Chris Lange, FISM News
Utah resident Holly Shearer was 15 years old when she discovered she was pregnant. Twenty years ago, she made the courageous decision to give birth and place her son up for adoption, hoping he would go to a loving home. He did.
Angela and Brian Hulleberg, also of Utah, were overjoyed to welcome the baby into their family, naming him Benjamin. The couple kept in touch with Shearer for the first few years of their son’s life, sending her photos and letters, but the updates gradually came with less frequency and eventually stopped altogether. In 2014, the adoption agency that placed Benjamin with the Hullebergs closed down for good.
Over the course of the next 20 years, Shearer never stopped wondering about the son whom she felt she had little choice but to give up all those years ago.
“He was always on my mind. More so on holidays and his birthday…rollercoaster of emotions,” Shearer, 36, recently told Good Morning America in a televised interview.
Meanwhile, Hulleberg always felt a burning curiosity about his biological mother, whom he only knew by her first name. His parents spoke kindly of the woman who made the difficult decision to place him up for adoption.
“It was always a very positive conversation,” the 20-year-old said. “It was my parents either expressing gratitude for Holly or me talking about how I’m grateful for her and how I want to meet her one day.”
As he grew older, the substitute middle school teacher set out to find his birth mother, writing letters, signing up with an adoption registry, and even taking a DNA test with the hope of one day reuniting with her.
Unbeknownst to Hulleberg at the time, Shearer was conducting her own investigation. Two years ago, while digging around online, she came across Hulleberg’s Facebook page and deduced that he was the young man she’d been searching for. Despite her joy at finally locating him, she felt reluctant to reach out at that time.
“He was 18 when I found him and I was very hesitant,” she recounted. “He had so much going on in his life. … The last thing I wanted to do is to throw a wrench in his life, so I just watched from a distance,” she said.
On Hulleberg’s 20th birthday, however, Shearer decided it was finally time to take the plunge and initiate contact. Without revealing her true identity, she sent Hulleberg a Facebook message wishing him a happy birthday. It didn’t take long for Benjamin to begin to put two and two together.
“I can remember the exact place that I was at when I got the message,” he recalled. “I was at work. I was a machine operator and I remember I was in machine No. 15,” he continued. “I was in between our hourly quality checks and I got on my phone and I saw her message and I just replied.”
He added, “When she texted me back and she actually explained who she was, it hit me like a load of bricks.”
Hulleberg said Shearer’s message triggered an emotional reaction.
“I was crying. It was all very positive emotions,” he said. “But to me, this is a day I had been waiting for the past 20 years of my life, and to imagine that it was finally happening was outrageous. It was a lot to take in.”
The two made arrangements to meet the next day, both accompanied by their families. Shearer described the moment she met Benjamin face to face for the first time in two decades. “Joy just overflowed me,” she said. “We just sat hugging for about five minutes and crying and it just – I can’t believe that it happened.”
Hulleberg felt the same way. “When I saw her, she stood up and she gave me a hug and I cried. I just looked at her and I was like, ‘You’re real, like you’re in front of me.’ And it was surreal,” he said.
To their mutual shock, mother and son soon realized that they had both been working for the same Salt Lake City hospital for the past two years. Shearer is a medical assistant at The Heart Center at HCA Healthcare’s St. Mark’s Hospital while Hulleberg volunteers at the facility’s neonatal intensive care unit.
“Every morning, I would come in through the women’s pavilion to come into work. So I passed right by the NICU every single day,” Shearer said. “We parked in the same garage, could have been on the same floor, had no idea that we were so close.”
Today, Hulleberg stops by Shearer’s office at least once a week.
“Being able to sit down with my biological mom and just have coffee and talk before I go on my shift at the NICU? It’s been amazing,” he said.
Shearer concurred. “It’s just exciting. I’m part of his life. Just knowing that his phone number is in my phone and I can call him or text him anytime … it’s amazing,” Shearer said. “My heart is full.”
This heartwarming story was first reported by Good Morning America.