Susann Griffin (left) and her biological mother, Marilyn Berry (right) talk about their meeting for the first time in 44 years. (April 26, 2012/FOX Carolina)
PENDLETON, SC (FOX Carolina) -
Marilyn Berry kept a secret for 44 years - one she has worn on her finger for the last 20.
"This is my only truth in all these years," Berry said as she shows a ring on her finger with four stones in it. "I'll know it's for my four children, but everybody else will think that's the mother and that's the three children."
Berry's secret is that no one knew about her now-46-year-old daughter, but Susann Griffin said she has always known the truth.
"I've always known I was adopted," Griffin said. In fact, Griffin was adopted by Doc Hellams, a doctor in Pendelton. However, Griffin said she always wondered why she was put up for adoption.
Berry said that while she was married to her first husband, she got pregnant by another man, who is Griffin's biological father. At the same time, she was raising two boys. She said that was when she decided to move to the South, from New Hampshire, in an effort to get her life back on track.
After the move, Berry said, she learned her mother was dying of cancer back home, and she had to make a tough decision.
"I said, 'Doctor, I've got to get home to my mother,'" Berry said. "I said, 'This is awful. I have to choose between my mother and my child,' but I said, 'I figure my child would have a better chance without me, right now.'"
As the years passed, Berry searched for Griffin, who is now a wife and mother herself. It was a month before Giffin's 45th birthday that Berry came across an entry on adoption.com, and the name Bonnie Robidas - the name she gave Griffin at birth. Griffin said she had put her name on the site just in case her son, who had a medical condition, ever needed a transplant from a biological relative.
"I clicked on it, and somehow it brought me to another site," Berry said. "Then, it brought me to something else, (and) it was Omnitrace (that led) me to Susann Griffin, age 44, of Pendleton, SC."
Berry said she then turned to Facebook, and found Griffin's profile.
"I go, 'Well, that could be me from here down," Berry said as she covered up the lower portion of her own face. "I was just kind of looking at it. Maybe it's not."
Little did Berry know that she was looking at her daughter for the first time in 44 years. The dilemma was what should she do now. No one even knew she had a daughter - not even her husband of 45 years, Griffin's biological father, whom she married a year after Griffin was born.
Berry said that was when she decided to break her silence. She showed Cider, her husband, a picture of Griffin, telling him that was his daughter.
"I just couldn't believe what she went through all those years," Cider Berry said. "I was happy Susann was there, but I was like, 'I can't imagine, on your birthday, going through all that.'"
Next, Marilyn Berry sent a message to Griffin via Facebook that asked if she was born in Charleston on Jan. 17, 1966.
"As soon as I opened it, I knew," Griffin said.
During the next few weeks, Griffin and her mother talked through email and eventually exchanged numbers.
"I had told her, initially, 'If this will disrupt your family or your life, please don't share this. If it's going to ruin your life over it or any relationships, I'm fine with this,'" Griffin said. "But, she chose to share it."
Griffin, along with her adoptive parents, met the Berrys. She said it's a very good friendship. She said she's never had regrets or hard feelings about her being put up for adoption.
"She did it for me, and I appreciate that, because I had a great life," Griffin said. "I love living in the South. I'm glad I'm a Southerner. I'm supposed to be a Yankee!"
Both Griffin and Marilyn Berry said they wanted to point out that not all reunions go as smoothly as theirs. Their advice is to take thing slow, getting to know one another first, and letting the rest fall in place.
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