Birth mother, son meet again af­ter 44 years

USA TODAY International Edition - - NEWS STATE-BY-STATE - April McCul­lum

BURLING­TON – When her son was born, and for the next 44 years, Bar­bara Berry called him Jeremy.

She would think of him every year on his birth­day, would re­mem­ber the three days she held him at the Eliz­a­beth Lund Home in South Burling­ton, be­fore she placed him for adop­tion.

They fi­nally met again Fri­day in a Burling­ton ho­tel. His name, af­ter all these years, is Ja­son Sar­gent.

“There’s some­thing in­side of you that just, it’s not set­tled. It’s just not,” Berry said in an in­ter­view, her eyes welling with tears, just min­utes be­fore she would meet her son.

Sar­gent grew up in Un­der­hill, at­tended Mount Mans­field Union High School and grad­u­ated from Saint Michael’s Col­lege.

He al­ways knew he was adopted but had not be­gun to search for his birth mother un­til his niece died last year. He wanted to tell his birth mother that he was OK, and that she made the right de­ci­sion.

The state of Ver­mont shares in­for­ma­tion about birth par­ents with their chil­dren if both gen­er­a­tions want a con­nec­tion. Sar­gent, who now lives in New Hamp­shire, be­gan the process in March but de­layed mail­ing the pa­per­work.

In Au­gust, Berry was on the phone with her mother, re­view­ing the re­sults of her DNA test through the com­pany 23andMe.

“I hit the but­ton, and it said ‘Ja­son Sar­gent. Ja­son Sar­gent shares 50% of your DNA,’ ” Berry re­called. “And then it said, ‘Ja­son Sar­gent is your son.’”

Berry had al­ways been con­vinced, and told her hus­band and three chil­dren, that one day she would see the son she placed for adop­tion when she was 19 years old. Still, the news was hard to di­gest.

“It was a lit­tle un­nerv­ing to find out that way at first,” Sar­gent said. “I was re­ally skep­ti­cal about it un­til I got the pa­per­work back from the state con­firm­ing it.”

When the con­fir­ma­tion came, Berry and Sar­gent ex­changed mes­sages and pho­tos and set up phone and video calls.

“Every year on my birth­day she takes a minute and thinks about me,” Sar­gent said. “To me, that was re­ally when the grav­ity of how much this has af­fected her kind of hit me.”

Af­ter their ini­tial meet­ing Fri­day, which was also Berry’s birth­day, it was ob­vi­ous that Berry and Sar­gent had sim­i­lar smiles.

“If I could have made a de­ci­sion to have a happy ever end­ing story, this is it,” Berry said. “Se­ri­ously.”

Ja­son Sar­gent and Bar­bara Berry had a pri­vate re­union Fri­day at the Court­yard Mar­riott in Burling­ton. RYAN MERCER/USA TO­DAY NET­WORK

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