A Facebook group has enabled a woman adopted from Chile and brought to England when she was 6 months old to reunite with her birth mother after 44 years.
Katherine Samwell-Smith, now 45, elaborated on the search for her birth mother in an interview with the Independent. Smith attributes her desire to find her birth mother to sorrow from the “devastating” death of her adoptive mother in 2010, as well as becoming a mother of two children herself.
“After becoming a mom myself, I really started to grieve for my birth mother — not knowing where she was or whether she was alive,” Smith explained. “I was missing my adoptive mom terribly and I wanted my birth mother to be in my life.”
In light of the “deep love” she had for her children when they were born, Smith recognized how difficult it must have been for her birth mother, Ximena, to choose adoption. Smith, who now works for a charity called IAC The Centre for Adoption, said adoption is a “beautiful thing, it’s so profound and wonderful, and it can work.”
In a piece published in The Telegraph in March, Smith shared her adoption story and recounted how it came to be that she was placed in an orphanage in Santiago, Chile, by her birth mother in 1977. Her mother, who was 23 at the time and already had one child who was being raised by her parents, felt she couldn’t keep Smith. At 6 months old, she was adopted by Paul and Rosie Samwell, who raised her in Hampstead, London.
Smith received her adoption records after her adoptive mother died from cancer and her adoptive father, who’s still alive, provided her with more records. While she tried searching for her birth mother online, her efforts were unsuccessful.
In 2019, she joined a Facebook group called Chile Adoption Birth Family Search, knowing only her mother’s name: Ximena. The group compiled a list of women in Chile named Ximena and contacted them until they found a match. In April 2021, a message from the Facebook group informed Smith that “we have found your b-mother!”
“Immediately, my heart started racing,” Smith recalled. “It transpired that a local police officer who was helping the group had found my mother, Ximena, and knocked on her door, asking if she was my mom. She confirmed that she was.”
Noting that her birth mother “could have easily denied it and shut the door,” Smith expressed gratitude that “my birth mother agreed to talk to me.” The administrators of the Facebook group set up a FaceTime call between the two. Though Smith experienced anxiety ahead of the conversation, her husband, Michael Gehr, convinced her to dial the number.
“Seeing her face on the screen was unbelievable,” Smith said. “She struggles with English and I’m no longer fluent in Spanish, so our phone calls are a lot of waving and smiling and I use Google Translate to talk to her.”
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(c) The Christian Today, used with permission.