A North Texas mother met the son she placed for adoption as a baby – 45 years ago.
Brenda Van Sickle was just 15 years old when she got pregnant and 16 years old when she delivered a baby boy in Fort Worth in 1975.
"I did see him for about 15 minutes before the nurse took him away,” Van Sickle said Monday. "It was very hard. If I could have taken care of him, I would have. But it just wasn't right to do that to him."
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She ended up getting married, working in the TV news business, and now in the public information office at the Arlington Police Department.
But back then, as a teenager, she said her life was unstable, and she simply couldn't care for her newborn son.
"It was all I could do to sign those papers and walk out the door and leave him,” she said. “It was really hard."
Then, one day a few months ago, her phone rang.
It was a name she didn't know: Wes Fenner, calling from New Orleans.
"It was an awkward first conversation,” Fenner said. "She was not expecting a phone call at work saying, 'Hi, did you put a child up for adoption in 1975?' That was an odd phone call."
A few weeks later, they agreed to meet at a hotel in Terrell.
She waited in the parking lot, staring at a nearby pond.
"And then I hear a voice behind me: 'Mom, it's me,'" she said.
Fenner said the experience was overwhelming.
“I’m not a huge crier,” he said. “But it was definitely one of those moments. It was kind of like looking at myself, a slightly older version of myself, in the mirror."
The mother and son hugged for about 20 minutes, they said.
"I wiped away his tears and he wiped away mine,” Van Sickle said.
"How do you describe meeting your birth mother for the first time in 45 years?" Fenner asked.
Turns out, she had tried to search for him years ago, but couldn't find him.
"All I had to go on was his birthdate and the fact he was born in Tarrant County,” she said.
He tried too, but always got cold feet.
"I've been thinking of doing this for over a decade,” he said.
Van Sickle had no idea where her son was living, how he was, or whether he was still alive.
More than 100,000 children are adopted every year in the United States. Texas has an adoption registry so willing children and their parents can connect. But Fenner found his mother through DNA testing and with the help of an adoption search "angel," he said.
Now, the two are catching up – on a lot.
Van Sickle knows her son went on to have a good life with a loving family and work for a major bank in New Orleans, where he started a family of his own.
She even has a 9-year-old grandson she has also met.
And she’s finding she and her son have a lot in common.
"You know you wonder about nature versus nurture,” Van Sickle said. “We send each other song lyrics back and forth and he listens to the same music I do. We like the same movies. We have the same snarky sense of humor. I'm going, 'Yeah, this is my kid.'"
The two plan to stay in touch.
"I'm looking forward to the next stage,” Van Sickle said. “Meeting him wasn't the end of the journey. It's an ongoing journey."