving people. They picked me to be their daughter and had good intentions of making sure I had every opportunity in life. My mother died when I was just eight years old, leaving my dad to raise me without her. My brother, their biological son, is twelve years older than I am and was already in college, so it was just me and my dad. I really don’t think he had any idea what to do with a little girl. About a year later, he remarried, and I had a stepmother.
I really don’t remember when I found out I was adopted. It seems like I always knew. There were no conversations about it, or if there were, I blocked them out along with a lot of the events that happened shortly after my mom died. As I look back now after all these years, I realize there are a lot of things I don’t remember. Except that I was on mother number three.
The next nine years were torture. I knew my stepmother didn’t care about me, and I became very rebellious during my high school years until finally, the second semester of my senior year, my dad helped me get my own apartment, and I moved out and never went back. My dad gave me the records he had of my adoption, telling me, ‘Just in case you ever want to look.’ I was just eighteen years old and had no idea how to even begin to look for my birth parents. So, I tucked the papers away and forgot about them for the next twelve years.
During those twelve years, I married my high school boyfriend who, by the way, my stepmother didn’t approve of. Had our first child when I was nineteen, which is the same age my birth mother was when she had me, then our second child just fifteen months later. We divorced and I remarried and divorced again, and I was once again on my own. This time with two pre-teens. We moved into an apartment and while unpacking boxes, I came across the adoption papers my dad had given me. The internet was still pretty new then and my children’s dad got us a computer. I set it up, got dial-up internet service, and started searching for information.
I joined an adoption registry and searched through the database of birthdates hoping to find a match. I sent off for non-identifying information which really didn’t tell me a thing, but gave me some connection with my birth parents. I left a message on an adoption message board hoping one of my birth parents might be looking too. None of this brought me any closer to finding them. I didn’t have the money to hire a private investigator, and so, the papers were put up once again. It would be another twenty-two years before I would bring them back out again.
In July of 2018, Indiana changed the law and allowed adult adoptees access to their original birth certificates from what were once ‘closed’ adoptions. All I had to do was fill out a form requesting it, and they would send it to me as long as neither one of my birth parents had put in a non-disclosure request. My husband encouraged me to fill out the form. I was 51 years old by that time, and I wondered if they were even still alive. What if I had waited too long? Did I even want to know?
I realized I did want to know. I wanted to know who my parents were. I wanted answers to the questions I had struggled with all these years. Who do I look like? Why did they give me up? Do I have other siblings? Would they want to know me now after all these years? I had never been so nervous in my entire life. I filled it out and sent it off. And waited.
On December 30, 2018, my husband came in from getting the mail and handed me an envelope. It was from the state department of health. Suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. There in that envelope were the answers I had been waiting for. The names of my birth parents. I had given up searching for my birth parents a long time ago, and now suddenly, here I was, getting ready to open Pandora’s box. Once I opened that envelope and read the contents, it could never be undone.
I slowly opened the envelope and took out the papers that were inside. I unfolded them and went straight to my original birth certificate. By this time my heart was racing and excitement overtook my fear. There it was, the name of my birth mother. I looked further down the form searching for another name, but my father’s name wasn’t listed. I only had half the information I needed to begin searching for my birth parents.
Facebook is an amazing thing, it didn’t take long to find my birth mother. We talked over the phone for several months and finally met in person in June of 2019. She said she didn’t have any information about my father, and when I wanted to continue the search for him, she cut off contact with me. Being rejected by the same woman twice in your life is a hard pill to swallow.
The next logical step in the search for my birth father was to take a DNA test. Maybe he had already done one along with all the other people who were so interested in their heritage. I ordered my 23&Me kit and waited for it to arrive. Once I received it, I spit in the tube and sent it back… and waited.
I had hoped to open my DNA matches to see Father next to someone’s name, but that didn’t happen. And all the matches were so overwhelming! I have a friend I went to school with who is a search angel, so I enlisted her help. She narrowed it down to 2 first cousins and a second cousin she was sure were on my father’s side of the family. I sent them all messages in the 23&Me messenger and waited some more. By this time it was August 2019, and I had been searching for more than a year.
The second cousin did some research and came back to me with a name. I went back to Facebook, found him, and sent him a friend request. He accepted right away. Then, I sent him a message. My heart was racing. Would he want anything to do with me? The conversation went like this…
Me: Hi, my cousin Jason gave me your name.
Him: Oh, yeah?
Me: Yes, he is your sister Karen’s grandson.
Him: Well, I have five sisters, so tell me which one you belong to.
At this point, I figured he thought I was trying to scam him, so I just laid it all out. I was done being considerate of the shock I was giving people. It hadn’t served me well, maybe the straight forward approach would be better.
Me: Were you in Terre Haute, IN in 1967?
Him: Yes, I was.
Me: I’m looking for my birth father and I think you might be him.
Then, I held my breath and waited for him to respond.
Him: Well, if your mom is (and he typed her name). Then, probably so, and I would be very interested.
I hadn’t told him her name. It was him, I was typing with my father.
My heart started racing as I typed back.
Me: Yes, she is.
Then, I told him he could call me if he wanted to, and he did. I knew he was my dad as soon as I heard his voice. The connection was instant. Is it possible to love someone you have never met? I can tell you it is because I did. He felt the same way and welcomed me with open arms. We messaged every day, we knew we were father and daughter from that first phone call.
After 51 years, I finally had all the pieces to the puzzle. It took over a year, but it was so worth it. We confirmed with a 23&Me test for him, and the day his results came back and he showed up on my relatives list as Father was one of the biggest days of my life and his. Now, we talk over Facetime every day. I want to see his face every day, memorize every detail of the man who didn’t know about me and didn’t get the chance to be my father all these years.
I went to visit him in October of 2019, just a week after we got the results of the DNA test. That first hug from my dad made me complete. This was family, this is where I came from. It was a wonderful visit. Then, he came to visit me for my 52nd birthday and met all of his new family.
We have shared stories about our lives. 52 years is a lot to catch up on. He has heard all about my rebellious teenage years, about his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, my husbands, my stepmother. He tells me I was a spirited one as he shakes his head with a twinkle in his eye. I think he might be a little proud of all my exploits.
He has told me about his years as a radio DJ and meeting all the bands of the day. Boy, it would have been something to be his little sidekick back then and meet all of those famous people. He has told me about his wives and about my grandma and aunts who are no longer with us. I have 3 sisters and a brother. I got to meet two of my sisters, and maybe one day I will meet my other sister and my brother if we can all get together in the same place at the same time.
I went back to visit him in February for his birthday. We climbed a mountain in Arizona, which was no small feat for a 52-year-old and a 72-year-old. In June, I went back again, and we went to California to see where he had lived and visited the beach in Carmel. It was breathtaking. Time with him is bittersweet, and it’s so hard not to dwell on what if’s.
The relationship my dad and I have built in the last year is magical. It’s a dream come true for me. I finally know where I come from, who my family is. I look like my dad, and he says I look like my grandma. I have a whole big wonderful family that is mine, and I’m getting to know them. He got a whole bunch of new family too, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. I will be heading back to Arizona to see him in September to celebrate the anniversary of finding each other.
Being father and daughter comes naturally, I believe biology has everything to do with it. We are catching up on 52 years and hoping for at least another thirty.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Susanne Stewart of Greens Fork, IN. You can follow her and father Donald Coy on their journey on Instagram and on their website. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Subscribe to Love What Matters on YouTube and never miss our best videos.
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