Spring Lake woman meets birth mother after more than 30 years of wondering,
By BECKY VARGO
The Associated Press
5/17/2004, 1:13 p.m. ET
SPRING LAKE, Mich. (AP) — The day most people are thinking about getting
their income taxes in the mail, Carolyn Shettler received a card she knew was
going to change her life.
"I knew it was her without opening it," the Goshen, Ind., woman said. "I have
been dreaming and praying for this the whole 36 years."
That same night, April 15, 36-year-old Spring Lake resident Melody Sears got
the call she had been hoping for — "I got your card today. I'm the one you
are looking for," Shettler told her.
Sears and her husband, Fred, had tried on and off over the years to locate her
birth mother, but never had been successful. And the laws in Indiana — the
state where she was born — do not allow for opening birth records.
Sears said she was six years old when she learned she was adopted by her
parents, Jim and B.J. Robinson.
"The way they explained it to me was they couldn't have a child of their own so
they got to pick one. And out of all the kids out there, they picked me."
The Robinsons actually lived in the Goshen area until Melody was three, then
eventually moved to Muskegon for Jim Robinson's job. Melody was an only child,
or so she thought.
B.J. Robinson said that always was a concern for her and that's why she
encouraged her daughter over the years to try to locate her birth mother. "That
way if something happened to us, she would have someone," Robinson said.
Now she said she is as excited as Sears to meet her birth mother.
"On special occasions — like birthdays and graduation — I had to cry for
this lady. I still do," Robinson said in a choked voice. "She gave me a
beautiful gift by giving me Melody."
In return, Sears has discovered she definitely is not an only child.
"The biggest thing to me was finding (my birth parents) had stayed together and
I have a full-blooded sister," she said. She also has four other half-siblings.
Sears was born Sept. 27, 1968, at Elkhart General Hospital. Twenty days later,
via the state Welfare Department, she joined the Robinson family, although her
adoption would not be finalized for two years.
Her mother was just 16 when she was born, and due to family circumstances, a
decision was made to put Melody up for adoption. Her parents eventually got
back together and had another daughter, Lisa, who is 33.
Sears said she has learned that the entire two years before the adoption was
complete, her grandmother often visited the state welfare office to make sure
she was all right. Once the adoption was finalized, she was no longer able to
get any information and the family lost track of her.
During the ensuing 36 years, Shettler said she never stopped thinking about the
child she had to give up.
"I have always loved her," Shettler said.
Sears said it was just on a whim that she made the latest attempt to find her
On April 8, she and co-workers were having a conversation about foods and
nationalities. Since she had no idea of her own cultural background, Sears
said, "What the heck — I'm going to try again."
So she got on her computer and found a Web site she hadn't seen before,
Adoption.com. After registering, she did a search using her birthday, female
And, to her surprise, she came up with a name — Carolyn Shettler — and
information showing the birth of a female weighing around 5 pounds and an
adoption handled by the Indiana Welfare Department.
"I called a friend over to my desk and said, 'Is this what I think it is?'"
She immediately sent an e-mail to the contact information listed, and when she
didn't get a reply after a couple of hours she tried the telephone number. It
"I found out later it was my sister's number and she had moved," Sears said.
Sears checked the telephone book and found a listing for a Carolyn Shettler,
but it turned out to be the wrong person.
She went back to her computer and did a $40 search on the Internet after
finding her birth mother's maiden name, North, and her birth date. The report
came back with an address, but the telephone number was unlisted.
"I wanted to talk to her right now," Sears said. "Fred said 'You're going to
have to do it the old-fashioned way,' with paper and pencil."
Sears immediately went out and bought a card on which she wrote a message
asking the person at the address she found online for help in finding her birth
At about 7 p.m. on April 15, Sears' telephone rang.
Sears said her husband was skeptical about confirming that this really was her
birth mother, but one of the things she used was the knowledge of her mother's
Fred remained skeptical until the families started e-mailing pictures back and
"We look like twins," Sears said of her sister, Lisa. "He didn't doubt
Half an hour after Sears talked to her birth mother, her sister was on the
phone. The families arranged to meet the weekend of April 29, but her sister
Sears said she was waitressing the next night when someone called her to the
"I go walking around the corner and I see roses," Sears said. "I looked at her
face and I started crying."
The dozen roses that Lisa carried were a gift from her birth mother. Sears said
she was drying and pressing them, and planned to use them to decorate a photo
album with all the new family pictures she was getting.
"I went to the doctor recently and was able to add family history," Sears said
Recently, the Sears' packed up for a quick trip to Indiana to meet the family.
Sears said they arranged to meet at a motel where she had only a few minutes
with her birth mother before being summoned to a bigger family gathering. But
before they went, Shettler gave her daughter a mother/daughter necklace which
matched the one her sister, Lisa, has. Sears said she planned to never take it
"We hugged. She was crying and I was getting a little teary-eyed," Sears said.
Even though they had been talking a lot on the phone and through e-mail, "I
finally got to give her a hug."
Although her birth parents now are divorced, Sears' father, Tom Olds, also was
there. Sears said everyone hit it off right away. She helped things along by
showing off a scrapbook she recently put together showing pictures of her from
birth through graduation, and her marriage to Fred.
The next day they had another family gathering at her grandparents' house.
"I have a 98-year-old great grandmother still alive and have a grandmother on
Dad's side too," she said.
Sears said her outlook on life has completely changed. "From now on, for the
rest of my life, I've got two moms."
Sears said there was nothing more special than finding her birth mom just
before Mother's Day. And she tried to make it more special for Shettler by
sending her a surprise bouquet of roses, one for every year of Sears' life.
Shettler received the roses at work and e-mailed this response to her newly
"I love you so much and have for 36 years. Thank you, thank you, thank you for
being you and a very special beautiful daughter."
A good friend will come and bail you out of jail . . . but, a true friend will
be sitting next to you saying, "**** . . . that was fun!"