Maria Martinez waited 39 years to see her daughter.
Her only memory of the child was of cradling her as a tiny newborn at Toledo Hospital in 1971 just after she'd given birth at age 16.
A nurse let Ms. Martinez hold the child for five minutes before whisking the baby off to adoptive parents.
She knew the child was female, nothing else.
And she knew that being a teenager still in high school and a victim of rape, she should heed her parent's advice to give the baby away.
But though her arms let go of the child, Ms. Martinez's heart didn't.
“Every Christmas, her birthday, I'd wonder where she was at and just prayed that she was fine and doing well and safe,” Ms. Martinez said. “I wondered what she looked like. Is she happy? Am I a grandmother? … I felt there was a part of me that was empty.”
Meanwhile, Abigail Flores Hall grew up just over an hour away from her birth mother, in Defiance. She too wondered constantly about the woman who had given her up.
“It's crazy. Every place that I would go to, it doesn't matter where I'm at, I'd always think to myself, I could probably walk by her,” Ms. Flores Hall said. “I'd just picture seeing her anywhere.”
Finally, Wednesday, on the sunny back deck of Ms. Martinez' sister's home in West Toledo, the two women's quest — and questions — came to an end.
Ms. Martinez, 55, and Ms. Flores Hall, 39, fought back tears as they embraced each other amid the sighs of delight and camera flashes of family and friends.
“What can I say? Strong genes, huh?” Ms. Martinez grinned as she stood next to Ms. Flores Hall, whose petite frame is identical to her mother's, as are the dimples on her cheeks when she smiles.
“She's beautiful, just beautiful,” Ms. Martinez beamed, hugging her daughter tightly. “I love her. I'm happy. Very happy.”
It wasn't easy for the pair to find each other, although a lucky stroke of fate helped them along the way.
Ms. Flores Hall said she spent at least a decade looking for Ms. Martinez.
She contacted Catholic Charities, the agency she said handled her adoption, but was told the records were closed and she could only get nonidentifying information about her birth mother's family, no names. Then she wrote a three-page petition to the Lucas County Probate Court, asking it to release the records, only to be told the papers were in Defiance. She said a call to the court in Defiance led to another dead end.
“Basically in a nutshell, they told me I'm wasting my time trying to write a letter because the judge wasn't going to do that,” Ms. Flores Hall said. “It was sad.”
So Ms. Flores Hall, who lives in Tennessee, began calling talk shows to see if she could go on as a guest and talk about her search for her birth mother, but she was turned down. She also hired a private investigator, but he found no clues.
Finally, just over three weeks ago, Ms. Flores Hall made one last-ditch attempt.
She called The Blade's classified advertising department to put a notice in the paper, laying out the tidbits of information she knew about her birth family: That her mother was 16 when she gave birth and a freshman in high school; that her mother's siblings included two sets of twins and a boy who was deaf in his left ear; and that her grandfather had worked as a mechanic, and her grandmother in a factory.
Blade salesman Connie Cross took the call.
“I told her we hadn't done anything like that before,” Ms. Cross said. “I said she might not get any results. … Well, God showed me.”
Touched by Ms. Flores Hall's story and based on the information that she was of Mexican heritage, Ms. Cross mentioned the ad to a coworker, Diana Salazar.
To her surprise, after reading the ad, Ms. Salazar said the information sounded like her aunt and uncle's family.
“I said ‘I think she's my cousin.' [Ms. Cross] thought I was being sarcastic because I'm always talking about my 300 cousins,'” Ms. Salazar said, laughing. “I said, ‘no, really!'”
Quickly, Ms. Salazar showed the ad to her brother Mark Martinez, who also works at the paper.
He agreed that the family sounded like that of their uncle and aunt and he called his Dad to ask whether his cousin had ever given up a baby for adoption.
Much to his surprise, the answer was yes.
“We didn't know anything about this, that she even had a first child,” Mr. Martinez said, saying he and his sister were 9 and 8 respectively when the baby was born.
“It was crazy.”
Within a couple of hours, Ms. Flores Hall was on the phone with Ms. Martinez.
For two hours, the two of them talked about their lives, their lifelong desire to find each other, and their families.
Ms. Martinez learned that she was a grandmother to three girls and also a great grandmother.
“When she told me, I said ‘that's just beautiful',” Ms. Martinez said.
“It was just unbelievable, just indescribable. We just talked like we'd known each other forever. We had so much to talk about.”
“We were just both sobbing, sobbing probably the whole conversation,” Ms. Flores Hall said. “It was just so overwhelming.”
Ms. Flores Hall said she had worried her birth mother might reject her because of the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy.
But Ms. Martinez said she couldn't blame her daughter for the rape, which occurred when she was snatched from outside a dance event in Toledo at the age of 15.
“I'm a strong woman and I survived and I went on with my life and I held no grudges,” Ms. Martinez said.
“What happened to me was very unfortunate, but I told her I don't hold anything against her. I mean, why would I? … She's part of me and always has been and always will be,” she said.
Ms. Martinez's older sister, Carolina Sindyla, said her sibling had never quite recovered from her ordeal as a teenager, and would often talk about her yearning to find her daughter.
She said her whole family suffered because of what happened to Ms. Martinez.
Finding Ms. Flores Hall, she said, has at last brought closure to everyone, and has transformed her sister.
“Her life never really was her life. She was always missing that link,” Ms. Sindyla said. Now, “she's so happy. She's so different. This is it.”
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: firstname.lastname@example.org 419-724-6272.