Now She Has Two Loving Moms
Sunday will be very special for two mothers.
It will be only the second Mother's Day ever for Julie Wilkes and the woman who gave birth to her 38 years ago.
"I was born in January, and my parents got me three days after Mother's Day," she said. "That was in 1971."
That mother, Janice Heath Griffith, was young and alone trying to care for her baby daughter, Wilkes said.
"She had been married to a soldier," she said. "He'd gone to Vietnam, done two tours there, then two in Germany. Their marriage just fell apart. She couldn't raise me herself."
Her birth mother chose the couple who would raise her little girl.
"She met my family, and knew they would take care of me," she said. "My dad had a good job with the Fayetteville police. Mom was a schoolteacher."
Giving the 4-month-old to others could not have been an easy thing for any mother.
"It was extremely generous," Wilkes said. "I told her in a letter that she gave me life. She made the hardest choice, and she made it for me."
From the time she was a young teen, Wilkes had wondered about her birth parents. She had always known she was adopted, but her mom and dad had lost touch with Griffith after the family moved to Ellerbe when she was 5.
"I always knew, but it wasn't until I was 10 and between 10 and 13 that I really started questioning," she said. "You start realizing what adoption means by that age."
Wilkes now works for Moore County in child support enforcement. Now married, she is herself a mother now.
Last summer, Wilkes started looking for her birth parents, and discovered they'd been searching for her.
"I didn't start searching until I was married," she said. "There was something about 'process of service' in a newspaper, and I knew I could look that up."
She found an adoption Web site that helps adoptees by putting details of their lives online where searching mothers and fathers can find them and check things such as locations and dates. She found her father first.
"Twenty minutes after publishing my story, this woman came online with the name of my birth father!" Wilkes said. "His name was an unusual name, 'Merry.' I figured it would be easier to find him. I looked him up, and found him. He is a pastor, by the way. He is the Rev. Frederick "Fred" G. Merry in Concord, N.C. His church, Fruit of the Spirit Ministries, is nondenominational. We talk. We e-mail. We look alike."
Merry didn't know he had a daughter for years, only finding out when Julie was 4 years old. He started looking for her then, but without success. He got in touch with Griffith, who was also searching for their daughter.
"He said she had been looking for me all my life," Wilkes said. "He had been looking for me. He held on to that hope and never let go."
'Found a Whole Lot More'
Her birth father and mother had been looking for her in the Fayetteville area, because that was the home of her adopting family at the time. Somehow the connections never got made until she started her own Internet search last summer. The pieces fell into place within weeks.
"I found my father Aug. 1, found a cell number," Wilkes said. "I called and asked him if he had had a daughter. He said, 'Yes, let me tell you her name.' I about dropped the phone, I was crying. He knew. He told me how he had been looking for me. We met after that."
Meeting her birth mother didn't take long after that.
"I found her by phone and called her about two weeks later on a Wednesday," she said. "It was the third Wednesday in August. I called her, and we talked about 30 minutes, just crying hysterically again."
Their first time together since she was an infant came two weeks after that. Wilkes and her husband went to Griffith's house to meet her. There have been other meetings since, other phone calls. They talk several times a week. She and her father talk often, sometimes daily.
"She and her husband came to our son's birthday this past Saturday at Hillcrest Park," Wilkes said. "It was the first time she'd come to visit me here in Carthage. Now, I am going to see her on Mother's Day."
It will be a full day, with church here in the morning and the afternoon visit to follow.
"We are all going to go to church together and eat, then I am going to Fayetteville," she said. "One thing that stood out is how quickly my son has bonded with both sets. He 'gets it.' He bonded immediately. Tyler was just open arms, open heart, full of love: 'Hey, I've got new grandparents!' I went looking for one thing, and found a whole lot more."
She has a very much larger family now.
"My birth father has a daughter, Jennifer, who is 28 and a son, John, who will be 23 on Monday," she said. "My birth mother remarried and has two girls, so I have two sisters. I am 38, and one sister is 34. That's Shannon; she lives in Florida. My other sister, Brandy, is 25 and lives in Hickory. She is bubbly and outgoing."
She found immediately familiar things to recognize in these new faces. Now there are reminders every time she looks in a mirror or at her son.
"We all have blonde hair," she said of her sisters. "I found out everybody in the whole world had been looking for me, and I never knew it."
'Most Unselfish' Decision
Wilkes thinks about others who were adopted and who may be wondering themselves about the families from which they came, about sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents.
"There have to be other adoptees out there like me," she said. "It is not a subject that comes up every day. Growing up, 'adopted' was just a word. Then, you start that search for flesh and blood. Do they feel the same way I do? Do they want to see their family?"
Last December, she read about District Attorney Maureen Krueger's meeting her birth mother after hearing a radio program. Wilkes recently sat down with Krueger to exchange stories.
Wilkes just cried and cried.
"I know what you were going through," she said Krueger told her.
Wilkes noticed many similarities between her situation and that of the district attorney.
"She has two children, I have one," Wilkes said. "We are mothers now, ourselves. We also have that common bond that adoptees feel. She told me she can't get over the number of people who came up to her and had that article in their hand."
At this point, she has a need to find other adoptees and other adopting parents and share experiences.
"Regardless of what stage they are in, it would be nice to talk to people who adopted other children," she said. "Ask them 'How do you feel, as adoptive parents, about your children meeting their birth parents?' Mine say they are happy for me. I don't think they thought it was going to happen. It has been a journey for them as well, even though I am grown."
The very first time she saw her mother, she did not have to search for words.
"I had known all my life what I would say," she said. "I told her she had made the best decision ever, the most unselfish. Every time we are together, we get closer. On Sunday, I will be seeing her at her home in Fayetteville."
That will be one Mother's Day to remember, Wilkes said.
Contact John Chappell at 783-5841 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
More like this story