Adoption is one of the most beautiful things imaginable. A child who needs a family finally uniting with a family who needs a child – few things are purer. As adopted children grow older, curiosity about who and where they came from sometimes drives them to track down their biological families. This process can be emotionally draining and extremely challenging, and unfortunately, sometimes fruitless. For one Kansas woman named Christian Gast, last weekend was the culmination of a decade-long journey – after 10 years of searching, Christian finally met her biological dad.
In 2010, Christian, who was two months old when she was adopted, decided she wanted to know more about her biological family. The now 25-year-old had tracked down her biological sister and mother in 2012 – the only missing piece was her father. Gast had followed multiple leads as to who her father might be over the years, only to be disappointed again and again when each one led to a dead end. Finally, in 2018, she submitted a swab to 23andMe and prayed for answers. Gast learned about her family history, some genetic markers, but no dad.
“I was disappointed to see that my biological father wasn’t on there yet”, Gast told The Dad, “but I thought if he was anything like me, he would be curious about himself as well.”
John Blackwell sat in his Washington bedroom in early 2020, feeling lost and somewhat alone. John’s father and sister had passed away 16 years ago, and then at the end of 2019, he lost his mom and stepdad. John felt the need to find out more about his genetic makeup, partially because of health concerns, but primarily to feel a connection with his ancestry in the face of his immense losses. After some research, John settled on two genetic tests: FamilyTreeDNA, and 23andMe. Upon receiving his results, he skimmed through the health indicators, the section about heritage, and then, in a moment, John’s entire life changed.
“The first relative to show up on my list, with 49.9% shared DNA, was a name and picture of someone whom I didn’t recognize, yet underneath that picture, it said ‘daughter,’” John shared in a Facebook post. “I was literally speechless. Time stood still. My mind was, strangely, both blank, yet consumed with more thoughts than I’ve had in this lifetime.”
John had experienced so much loss throughout his life that he began to fear the accuracy of the test. John has one son but had always wanted a daughter. At this point, he figured it just wasn’t meant to happen for him. “I was overcome with a million thoughts, dreams, fantasies, hopes and desires of the daughter I never got; and memories of all the times I’ve been jealous and envious of fathers who had a daughter in their life. I was afraid it wouldn’t be correct, cause I wanted it to be so! I NEEDED it to be correct!”
After 36 hours of panic, excitement, Facebook stalking (Christian had a 3-year-old son- could he possibly have become a father and a grandfather on the same day?), and a lot of courage, John opened the 23andMe app and began to type.
Thousands of miles away, Christian got a notification. She opened a message from a name she didn’t recognize, and everything she had only dared to dream about fell into place. “It was a feeling I can’t describe”, Christian told The Dad, “like the weight has lifted off my shoulders and I instantly felt at peace. My knees hit the floor when I read when he said, ‘I am your biological father’”.
From that moment on, the two began talking constantly. “I instantly felt this connection to her”, John enthused. “We began comparing everything! ‘Do you do this; do you do that; do you hate this, like that; are your hands big too?’”
It wasn’t long before the two began to FaceTime. John recalls his first reaction upon seeing his 25-year-old daughter for the very first time: “My God… she’s so beautiful!” he thought, bursting with pride, “I MADE THAT”.
The two decided that they had to meet.
They immediately began making travel plans, but unfortunately, their original April date had to be pushed back due to COVID-19. John was devastated. “It was as if every turn we made, we hit a roadblock that left us feeling a little destroyed inside, wondering why, after 25 years, we’re having to “fight” to see each other.”
But the two weren’t deterred and continued talking daily until finally, they felt it was safe to take the trip of a lifetime. Soon after, John landed in Kansas to meet the daughter he’d always dreamed of having. As soon as he stepped off the plane, he felt as if he was walking through a dream. “As soon as I took that first step onto the escalator, I scanned the floor below me…and then saw her standing there” John recalled, “I saw people around her, but I could only focus on her.”
John dropped his bag to the ground and ran to Christian. “All I could do was what I had been dreaming of doing since January 20th. Hold my baby girl in my arms as tight as I can. Finally.”
The father and daughter separated for over two decades were finally able to begin a new chapter together, the missing pieces finally in place. John is even planning to move from Washington state to Kansas this coming year.
“I can never get those 25 years back” John explained, “but I can (hopefully) get 25 years of new memories with her.”