A mother and child reunion : News : Oswego Ledger-Sentinel : Hometown Newspaper for Oswego and Montgomery, Illinois
|A mother and child reunion|
|New state law, Facebook help bring mom and son together|
|by Tony Scott|
Matt Fyda of Oswego sat in his kitchen last Saturday morning with his wife, Kate, his sons Blake and Nolan, and a woman he had just met face-to-face the day before. His mother.
Fyda had contacted her three weeks ago when, thanks to a recent change in Illinois law, he received a copy of his birth certificate. Fyda then looked up his birth mother on Facebook and the rest is family history.
Kimberly Nathanson, who now lives in Arizona, gave Fyda up for adoption after his birth on Dec. 26, 1980, at an Illinois hospital.
But 31 years later, thanks to a change in the law and modern communication technology, Nathanson sat at Fyda's kitchen table, one of her new grandchildren comfortably bouncing on her lap.
Nathanson said she was in high school at the time her son was born, and while her mother and grandfather wanted her to keep the child, she knew that she wouldn't be able to care for him.
Fyda went to an adoptive family that he is no longer close to, and, after his two sons were born, decided he'd start to search for his mom.
"I had this epiphany, wow, these are the only people I know that I'm related to by blood," he said of his sons.
The Illinois legislature approved a law that was signed by Gov. Pat Quinn in May of 2010 that allows those who were adopted to request and receive a copy of their birth certificate. Prior to that law passing, most adoptees had to request such information by going to court and getting the documents unsealed by order of a judge.
The law was phased in, first affecting those born before January of 1946. Then, last November, the law took effect for any person born after Jan. 1, 1946. Such a person "may request a non-certified copy of his or her original birth certificate," according to information from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Melanie Arnold, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Public Health, said the state has a total of 350,000 residents who are adoptees. So far, the agency has received more than 6,000 requests for birth certificates, she said.
A new friend on Facebook
Before the law went into effect, Fyda was searching an adoptee website when he came across a post by a woman who had given a baby boy up for adoption on his birth date, at the same hospital were he was born.
"I'm like, what are the chances? It's a big hospital, but what are the chances?" he said.
When the law went into effect, Fyda immediately applied for his birth certificate. He finally got it in the mail three weeks ago, but it seemed like a long week of waiting and checking the mail after his $15 check for the fee cleared.
"The Monday before I got it, I saw the check was cashed," he said. "So, every day that week I was like, maybe it will be today."
When the envelope arrived, Fyda said he slowly opened it. He immediately recognized his mother's last name from the website posting he had seen last year.
He immediately started searching for her on the web when he got the certificate. First, he found a Western Illinois University alumni website that had a picture of her at an alumni event.
"Within 10 minutes of searching, I found a picture," he said.
Then, Fyda found a website at an event that included a photo of her and her two other sons, both teenagers, at a Cubs game.
"I found out I had two brothers within 20 minutes," he said. "So, yeah, that was kind of mind blowing."
On the alumni website, he had found her email address. He tried to send her an email message, but the message bounced back. Then he found not one but two mailing addresses, and didn't want to take the chance of a letter and getting the address wrong.
Finally, he tried Facebook. And he decided to 'friend' and send a message to one of his brothers.
"I kept going back and forth - should I do it, should I not do it," he said. "And I finally just typed up a quick message and sent it to my brother. I don't even know what I said. But right after I hit 'send,' I was like 'Undo! Undo!' I sent him a message and a friend request and I saw the next morning that he friended me and then defriended me. And I was like, oh crap, what did I do?"
His wife, Kate, said she was concerned that perhaps the brother didn't know of Fyda's existence and hadn't been told about him.
But it turns out that his brother never got the message, and turned down his Facebook 'friend' request because he didn't know who Fyda was.
Then, Fyda found his mother on the social networking site. He added her as a Facebook friend and sent her a message. Nathanson said she initially wasn't sure what to make of it.
"I said to my husband, I got a friend request this morning from a guy I don't know," she said. "I Googled his name, and his age - 31 - came up, and I thought, oh my gosh, I think this is him."
She said she looked at Fyda's wife's Facebook page.
"Her post was, 'We just found out who Matt's mom is, and she's a Cubs fan,'" she said. "And I just sat there, and I said, I need to find out his birth date. So I scrolled down farther on her page, and I saw she wished him happy birthday on Dec. 26. And I sat there and started shaking and said, 'Oh my god, this is him. This is him.'"
Needless to say, she confirmed Fyda's friend request.
"That opened up the flood gates of us communicating back and forth on Facebook for three days," she said.
The mother and son then spent days using video chat to communicate, with Nathanson finding out for the first time that she was a grandmother.
"I was just like, I'm a grandmother. Wow," she said.
Fyda also found out that he shares a first name with one of his younger brothers.
"Now, it's a running joke in the family: Aaron, my youngest, says I have two older brothers and they're both named Matthew," she said.
'It was like somehow
she'd always been there'
Nathanson flew into O'Hare International Airport from Arizona on Friday, and she said their reunion was more comfortable since they'd been communicating via the web for the past three weeks.
"When I saw all of them, I was just smiling and we hugged," she said. "It was comfortable, it wasn't awkward."
"When we started talking, even that first day, it was never awkward, I was never really nervous," he said. "It was like somehow she'd always been there. There was this connection all of a sudden."
Kate added, "To finally have that mom in his life, that he's never really had, is just neat."
While Fyda said he isn't close to his adoptive family, his in-laws have been supportive and have helped him through the years.
Nathanson said her new daughter-in-law has been a "wonderful support system" for her son.
Fyda said friends always pointed out the differences between him and his adoptive family, and that now, looking at and talking to his mom, he can see similarities with her.
"Now it completely makes sense," he said. "We have so many things in common, we do so many of the same type of things, it's really kind of disturbing."
Nathanson also noted that both she and Fyda's wife are special education teachers, blondes and Geminis.
"You know how people say, you marry your mom?" Fyda joked.
Nathanson and Fyda both said they had no regrets about how life worked out for both of them.
"We both said yesterday that we wouldn't change anything," he said. "The only thing I would change is that I would've found her sooner. But that's alright. Later is better than never."
Nathanson said her husband, sons and her mother are all looking forward to meeting their new relatives, who are planning to travel out west this spring.
"To sit here across from Matt knowing this is my son, and he's got my blood running through his veins, and then to look at those two little boys and know my blood is running through their veins, it really blows me away," she said.
Nathanson said she wasn't actively looking for Fyda because she wasn't sure if he was mutually interested.
"My whole life, I wondered, I questioned, 'Did I do the right thing? Is he OK?'" she said. "There was a part of me that was just empty. And I feel now that I'm finally at peace. My husband says he's never seen me happier."
Kate added, "Matt didn't stop smiling for weeks."
Nathanson said that, when she had that baby boy in high school, delivered over winter break, her friends never knew and most of her family didn't know.
"I never really wanted to tell anybody," she said. "But now, I'm not ashamed, I'm proud. He's a wonderful man that he's grown into."
For more information on the law, call the Illinois Adoption Registry at 877-323-5299.