What constitutes as a family may seem straightforward from the outside, but every one of us has our own unique interactions, interpretations, and involvements with family. Some might have it more standard, a full and healthy family behind them paired with maybe some in-laws. Others rely more on found family, a platonic structure that provides that same sense of love.
There are also cases where one person can belong to two, equally as important families that appear at different times of their life, like in the case of adopted versus birth parents.
Tracing It Back
The rise in popularity of online DNA and ancestry tracking services has led many people down a journey they would never have been able to go on otherwise, discovering the story of their natal family.
This has become especially useful for adoptees who wish to learn about their birth family, their parents and other family members who have been lost to them.
No one would know this better than one woman from Utah whose life changed forever thanks to DNA linking.
It's No Secret
Rachel Ruiz has always known she was adopted, as it was never a fact her adoptive parents kept from her. In fact, on her 18th birthday, she was given a handwritten letter that her birth mother had written for her future daughter.
The letter said she hoped they could meet someday so she could see the woman her daughter grew into, but it didn't contain much information or means of contact. Preliminary online searches came up null, and unfortunately, Ruiz quickly gave up.
After So Many Years
It's been years since then, and now Ruiz is 35 years old. The rise of services such as Ancestry.com had given her renewed hope in finding her birth family, which is exactly what she set out to do.
The first result that appeared after submitting her information was her grandfather's obituary. This document was the key element in being able to find her biological mother.
She now had a name, Angie Howard, which she plugged into Facebook. With enough digging, she found a profile that she knew immediately was her mom due to how similar they looked. Angie is now 52 years old.
The Perfect Reunion
She sent a message and anxiously awaited a response, which she received on Christmas day of that year, the best present she could have asked for. Howard was over the moon about hearing from her, and was extremely enthusiastic about them meeting up.
When they reunited, the two were even coincidentally wearing similar outfits, proving the apple truly doesn't fall far from the tree. Howard was also excited to introduce Ruiz to her 91-year-old grandmother, Mary.
"It's like a missing piece."
From The Start
Ruiz's adopted parents had always planned on giving her the package Howard had made for her on her 18th birthday. They had adopted her at two weeks old, holding onto that bundle of gifts and love for almost two decades.
"They had this beautiful crocheted blanket she made me," Ruiz described. "She had a baby ring when she was born—a beautiful gold ring—and a written letter which said 'you were with me for nine months. I will never forget you, I hope one day we will meet.'"
It turns out that Howard was only 17 when she had Ruiz, and knew she was not fit to be a mother at that age, so she made the difficult decision to put her baby up for adoption while loving her all the same.
Shock And Awe
Also present were her adoption papers. These papers showed that she was born with the surname Deveraux and was born in Louisiana.
"She didn't open my message for a long time – I think it got lost in her message requests because we weren’t friends," Ruiz said. “I woke up on Christmas day and she had replied. I immediately started bawling. I sent her a picture of the letter she wrote me and she replied 'I can’t believe it’s you, you’ve found me, what a miracle.'"
Her adoptive parents were completely on board too. "I printed out the conversation and showed my parents. We were all so emotional."
Ruiz and Howard chatted every day sine that first conversation, until one month later when they finally met.
"I could see her drive up and my heart was beating out my chest," described Ruiz. "She got to the front step and she took her coat off and threw her purse on the ground. She gave me the biggest hug and said 'I can't believe it’s you.'"
Mirrors Of Each Other
They both recalled how similar they looked, and the magic they felt looking at each other. "It was like looking in the mirror. She was like an older version of me. She even dresses similar to me – she was wearing wide leg jeans, Converse and a crop top tee."
Even onlookers were shocked, like Ruiz's husband. "My husband's jaw was on the floor. He said it was like watching two clones."
What Perfect Timing
The two chatted for hours before Howard brought Ruiz to meet her grandmother. They also had a lovely meeting, just in time, as Mary would pass away only three days later.
"It was like it was her final life mission. I went to the funeral and I met my cousins, aunts and uncles."
Ruiz keeps up with both families now, the adoptive one who raised her and the birth one who welcomed her in all these years later. She even discovered that she has a half-sister who lives just down the street from her.
Whole And Healing
Her birth mother's continued, endless love for a child that she had to give up is heartwarmingly touching. The decision to put her daughter up for adoption was probably the hardest thing she ever had to do, so knowing they were able to find each other again is, like she said herself, a miracle.
Not to mention it came at such a perfect time, as Ruiz was able to meet her grandmother just days before she passed away.
Ruiz's two family halves came together to make a whole, filling her heart with even more love than she could have imagined. This is a clear case of the stars aligning for someone, and it's joyous to see!