‘He finished his email with one question. ‘Do you want to meet?’ I was taken aback. I went 17 years knowing absolutely NOTHING about him. ‘Yes,’ I replied. I had a gut-wrenching feeling.’

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“My adoption story begins long before I was born. My birth mom was 17 when she found out she was pregnant. She knew right away she was not in a place to raise a baby. My birth dad was 18 and he was not ready to care for a child as well. All of the responsibility fell on my birth mom. The reason she chose adoption was that her mother placed a child for adoption when she was a young adult and encouraged my birth mom to do the same.

My parents had adopted my sister through Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and decided they wanted to adopt another baby. They chose adoption because my mom could not have biological children. That was a very difficult time for them but knew they wanted to create a family and decided adoption was the best choice for them. Eventually, my birth mom met with my parents through LSS and she knew right away she wanted my parents to adopt me. She loved that I would grow up in a household with another sibling and felt a lot of compassion from my parents. She also wanted an open adoption and my parents wanted the same because it is the best option for the baby.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

I had a great childhood. I loved to play sports, hang out with friends, and slack off in school. I was the definition of a social butterfly. My sister, on the other hand, was extremely intelligent and strived through her schooling, spending many nights reading Harry Potter. Although we were complete opposites, we got along great… with the occasional sisterly banter. Our parents loved our differences and encouraged us to shine in areas we were interested in. I was the curious one and always wanted to know more about my adoption story. The best part of our story is that our parents started telling us about our adoptions when we were babies. I would always beg them to tell me ‘my story’ because they would add humor in it like the time I threw up all over my dad and I thought it was hysterical. I didn’t realize at the time how important that story time was for me growing up.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

My parents stayed in consistent contact with my birth mom. They would send letters back and forth with pictures and stories. I first met my birth mom when I was 5. I don’t like to say adoptive mom because she is just my mom, but for the sake of the story and understanding who is who, I will say my adoptive mom or adoptive dad. My birth mom asked if she could bring her siblings and parents because they were excited to meet me. My adoptive mom went over to her friend’s who had adopted children from Russia and was expressing how nervous she was. Her friend responded: ‘I would give anything for my children to meet their biological family and give them answers to their questions.’ At that point, my adoptive mom realized how special it was to be able to have such openness. It wasn’t until high school when I really wanted to have consistent contact with my birth mom.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien
Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

I started babysitting when I was 14 and developed a strong connection to children and realized how much I loved these kids and would do anything for them. I would think about the pain my birth mom endured in order to give me a better life. It is important to note that because I had contact with my birth mom and I knew why she chose adoption, I still got to experience her love. I knew how much she loved me and how selfless she had to be in order to give me a better life.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

When you go through the adoption process you sit in on education panels and learn from real-life stories and they explain how kids create a fantasy when they don’t have access to information. This is exactly what I did with my birth dad. I didn’t know anything about him, so I started creating fake stories about who he was and what he looked like. I became really passionate about open adoption because I felt it was unfair that I didn’t have access to information about my birth dad. I didn’t choose to be adopted, and now someone can decide for me whether or not I can have my biological information? All I wanted was a picture of my birth dad so I could see what he looked like. That is when I realized I wanted to tell my story and encourage birth and adoptive parents to choose open adoption.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

Before I get into the portion about my birth dad and how we met, I just want to give a shout out to my parents. They are the real heroes who gave me an environment where I was loved and had emotional security. I wouldn’t have this amazing story to share if they didn’t support me on this journey.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien
Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

When I was in high school, I started getting sick. I ended up getting diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease and I needed my full health history. My parents called my birth mom. ‘Can you get in contact with Hannah’s birth father? We need this information,’ they asked her.

I remember sitting in the kitchen watching my adoptive dad calling my birth dad. I went 17 years knowing absolutely nothing about him, and now he is real – and talking to my adoptive dad. HOLY CRAP! I was so nervous, happy, scared… all the feelings. He ended up giving my adoptive dad all of his medical histories and then gave him his contact information if I ever wanted to reach out. I waited for two years to reach out.

I decided the last day of freshman year I was going to do it, I was going to email him. I called my adoptive dad and told him I was ready. ‘Can I have his email address?,’ I asked. I remember typing it up and trying to find the right words to say, and then I attached some of my senior pictures. I figured the worst-case scenario is that he doesn’t respond, but maybe I will get a picture out of it. Later that night I received an email from him. I remember that gut-wrenching feeling in my stomach. I started to cry because I couldn’t believe he actually emailed me back. He was ecstatic that I reached out and sent pictures of him and his family. I couldn’t believe it! I wanted pictures of him for so long and here they were.

He finished his email with a question. ‘Do you want to meet?’ I was taken aback. ‘I’m coming to La Crosse for a high school reunion.’ It was a little ironic if you ask me.

‘Yes,’ I replied.

I called up my adoptive dad to tell him what happened and asked if he would come with me to meet my birth dad.

We decided to meet at a local restaurant about a month later. I was extremely nervous. It’s not every day you get to meet your birth dad. Prior to this meeting I went back to my hometown and told one of my high school teachers about him and how we were going to meet. She told me, ‘The best thing about love is that it is unlimited.’ I can love my birth family and still love my parents, which is the same message my parents taught to be at a young age – ‘The more people that love you, the better.’ Those words will stick with me forever. The meeting with my birth dad went great and now we are active in each other’s life.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

Both my birth parents attended my wedding with their families. I have decided that I want to be a part of their kids’ lives and now I four additional siblings that get to call me big sis. 3 out of the 4 kids are all under the age of 4 and have always known I was their big sister. My younger brother found out when he was 5 that I was his biological sister.

@imdahlidurley
Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien
Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien
Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

The number one thing people ask is, ‘Do you know your real parents?’ I respond with, ‘Yes, they raised me.’ I was adopted at birth so my parents are as real to me as yours are to you.

Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

I am forever grateful to have so much love in my life. I hope I can continue to tell my story and connect with other people that experience adoption.

@imdahlidurley
@imdahlidurley
@imdahlidurley
Courtesy of Hannah O’Brien

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hannah O’Brien of La Crosse, Wisconsin. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read more beautiful stories of open adoption:

‘My birthmother went into labor. Her secret would soon be out. Lying on the floor, she called her sister in pain. ‘What’s wrong?,’ she frantically asked. ‘My baby is coming. I need the hospital.’

‘I found out I was pregnant one month after I turned 19 years old. ‘The second line is faint. You’re very early in your pregnancy,’ the nurse said. I had not even missed a period yet. Utterly shocked.’

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