Carrie Leach wondered about the woman who gave her up for adoption so long ago.
All the 22-year-old in New Philadelphia had was paperwork with demographics more than details, such as eye color, hair color and occupation.
Kelly Brown Gallant wondered about the little girl she gave up for adoption so long ago.
All the 47-year-old in Lima had were memories of that little girl in a blue and white bunny outfit leaving St. Rita’s Medical Center and plenty of regrets.
A moment of desperation this week made Leach put a photo on Facebook, holding a big green sign.
“Help! My name is Carrie Leach. I am looking for my birth parents. I was born on Nov. 5, 1991, at St. Rita’s Medical Center in Lima, Ohio. I’ve been searching for years, and it’s my dream to find them. If you know anything, please contact me! firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share so my birth parents can find me too!”
Two days later, the long-separated mother and daughter exchanged messages for the first time.
Looking for her
Leach grew up in Northeast Ohio knowing the people raising her adopted her. It was no secret in their home in Dover, where her older two brothers were adoptees too.
“They raised me in a Christian home and supplied me with a roof over my head and food on the table,” Leach said. “They helped with finances and everything. I was always very grateful for what they supplied me, these needs my birth mom couldn’t give me.”
Still, there was always a tension in the home. Her adoptive parents weren’t supportive of finding her birth parents. It had been a closed adoption, so she couldn’t see the files on it.
She ran through theories over the years. Maybe her adoptive father was her biological father too. Maybe her birth mother was this secretary in Lima that Leach found online who matched some of the limited criteria she knew.
“My dream was to find my birth mom before I got married (in June), so she could be there,” Leach said. “Time was dwindling down. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to meet her. I started to wonder if I’d ever meet her, then I thought maybe we’d meet in heaven, where she’d be waiting at the gates for me.”
Every time Nov. 5 rolled around, Gallant missed her daughter, who she’d named Laura Christina. She cried every year on her daughter’s birthday, regretting her decision to put the child up for adoption.
“I already had two children, was a single mom and didn’t have a job at the time,” Gallant recalled. “I just did not know how to provide for another child. I’m totally against abortion. If there was any possible way to give her a better life than the one I offered the two children I already had, then adoption was my only option.”
The adoption agency, Baptist Children’s Home in Springfield, encouraged her to write letters and birthday cards, which it would deliver on Leach’s 18th birthday. Instead, the adoption agency went out of business in the mid-1990s and sent that accumulated time capsule back to Gallant.
The very real possibility she would never see her daughter again hit in 2009, when Leach turned 18 and should’ve received Gallant’s contact information.
“That was the hardest birthday for me,” Gallant said. “I knew she was of an age where she could look for me. If it didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. I realized maybe she didn’t want to know me. I was OK, as long as she was happy.”
A Facebook connection
On Monday, the manager at the Kay Jewelers store where Leach worked mentioned the abundance of photos on Facebook asking for people’s help. Leach was skeptical.
“You don’t want to barge into another person’s life. You could ruin it, or it could be a total blessing. I had to ask myself, ‘Is it worth it?’ I thought to myself, ‘It is worth it. I want closure with my birth mom and my birth family.’”
She posted the picture Monday night. By Tuesday, more than 500 people shared it, and thousands more looked at it.
One of those was Aleshia Brown Speicher, Kelly’s daughter and a Lima native who now lives in Virginia. She called her mother Wednesday night to ask a few questions about the sister she never met. What day was she born? What year? Then she sent her mother that photograph, telling her to call back as soon as she saw it.
“I never did call my daughter back,” Gallant said. “I saw that picture and just stared at it. She has my nose. She looks like all of us combined. I had no doubt that was my daughter.”
Leach communicated with her new-found birth mother via her new sister, who could pass for her twin if it weren’t for her blond hair.
“The more we talked, the more we realized this is actually who we want it to be,” Leach said. “You’re my sister, and she’s my mom. I never thought in a million years putting a picture on Facebook would end up like this.”
Ready to meet
Leach and Gallant still haven’t talked on the phone. They exchange messages on Facebook mostly. They want to make the most of their first meeting, documenting it as best as they can.
“If I could do it today, I would,” Gallant said. “I was ready to jump in the car Wednesday night and drive the three and a half hours to see her. I know we both needed time to absorb all this.”
Leach added, “She wants our first time to meet to be perfect, to be special, to be face-to-face.”
The more they communicate, the more certain they are family. They each have nearly identical photos of Leach as an infant, wearing a pink dress. Every detail matched.
Gallant admitted she did what many mothers do, looking through her daughter’s Facebook feed to learn more about her. That’s where she saw her 6-week-old grandson and heard her daughter’s voice the first time. They both intend to be much more than Facebook friends, though.
“I’m excited how much she wants us in her life,” Gallant said. “It’s like someone took putty and filled that big hole in my life. … I feel a huge sense of relief. We can finally be a family.”
Leach calls it a God-given blessing.
“It’s amazing. She has been looking forward to meeting me as much as I was looking forward to meeting her. This is such a blessing,” Leach said. “It’s the same thing I wanted. In these kinds of situations, you have to think this was God thing. He made this happen, and I’m so grateful for it.”