By: Tiffany Smith
Brenda Van Sickle was just 16 years old when she gave birth to a baby boy in Fort Worth, Texas in 1975. As a teenager, her life was unstable and she felt that she couldn’t provide her child with the necessities he needed to live a good life so she made the difficult decision to put him up for adoption.
At the time, open adoption, or adoption where the birth parents and adoptive parents maintain contact, was next to unheard of so Van Sickle chose a closed adoption, subsequently and unfortunately causing her to lose contact with her son.
“I did see him for about 15 minutes before the nurse took him away. It was very hard. If I could have taken care of him, I would have. But it just wasn’t right to do that to him,” Van Sickle explained in an interview with NBCDFW.
She went on to say, “It was all I could do to sign those papers and walk out the door and leave him. It was really hard.”
As time went on, Van Sickle tried searching for her son to no avail. “All I had to go on was his birthdate and the fact he was born in Tarrant County,” she said.
One day, while at work, Van Sickle received a phone call from someone in New Orleans known as Wes Fenner. She then learned that Fenner was the son she put up for adoption 45 years prior.
Fenner admitted the conversation was awkward, stating, “She was not expecting a phone call at work saying, ‘Hi, did you put up a child for adoption in 1975?’ That was an odd phone call.”
A few weeks later, they agreed to meet each other at a hotel in Terrell. She waited in the parking lot, then finally she heard a voice behind her, “Mom, it’s me.”
Fenner described the experience as overwhelming and said, “I’m not a huge crier, but it was definitely one of those moments. It was kind of like looking at myself, a slightly older version of myself, in the mirror.”
They hugged each other for about 20 minutes. “I wiped away his tears and he wiped away mine,” said Van Sickle. “How do you describe meeting your birth mother for the first time in 45 years?” Fenner no asked.
As it turns out, Fenner was trying to find her too, but always got cold feet. He said, “I’ve been thinking of doing this for over a decade.”
Fenner eventually went through DNA testing and used an adoption search “angel,” a volunteer dedicated to helping adoptees find their birth families, to track her down.
Van Sickle now knows for certain that Fenner went on to have a good life. He works at a major bank in New Orleans and has a loving family that includes a 9 year old son that Van Sickle was also able to meet.
As time continues to pass, they’re getting to know each and finding out they have a lot in common.
Van Sickle said, “You know you wonder about nature versus nurture. We sent each other song lyrics back and forth and he listens to the same music I do. We like the same movies. We have the same snarky sense of humor. I’m going, ‘Yeah, this is my kid.’”
The mother and son plan to stay and touch. “I’m looking forward to the next stage,” Van Sickle said. “Meeting him wasn’t the end of the journey. It’s an ongoing journey."