Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the special woman who gave birth to and raised us but, sometimes, that is not the same person.
Although things are changing, there was a time when a woman who gave up her newborn for adoption never expected to see her child again. But more and more adults who were adopted are seeking their birth mothers.
People like Lonny Smith, who is leafing through a family photo album with Daphne Molnar. He has only really known her for two years, but more than 40 years ago, she gave birth to him.
"All of my memories. All of my Christmases, all of my birthdays are with my adoptive family," says Smith. "It was never an issue of ‘I want to get away from them.’"
But Smith, who grew up with two brothers who were also adopted, was curious about his biological family.
"My dad has always said that if anyone was going to do a search it was going to be me, because I was always the snoop."
He thought about it for years. When the mother who raised him gave him a nudge and a check to cover expenses, he contacted the agency that arranged his adoption.
Molnar, who is now married with two grown children, remembers the day in 2009 she received a call from the agency, telling her they had a letter for her.
"It was on the 31st of March. I call it the day of enlightenment," she says. "I never knew what I was going to do at that moment. I envisioned it being a knock on the door, but I said, ‘Of course I will take it.’"
Within two days, she and her son were exchanging e-mails on a regular basis. They met a few months later.
For Molnar, who was just 18 when she got pregnant, the reunion has been a healing process.
"This is a hole in my heart that I have lived with my whole adult life," she says. "I never told my mother. I never told any of my family. I never told the boy, so I was pretty alone. I had told my family that I was going to California with a friend of mine who moved there."
Instead, Molnar moved in with a family that the adoption agency placed her with. They gave her room and board and took her to the doctor, while she did house cleaning and cared for their children.
Now, 40 years later, she questions her decision to give up her son.
"The thinking of that time was that these agencies were doing you a great favor," says Molnar. "They were fixing your life for you, that you just need to turn away and go for it. Don’t look back. I think there is some question to that."
Licensed social worker Linda Clausen agrees. "You can’t forget. You gave up a child, there is no way you can forget."
Clausen helps people like herself, who were touched by adoption. "I gave up two sons. Both had dark hair and whenever I saw a dark-haired boy I would actually follow people down the street."
Clausen reunited with her sons, who were born in 1961 and 1963, about 20 years ago.
Brian Dorfmann, the youngest, recently started a job in Washington. He has been staying at Clausen’s home in Washington, D.C., several days a week, and returning to his wife and children in New York on weekends.
He and his birth mother were both searching for each other, but he was the first one to call. It was, he recalls, one of the strangest conversations he has ever had.
"Who is this person? What do you say to her? What is she saying to me?" Dorfmann says. "What do I expect and how do I feel? The emotions start rushing all around."
Not too long after, they agreed to meet in Washington.
Twenty years later, they have a comfortable relationship. "Linda was at my wedding. And she was around when my children were born, and she is Grandma Linda," Dorfmann says. He is also looking forward to moving his family to Washington soon, so they will see even more of each other.
As for Lonny Smith and Daphne Molnar, although they reunited just two years ago and live more than 1,500 kilometers apart, they have gotten together seven times already.
"And my family has been very, very open to Lonny," Molnar says. "They just adore him. In fact, he is going to sing at my daughter’s wedding next year. And he had my son come out and stay with him for several days."
They have become an extended family. And although he doesn’t call her Mom, Smith says he will be sending Molnar a Mother’s Day card this year. But they also have a holiday for just the two of them - March 31 - the day they first found each other.