It was never a secret to Jen Chervin that she was adopted. Indeed, her story had even made the front page of a newspaper. But while growing up, she never knew who her biological parents were or anything about them. As a result, it was like looking for a needle in a haystack when she began searching for them two decades later. And it was only when she eventually took her quest to social media that she would learn her bio mom’s dark secret.
Today, Jen Chervin is a married, 45-year-old teacher living in Beaverton, Oregon. However, she had a tough start to life: on December 18, 1971, she was found abandoned on the steps of Fremont Hospital in California. “It was a stormy night, and I was wrapped in two blankets,” she told KOIN in December 2015.
Beyond that, Chervin only knew what she had read in the newspapers. She had learned, for example, that a group of nurses passing by on their rounds had heard her crying outside a fire door. They named her Holly Fremont, as she had been found seven days before Christmas. But although the baby was just hours old when she was found, there were no clues as to who had left her there.
Furthermore, officers investigating her case also found nothing to identify who she was, where she came from or who had abandoned her. In the meantime, Chervin was adopted by a caring couple and, after growing up, became a math teacher for autistic kids. Still, even though Chervin had had a happy childhood with her adoptive family, Christmas was always tough for her.
“Every year on my birthday at Christmastime I would wonder, ‘Is my mom thinking about me?’ Because I would think about her,” Chervin told KOIN. Though her adoption was no secret, she only learned these details at the age of 20. She subsequently began her search for her birth parents – to no avail at first.
So in the summer of 2014, more than two decades after she had first started looking for details of her parents, Chervin took her search to social media. It was only then that she made a major breakthrough. As she recalled to KOIN, “I had a woman reach out to me. She sent me a message, and she said, ‘Do you have a search angel working with you?’”
A search angel is someone who will dedicate their time to helping people research their family history. What’s more, they can help fill in the blanks for individuals who have questions about their families. It was after that first message that Chervin made a major advance.
“She said, ‘Have you tried DNA?’ And I thought, ‘What do you mean, DNA?’” Chervin told CBS Sacramento in November 2015. At the suggestion of her angel, she sent samples of her DNA to two specialist testing companies. And when the results came back, they blew her mind.
“I had hundreds of DNA cousins, hundreds,” Chervin explained to CBS Sacramento. “And I’m looking at this page, and it’s people I’m related to, and that was surreal to me.” All it took was one of these cousins volunteering to help, and Chervin’s family tree finally began to take root.
And as the family tree grew, Chervin approached more of her potential relatives willing to have their DNA tested. Eventually, she struck gold. First, she found an uncle. And when he volunteered for a DNA test, his brothers did, too – all seven of them. After that, Chervin had found her match.
But with that wonderful news came a tricky phone call. “He was shocked and tongue tied,” Chervin told CBS Sacramento of the moment that she broke the news to her biological father. But then she received a surprise of her own. Namely, her father revealed the details of exactly where she had come from in the world.
“They’re still married to the same individuals they were married to at the time, so I’m a product of an affair,” Chervin revealed to CBS Sacramento. The difficult disclosure did, however, offer an idea of who her biological mother was. And after more DNA testing, Chervin had yet another uncomfortable call to make.
“All the signs lead to you,” Chervin had said to the woman she believed to be her birth mother, later recounting the conversation to CBS Sacramento. The stranger on the other end of the phone, however, denied it. “She said to me, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’”
Chervin tried again, convinced that she had the right person. The woman repeated her denial. As Chervin explained to KOIN, she told her, “I don’t want to hurt you, I just want answers. That’s when she broke down and started crying, and she said, ‘I’m so sorry, and I thought about you every day.’”
Then the truth came out. Chervin’s mom’s husband was serving a tour of duty in Vietnam. In his absence, she stayed with her family in North Carolina, which is when the affair took place. And on her return to California, she gave birth to Chervin on her couch at home.
All the while, Chervin learned things about her past that she had never known before. She found out, for example, that her birthday was indeed December 18 – the same day that she was found at the hospital. Plus, she discovered how many half-brothers and sisters she has. And, after decades of questions, she was told of the circumstances surrounding her abandonment.
Chervin related that story to KOIN, saying, “[After my mom gave birth to me] she said she held me for a couple of hours. And then she woke up her daughters and put them in the back of the car and took me to the hospital and dropped me off.” It was a place where she knew her newborn child would be taken care of.
Furthermore, and despite the awkwardness of their first conversation, Chervin told CBS Sacramento that her biological mom is happy that she managed to reach her. The revelation, however, posed a difficulty that may never be resolved. Because Chervin is the product of an illicit affair, her mom’s family still have no idea that she exists.
“I know she was shocked that I found her,” Chervin told CBS Sacramento. “One of the first things she said was, ‘You can’t be a part of my family,’ and she said it panicked her, and I said, ‘I know, it’s okay.’” Chervin nonetheless hoped to meet her biological mother face-to-face one day.
“She said she had a lot of guilt and shame that she’s been carrying all these years,” Chervin added to KOIN. “I told her she needed to let that go.” And it seems as if bridges are slowly being mended, as in December 2015 the teacher received her first ever Christmas gift from her mom: a necklace with a note saying, “The cross is a reminder that you are always in my heart.” Plus, whatever happens next, Chervin now has some form of closure. “It’s my mystery solved,” she noted to KOIN.