Human Interest

Grab the tissues: Five of our favorite adoption reunion stories of 2020


While abortion leaves nothing but death and destruction in its wake, adoption offers life, love, and hope. In the difficult and heartbreaking decision birth parents make to place a child into the arms of another family, they often hang on to hope that one day they will see their child again.

Thankfully, many parents who had no opportunity for an open adoption are now able to meet their children, as once-sealed adoption records are opened. Here are our five favorite adoption reunion stories of 2020. Get your tissues.

1. “Mom, it’s me”



Texas mom Brenda Van Sickle was 16 years old when she placed her newborn son for adoption in 1975. It broke her heart, but she thought it was the best option for her baby. “It was very hard,” she told NBC DFW. “If I could have taken care of him, I would have. But it just wasn’t right to do that to him.”

Then, 45 years later, she received a phone call that took her by surprise. She had been searching for her son, but knowing only his birth date and location, she was struggling to find him. Meanwhile, Wes Fenner was undergoing DNA testing to find his biological mother. With the help of an adoption angel — a volunteer who helps adopted individuals search for their birth families — he found her. Fenner called Van Sickle and asked her if she placed a child for adoption in 1975. A few weeks later, the two met in a parking lot. In an emotional moment caught on video, Fenner walked up behind her and said, “Mom, it’s me.”

“You know you wonder about nature versus nurture,” said Van Sickle. “We send each other song lyrics back and forth and he listens to the same music I do. We like the same movies. We have the same snarky sense of humor. I’m going, ‘Yeah, this is my kid.'” As they continue the journey of getting to know each other, they look forward to a future and relationship that wouldn’t have existed if Van Sickle had chosen abortion.

2. “I think I know him”


Screenshot: YouTube (McDonald Hopkins)

Kevin Butler grew up knowing he was adopted, though he never wondered much about his birth parents until a new law made it easier to find out who they were. For $20, he could now access his birth parents’ once sealed information. With no intentions of actually reaching out to his birth parents, he learned who they were — and realized he already knew his birth father.

When the paperwork arrived in the mail, he learned about his given birth name and the hospital he was born in, but he also learned that his birth father’s name was L. Christopher Frey. “I think I know him,” he told his wife. Frey was a law director whom Butler, also a law director, had known for years. In fact, they met monthly at the offices of the Cleveland Bar Association. He carried the birth certificate with him to every meeting for two years, but it wasn’t until Frey asked him to consider hiring his daughter Marie (Butler’s biological sister), that Butler knew he had to tell Frey the truth.

READ: Forever families: Five of our favorite adoption stories of 2020

“Our worlds were going to keep colliding,” he said. “And I got this feeling that if he died of a heart attack or I died of a heart attack, I would feel awful for not having first told him.”

He learned that his birth parents had gotten married a year after his birth and had six more children. Soon, the entire family wanted to meet him, and though he thought he could keep his distance emotionally, that changed when he hugged his birth mother for the first time. She told him, “They wouldn’t let me hold you in the hospital. I’ve waited 42 years for this moment.”

Though Butler’s adoptive mother had died in 2011, his adoptive father was happy that Butler had found his birth family and said, “The next time you see them, I want you to thank them for the gift of my son” — a gift and a beautiful reunion that wouldn’t have been possible if abortion had been chosen.

3. Women dying from cancer reunites with her twins


The daughter of an unnamed dying woman shared the story of her mother’s emotional reunion with her twin sons on the Humans of New York Facebook page. She had placed them for adoption when she was unable to care for them at age 22. Every few years she would receive updates on the twin boys from their adoptive mother, but didn’t even know their last name. Their birth mother insisted on respecting the adoptive family’s privacy. Then she was diagnosed with cancer.

“[D]uring this time a letter arrived from my brothers’ mom,” she said. “She told us about their lives. Nothing too deep: what schools they went to, vacations they’d been on, stuff like that. And at the end of her letter, she wrote: ‘I wanted to thank you for the blessing you’ve given me. I couldn’t have kids. And you gave me two.’ My mom was very moved, but she still discouraged me from reaching out. ‘It’s not our place,’ she said.”

When her mother’s cancer worsened and she was placed on hospice, she went against her mother’s wishes and contacted the boys. She told them the situation, and said if they wanted to meet their birth mother, they would have to come now. A few days later they were on a plane. Thankfully, their birth mother was lucid the day they arrived and when she saw them she said, “Oh my God, my boys.”

They each held her hands and she said, “I always thought about you. And I always loved you. I just wanted the best for you.” They told her they knew that. Later that night, she died peacefully in her sleep.

4. “I prayed for this”



Christian worship pastor Randall Cartwright shared the story of meeting his birth mother after taking the DNA test 23andMe. He was adopted as an infant and grew up with a letter from his teenage birth mother, telling him that she loved him and had handpicked a family for him. Years later, he wanted to find her, but he only knew her first name and a potential last name. Then the DNA test led him to a woman named Julie who was listed as his first cousin. He reached out to her and learned he had a half-brother and that his birth mother had been praying for him to find her.

On September 13, 2020, a few days after he reached out to Julie, Julie and her mother visited Kristi and gave her two gifts for Grandparents’ Day: framed pictures, one of her son Josh and his family, and one of Cartwright and his family. Kristi was confused as to who was in this second picture.

“Those are your grandkids,” Julie told her. “That’s your son, Kristi. He found me two days ago.”

Kristi broke into tears. “Are you kidding me?” she said. “Oh my gosh. He found you? He did? Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. I prayed for this.”

A few days later, the mother and son spoke over the phone and on November 6, 2020, they met in person for the first time in 35 years. “I wanted to tell you… people have asked me, ‘What would be the first thing you would say if you saw your birth mom?’ And I always say, ‘The first thing I would say is thank you,’” said Cartwright, as they both cried. “Thank you for what you did because I have a blessed life. I can’t imagine what you went through and the decision that you had to make. I just can’t imagine, so I’m very thankful.”

5. It’s really, really truly been a blessing


Michelle Cehn was adopted as a baby and is grateful for the “really beautiful upbringing” she had after her birth mother handpicked a family for her. She was curious about her birth parents, but only had a name and a single photograph of her birth mother. She was eventually able to find her through Facebook, and the two began getting to know each other. “We met and for the first time I was able to see elements of myself reflected in someone else,” said Cehn, “someone who shared personality traits….”

She wanted to know her birth father, but her birth mother wasn’t able to tell her who he was. Through the DNA test kit 23andMe, she found Greg Hicks, the man she suspected was her father. She immediately wrote a letter and waited. Hicks had no idea he had a child out there but the next morning he called her. They spoke for five hours and Cehn traveled to meet him — and a beautiful reunion that was caught on camera.

“It’s really, really truly been a blessing,” Hicks, who has since unexpectedly passed away, said in a video. “And I can only imagine that if I hadn’t been open to the possibility, what I would have missed out on. It’s like throwing away a lottery ticket and then never even knowing that you had the winning lottery ticket. Cause you just threw it away, didn’t believe it, didn’t trust it… Some people throw it away knowing they threw it away and then not ever being able to recover it. Others throw it away not even knowing they had it and there it was, waiting for them.”

If Cehn’s mother had chosen abortion, the joy of Cehn’s life would have been extinguished. Her adoptive family would have missed out on loving her and raising her, and her birth parents and half-brother would have never gotten to know her as an adult.

Adoption is a beautiful, unselfish option to an unplanned pregnancy that lets life flourish and hope exist. Abortion snuffs out lives and makes joyful reunions like these impossible.

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