Michelle Cehn was used to sharing stories about her life online, but this one was different. She told her YouTube followers about how she had discovered a unique connection with an older man – and the interesting way she had uncovered that bond.
Cehn has built a career around sharing the details of her life – specifically, her plant-based diet. She founded World of Vegan, a popular website about her lifestyle, and she has written cookbooks and detox plans for vegan hopefuls.
According to her personal website, the filmmaker and photographer “has dedicated her life to helping people align their actions with their values.” She also “provides inspiration and support to help make lifestyle changes easy and fun.”
However, a video blog she posted on June 13, 2018, would veer from the vegan-centric. In it, she shared with subscribers the story of her childhood. “I got a really beautiful upbringing. I very much grew up with a mom and a dad,” Cehn said.
But Cehn shared that her story could have been much different. “I was adopted as a baby,” she revealed. “My birth mother had me when she was just 23 years old. She… didn’t feel that she could take care of me well, and so she decided she wanted to give another family that couldn’t have kids the opportunity to have a child.”
When Cehn was born in 1986, her adoptive parents flew from Oakland, California, to New York, where she was born. They then traveled across the country to bring their new baby home. “I got the most wonderful parents ever,” Cehn wrote on her website, “I thank my lucky stars for that every day.”
Still, Cehn couldn’t help herself but feel curious about her biological family. All she knew was her birth mother’s name, and she had a single photo of her. As for her birth father, “I had no information… My birth mother didn’t even know who it was,” Cehn said.
Fortunately for Cehn, the rise of social media gave her a way to find her biological mom – she knew her name, after all. Through Facebook, she sent her a message, which led to a phone call, which ultimately spurred Cehn to plan a trip to meet her mother for the first time. “It was magical,” she wrote on her website.
However, the meeting also left Cehn with a sense of longing to find someone else – her biological father. Without a name or any identifying information, though, she wouldn’t be able to seek him out on social media. She’d need a more scientific way to search.
Luck was once again in her corner when at-home DNA testing became a prospect – and, eventually, a huge trend. Although many people used the kits to trace their family’s origins back to other countries, Cehn knew the kits could also connect her with living relatives who she didn’t even know existed.
“As soon as that became a possibility, I got really excited because, suddenly, [there was] potential to find my birth father even though I had no name, no face, no context, no location, nothing,” Cehn said in her YouTube video. She sent her DNA to two different companies and hoped for a match.
In the spring of 2018, all of her hard work yielded the result she was waiting for. She didn’t find her father right away, but her DNA test kit matched her with a first cousin. “I realized, ‘Holy cow, one of his uncles is my birth father,’” Cehn said of the discovery.
With this newfound information, she reached out to her first cousin, but her curiosity wouldn’t let her stop there. Instead, she logged onto Facebook, where she “spent, like, five hours that night just deep stalking the internet.” The end of her search brought her to the person she’d never thought she’d find.
“I landed on the Facebook page, was looking at the photo and seeing elements of the personality and writing and photos from who I thought was probably my birth father,” Cehn said. She described her find as “probably one of the top five moments of my life.”
Of course, her quest wasn’t over. She had to reach out to the man, whose name was Greg, to find out if he was, indeed, her father. She sent a letter a few hours after uncovering his identity. Consequently, the next day, she fielded a phone call from him. At first, Cehn said, he hadn’t seemed convinced that he had a long-lost daughter.
“I’m certain that he was like, ‘This girl’s clearly on a mission to find something important for her, but it’s not me. I never lived in New York, I don’t recognize her birth mom’s name,’” Cehn inferred. However, in the same conversation, she said that they had uncovered so many similarities between them that she had been convinced he was her father by the time they hung up.
Within the month, not only had Greg come to find out he was Cehn’s biological father, but the two planned to meet in person. “It was one of the most special things I’ve ever experienced in my whole life, and something I never thought would really happen,” she said after their reunion took place.
Not only that, but Greg introduced her to her extended family – including her grandparents and her half-brother, Austin. Cehn wrote on her website, “This has been every bit as wondrous as finding my birth mother was 10 years ago. I’m still pinching myself to make sure this is all real.” Her birth father felt the same way.
In his own YouTube video, Greg said, “It’s just ignited this joy, this fulfillment in Michelle that just sends multiples of love back. It’s… a blessing.” He also had advice for those in similar positions. “I can only imagine that, if I hadn’t been open to the possibility, what I would’ve missed out on. It’s like throwing away a lottery ticket… never even knowing that you had the winning lottery ticket,” he said.
Like her biological father, Cehn hoped to share a message with others who might be searching for their parents. She hoped her story would inspire other adopted children to keep the faith that they, too, would find their happy endings. “If you want to know, and you’re questing to find out, don’t give up,” she said.