Birth family reunion

Amanda North met her birth family for the first time Saturday. Front, from left, are Brighton O’Connor and Nicole Hendrick. Middle, from left, Luke Davis, Connie Hendrick, Amanda North, Nick Hendrick and T.J. O’Connor. Back, from left, Tammy Bates, Lauren Hendrick, Larry Hendrick, Lindsay Jones and Christinia O’Connor.

CHICKASHA — Thirty years ago, a mother placed her two children into the adoption system.

She knew what the people around her saw was true — that she couldn’t care for them in the best way possible, even though she tried.

“When they were 3 months old and 3 years old, they were taken from her,” Connie Hendrick said. Hendrick’s sister was the mother who gave up her children.

“She did a good job as far as she could do it,” Hendrick added, a sad smile on her face.

Three days after being placed in the hands of the Department of Human Services (DHS), the sisters were adopted.

Hendrick said the family tried to keep the two girls, but unless they moved somewhere where their mother couldn’t interfere, DHS said they would deny the request.

Other circumstances prohibited moving, which left the family with no other choice than to say goodbye, wondering if they would ever see the girls again.

Up The Road

Three hours away, in Ponca City, two little girls came home to a mother and father who wanted children but couldn’t have any. The children were a miracle to them, a lost miracle to another.

Amanda North said she and her sister, Vicky, have a great family and they had a happy childhood.

Growing up on a cattle ranch might have been more enjoyable for Vicky, North said, but she loved it, too.

A horse incident scared North when she was still little. The horse took off running with her on it. It was the first time she had ever been on one and, because of the scare, she never grew to love horses the way Vicky did, North said, as she described her life and her sister to Hendrick.

But to the sisters, there was always a question of where they came from. They wanted and needed to know medical history among many other things.

So they began looking for the answers, the key to their past.

“I’ve probably been looking for about 15 years,” North said. “Then I let it rest for awhile. Finding out nothing is very difficult.”

A Fruitless Search

Back in Chickasha, Hendrick was trying to find out where her nieces were. But DHS wouldn’t tell her anything, saying it was up to the girls if they wanted to look for their biological family.

She eventually stopped searching.

“It’s awful,” she said. “You think about them every time you turn around. You think, did they have a good home? A good life? Will they ever contact me?”

Prayer was the only thing left that Hendrick could do. So she prayed every day that the girls would be safe and loved. And she prayed that one day they would meet again.

“You don’t ever forget them,” she said. “But you kind of settle down.”

The Box

North didn’t know that when her grandmother gave her a box with old papers in it that it would hold the key to unlocking her past.

A seemingly simple envelope contained the answers she had been looking for all these years.

Two names were on the papers.

Her biological mother’s name and Hendrick’s. Why or how Hendrick’s name got on those papers is a mystery. But if it hadn’t been there, North and her sister would have hit yet another dead end in their search for answers.

A computer search of her biological mother’s name turned up nothing, North said. So she tried Hendrick’s name and came up with a phone number.

Reaching Out

Oct. 7 was just like any other day for the Hendricks. Connie’s husband, Larry, was at their church and she had been out shopping.

Then the phone rang.

Hendrick said the conversation went like this:

“I’m looking for a Connie Hendrick.”

“This is Connie Hendrick.”

“You might be able to help me, I’m trying to find a Jane Baldonado.”

“That’s my sister.”

“This is her daughter.”

As the meaning of those words sank in, Hendrick just cried.

The hard part — the initial phone call — for North was over.

Now Hendrick had to answer North’s questions about her mother — questions that didn’t come with easy answers.

She had to find a way to tell her that their mother had committed suicide four years after they were adopted.

After a long conversation, plans were made to meet the next Saturday.

Hendrick said she immediately called her husband to tell him the news.

“He paused for a minute and then he said, ‘Did I hear you right?’” she said.

“And then I said yes and he said, ‘Oh my goodness! When are they coming?’”

The phone call was nothing more than an answered prayer, and Hendrick is giving God all the thanks for her family’s reunion.

A New Journey

At the Hendrick house, North and Hendrick sit, talking, learning about each other’s lives. It has been 30 years and while they were geographically close, a lifetime has gone by.

Vicky couldn’t make it. She was unable to get the day off work, but she plans on visiting as soon as she can.

“At first I thought it would be like meeting strangers,” North said.

“But to me, the more and more I talked to Connie on the phone, the more it felt personal. And, even though I’ve only known her for a week, it feels longer than that.”

The two look at photos.

North shows Hendrick her two boys and Hendrick shows her photos of her biological mother and when the girls were little.

North begins to tear up when she looks at the face of the woman who gave her life.

“I can see my sister in that picture of her,” she said.

She has no hard feelings toward her birth mother, no anger. She knows it was hard for her to give up her children.

“It takes a very strong person to do that,” she said.

After awhile, more family begins to arrive to meet one of the girls who were taken so long ago.

“We never thought we’d get to see them again,” said Nick Hendrick, Amanda and Vicky’s uncle.

For Christina O’Connor, reuniting with her cousin is like seeing a long-lost playmate again.

She tells North how she used to sneak in to see her, the baby. She tells her how she tried to wake her up so they could play and how she used to get in trouble for doing so.

“It’s kind of like opening a book and having to put it up on the shelf for a long time, and then you get to open it up again,” O’Connor said.

For the two sisters, the reunion marks an end of one journey and the beginning of another.

“It’s amazing,” North said. “When you’ve been looking for that long, it’s tiresome. And to know when you’re 30 ...” she trails off, tears forming at the corners of her eyes.

“It’s amazing.”

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