‘I was adopted as a baby. After 31 years, I finally got to meet my biological father who NEVER KNEW I EXISTED.’

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“So, I was adopted as a baby. Obviously, right? That’s why you’re here. Because adoption is inherently fascinating, and how could you not click to find out a little more?

Well, yeah, I’m one of the extremely lucky kids out there who was born into a not-so-ideal situation but—thanks to the bravery of my birth mom and tenacity of my parents—quickly got scooped up and gifted an amazing life.

I got the most wonderful parents ever (hi, mom and dad!). They were so eager to have a child, and somehow the planets aligned to bring us together. Back in 1986 they flew to New York where I was born and brought me back to my new home in Oakland, California—as their daughter. I thank my lucky stars for that every day.

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

I grew up always knowing I was adopted, and I thought that was pretty cool. I talked about it often with friends and many times found myself daydreaming about what my birth parents might be like, or if I might have siblings somewhere out there in the world.

Sometimes kids would ask me questions like, ‘Who is your real mom?’ They didn’t understand I had a real mom, and she was right there. But those questions did get me wondering about my birth parents. Who were they? What were they like? Would I ever get to meet them? It seemed unlikely, but a girl can dream, right?

And dream I did. A lot.

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

When social media became a thing, I jumped in, elated at the thought that my birth mother might one day find me through this fancy thing called the internet. (It wasn’t until much later that I found out that she didn’t even know my name and never would have been able to find me). But ever eager, I plastered myself on the internet. I put myself out there on all those family reunion sites, and shared my life openly online.

She never found me, but about 10 years ago, I found her. Yup, on Facebook.

I immediately pounded out a probably-too-emotional-but-still-very-respectful-and-sensitive message, talked to her on the phone the very next day, and flew across the country to meet her (for the first time since I was a wee little baby) the very next week. It was magical. I don’t know how else to describe it. So, so, so unbelievably special.

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

As soon as I met my birth mom and saw just how much we had in common, a fire ignited in my heart to find the other half: my birth father.

This was something I never in a million years thought would be possible, since I had no name, no photos, no location—no context whatsoever. My birth’ma didn’t even know who he was. And, of course, he never knew I existed. So that’s that, right? That little hole in my heart that was aching to find it’s missing connection would just have to make peace with remaining vacant. And honestly, it did. Life is awesome and I sure as heck wasn’t going to waste it thinking too much about something I would never have.

Well, fast forward to now. The age of science, DNA testing, and massively exciting tools that enable us to find thousands of blood relatives we’d never otherwise know simply by spitting in a tube. Suddenly, the prospect of being able to find my birth father became real. And I didn’t wait a beat to start my search.

I shipped my DNA off to 23andMe and Ancestry DNA and crossed my fingers for relative matches that would enable me to find my birth father. It took a few years of DNA research, digging, messages to distant relatives, and hope, but just a couple months ago, a first cousin match popped up. Oh my God.

My heart started jumping outside of my chest. I can’t tell you how long I had been waiting for that moment. I had communicated with countless 3rd, 4th, and 5th cousins over the past few years who were just too distant to be much help—so seeing a match appear who was close enough to be the key was exhilarating.

I immediately jumped on Facebook and LinkedIn and started scouring all of the internet for clues that might connect Christopher—my first cousin match—to my birth father. Hours of deep internet stalking later, I landed on the Facebook page of a man with big blue almond-shaped eyes that were eerily like my own.

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

Oh my God.

Could it be him? His Facebook cover photo showed a stack of inspirational self-development books, many of which matched the books on the bookshelf behind me. Crazy. And it looked like he had a son! Could that be my half-brother?

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

My mind was racing a million miles a minute when my husband came home from work. He saw me on the couch, unshowered, shaking, with the world’s biggest smile plastered on my face. I couldn’t hold it in. ‘Babe! I think I found him! I think I found him!’

He knew immediately what I was talking about and rushed over to look. I pointed my laptop toward him and tapped my finger on Greg’s Facebook photo. The recognition was instant. I showed him the family tree I had been frantically trying to map out on my notepad reaching as far back as great-great-grandparents. I felt like a murder mystery detective with papers, notes, names, and faces strewn about all around me, working to draw all the connections. He nodded.

When my hubby’s vote of confidence and excitement mirrored mine, a whole new rush of emotion hit like you wouldn’t believe. Tears welled up in my eyes as the reality of this hit. The biggest mystery of my life—the one thing I would have given anything to find, was now right in front of me.

I pulled open a word document and started typing. A message flew onto the page. I’m pretty sure I was typing faster than I could think. I know, I know. I should have taken a breath. Slept on it. Gotten advice about how to approach my presumed birth father so that I would have the best chance of being received. But I just couldn’t wait. I had been waiting for 31 years, and one more day was too long. I sent the message to my friend to read over since I knew I was in an almost delirious state, and then I sent it off through Facebook to this total stranger I just couldn’t stop staring at.

It was after 10 p.m. I hadn’t eaten dinner, let alone moved from my spot on the couch. I was the epitome of a hot mess. I sat back, took a breath, jumped in the shower, and crawled into bed. I had done everything that was in my control, and now it was out of my hands. I knew I now had to let go and let the universe take it from here. I knew it might be days or weeks before I would hear back—if I was going to hear back at all.

The very next morning my phone rang. I grabbed it and stared at the number for a moment before it registered. Holy crap. It’s a Southern California number. He’s in Southern California. What.

I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and let out a faint, ‘hi.’ No other greetings, because I already knew who it was.

We talked for hours. I held onto every word. I still couldn’t believe who I was on the phone with. I kept pinching myself to make sure this was real.

Throughout that first conversation we started uncovering so many similarities despite never spending a day in our lives together. He is an entrepreneur—so am I. He’s long been interested in the health and wellness space—and you guessed it—so have I. He told me he has an autoimmune disease called Ulcerative Colitis, and holy moly—so do I! He had surgery for a torn ACL and I pulled up my pant leg to admire my own matching ACL scar. He has boundless energy and runs and jumps around everywhere, and so do I. He has this compassionate, caring, kind, open, communicative, friendly and positive attitude that is so familiar to me because it is my own.

We ordered a paternity test to make it official, but I already knew. We were biologically father-daughter. I found my birth’pa!

Since that first call several months back we have talked every single day, and I can’t even begin to explain how special that feels. I was floating on clouds for months. Focusing my mind on anything else was a bit of a challenge. I was on such a mental and emotional high that I started running 10 miles a week to try to get out of my head and calm my nerves. I was so utterly and completely happy.

He introduced me to his son, Austin—my half-brother. Wow, wow, wow. I had grown up an only child, and while Austin has three rad step brothers, he had never had a blood sibling either. We were both stoked. I talked to my aunt, Leann, who was a huge cheerleader for our reunion since day one. He told me about my uncle, my cousins, and even my grandparents.

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

Within a month of our first conversation I had booked a flight to SoCal to meet my birth’pa (who I was at this point calling b’pa) in person. I packed my bags and flew down with my hubby. It was the shortest flight I had even been on, because my mind was whirling around trying to savor every moment of the day. And you know how it goes—when you want time to slow down, it has a way of speeding up.

We got out of the plane and headed to the arrivals area where I threw my bag down and crumpled into a ball on the bench. This was all too much. I was nervous, excited, and still in a state of disbelief. My heart was already racing when I looked over my shoulder and saw my b’pa bounding toward me on the sidewalk. I jumped up and he lept over a cement block and flew toward me with his arms outstretched. I backed away initially because I was in such awe of how that was exactly the kind of thing I would have done.

We fell into each other’s arms for our first hug ever, in 31 years. There are no words. It was perfect. A little girl’s dream come true.

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

Sometimes life has a way of exceeding all expectations. It can take hold of your wildest dreams and bring them to life even better than you could have imagined. These rare, tear-jerker moments can be experienced only after some degree of struggle, pain, and hopelessness. Because it’s only after you’ve lost someone that finding them can be fully appreciated.

Within moments of connecting, I felt an enormous and fulfilling sensation of being whole. Feeling fast, immediate, intense love for someone you just met is a very weird and unexpected emotional experience that probably seems very odd to anyone looking in. It’s the kind of thing you probably can’t understand unless you’ve been through it. But if you allow that innate connection to form it really can be remarkable. It sure has been for me.

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

I hope—at the very least—this story brings a smile to your face because the world can be pretty awesome sometimes.

If you’re a fellow adoptee hoping to one day connect with your biological parents or family, I hope this inspires you to keep forging ahead on your search. I know it can be a long and difficult road and be prepared to hit some hurdles and roadblocks, but power through those feelings of hopelessness. You’ve got this. And when you do find them, reach out with the utmost sensitivity. If you need support or advice, I’m here for you.

And for those on the other side…if you one day get an unexpected ping in your inbox from a daughter or son or sibling you never knew you had (yes—it could happen to you!), please respond. Let down your guard and open your heart, just as my birth father did.

Photos provided by: Michelle Cehn / World of Vegan

My b’pa actually filmed a little video that I hope will inspire many to embrace surprises such as these with open arms and lots of love. Because they truly are a beautiful thing.”

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Michelle Cehn, 31, of Sacramento, California.  Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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