Looking for health information, adoptee finds so much more

Warwick. Young mother of two turns 34, discovers her biological father.

| 07 Dec 2020 | 02:47

Tricia Hedgecock just had a birthday. On Nov. 23, she turned 34. This birthday, though, was different from the 33 that preceded it. Earlier this year, the young Warwick mom took a DNA test that has since changed her life.

The back story

Hedgecock was born in November 1986 in New Jersey and adopted three months later by Jim and Judy Hedgecock. The young family, which also included older sister, Jamie, moved from West Milford, N.J., to Warwick, N.Y., in July 1987 and began what Hedgecock said was a “beautiful life.”

As she got older, Hedgecock said she became curious about her birth parents. She wondered who she looked like or if either of them had crazy toes like she does. She wondered what their story was.

Married and with two daughters of her own, she decided to find out.

Searching for her history

About four years ago, she decided to act on her curiosities, if for no other reason but to have some information about her health history. She did an Ancestry test and had a direct match with her biological mother and grandfather. However, they never responded to her contact.

“They were an Italian Catholic family and I had heard that her father was the driving force behind the adoption,” said Hedgecock. “I didn’t pry. They didn’t want any contact. She gave me the opportunity to have such a wonderful life. There are no negative feelings toward her.”

She did learn a few things about her health history and that she has a sister and brother from her biological mother.

It was enough for then.

“I have a wonderful life and she deserves the same.”

It was complicated

Fast forward four years. It’s the spring of 2020. A pandemic has spread across the world and is raging throughout the country. Hedgecock saw that 23andMe was running a promotion that included health information so she decided to give it a try.

“I had a direct match with my biological father and his mother!” said Hedgecock.

She contacted him via email, as she had her biological mother four years before. This time, though, she got a response.

And then some.

“My father over compensated!” she said. “They are wonderful!”

Her biological father lives in Hawaii, is married and has a four-year-old daughter. He was originally from New Jersey but moved around quite a bit as an adult. He works in the film industry but didn’t want to raise his daughter in Hollywood so they moved to Hawaii and he commutes for jobs.

He never knew about her. He never knew about the pregnancy. As these things usually are, it was complicated. They were around 20, and the girl had a boyfriend away at college. That is who she listed as the father of the baby. But that is not who her father was.

Surprise of a lifetime

Hedgecock was thrilled to learn about Jason, her biological father, and for him to be so open to getting to know her and her family. He was just as thrilled as she was. They Facetime and talk on the phone often. Jason and his wife sent her a Hawaiian care package. They email a lot. She had planned to go to Hawaii in October to meet them but postponed the trip because of the pandemic. She is hoping to go in the spring. She also hopes to meet her grandmother, too.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” she said.

And she did get some answers. Guess who has crazy toes like her?

That’s right, Jason does.

And they put their baby pictures side by side and they look very much alike - they have the same baby nose - although not anymore. Jason’s wife said their mannerisms are very similar.

Encouragement, support and happiness

Hedgecock’s sister Jamie has been moved to discover her history as well. Also adopted, Jamie was never as curious about her birth parents as Hedgecock was.

After the outcome four years, though, Jamie didn’t think much of pursuing her own search. However, now that Hedgecock has found her birth father and the joy it has brought her, her sister has started the process.

Hedgecock’s parents, who now live in Florida, have always been very supportive of her search.

“My mom and dad have always been very supportive of everything I’ve done,” said Hedgecock. “They always knew I’d go looking because I always asked questions. They are thrilled I found some answers.”

Hedgecock wanted to share her story because it really is a feel-good story, she said. And she wants to encourage others to do the same if they’ve been thinking about it.

“I want to inspire others who are thinking about finding out about their history,” she said. “And we can all use a feel-good story right now.”

Ironically, there was no extra medical information discovered through the 23andMe testing.

“I went into 23andMe wanting health information,” said Hedgecock. “I didn’t get anything new regarding my health history but I got so much more.”

Adoption by the numbers
There are currently 6 million Americans who were adopted, according to data collected by the Adoption Network.
About 62 percent of those were placed in their adoptive families within a month of birth.
In a study of American adolescents, the Search Institute found that 72 percent of adopted teenagers wanted to know why they were adopted, 65 percent wanted to meet their birth parents and 94 percent wanted to know which birth parent they looked like.
And while there are birth parents who don’t want to be contacted for various reasons (and who are entitled to their privacy), a study of registries and databases found that 95 percent of birth parents would like a reunion with the children they gave up.
Looking for your birth parents? Here’s help
Before the age of internet and social media, searching for birth parents was a painstaking ordeal involving in-person searches through old newspapers, libraries and public records. And until states began loosening access to records like birth certificates early in this century, many adoptees came up empty handed.
Now, however, there is extensive information at the click of a mouse through social media and databases like International Soundex Reunion Registry (isrr.org), which has multitudes of people searching for lost family members. There are also “mutual consent” databases designed to match people with those they are seeking.
Social media has taken on a life of its own for adoptees. For example, on Facebook, adoptees can enter information that they know into the search bar (such as their birth name, birthplace, and when they were born). They can click on profiles and send private messages to possible matches.
And of course there are also the DNA testing services like Ancestry.com and 23andme.com.
If the internet doesn’t yield results, the web site consideringadoption.com suggests taking the following steps.
1. Discuss your search with your adoptive parents to collect any information they have. Sounds obvious, but who knows? They might have a copy of your birth certificate or contact information for the lawyer or agency that arranged your adoption.
2. Request your adoption records. This might be a breeze or impossible, depending on where you live. Some states have extremely strict adoption record laws while others have very open policies.
3. Check to see if your state has an adoption reunion registry. If so, sign up. Your birth parents might already be there.
4. Hire a private investigator or lawyer to conduct your search. This can be costly but state and local agencies are more likely to turn over records to a professional than to you.