The Greatest Gift

Finding my birth mother.

Sonia Billadeau April 11, 2014
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I was adopted. My parents told me when I was old enough to understand that both of my little sister and I were adopted from different families. My mother could not have children. They wanted to raise a family more than anything, so my parents contacted an adoption agency and paid a good chunk of money in the early 80s in order to be put on a long list to adopt a child. My mother cataloged all of this in letters that I would someday read. My parents were and still are amazing people. They gave everything they had for my sister and me and raised us to be good and loving people.

However, I, like many adoptees, wondered about my birth family. My mom once told me what she knew about them. My birth mother was a college student and was not ready to raise a family, and she knew it. My birth father was a mechanic. Both of them were young and a bit foolish, but my adoptive mother always made it clear to me that what they had done took more courage and love than what she had done. That giving up a child because you cannot give them what they deserve is the best gift I had been given. I always agreed in theory, but until I entered the 8th grade and was given a packet of letters as a school project, I had no idea. Remember that packet of letters? Yeah that was my mother’s way of reaching a kid who was pushing away from his family way too much as a preteen. She was always a smart one.

I read about her and my father’s desires to have children, their sadness upon learning they could not, the agonizing wait to be called to say you have a child, and finally the call. She documented everything, with pictures and words that an 8th grade kid had a hard time digesting. I ended up reading most of the letters out of the classroom, thanks to a very nice teacher who understood what was in them and how that would affect me. It did draw me closer to my parents and I didn’t turn out too bad they tell me.

Now fast forward to 2002. I have graduated from high school, am ready to move into the world, and begin wondering about my birth parents again. I know what my parents tell me about them, but I have no information. So I talked to my mom and the only information she had was with our family lawyer. I will leave his name out, as he is not important. What is important is that with some cajoling and a bit of pressure, he turned over the documents he had from the adoption. BAM! I had names! A first name and a last name of my birth parents! I could look them up in the phone book; certainly they would never have left the small town of Brookings! Yeah right. I found out that they had some of the most common names in South Dakota. Lovely.

Well, I was not about to be deterred, so I contacted the agency I was adopted through and was told that yes they had my records, and yes I could get them for a small fee of around $350. That was not going to happen with my lack of a job, and so things continued on. I fell in love, married, created a beautiful daughter, and watched my parents divorce each other. Time went on and then during a little mini vacation I had one night, I got the bright idea to use the interweb to find them! I am not sure why that never occurred to me before, but I came upon Adoption.com’s registry to connect adoptees and families. I did a search for both of my birth parents’ names and nothing came up. I then decided to run a search under my name on the adoption papers– Baby Boy Hahn. I put in my birth year, place of birth, and all the details I could remember. I ran the search while playing a game on my computer and pop! I had to do a double take– there was information! I found my birth mother’s new married name and an address and phone number, in Germany.

I had no idea how I was going to call someone in Germany with my cell phone and no landline. The record was from 2002 so it might not even work! I was just about to get off the computer and call the search over with and go to bed when I saw an old foreign exchange student friend pop onto Facebook. An idea dawned on me and I asked her if it would be a problem for her to call that number for me and tell me who answered. I told her what I was doing and she jumped at the chance. She logged off to go call and was going to come back. My stomach was in knots, but I did not really expect it to be a working number. She did look a little familiar, but these were hard to judge by. Did she look like me? Bloop! Sarah is sending me a message. “I called that number, and it was invalid. Sorry.” Well it was well worth a try. I went to bed.

A couple days later I thought I would take one more crack at it. I ran a simple Google search with the new information (married name) and got two listings that matched pretty close. Both were on Facebook. I clicked on one and pulled up her pictures (this is before the new privacy settings). I sent a message to the Facebook profile of one of my two matches. The day was December 23rd, 2009, sometime around 11-12 p.m., I got this reply back from my message the next day: “OK, this is officially the BEST Christmas ever!! I am the woman you’re looking for and I am so excited to hear from you. So many questions … I’m in Watertown, SD right now. Love the avatar photo … you have a beautiful family. I’m going to go and cry for awhile. Please call. Love you.”

I met with my birth mother in January 2010. She isn’t a princess, or a millionaire, a Hollywood star, or a crazy business tycoon. She isn’t my mom, but she is family. And while I am not always sure what to think or how I am supposed to feel and explain things to my wife or friends, I am very happy that I got the chance to know that my mother was right. She did give me the greatest gift she could. She gave me to my mom and dad.

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Sonia Billadeau


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