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Facebook post reunites Utah mother, daughter separated for 18 years

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PLEASANT GROVE, Utah -- Getting the entire family home for dinner hasn’t always been easy at the Corry household in Pleasant Grove, but it’s a meal that Andrea Corry has been looking forward to for 18 years.

“Every day,” Corry said. “Every single minute of every day.”

Eighteen years ago Wednesday, Jessica Johnson was born as Shelly Wheelwright to Corry, a 19 year old who was unprepared to be a mom. She decided to place her for adoption, always hoping she would one day see her again.

“I chose to give her to them, so that she could have the best life ever,” Corry said. “And that's all I wanted to know is that she was OK and that she had gotten the life that I asked for her to have."

For years, she asked herself those questions. However, because of the rules surrounding the adoption, which took place in Montana, Corry wasn’t allowed to contact Johnson until Johnson turned 18.

On Tuesday night, the eve of Johnson’s 18th birthday, Corry and her husband decided to try to find the answers with a post on Facebook.

Little did they know, a response would come from a home just an hour away in Clinton.

“About two minutes after I had made the post with a couple of photos I got a message from one of my Facebook friends saying, ‘That's my sister,’" said Corry’s husband Drew.

Turns out, Corry was not the only one searching.

Johnson had been looking for her biological mother for years.  She and her older sister had even managed to find Drew Corry on Facebook. They sent him a friend request, but he never contacted them.

“I was nervous and scared,” Johnson said. “I was just scared that I wouldn't be what they expected me to be.”

When Corry posted about their search online, Johnson’s older sister knew it was time to reach out to them.

“I've always wondered if I look like her, if I act like her,” Johnson said. “I love my family to death that I do have, but it was still a part of me there that really wanted to meet her and have a relationship with her."

Hours after connecting online, Johnson agreed to meet with her biological mother in person, a surprise moment coordinated by Corry’s husband.

"She knocked on my door with balloons and flowers and a million things immediately rush through my head,” Corry said of the moment.

The reunion, captured on video, was filled with tears from both Corry and Johnson.

“It was amazing,” Johnson said. “Just knowing that that was my Mom.”

Johnson stayed for dinner, and even had a chance to meet Corry’s four other daughters.

“She looks like my daughters,” Corry said. “She looks like my kids. Little things that she likes to do, little mannerisms that she has: I can tell that she's from me."

The meeting will be the first of many for the two, who for the first time in 18 years, sat down for dinner as a family.

“It's just like having more family,” Johnson said. “You love more people, more people love you.”

22 comments

  • Tamra Dawn Hyde

    amazing story but SO much confusing language!
    the birthmother was several times referred to as her mother. i wonder how her mom felt to watch that.
    the reporter said “she knew she couldn’t care for her” but the birthmom clarifies “i wanted her to have what was BEST”. as a woman who made the same choice 17 yrs ago, it is a huge pet-peeve when people say that people place a child for adoption because they COULDN’T raise him. in fact i’d’ve been a good mom to him, just not the best, not good enough for him.
    within the adoption community, we don’t use the terms “put up for adoption, adopted out, or gave up for adoption”, we say “placed for adoption”.
    also i’d love in stories like these to see the reunion of her birthmom and adoptive mom. i think i anticipate seeing my son’s mom almost as much as i do seeing him again! it is such a sweet relationship. we answered eachothers’ prayers.
    phrases like “mother and daughter reunited after 18 yrs” and “a family finally all together” make the family she already has seem irrelevant.
    thank you for reporting on adoption stories but please in the future, ask for a little help from the informed. (Utah Adoption Council, United for Adoption, LDSFS, etc)

    • Eric Anderson

      I have adopted daughters. My oldest uses her birth name. It doesn’t bother me. She knows who here family is.

      Your identity is THE most personal thing about you. Nobody can dictate it to you.

      You can only have one “Mother” and one “Father”, but you can have an infinite number of “Moms” and “Dads.” Those titles are EARNED. I’d rather be a dad than a father any day. My daughter calls me “dad.” So I win, no matter what last name she uses.

    • everyoneactdead

      Maybe within YOUR adoption community, but not every birth mother is psyched she gave up a child. Some of us prefer to be realistic about it.

      The story is about their reunion, that’s why they call her the mother without qualifiers.

    • Stephanie Malaspian

      I don’t care how much money you pay for a child you can never truthfully call yourself their mother. To be a mother is to carry and love and then give birth. Most women who lose their children do not want to place them but social workers, parents, often bully them and convince them a stranger with no DNA in common will be a better parent. All big lies which come back with most adoptees always wanting to find their mother.

      • LilPack

        Stephanie I understand that it’s difficult to understand adoption unless you’ve been through it. It’s honestly like trying to describe a rainbow to a blind person… and I don’t mean that rudely, but it just is. I’ve seen both sides and am a birthmother myself. I will be forever grateful for the family that have raised OUR son. His mother is just as much a mother to him as I am. She loves him deeply and I am absolutely amazed and humbled with her emotional generosity. It’s a shame that anyone not having been through any aspect of adoption themselves would pose such a strong opinion about the subject and if you have, and your experience wasn’t positive then I apologize. It is not the case with everyone. The bottom line is that just because someone is capable of conceiving doesn’t guarantee that she will be a great mother.. let alone a good one. Some of us are blessed to be mothers through conception, others are blessed to be mothers through adoption. There is no amount of DNA .. genetics or whatever that will ever be a measure to how much love someone has to offer a child. At the end of the day that’s all that matters.

    • R

      ok i actually am adopted and i personally know this family very well. i am not sure what your issues are with the language and her choice to give the child up but i think it speaks to her character and her strength that she as a mother was able to give her up to a family that was prepared to raise her and had the financial means to raise her and the emotional support that not every parent has. not everyone is created equal not everyone can handle the same challenges. i think she is great for recognizing what was in the best interest of the child! i think that you should get off your high horse tamra dawn hyde and find something better to do with your life then criticize someone in a very dramatic and emotional experience.

  • coltjack

    Good Lord, I hope you are not suggesting that they seek help from you. You probably should read your own post prior to submission, especially if you are dissing on someone else’s posts.
    Personally, I don’t think it made her other family seem irrelevant, they weren’t even talking about her other family. This was a small story about a happy reunion. Period. Don’t try & make it so much more. Nuff said!especially

  • Paul

    hmmm, Great that they reunited. Good Story and even how modern day Social Networking works to network with long lost relatives. It’s a small world and keeps getting smaller but on a Personal note, if my parents gave me up for adoption, I wouldn’t have anything to do with that person.It just means they don’t want you a part of their selfish life. Although I would be curious what my parents would look like,

    • Tamra Dawn Hyde

      Paul, it’s been a long time since i’ve heard a sentiment like that. i have to admit it made my chest hurt a little but it also reminded me that we still have a lot of work to do by way of education in the community. i thought we were way past such gross misconceptions.
      Lilpack, THANK you! perfectly said!
      Jessica, i love that she loves all of the extensions of her family! there’s enough room in any heart, just how it ought to be. my criticism was not for her or her family or birth family, but the commentary. i don’t think you understood my comment.

    • Eric Anderson

      My adopted daughters have expressed similarly bitter sentiments in the past. I remind them that their birth mother could have aborted them. Not only that, but the government would have paid for it. Instead, she carried them for 9 months each. Whatever else she may have been, she loved them enough to give them life. I’d say that counts for something.

      Don’t judge. You haven’t been there. You don’t know what really happened, or why.

    • Jennifer Durbin

      You really have no idea what you are talking about. My son is 13 years old and it has been so hard not having him in my life. It has been almost 14 years since I choose to place him for adoption because I was 15 with no job and no way to provide a life for him. I wanted him to have a mother and a Father who could give him everything I couldn’t. I gave him life but they are giving him a life worth living. He has a home I couldn’t provide for him when I was 15. I cried for years after I made my choice. I carried him, I felt every kick, every movement, I heard his heart beat, I saw his beautiful face and held him close to me and told him how much I loved him before I gave him a better life. I chose to do what was best for him not me! DON’T ever call me selfish for my choice just because you are to narrow minded to under stand what sacrifice is.

    • Katie

      I’m an adoptee myself and had to respond to this. I hardly find it “selfish” when a birth mom agrees to give up a child for adoption. Are there selfish women out there who do so? Perhaps. But to give ALL birth mothers the label of “selfish” is unfair. My own birth mother was young, single, and barely keeping her head above water as a waitress. She says she was even on birth control when I was conceived. In my conversations with her, “selfish” is the last word I’d use to describe her actions. She knew that she couldn’t provide me with the life she wanted me to have without the support of my birth father, who cut all ties with her once he found out about the pregnancy. She WANTED to keep me at first but knew it wasn’t in my best interest. She also came from a broken home plagued with abuse and alcoholism, and she didn’t want to risk subjecting me to such a lifestyle. She hoped for years that I would find her after her attempts to look for me came up empty. Looking back 35 years later, she made the right choice in placing me with my adopted parents (she knew my adopted father). And as a mother myself now, it would be the hardest thing in the world to give up my children. Please don’t be so quick in labeling such an action if you’ve never been through the process.

  • Jessica

    Look, I know this family personally and Jessica’s adoptive family let her go on her own because she wanted to. Her other family is not irrelevant, she loves them and has even confided in her friends that her family has grown. She loves her birth family and her adoptive family all the same. Please, don’t act like you know the story when you don’t know the family or the thoughts behind the decisions.

  • LilPack

    Paul, honestly your comment just reflects an very uneducated perception of adoption and one that existed 50 plus years ago that is just unwilling to die. Think about it…with all of the other options out there for a mother who “doesn’t want a (child) a part of their selfish life”, why would a mother willingly go through nine months of pregnancy, and then through countless hours of labor just because she wants to take the easy road and rid herself of her unwanted baby? It doesn’t work that way. Maybe pregnancy and childbirth seem like a cake-walk to you and something that would be possible to go through without some semblance of emotional investment… I don’t know. I’ll tell you what. I’ll give you, and others like you the benefit of the doubt.. but let me give you insight so you don’t put your foot in your mouth in front of those with actual experience. Adoption is one of the most incredible, painful experiences for a birthmother to go through and is absolutely no indication of a lack of love, but rather an abundance of it. Every birthmother has her own story and her own reasons for choosing adoption. In the end, at the root of her choice is selflessness, not selfishness. She has chosen the better of all her options, to give her child the best shot at life. Chances are this particular woman would have chosen an open adoption if the laws would have permitted it back in the day as would many of us if we were allowed.. but we weren’t. Please don’t cast judgement on the decisions of others, particularly when it’s something you haven’t been through yourself. It really just reflects uneducation and narrow-mindedness.

  • mj

    LilPack…you are RIGHT!
    I was re-united with my birthmother after 55 years and what you say rings true. Glad I had the chance to tell her that she did the ‘right thing’.

  • Dale Welch

    Having adopted a child i have some idea the feeling of wanting to be the “Dad”, but having lost a child to SIDS i know about losing a child.
    I kept in touch with the biological grandparents through the years so i could let my child have that contact one day. Through them he could contact his biological parents.
    My son knows I will always love him and he has a home, but i understand he has a desire to know his biological family. Through facebook he met some of his siblings from each of his bio-parents.
    I love my son enough to let him have the attachments he needs in his life, knowing he will always know i have been there for him even if things haven’t always been easy. 🙂

  • Tori

    I work with her dad that adpoted her, and he had the biggest smile on his face when he asked me if I had seen this on the news. He also has another adopted daughter and is going to try and help her find her birth mom as well! So happy for them all!

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