‘I was told I was ‘switched at birth.’ I lost who I was, I was stripped of belonging. She kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry,’ like someone had died.’: Woman finds herself while searching for biological parents

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“Switched at birth. With the sound of those three words, I lost my family, my identity, and even my last name. I didn’t know who I was anymore. At the age of 9, I can remember looking down at the ‘name here’ spot on a piece of paper and feeling so lost and empty.

Little girl who was switched at birth holds flower up to her chin
Courtesy of Crystal Dangel

I don’t remember what happened when I was born. According to my mother, I was switched at birth almost immediately while she was in the hospital. When I was a little bit older, both of my parents sat me down to tell me.

My siblings had already known. My grandparents and school knew. Even my doctors knew. I felt like I was the last one to find out. Since everyone around me knew, I took what was said as truth. After all, I was only 9 years old.

Little girl who was switched at birth sits on couch at home with parents and four siblings
Courtesy of Crystal Dangel

My mom saw the sadness in my eyes and promised to help me look for my parents when I turned 18.

Those next several years were incredibly difficult. I tossed around so many questions at my mom. I wanted to sue the hospital. I wondered what would happen to me if my mom found her real baby. Would she want anything to do with me? I felt sad for my mom because she didn’t get to know her biological daughter. She showed me the ‘last picture she had of her daughter’ and my heart ached for her.

Father sits with newborn in his arms who was switched at birth
Courtesy of Crystal Dangel

I was so happy to turn 18. When my birthday came, I was ready to begin my search. Me and my mom would finally get the answers we needed. We could get justice. I wanted the dark cloud of ambiguity to quit stalking me. But the excitement proved to be short-lived.

Although my mom had promised to help me, she ultimately refused. After years of my waiting, she wanted nothing to do with it. I begged and pleaded, but she said she accepted that I was her daughter. ‘If you want answers, you will have to search on your own.’

Talk about a roller coaster.

Angry but determined, I began my search alone. I called every show you could think of. I wrote to Sally Jesse Raphael, The Maury Show, Montel, and Oprah. The Maury Show responded and even offered to pay my mom to show up, but she declined. Without the help of my mom, they all turned me down. At 18, there was nothing I could do but continue to grasp for outlets. I desperately looked for the right direction. Still nothing.

In 2007, after many years of searching for my own my mother, I finally decided to do a DNA test. In doing so, I discovered that the man who raised me, worked two jobs, and provided for me my entire life was, indeed, not my father. We cried. We laughed when we ran out of tears. Then we cried some more.

Paternity test results for woman who was switched at birth
Courtesy of Crystal Dangel

I called to tell my mom the results. Before I could get any words out, she was already offering her condolences. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she kept saying, as if someone had just died. Something in her voice let me know that I couldn’t trust her.

The test results mentioned that my father was not my biological parent, but it did not indicate anything about my mother. When I called the company for more information, they confirmed that my mother was my real, biological mother. Anger, resentment, and sadness rushed through me all at the same time.

My mother let me go on a wild goose chase when she knew the truth all along. I had spent years of not feeling like I belonged. Years of feeling like an outcast in my own home. All of those years would have been completely different if I had never heard those three simple words.

When I tried to get answers from her, she said nothing. All she left me with was this: ‘You were the product of a one-night stand.’

In 2018, I took two other DNA tests and found family members I had no idea about. But I couldn’t get any closer than a confirmed second cousin. My puzzle was slowly coming together, but I was still missing a few pieces. Before, not having a puzzle was frustrating. But having a full puzzle with missing key pieces was all the more crushing.

I began posting daily on adoption sites, genealogy sites, and DNA research sites. I wanted to do anything I could to figure things out, to find my real father. I waited anxiously for someone, anyone, to respond with help.

Soon after, a person who I had never met messaged me and offered to do research on my behalf. She referred to herself as a ‘search angel’. In less than twenty-four hours, she was able to sift through my great grandparents and all of their eleven children. She found my great grandfather and my biological father. I will forever be in shock from her love and compassion. It still brings me to tears.

When I offered to send her a thank you gift, she kindly rejected. This woman, this mom herself, completed my puzzle and wanted nothing in return. She spent her time and energy on me, and even let me cry to her on the phone. She wanted nothing but closure for me.

That Saturday I was searching and that Sunday I was drafting a letter to my father, introducing myself. I also mapped out how long it would take to get to my new cousin’s house. She texted me that she was excited to add me to her family tree. I felt accepted.

My sisters who I grew up with were celebrating with me and listening to me cry. My not biological father, but father nonetheless, was still the same man that he had always been. The news didn’t change anything for him, I will forever still be his daughter. All along, I belonged. I had just forgotten it.

Young woman who was switched at birth stands smiling behind father who sits in chair
Courtesy of Crystal Dangel

After hearing those first three words, I lost who I was. I was stripped of a sense of belonging. But along the journey, I found something much more than finding my biological family. I found the ability to keep going in the face of difficulty and failure. I found the ability to stand up for myself and trust my gut. I found love in complete strangers. I searched for my real father and, somewhere along the way, I found myself.

‘If we know where we came from, we may better know where to go. If we know who we came from, we may better understand who we are.’

This quote is the story of my life. I have been in contact with my biological father and hope to meet him soon. My journey is still being written. Although I still have family I have yet to meet, I am blessed with the family I do have. Today, I am the mother of two beautiful girls.”

Woman who was switched at birth smiles in selfie outside with her two daughters
Courtesy of Crystal Dangel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Crystal Dangel of Phoenix, Arizona. Do you have a similar experience? Share your story here, and subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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