JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — She didn’t see her newborn before the baby was whisked away from her, out of her life. But when an attorney came to her hospital bed with a paper to sign, she had just enough time to see the first and middle names of the man who was adopting her baby.
So when a second piece of paper was given her for another signature, she knew where to look for the surname, before it could be covered up by another sheet of paper.
There it was: Newbury.
Kelly Sanchez was 17 on Oct. 13, 1975, when she gave her baby up for adoption. But now that she had a name to attach to the child, she was able to piece together some clues over the years.
And last August, after her daughter persuaded her to join Facebook, she typed in the name she’d come up with: Brett Newbury.
And there was a picture of a 35-year-old man in the Atlanta area. He was in skydiving gear. She stared at it: She saw a little of herself in his face. And then she saw Brett’s birthday: Oct. 13, 1975.
That was him.
Sanchez sent a message to one of his Facebook friends, asking for her help in reaching him. Brett soon wrote back to her: “Is this who I think it is?” And then her cellphone rang. It was her son.
They talked and talked, and missing parts of her life began clicking into place.
“I always wondered what he looked like,” she said, “always hoped he was with a good family. I always thought: Well at least he’ll have a computer when he was young, everything I couldn’t get him. And he said he was raised really good.”
Using social media
Michael Shorstein, a Jacksonville adoption attorney, said social media sites are beginning to play a larger role for birth mothers, adopted children and their families.
“Social media is where adoption is going,” he said. “I think it’s going to explode not only with regard to people finding each other, but people using social media to facilitate this post-placement communication.”
Florida law is strict: The identities of everyone involved in an adoption is kept confidential, and there are no legal avenues for communication after the adoption is made.
At least not for the first 18 years of the adopted child’s life. After that, someone who is adopted can go to a state registry and find his biological mother, if the mother has also agreed to be part of the registry.
Shorstein. though, said he thinks there should be the chance for communication before that. His firm requires the families it works with to provide occasional photos of and updates on the adopted children, which are then sent to his office. If the birth parents want the info — and not all of them do — it’s then sent on to them. Identities are still kept secret, unless all agree otherwise, he said.
One client family offered to skip the middleman, he said. They now put photos and information of their adopted child on to a Facebook page. That page has just one “friend” — the biological mother.
The chance for such openness is important, Shorstein believes. “Studies that I have read show that it’s better for the mother, better for the child, better for the parents,” he said.
‘I wasn’t going to pry’
Sanchez, 55, lives on the Southside and spent years cleaning houses and now takes care of an elderly woman. She has two children through her second marriage: Samantha, 22, and Joshua, 17.
She had told them: You’ve got a brother out there. But it had never seemed real.
Around 1983, Sanchez began calling Newburys in the Jacksonville area, eventually finding her son’s aunt. The aunt told Sanchez that her son was named Brett, and that his family lived near Atlanta.
“She didn’t say any address or phone number, and I wasn’t going to pry,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t know if he’d hate me or say, well, whatever.”
So she left it alone, until decades had gone by. Then she sent her Facebook post.
It turns out he didn’t hate her.
“I’m glad she found me,” Newbury said last week.
He told her about his work, which kept him traveling throughout the Southeast. He told her that she was a grandmother — he and his girlfriend had a 5-year-old boy.
He said he’d known that he was adopted. His adopted mother had even told him, when he was 9, that his birth mother had asked about him.
But he didn’t know what to do then, so he did nothing. After his own child was born, he did look for her, but couldn’t find her. All he had then was her maiden name: Orr.
For a few months after meeting on Facebook, they swapped photos and an occasional note.
Then on April 4, he called her and said he was driving through Jacksonville on his way south. His GPS said he was 2 hours, 11 minutes from her door.
Could he visit?
Meeting her first-born
She jumped in the shower. Picked up around her house. Paced back and forth. Told Joshua to go outside, to keep checking. Finally Newbury pulled up in his car, after a couple of wrong turns.
“I was just grinning,” Sanchez said. “I said, ‘Let me see my first-born.’ I said, ‘Can I hug you?’ but he was already coming over to hug me.”
She noticed then how much he looked like his father, a handsome mechanic who was 10 years older than she was and on whom she, as a teenager, had once had a big crush. It didn’t last through the pregnancy though.
Then they — she, Joshua and Brett — talked, until 1 in the morning.
Sanchez said her life now feels complete.
“I love him to pieces. He’s just like equal to both of my kids,” she said. “It’s like he’s always been there. I’m just astonished. I’m very proud of him. He just looks like, well, mine.”
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)