“I had a wonderful childhood and loving parents but I have always wanted to meet the woman whose life gave me breath. I just want to touch her, feel her, know she is real,” Teague said.
Nearly three decades ago the journey began with a trip to Tampa. “I was born in Florida so I started searching there but it is still very difficult to get information in some states. Florida is very strict with their records. I hired an attorney there and made numerous trips but it never amounted to anything. You can’t imagine the feeling of knowing the very answer you want so badly is filed in a room right in front of you but no one will let you in there to see. You can’t get that door to open, no matter how hard you try,” Teague said.
As more of Teague’s friends arrived at the center, the intensity of fluctuating emotions grew. She invited her closest friends and family to be at her side as she saw a life-long dream realized. Her best friend of 25 years, Brenda Day, accompanied her on many of the trips to Tampa. “It was an experience going through those years with Sheri. She had a lot of hope and she was devastated from a bad experience when she thought she had found her birth mother 19 years ago. However, the woman turned out not to be Sheri’s mom and the relationship ended badly,” Day said.
After spending thousands of dollars and several years with the court system in Florida, Teague gave up and searched other avenues. On an adoption registry she met a woman who had given birth at the same hospital on the same day as she was born. Due to the striking similarities, Teague thought she found her mother. However, a DNA test revealed the pair were not a match.
“After the painful situation years ago, I decided to give up looking for my birth mother. I realized that I was chosen and loved and no longer felt the driving need to find her,” Teague said.
The relationship with the woman, who Teague thought was her mother, ended for 15 years but was rekindled when the woman found Teague’s daughter Brooke on Facebook. “About four or five years ago she found me and we started talking. I know my mom had some lingering feelings over the way things ended between them but I was open to just talking to her now and then,” Brooke Teague said. “Surprisingly, she contacted me about a month ago and said she thought she had found my biological grandmother.”
While Teague found some peace and abandoned her search, the woman has continued to look for her daughter. One day while looking on Craigslist Tampa, she found a listing that said, “Baby girl born on March 17, 1966. Has never seen her mother. Brother is searching.”
As the clocked ticked closer to 7:30 p.m., Teague’s friends watched expectantly for the arrival of her birth mother and brother. Waves of excitement, anxiety, doubt and joy washed through the room as drops of rain streaked down the foggy windows.
“They are five minutes away, Sheri,” a friend called to her from outside.
After responding to the ad on Craigslist, Teague felt it was necessary to pursue the possibility. She and the man who placed the ad, Donovan Cooper, had several conversations over the phone. Both parties agreed a DNA test was needed before they proceeded any further. Their fears were allayed five days later when the results returned 99.995 percent positive that Teague and a woman in North Carolina, whom she had never met, were related.
“They are two minutes away, Sheri,” Day yelled from the front porch.
Teague’s adoptive father waited on the porch with the rest of her friends and family. His voiced cracked and a tear escaped his eye and ran down his cheek as he talked about his daughter. “She has always been my baby and I am happy for her. I know it will be nice for her to have a brother and to meet her birth mother. My wife passed away 19 years ago and now after I am gone, she will still have family,” Herb DeShazo, Teague’s father, said.
As the SUV pulled into the driveway, the palpable elation merged with trepidation to create an uneasy joy. From inside the car emerged a towering man with the same black hair and olive complexion as Teague. Her mother walked slowly to the steps where Teague waited. They embraced. For Teague it was the first time. For her mother it was the second.
“The day she was born, I remember, they said I couldn’t hold her. That was not going to do. I couldn’t imagine giving her away to begin with but not even getting to hold her was out of the question. They finally brought her to me. She had the blackest, fuzzy hair all over her head. I pulled her close to me and I whispered, ‘I love you. I don’t want to leave you here but I have to,’” Sylvia Cooper, Teague’s birth mother, said as her voice crumbled.
At 21 years old, Sylvia Cooper was a single mother working two jobs. “I had a little boy and I worked so much just to survive. I knew I couldn’t give her a good life. I couldn’t give her what she needed. My brother was stationed in Okinawa at the time and his family lived in Tampa. I went to stay with them and had the baby.”
“Ever since then for 48 years she’s been on my mind. I’ve prayed for her all through the years,” Cooper said. “Sometimes I’d see something on TV about kids who were adopted being abused by their adoptive parents, and I’d die a thousand deaths. Then I’d read books about adopted children not knowing who their parents were and how it affected them. Oh God, I’d die another thousand deaths inside. All these years I haven’t had anyone to talk to about her except the Lord. It was so hard.”
Cooper said at the time she gave the baby up, she clearly stated she wanted an open adoption. “I always hoped and believed she would look for me when she turned 18. I waited all these years but I never heard from her. It is so upsetting to know she was trying so hard to find me but they wouldn’t give her any information.”
The newly connected mother and daughter talked as they ate dinner, surrounded by a roomful of loved ones there to support Teague.
“Looking back, I am amazed at how this all worked out. The situation with the woman 19 years ago was difficult but now I see she was in my life for a reason. She is actually the one who brought all this together. I am without words to describe how I feel. It’s wonderful. It’s miraculous. It has all happened so quickly but I am beyond happy. After all those years of searching, it was just handed to me,” Teague said.