Photo via Caseywest on Flickr.
Today we depart from our usual South Florida focus for a true story about a birth mother, an adopted son and how Facebook facilitated their meeting. Without the social network, the process would have been held back by the very same protocol designed to protect adopted children. Names have been changed to protect identities.
Jane was your typical teenager, a good student, full of hopes and dreams for the future. But her senior year would turn her life around with challenges most of us never think to face until adulthood.
She fell in love. She got pregnant. Her father had a heart attack. She became a caregiver.
At 18, the girl with hopes and dreams was a single mom high school dropout.
This was South Carolina, 1983. This was before shows like MTV’s 16 and Pregnant, before high schools started accommodating young mothers and their babies, before people spoke as openly as they do today about teenage sex and pregnancy.
Jane’s father eventually succumbed to a second heart attack and passed away. Her mother couldn’t really help and her baby’s father stepped out of the picture, marrying someone else soon after baby boy Shaun was born.
Struggling to stay afloat, unable to provide for her baby, she found herself with no other choice but to give up the child to adoption.
Jane’s ordeal turned out to be blessing for the adoptive parents; they had been trying to conceive for 13 years, so Shaun couldn’t have appeared at a better moment.
Little did they know they’d all be blessed again nearly three decades later.
THE YEARS APART
Jane would eventually move on with her life. She got her GED, graduated from the University of South Carolina and married a wonderful man who already had children.
The thought of Shaun was always in Jane’s heart though she knew little about him. “My child was an abstract thought to me,” Jane said during a phone interview. “I knew his adopted parents were great people, but that’s as close as I got.”
Jane always kept her records up to date with the adoption agency, just in case Shaun ever wanted to find her; however, there was nothing she could do to contact him. Adoption agencies enforce a strict protocol to protect children, even when they’re all grown up.
Reunions don’t always guarantee happy endings. Some adoptees have contacted their birth parents, only to be derided and ostracized in what could only be a painful emotional experience.
But even with the best of intentions, when the parent and child express a mutual desire to meet, it could still takes months, if not longer, to make that happen.
REUNITED ON FACEBOOK
Last year, Shaun turned 26 and experienced some chest pains, which prompted him to unseal his birth records and learn more about his blood family’s medical history.
He always knew he was an adopted child and his parents were very supportive. “I was very lucky. My parents told me: ‘whenever you want to meet your birth parents, we’re right behind you,’ ” Shaun explained over the phone.
Shaun contacted the adoption agency and soon thereafter exchanged some letters with Jane through proxy mailing addresses. The letters were censored; any information revealing potential contact data was blacked out, FBI style.
When it was becoming clear that they were getting along via correspondence and that were was nothing but love and support for Shaun in his desire to get to know his birth mother, Jane made a bold move: she friend requested him on Facebook, bypassing the adoption agency restrictions.
Shaun had mentioned his martial arts instructor in one of his letters. The former had three friends on Facebook with the same name as Shaun’s. Even though Jane had never laid eyes on Shaun, she instantly recognized his Facebook profile photo. He looked a lot like her, but was truly the spitting image of his birth father.
Shaun didn’t hesitate to friend her back.
Within two weeks, they met in person.
“It was very shocking,” Shaun explained, “But at the same time, I also had people who would help me get through it. Jane and I clicked from day one and we instantly jumped into a relationship. We ‘get’ each other.”
Jane’s life changed as well. The mother and son, who live only six hours apart between South Carolina and Virginia, meet regularly.
Jane did get a verbal scolding from the adoption agency, but had she stuck by the rules, their initial face-to-face contact may have dragged out far longer than they were willing to wait.
Jane and Shaun remain active on Facebook, posting on each other’s walls and sharing photos. Facebook keeps them connected socially.
This story doesn’t just end happily for the reunited mother and son. Even though Jane’s husband lost his own son in 2006, the connection is a blessing. “Shaun’s presence has helped heal his heart,” Jane said. “My husband loves Shaun.”
“I never had any other children,” Jane continued. “But we spend time together now and it has changed my life completely. I’m close to his adoptive parents. They’re wonderful. And he’s my mom’s only grandchild. Let’s just say Shaun had a really good Christmas last year.”