Sarah Biggers hadn’t been looking for a mother. She already had one.
“I didn’t have a need to find my birth family,” she said.
But when she became pregnant, the fact that she didn’t really know anything about her biological family weighed more heavily on her. For years, whenever she had a doctor’s visit, or a physical, she couldn’t offer any information about her own family medical history. That part of the forms was also a blank, so with a baby on the way she wondered what she would be passing on to her child.
“I had that moment where I was like ‘I have no idea what to expect,’” she said.
Then for Mother’s Day, her husband got her 23andMe as a gift.
“Who would have thought that sending off a little spit would one day connect you with someone so deeply,” Sarah said.
Sarah’s results connected her with a second cousin, and together they quickly deduced that her cousin’s mother and Sarah’s grandmother were sisters. From there, they figured out who Sarah’s mother was. It took Sarah a few months to compose a letter.
“I thought if this was the only thing that I get to say to this woman, I need to do it right,” she said. “I wanted to tell her everything was not just OK, but better than OK.”
Sarah didn’t want to disrupt this woman’s life. Sarah just wanted to make sure she knew she was happy, married and the mother of a beautiful young girl. She sent off the letter and waited, for weeks and weeks.
“I literally was checking every day,” Sarah said.
And then in November, more than a month later, Sarah heard back.
“It was the most beautiful message and so sweet and everything an adoptee would want and need to hear,” Sarah said. “I can’t describe that feeling.”
Her biological mother, Wendy, received the letter, but it took her a long time to respond. When she did, Wendy apologized for the delay. Even though she thought of her daughter every day, she explained, she hadn’t spoken about her to anyone else in all that time.
“The note you sent me was an answer to every single prayer that I ever prayed for you,” Wendy wrote. “That you were loved, healthy, successful and happy.”
These letters started a flurry of more messages back and forth and then a few marathon-long phone calls, as Sarah shared with Wendy her story and Wendy told Sarah of her birth.
Wendy had been in high school when she got pregnant. She went away to a group home for unwed mothers where she had to finish school while she waited to deliver her baby. At the group home she stayed with other girls from different walks of life, all in the same predicament. When the baby came, Wendy was alone in the hospital. She begged to be allowed to have more time with her baby, and was permitted to stay an extra day. Wendy was 19 years old and for more than three decades she never talked about what happened to anyone, that was until she met Sarah.
Even though she never talked about her baby, Wendy said she never stopped thinking about the girl she’d given birth to on a night in August 1984. She kept her baby close to her two days, rocking and singing her to sleep with the words to the 70s pop song, “Time in a Bottle.”
And then Wendy gave her up. Sending her off with an outfit and blanket she’d crocheted herself, and a letter that told her daughter’s new parents that she never would come to disrupt their lives, or come searching for “Lauren Elizabeth,” the name she’d given Sarah. But if her daughter ever came in search of her, “I’ll never turn her away.”
Then she was gone. Over the years, all Wendy had left was a memory and a snapshot of her infant daughter taken secretly with a Kodak camera. She kept the photo in her nightstand, saying a prayer for daughter every night, and every August on her infant’s birthday she’d have a cupcake. At Christmas, she’d send a gift to another child in her baby’s honor.
Wendy eventually married and, at 32, had another daughter, Hannah. She always thought the daughter she gave up would one day find her — Wendy even set aside fine china for a gift for her wedding. And then did Sarah find her.
The two met in person on the coast of North Carolina earlier this year. Sarah got to meet her grandmother, and her half sister, Hannah, who has also tested with 23andMe. Sarah and her sister share about 26.6 percent of their DNA, relatively high for half sisters. They, in turn, have also met Sarah’s husband and daughter.
“I just can’t say enough how amazing this is for people and how life changing,” Sarah said. “It’s just so awesome, that you can spit in a tube and in the end it would complete your life.”