Identity and a sense of self can be a source of internal conflict for many individuals who have been adopted. Even if they were fortunate enough to grow up in a loving home, the question of “who am I?” always seem to linger.
Jen Chervin is a normal teacher from Beaverton, Oregon. A quick glance at her would not reveal that anything in her life is extraordinary. However, sometimes there is more than meets the eye just beneath the surface.
Jen was born on December 18, 1971. Within the first few hours of her life, things would change dramatically that would alter the course of the rest of her life. She was mysteriously left on the steps of the Fremont Hospital in Fremont, California. She was simply left there, no note or explanation, which meant that she had very little information regarding who she is and where she came from. The only source of help was the story about her in the local newspaper the day after she was born.
In an interview, Jen shared one of the only details she gathered from the newspaper article: “It was a stormy night, and I was wrapped in two blankets.” It is truly incredible that she was able to overcome such conditions at only a few hours old. She was later discovered by several nurses after they heard her cries from inside the hospital, and they quickly took her in to be taken care of. It was lucky that she was found so quickly, as she was only a newborn.
Due to the fact that Jen was merely a few hours old and was not cared for properly for several hours, the nurses rushed to care for her and return her to a healthy and stable state. Due to the fact that she was left out in the storm, there was a chance that she had gotten sick. As they cared for her, they also did all they possibly could to trace her parents. Their efforts were futile, so the nurses temporarily named her Holly Fremont.
As is the proper protocol with an abandoned baby, once the nurses realized they could not figure out who had left her there themselves, they involved the police. Once the situation was taken to the authorities, an investigation was conducted to try to trace back who had left a newborn baby on the steps of the hospital. After the police could not find any leads, ultimately there was no choice but to put the tiny infant up for adoption in hopes that she could have a brighter future.
Luckily for Jen, she was quickly adopted by a loving and caring family. They happily took her in and provided her with a home, a family, and support. She describes her childhood as a happy one, which cannot be taken for granted, as many children, adopted or not, do not always experience a happy childhood. Despite her wonderful upbringing, Jen still experienced a yearning to learn more about her past. She always felt the twinge around Christmastime, several days after her birthday. Jen could not help but wonder…
It is rather common for adopted children to begin to experience this internal battle of identity, particularly around the time of their birthdays. For Jen, it was difficult for her to know that she was abandoned on her birthday, which is just before Christmas, so each year this was the time where her curiosity got the best of her. She shared, “Every year on my birthday at Christmastime I would wonder, ‘Is my mom thinking about me?’ Because I would think about her.”
Jen grew up knowing that she is adopted, which is not always the case for children who are adopted. Despite her knowledge of her adoption, she was not aware of the circumstances that left her up for adoption until she was already in her twenties. Once she learned of the fact she was abandoned, Jen felt that she had to do some digging into her past and find out just what had happened all those years ago. It was then she began to look for her biological parents.
Beginning The Search
The search for her biological parents was not an easy one. She encountered several roadblocks along the way, but she did not let them deter her from her ultimate goal. For a long while, she was not able to find substantial information that would aid her in finding her biological parents. She continued her search, and years went by. She gathered very little information, even twenty years down the line. Her will to discover her roots kept her search going, and she never gave up.
After years of searching with minimal results, in the summer of 2014, Jen realized that she could utilize modernity in her search, and turned to social media in order to try to find her biological family there. Not long after, a woman contacted Jen, and she finally reached a major breakthrough. Jen shared, “I had a woman reach out to me. She sent me a message, and she said, ‘Do you have a search angel working with you?’” Intrigued, Jen decided to take action.
Jen was unfamiliar with the term “search angel,” so she set out to understand just how this could help her search. Once she uncovered what a “search angel” was, her search finally began to gain real momentum. It turns out that a “search angel” is someone who aids in finding family members by creating a highly detailed record of a person’s family history. The missing blanks become the focal point for the “search angel.” Jen hoped that with such a person aiding her, she could finally fill the gaps.
Jen’s “search angel” immediately suggested incorporating the use of DNA in her search for her biological family. Jen had never even considered doing this in the past, but after some persuasion, agreed to give it a shot. She realized that by using her DNA, she could only gain insight, and there was not really much she could lose by at least trying. She agreed to send out DNA samples to two companies to analyze. At that point, there was not much that could be done but wait for results.
Finally, the results came back, and Jen was in for quite a surprise. It turns out that with the DNA test, she had uncovered hundreds of DNA relatives! Jen was overwhelmed at the fact that she had hundred of cousins and family members, as she had spent her entire life previously thinking that she had no blood relatives whatsoever. As she scrolled through the list of hundreds of people who were related to her, Jen realized that she was closer than ever to answers to all of her questions.
In such a small span of time, Jen had discovered more about her identity than she had in the past 20 years of searching without the help of social media. She then decided to set out to find out the answers regarding her past. Jen began to contact each of her family members. Her plan of action was to ask her newly discovered relatives to also submit DNA tests in order to help her trace her bloodline and get answers regarding her biological parents.
Jen methodically went through the list of her DNA relatives. As her search continued, she felt that she was growing closer and closer to finding out the truth. At this point, she no longer had any doubts whether she would find the answers, but rather it was simply a matter of time. She went through one by one, until she discovered a man who turned out to be her uncle. He agreed to submit a DNA test, and convinced his brothers to take the test as well.
Miraculously, after the test results came in, it was discovered that Jen was in fact the biological daughter of one of her uncle’s brothers. Jen was overwhelmed, but she knew she had no choice but to reach out and contact her newly-discovered biological father. Fully aware of the sensitivity of the complicated task at hand, she nervously picked up the phone and made the fateful phone call. In an interview with CBS, she shared, “he was shocked and tongue tied.” He also shared unexpected and overwhelming news of his own.
The first-ever conversation between Jen and her biological father must have been overwhelming and perhaps even a tad bit awkward. After years and years of searching, this was the moment Jen had been waiting for all this time. What she did not expect, however, was what her father shared with her. To Jen’s astonishment, her father had the answers she had been looking for. She finally received the truth about how and why she had been abandoned as a baby all those years ago.
Jen was shocked to discover that she had been born to two married people who had engaged in an affair. In fact, to this day they are both still married to the same people they were married to all those years ago. Even though Jen was disappointed to discover this, she was still happy to have finally made a major discovery about her life. Jen had finally tracked down her biological father, but she was still determined as ever to find her biological mother.
Despite the major breakthrough, Jen’s search did not desist there. She was still determined to find her biological mother, and so her DNA tests continued. Once she believed that she found a woman who could potentially be her biological mother, Jen decided once again to reach out and contact her. She had been lucky with her encounter with her biological father going so smoothly, but such was not the case with her biological mother. The woman she contacted kept denying Jen’s claims, but Jen was persistent.
Since Jen was virtually positive that this woman was her biological mother, she felt that she could not let her go so easily after finally finding her. She felt that she was entitled to answers, no matter how difficult it would be for her biological mother to share them with her. Jen understood that spending over 40 years not knowing what happened to the baby she abandoned must have been difficult for her biological mother, but this did not deter Jen from contacting her again and again.
Persistence was the name of the game for Jen, and despite being denied time after time, she kept going. She decided to shift her tone, and tried to make it clear that she did not have any malicious intent. Jen told the woman, “I don’t want to hurt you, I just want answers.” Once Jen framed her inquiry this way, the woman finally gave in, and tearfully made the admission that Jen had been waiting for throughout the years of searching.
After spending so many years in the dark about her past, Jen finally got the answers she was looking for. She finally was informed of the reason that she was left on the footsteps of the hospital. Jen’s biological mother was spending time with family in North Carolina while her husband was away serving his duty in Vietnam. She had an affair with a man in North Carolina, and once she returned to California she realized she had become pregnant. She later gave birth to Jen at home.
Jen’s biological mother also provided her with the intimate details of the few hours of her life. She shared that she held Jen in her arms for many hours before taking action. After holding her close for hours, Jen’s mother knew what she was going to do. She gathered her other children in the car and drove straight to the hospital. She chose to leave her by the hospital because she knew the newborn baby could receive the proper care she needed there.
After over 20 years of frustration and searching, Jen finally had the full truth she had been so determined to find. She finally knew details of her identity that had been a mystery her entire life. She now knew how many half-siblings she has and her also exact birthday, December 18th, 1971. In addition to these details regarding Jen’s life, her biological mother shared another emotional detail with her. She told Jen that she had spent every single day of her life thinking about her.
Even though Jen finally had the truth about her biological parents, the difficulties did not truly end there. Even though Jen and her mother finally had the emotional reconnection that Jen had been waiting for, the fact remained that the rest of Jen’s biological family was not aware of Jen’s existence. Jen was happy to establish a new relationship with her biological mother, but first, they had to navigate a way to inform the rest of her mother’s family of the fact that Jen exists.
Jen already made peace with the reality of the situation, and she knew that it was most likely too late to establish a connection with the rest of her biological mother’s family. She did not have any expectation to be welcomed into the family with open arms, which is exactly what she made clear to her mother. She told her that she was not trying to disrupt her family or her life, but would simply like to arrange a face to face meeting when the time was right.
There is no denying that everyone involved in this story experienced quite the emotional roller coaster. Jen shared about her mother that, “she said she had a lot of guilt and shame that she’s been carrying all these years…I told her she needed to let that go.” Jen did not want her mother to carry the weight of guilt around forever. She accepted that this was the truth and reality of her life, and armed with the truth, Jen finally felt that she could fully move on.
Growing up, Jen had never received a birthday gift or even a note from her biological mother. Perhaps this is why she felt this was the toughest time of the year while growing up. That all changed in December 2015, when Jen received her first-ever gift from her biological mother. She gifted her with a necklace and a note that read, “the cross is a reminder that you are always in my heart.” Jen’s biological mother hoped that they could move on from the pain of the past together.