What inspired you to search for your birth parents?
I love my life. I have the best parents in the world, and I am so grateful to be adopted. But nonetheless, I’ve always had a deep longing to find my biological parents.
My birth mother was fairly young when she had me, and I knew it must have been difficult to place me for adoption. I wanted to let her know how grateful I was for all the decisions she made on my behalf. I wanted her to know that I was okay—and that it all turned out beautifully.
My birth mother never told my biological father that she got pregnant and didn’t provide any information about him in the adoption process. Needless to say, I never thought it would be possible to find this mystery man—my birth father—but that didn’t stop me from dreaming.
As soon as I realized there was a possibility of finding my birth mother, and a decade later my birth father, I embarked on a full-throttle, decades-long mission to find both.
How have your adoptive parents responded to the search and reunion?
My parents have always been very open about my adoption and supportive of my search for my biological parents. Ultimately, they want me to be happy, and they understand that this is something that has been deeply important for me to find out.
Connecting with my birth mother did come with significant emotional challenges for my mom, but soon enough she was able to see that my new relationship with my birth mother did not in any way take away from my relationship with my mom. She is, and always will be, my mom.
Despite the emotional challenges that are inherent to being a parent of an adopted child (on any side of the equation), there have been so many beautiful moments. Sitting at a table with my mom, my dad, and my birth mother enjoying a vegan dinner together. Bringing my birth mother and birth father together on a phone call and listening as each shared their gratitude for my existence and for one another, even though their memories of that fateful night on SuperBowl Sunday ‘86 when I was conceived were so very foggy. And I can imagine the day when I might see my mom, my dad, my birth mother, and my birth father in one room, together, all grateful for the part each one played in creating me.
How long did it take for you to find your birth parents?
I’ve been hopeful that I’d one day be able to meet my birth parents since I was a little girl. It took more than two decades to find my birth mother and three decades to find my birth father.
What was the process of the search and discovery?
As a child of the 80s, the Internet was a growing phenomenon as I grew up, and I consciously put my name and photos on the Internet everywhere. Family reunion sites, social media (once it became a thing), and beyond. You see, I thought that my birth mother knew my name and could find me if she wanted to. It wasn’t until I found her years later that I learned that she didn’t even know my name and never could have come looking for me.
When I was in college and Facebook had saturated the nation, I knew this tool could be the key to finding my birth mom. I emailed every single person who had my birth mom’s name on Facebook—and there were a lot—until I found her.
My birth mother wasn’t able to provide any information about my birth father, unfortunately, but she was supportive of my search for him.
As soon as I learned about services that can connect you to your blood relatives through DNA—like 23andme and Ancestry DNA—I spat in some tubes and got myself on those registries. With the growing popularity of these services, I remained hopeful that one day a 1st or 2nd cousin or another close match would pop up who could connect me to my birth father. And finally, a few months ago, one did. I found him.
What is the relationship like between you and your birth parents? And with your birth parents and adoptive parents?
I instantly connected and bonded with both my birth mother and my birth father when I found them.
The level of awe I felt being able to reach out and touch someone so significant to my life who I never really thought I’d be able to find cannot be captured in words. A rush of decades of pent-up emotion and love flowed out, and to see it embraced and reflected back to me was like…like I was living a fairytale.
I adore both of my birth parents, and it’s been so fun exploring all of the similarities between us. As an adopted kid, I never knew anyone who was biologically related to me, shared genes with me, looked like me, thought like me, or acted like me until I was over 20 years. Finding all of these things in my birth parents (and my half-brother and my extended biological family) has been beyond cool.
As a biology graduate myself, it’s also been incredibly fascinating discovering what elements of who I am today came from my mom and dad and how they raised me and what came coded in my DNA from my birth parents. I never expected to find so many commonalities with my birth parents, but oh my gosh, I did.
How did your reunion with your birth parents go, and what is the story there?
I found each of my birth parents on Facebook, 10 years apart. And for both, after hours of emotional “oh-my-gosh” moments staring at their photos and analyzing their lives as depicted through Facebook, I sent each a long, heartfelt message. And both of them, not recognizing my name or my photo, nearly deleted my messages as spam.
Luckily, they didn’t. They read my messages, absorbed them, and both called me the very next day.
My birth mother, fully understanding who I was after reading my message, called me, in tears, so happy and grateful that I found her. I booked a ticket to meet her the very next week. It was magical.
My birth father—who never knew I existed—was skeptical of my message, didn’t recognize my birth mother’s name, and had never been to the city where I was born. But he too called me the very next morning. We talked for hours. He spent a few days (weeks, even) trying to connect all the dots, but soon he fully embraced this as truth and embraced me as his birth daughter. He even shared his thoughts in this video.
Since then, we’ve talked almost every single day, excited to learn about each other. A month later, I flew out to meet him in person, which was such a beautiful moment, one that I had been dreaming about for so many years. I met his family—my half-brother, my aunt and uncle, my cousins (including the one who matched my DNA on Ancestry and made this all possible!), and even my grandparents. It has been the most beautiful reunion.
As a content creator active on YouTube, I, of course, filmed this experience meeting my birth father for the first time, which was one of the most special moments of my life. If you’d like to check it out, you can watch it here.
How did this search and reunion affect you and your life, emotionally, mentally, etc?
Finding my birth parents made me feel whole. I now know the story of my life and how I got here. I can see where each element of me came from—what came from my mom, my dad, my birth mother, my birth father, and my own free will. With that, I can understand myself so much better.
The deep connection I feel to my blood family, even though I didn’t grow up with them, and we didn’t know each other until later in life, is so special to me. I know that I’ve been extraordinarily lucky in finding receptive reunions on both sides, and I will hold those relationships dear forever.
What advice do you have for adoptees?
If you’re hopeful to find your biological mother, father, or extended family, and you’re emotionally prepared for whatever positive or negative reception you may receive, there are so many ways that you can take action. Order a DNA kit from 23andme and Ancestry DNA (yes—you need to do both of them if you want to double your chances of finding who you’re looking for). Study how to interpret your DNA family matches and Ancestry results. Join groups like DNA Detectives on Facebook. Ask for help. If you have the means, you can even hire a pro to help you through the process.
If you’re like me and would give anything to know, even if what you find is a door slamming in your face, don’t wait. Go for it with everything you have because you never know when you could be too late.
My Adoption Story: http://michellecehn.com/p/adoption
My Adoption Video: https://youtu.be/VHWuu-o65Bg
My Birth Father’s Video: https://youtu.be/EIaBZLIOZmg
Your first step in your search and reunion journey is to register in Adoption.com’s Reunion Registry.
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Do you want more choices with your adoption plan? Do you want to regain more control in your life? Visit PregnancyHotline.org or call 1-800-GLADNEY. We can help you put together an adoption plan that best meets your needs.