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Searching for Grace
Separated from her birth mother when she was just a baby, Julie Hann tried to piece together the missing parts of her past.

I grew up with a whole chunk of my life I didn't know," says Julie Hann. "I had no family tree to talk about in school, no medical history to give to my doctors. I didn't look like anyone in my family, and I was angry!"

Julie Hann

Born in Winnipeg as Dawn Marie, Julie was immediately given up for adoption by her mother, Grace Mussell. Single and living at home, Grace was a 17-year-old high-school student at the time who had no financial resources to draw upon. Coupled with social pressure, she felt she had no other option. "Placing Julie up for adoption was the hardest thing I've had to do in my life," she says.

One week later, Donna and David Pitcher welcomed their "jewel." "She was beautiful and an answer to prayer for a child of our own," says David. The adoption agency recommended the baby's name be changed, and so six-pound-14-ounce Dawn Marie was christened Julie Anne.

"I couldn't have asked for better adoptive parents," says Julie. "They never hid the fact that they were not my birth parents, but no amount of openness can take away the trauma of being separated from your birth family."

Julie recalls years of sadness, fear and frustration. Questions haunted her. Will I ever know who I really am? Will my sense of dislocation and being an outsider disappear? How could a mother give up her child?

The search

In 2005, Julie, now 27, resolved to find her birth mother. "I wouldn't have done it without the support of my adoptive parents," Julie firmly states. "The very thought was terrifying, but I wanted to know who this woman was, who I was and where I fit in." And there was no guarantee her mother would let Julie into her life.

That August, at the risk of rejection, Julie contacted child and family services in Winnipeg. It took three long months before a response was received. Grace had been located in Osgoode, Ontario.

"When I received the call from the adoption agency, God was already preparing me to connect with Julie," says Grace, now married with three children. "My husband and I were being counselled by a pastor on how to share the news of Julie with our kids, who had no idea she existed."

Meanwhile, Julie received word that Grace would be willing to meet her in Toronto. "I was numb," says Julie. But she was ready to bring together the split parts of herself.

The reunion

"I was so nervous, I felt sick," remembers Julie. "I hesitantly stepped from the taxi into the hotel lobby and immediately recognized Grace." They hugged and stared at each other. "I examined Grace's every physical attribute. It was overwhelming. I actually looked like someone, and a part of me suddenly fell into place."

Grace's family welcomed her daughter into their family and continue to stay in touch with Julie and her husband, Dave. For Grace, their reunion returned a missing piece of her heart: "My baby had never been far from my mind."

Last fall, Grace had the opportunity to meet Julie's mom at a Christian women's conference. "What a privilege to meet this woman who cradled Julie, loved her and wiped away her tears. I will always be grateful to Donna and David for what they did," says Grace.

As for Julie, finding her birth mother was the best thing she had ever done for herself. "I am more settled and relaxed now," she says. "Because of this, my relationship with my mom and dad has grown even stronger." Though she has found peace, abandonment issues continue to haunt her. But she finds solace in God's words: "I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for" (Jeremiah 29:11 The Message).

"Don't be afraid of searching, or of what you will find," states Julie. "You could be missing something incredible. I like who I am and wouldn't change a thing, and that means accepting that I am adopted."

Linda Leigh is a staff writer and proofreader for Faith & Friends.

Originally published in Faith & Friends, May 2007.




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