Hope Elizabeth Tadych enjoyed an ideal childhood with her parents and two brothers in Columbus, Ga., and Auburn, Ala., complete with two annual birthday parties. An August celebration noted the day of her birth while Dec. 14 marked her adoption at 2 years old into the Hubbard family.
“The fact I was adopted was never kept a secret from me. Quite the opposite. My family always celebrated the occasion every year,” says Tadych, now living in Opelika. The 47-year-old had a passing curiosity of her biological family, but tabled the need to pursue it until it no longer mattered to her adopted parents. Little things growing up, however, piqued her curiosity. For example, the birth certificate stated she was born in Columbus, but during an Atlanta shopping trip, her mother revealed something quite different.
“We were loading our packages in the car, and she told me it reminded her of the day they picked me up to join the family because they went shopping at that very mall. I thought to myself it didn’t sound right, but I didn’t say anything because my mom would always clam up whenever the subject came up. I could always tell that it upset my parents whenever I broached the subject of my birth family; therefore, I decided to wait until it wouldn’t matter anymore,” says Tadych.
Married in 1988 to husband Len, the couple welcomed three children – Jacob, now 21, Chris, now 19 and Danielle, now 18. Tadych’s third child entered the world having broken every bone in the womb due to Osteogensis Imperfecta, or brittle-bone disease. “I’ve been face planted more than once begging God for Danielle’s life,” says Tadych. Today East Alabamians recognize the feisty Danielle as the announcer at the Miracle League baseball games in the spring, a program near to the family’s heart.
The idea of a biological family reemerged a few years ago upon the passing of Tadych’s adopted dad. “With the close of Dad’s life, it didn’t matter anymore if I decided to search for my birth family. I was his daughter to the end of his life.” As Alzheimer’s claimed her mother’s memory, Tadych decided to start the hunt.
“It didn’t hurt I am married to the ultimate ‘pusher-off-the-cliffer.’ Our family went to Atlanta one weekend in 2010 for my son Chris’s 17th birthday. While part of the family went to Six Flags, the rest of us went shopping because Danielle’s fragile bones prevented her from riding the rides,” says Tadych. At least that’s where she thought they were going. “Next thing I know, my husband has driven to the office of vital records and more or less pushed me out of the car.
“In order to get my birth certificate unsealed, a judge typically has to order it. But in Georgia, they’ve allocated this authority to The Georgia Adoption Reunion Registry. It turns out adopted parents can modify a birth certificate upon adoption, even changing the child’s name. My parents kept my given name, Hope Elizabeth, but had changed my place of birth to Columbus. I found out then my birth certificate could not be unsealed without the birth mother’s permission. I thought I had hit a dead end,” says Tadych.
A small trail snaked off in the form of a non-identification summary of the adoption. Tadych paid the $35 fee and received a thick folder listing the first five days of her medical records, vital records, number of siblings at the time of adoption, age of the mother, etc.
“I discovered I entered the foster system immediately at birth. I also learned my mother had three children at home she couldn’t afford and if she had another child, she risked losing all her children. The agency she approached about my adoption was able to help her with job skills and housing so she could keep her other children,” says Tadych with no malice in her expression or tone. “Knowing she was able to keep her children she already had, being ‘given up’ by my birth mom is a sacrifice I am glad to have made. She did the right thing for my half siblings and me. The information also validated a lot of things my adopted mother had told me. She loved telling the story of calling the adoption agency on Dec. 4 and told them there had to be a little girl who needed to be in her family by Christmas. This was noted in the file as well as the day my parents visited for the first time. I joined my family on Dec. 14 and shared our first Christmas together that year.”
But the journey wasn’t over. The agency offered an investigative service and for $300 would attempt to locate birth parents, siblings, etc. Tadych resisted, but a close friend gave her the money for her birthday and nixed the final excuse for not pursuing the knowledge of her birth mother. In January 2011, Tadych began the process. The agency asked her to write a letter to include 10 questions she’d like to ask the birth mother as well as her contact information.
“My goal in this whole process has been three-fold. First, I wanted to tell her thank you and to let her know she did the right thing. Second, as a born-again Christian, I wanted to know if my mother was a believer so that if I found out she was dead, I would know we would meet in Heaven. And third, I wanted to know about my brothers and sisters. Two days later, they had talked to my birth mother, but to my disappointment, she did not want to be contacted. I fully expected her to be dead, but to find out she was alive, yet did not wish to meet me, was a big letdown,” says Tadych.
She did learn that two older siblings, a brother and sister, had died, but she had two brothers living, one of which had primary responsibility for the ailing woman. “My mother was homebound because of her health. Her son, Bryan, cared for her, but she lived alone. In fact, when the agency first called her, she claimed to have no idea what they were talking about because she had suppressed the knowledge of my birth for so long. She didn’t want me to contact her because my siblings had no idea I existed,” says Tadych.
With the same respect she showed her adoptive parents, Tadych honored her birth mother’s request of no contact. “I had to go back to my three reasons for contact. With two of these being accomplished through my letter to her, I felt the door had closed on finding and contacting my siblings,” says Tadych.
In order to close the file, the agency had to receive the paperwork from the birth mother ordering to do so. Months passed with no conclusion. As a result, the agency continued to call Tadych with updates, part of the routine until a case closed. One month, Tadych received another shock to learn of yet another brother whom her mother had also placed for adoption. Her case had flagged his in the system, and the agency called to see if she desired contact. She did, and two days later talked to her brother Jerrald, an Atlanta resident, on the phone with a face-to-face meeting soon to follow.
While this sibling reunion played out in Atlanta, the embers of another fire were stoked in North Georgia. Their biological mother had entered the hospital. Before her release, family members arrived to clean her apartment. One member found the paperwork from the agency, along with the original letter Tadych had sent her biological mother. After gauging the right time to question his mother, Bryan was confronted by his wife, his daughter and the daughter of his deceased sister. All women told him enough time had passed and since his mother’s health was strong again, they encouraged him to talk to his mother. The niece’s name who was a part of this conversation? Hope Elizabeth.
“I learned that my deceased sister had asked our mother to name this granddaughter. She gave her the same name as mine which tells me my mother had at least held onto my memory.”
The next step was setting up the phone call that would reunite the siblings and their mother. “The first thing Bryan said to me when he called was, ‘Hope, I just want you to know our mother is a wonderful woman.’ I fell in love on the spot. To me it said a lot about him and his character,” says Tadych.
One more secret had to be disclosed, though. “These siblings had no idea about our half-brother Jerrald in Atlanta. By this time, I had a relationship with Jerrald and was very protective of him while Bryan was equally protective of our mother. But as soon as Bryan met Jerrald, he said, ‘That is a good man. I gotta talk to mom.’”
On Oct. 1, 2011, at a Ryan’s Steakhouse in Georgia, Tadych reconnected with her biological mother, three siblings and extended family. Details of her mother’s life eeked out with tales of abuse, loss, rape and the unrequited love for a married man. “She tells me now, ‘Hope, I just had bad taste in men,’ but that doesn’t matter to either of us now,” says Tadych.
“My birth mom is the destination I have been trying to get to all my life in this journey. Truly, all I want to do is simply sit at her feet, lay my head on her knee, have her stroke my hair and breathe deep. Peace is what I feel and I do my best to never leave her without us both pausing and thanking God for the blessing of finding each other,” says Tadych.