Sunday, May 12

Pennsylvania Woman and Birth Mother Reunited on Facebook

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Stock Image.

    For at least a year, a woman in Bucks County tried mightily to become Facebook friends with Dianne Gill of St. Petersburg, Fla.

    Gill didn't want to let her in. "If I don't know a person, I don't accept a friend request," she said. But this Easter, her curiosity got the best of her.

    "Dang! This girl's on here again! I'm going to friend this chick, and see what's going on," she recalled. Sometime later, while on Facebook, she noticed the woman, Donna Scheer, was online at the same time.

    She sent Scheer a message along the lines of "Who the hell are you, and why are you stalking me?"

    Eventually, a year's worth of messages from Scheer popped into Gill's file, messages she would have seen earlier had she accepted Scheer's friend request.

    One was signed "Donna McAninley Scheer Formerly Baby Girl Gladwin."

    This was the same Baby Girl Gladwin that Gill had last encountered in February 1976 in Lower Bucks Hospital. Gill was 16 and determined not to see or hold the little girl to whom she had just given birth, fearing that if she did, she would never give the baby up for adoption.

    Out of the past came this long-awaited message:

    "Hello, it's been a while since I have had a chance to reach out to you and since this time of year is a renewing time I was hoping we could reconnect and begin a new relationship. Please let me know if you would like any information to help with this connection. Most of my life I have been looking and wondering about my family and really want to know everything and everyone."

    Sitting there at her computer, Gill was stunned. "Oh my God. Oh my God."

    For a minute, she said, her husband thought the long-lost-loved-one approach was a scam. He looked at Scheer's messages, and quickly changed his mind.

    Once the dust settled, Scheer and Gill's Facebook friending was probably the most enthusiastic ever.

    On her lunch break from work, Scheer checked her Facebook page by phone and saw that she had finally gotten a response.

    "OMG!! I have just read this messages and I am flabbergasted. I am elated, I have been putting up messages on Adoption.com for years . . . You have a 23 year old brother named Sean and he has no idea, I was always afraid to tell him because I couldn't find you and wasn't sure if you wanted to be found. I will tell soon though ... I am sitting here crying to have finally been able to connect with you"

    "I went, 'Is the world still spinning?'" Scheer recalled. She explained to her boss why she had taken a little longer to return from lunch. Then she started crying, which she said is rare for her.

    Scheer's adoptive parents, Joan and John McAninley, had never made a secret of how she came into their lives when she was 2 days old.

    Through a work acquaintance, Joan McAninley, who was unable to have children, learned about the teenage mother-to-be. At the time, Gill was looking for options for herself and her unborn child.

    "I had contemplated keeping the baby," she recalled. "My parents had just retired, and they were willing to stand behind me, whatever I did."

    Still, she was getting the same insights from her dad and a friend her own age: When the pros and cons were compared, a loving set of parents could provide more for her child than she ever could.

    At least two families expressed interest in adopting her baby. But after she learned of the McAninley's circumstances, "There was no other question in my mind that these would be the people who would raise my daughter. There would be many babies for me, but not for her."

    A local lawyer arranged a private adoption. From the start, the McAninleys made it clear to their daughter that she was free to find her biological parents when the time was right.

    "I always gave her the information I had, and said if she intends to look, she's got my blessing, and I only hoped she'd do it while I was alive," said McAninley, who lives near her daughter in Bristol Township.

    "She had looked previously, but it was always at times when she was applying to college, or graduating, or getting ready to be married."

    Scheer grew up with "The Chosen Baby," a children's book written to help little adoptees understand their circumstances, and a poem, "Legacy of An Adopted Child." ("One gave you up ... that's all she could do. The other prayed for a child and God led her straight to you.")

    "In time, if it was meant to be, it was meant to be," said Scheer. "I wasn't going to let it stop me from going on with my life," which now includes her husband, Jonathan, and their 4-year-old son, Jaydon.

    Meanwhile, McAninley kept her eyes open for any information that would help her daughter's search. One day she spied the obituary for Richard Gladwin, who Gill remembered had cried all day after handing his newborn granddaughter over to the lawyer.

    "I recognized his name, and I recognized some of the other names," McAninley said. The story revealed that Dianne Gladwin was now Dianne Gill.

    Over the years, Scheer had tried to find her biological mother using an old-style adoption registry (she has been unable to locate her biological father).

    Gill, who always maintained that "When I gave her up, I gave up my right to find her," still meticulously updated her address on adoption.com every time she moved, adding a little note for her daughter.

    "Unfortunately, she never looked on adoption.com," Gill said.

    As Scheer began searching online, she realized that in an era of Facebook searches, maiden names are critical. She added "Gladwin" to the search field and got an instant hit.

    Scheer and Gill exchanged more than 3,700 Facebook messages from April 3 until last Tuesday, when they met, and spoke, for the first time, at a pizza place near Scheer's home in Levittown.

    The women hugged. Gill said she sat for 10 minutes and stared at her daughter, a tall, wisecracking young mother with a strong Gladwin family resemblance.

    "I wanted to count her fingers and toes," she said. "I felt complete for the first time in my life."

    "It was like two best friends meeting after many years," said Scheer. "Like I went away to college for 37 years."

    Her family has virtually doubled overnight, to include her brother, Sean, and a host of aunts, uncles and cousins who can't wait to meet her. When they do, she'll be armed with a collection of baby pictures that her parents assembled.

    "I didn't cry when I met her," said Gill. "When I met her mother, I cried. I was so grateful to her for raising such a fine girl ... it's love, great values, the values I would have taught her myself, but I wouldn't have been able to teach her at 16."

    Scheer said she is happy to take her history in stride.

    "I could have been an abortion, I could have been in an orphanage, I could have been in foster care, I could have been on the street," she said. "I wasn't, because all the right decisions were made at the right time."