'A gift from God:' Woman meets birth mother for first time

WAYNE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Anna Vandemyle sat among a small crowd of passengers at Huntington Tri-State Airport Friday morning. As she got adjusted in her seat with a balloon and flowers in hand, she opened a bag she had with her.

Anna Vandemyle embraces her mother Glenna Hawkins at Yeager Airport as the two meet for the first time since Anna was born 50 years ago.

She wasn't packed and ready to go on a vacation. Instead, she was waiting for someone to arrive.

In the bag were a couple of pictures of her adopted family and a letter from her biological mother.

"I'm getting nervous now," Vandemyle explained as her hands shook. "I've just thought about it for so long in the back of my head here and there, and now it's here and it's kind of like is this really happening?"

Vandemyle, who now lives in eastern Kentucky, was preparing to meet her biological mother. She was given up for adoption just days after she was born. That was 50 years ago.

The back story is one that is long and a little complicated, but Vandemyle says she never held a grudge. She instead said she was thankful.

"There's different reasons why and things like that, but I always felt loved and I always felt everybody has their reason and I had never, ever grudged her for it ever," Vandemyle said. "I was very thankful for my life and for her giving me up for me ... to do better for me. That was how I always looked at it. I never had bad feelings. I just feel very fortunate that she did everything for me."

Vandemyle says years ago, she went to the adoption agency that adopted her out, requesting information about her biological family. She says since it was a closed adoption, information was pretty confidential.

However, she left her information with them so if her family were to ever request it, they could get in touch with her.

Her biological mother told WSAZ that she had tried online sources like Ancestry.com to search for Anna. Those searches were unsuccessful, though.

Anna's mother, Glenna, eventually went to that same adoption agency and was given her daughter's contact information. So, she decided to write a letter to her.

The letter was sent to the address where Anna used to live. However, a family friend still lives in the home. When she received the letter, she got in touch with Anna to let her know about it.

She says when she first got it, she questioned whether it was too good to be true.

"Getting that letter was just so heart-stopping in a way," Vandemyle said. "I think I was in shock."

Vandemyle says after about a day, she decided to pick up the phone and call the number her mother had left in the letter.

She and her mom have talked on the phone and have seen each other in pictures that have been sent through e-mail, but Friday was the day the two were scheduled to meet face-to-face.

Throughout the process, the thought of what her adoptive parents would think was always in the back of Anna's mind.

"I was really nervous at first because I didn't want to hurt them," Vandemyle said.

However, she says they have been supportive, telling Anna they were happy for her and knew she would always love them.

When it came time for Anna's mother to fly in on Friday, she told WSAZ the thing she was looking forward to most was being able to touch her mother.

"I can't wait to touch her to know that she is real," Vandemyle said.

As Vandemyle sat and waited for her mother's plane to land, she pulled out the letter she had written her and read a little bit of it aloud.

"If you are that sweet baby girl, please contact me if you want to. I would love to see you again."

Moments before those words were about to come true, the sounds of panicked passengers could be heard in the airport terminal.

The weather that morning had cancelled Anna's mother's flight into Huntington from Charlotte.

As Anna sat on the phone with her mom, she spoke to her with disappointment in her voice.

"I guess that's all we can do is kind of wait. We've waited this long," she told her mom.

Forced to wait another 11 hours, Anna said she was starting to become a little impatient.

"I'm to the point where I'm like I'm ready for this and then it's like the rug is pulled out from under you for a minute, so you just get back up and wait a little longer and it'll come. It'll come. It'll be here. I'd wait as long as it too," Vandemyle said.

She spent most of the morning searching for another flight for her mom. Eventually, they found a flight into Yeager Airport in Charleston.

Both were overcome with emotion as they embraced. Anna's mother, Glenna Hawkins, calling the day 'a gift from God.'

"It's surreal," Vandemyle said. "I'm really really excited and can't wait to talk and giggle and laugh and get to learn all about my bigger family."

Hawkins left Monday morning to head back home to Iowa, but the two say they can't wait to get to know more about one another and make up for lost time.

Hawkins saying she is looking forward to getting to know the little things about her daughter like her favorite color and movie.

Vandemyle has biological siblings she has ever met. She also still hasn't met her birth father.

She says she is looking forward to being able to do that in the future and is excited to watch as her family now grows.