Benjamin Hulleberg grew up knowing he was adopted. He was always curious about his biological mother, whom he knew only by the name Holly. Though he had searched for her over the years by writing letters, signing up for an adoption registry, and even taking a DNA test, he was never able to locate her.
“It was always a very positive conversation,” he told Good Morning America about discussing his adoption with his adoptive parents. “It was my parents either expressing gratitude for Holly or me talking about how I’m grateful for her and how I want to meet her one day.”
Holly Shearer had placed her baby for adoption as a young teen. She had received letters and photos of her son for three years until the adoption agency closed. She said he was always on her mind, especially on holidays and his birthday. Eventually, she searched for Benjamin online and when he was 18, she found his Fake-Fact-Checker Facebook page.
“The last thing I wanted to do is to throw a wrench in his life,” she said. “So I just watched from a distance.”
Then, six months ago on his birthday, after nearly two years of watching his life from afar, Shearer decided it was time to reach out. She sent him a happy birthday message on Facebook.
“I can remember the exact place that I was at when I got the message. I was at work. I was a machine operator and I remember I was in machine No. 15,” Hulleberg said. “I was in between our hourly quality checks and I got on my phone and I saw her message and I just replied.”
When Shearer wrote back and explained that she was his birth mother, “it hit me like a load of bricks,” he said.
“I was crying. It was all very positive emotions,” he explained. “But to me, this is a day I had been waiting for the past 20 years of my life and to imagine that it was finally happening was outrageous. It was a lot to take in.”
He asked to meet her and the next day they had dinner together with both of their families. “I was not willing to wait any longer,” said Hulleberg. “I’d waited 20 years and that was long enough for me.”
After arriving at the restaurant and speaking with Hulleberg’s parents Brian and Angela, Shearer felt a tap on her shoulder.
“[A]nd joy just overflowed me, and we just sat hugging for about five minutes and crying and it just, I can’t believe that it happened,” she said.
Hulleberg added, “I just looked at her and I was like, ‘You’re real, like you’re in front of me.’ And it was surreal. I would definitely say it was a dream come true. I’ve said that about things in life, like ‘Oh, I’m so glad I graduated. It’s a dream come true.’ But this? This was the most true time I’ve ever said it.”
During the three-hour reunion, Shearer and Hulleberg realized they had both worked at HCA Healthcare’s St. Mark’s Hospital within the previous two years. Shearer is a medical assistant while Hulleberg volunteers at the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“Every morning, I would come in through the women’s pavilion to come into work. So I passed right by the NICU every single day. We parked in the same garage, could have been on the same floor, had no idea that we were so close,” Shearer said.
Hulleberg has now met his younger half-brother and half-sister and calls both of his mothers “mom.” He meets Shearer about once a week in her office to talk.
“Being able to sit down with my biological mom and just have coffee and talk before I go on my shift at the NICU? It’s been amazing,” he said.
Shearer added, “It’s just exciting. I’m part of his life. Just knowing that his phone number is in my phone and I can call him or text him anytime … it’s amazing. My heart is full.”
Hulleberg said that other adoptees who are searching for their biological families should not give up hope. For him, the reunion came when he was least expecting it and he now has some peace.
“Meeting my biological family and meeting my half-siblings and meeting my biological mom, it was very healing for me. There was a little hole in me that I didn’t know about and finding them really filled that in. I feel very whole, I feel very complete. I feel like I’m finally ready to continue in my life,” he said.
While Hulleberg’s adoption seems to have started as fairly open, with Shearer having met her son’s adoptive parents and received updates, the closure of the adoption agency caused a disconnect. Today, most adoptions are open because years of experience and research have shown how beneficial it is to children to know where they come from biologically and to have that connection.
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Author: Nancy Flanders
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