Despite a closed adoption, she was determined to find her biological mother and succeeded in contacting her after discovering a family match through a DNA test.
Adoption provides a loving and stable home for children who may not have had that opportunity otherwise. It can be a rewarding experience for both the adoptive parents and the child as they form a bond and become a family. However, some always have the urge to find out about their biological parents if they have not known them in their lifetime. Rachel Ruiz also wanted to find out about her birth mother after a close adoption. The freelance photographer, who lives in Lehi, Utah, told TODAY that she was adopted when she was 2 weeks as her mother was only 17 years old.
Ruiz reunited with her birth mother after 34 years and their reaction was caught in a heartwarming TikTok video. Ruiz captioned the photo, "I finally reunited with my birth mom after 34 years! My adoption was closed and I’ve been trying to find her for over 10 years with failed attempt after failed attempt." In the video, she goes and opens her door to see her biological mother, Angie Howard, for the first time and they both share a warm hug. Ruiz further reveals in the video that her birth mother also met her adoptive parents. Brent and Marianne Haslam, Ruiz's parents, along with her husband Felix and their 2-year-old son Enzo, also welcomed Howard and her husband, Teddy. The video has gathered almost 4 million views and Ruiz's story is moving everyone to tears.
The 34-year-old told the outlet that she had a constant desire to discover her biological parents. However, due to the conditions of a closed adoption where both sets of parents keep their personal information private, she assumed it was not feasible. Additionally, her adoption papers did not mention the identity of her biological father. As for her mother, Ruiz only had access to a limited physical description, level of education, and a list of interests. Upon turning 18, her parents gifted her with a knitted blanket and a letter written by Howard on the day of her birth, conveying the desire to reunite with her in the future.
Ruiz said, "I wanted to show her that this decision was a good one and that I was happy and healthy. That’s when my parents and I put in the work to find her." Despite contacting the adoption agency, Ruiz was unable to obtain any new information about her biological parents, except for her birth mother's maiden name, which she discovered by scrutinizing agency paperwork that had been edited with white correction fluid. Her attempts to search for her mother's name online were unsuccessful. In 2014, Ruiz opted to take a home DNA test through Ancestry.com, which not only uncovered her English and Welsh heritage but also suggested possible family matches with the surname Deveraux. One such match was her maternal grandfather Richard, whom Ruiz contacted but never received a response from.
A search on the internet yielded an obituary for Ruiz's grandfather Richard Deveraux, which mentioned Howard as a surviving family member. Ruiz said, "From there, I found Angie's Facebook profile. I sent her a Facebook message that basically said, 'Hey, I believe we are related after looking at my adoption papers and my DNA test.'" According to Ruiz, Howard replied to her message immediately on Christmas Day. Ruiz said, "She wrote, 'I think you are onto something ... I've been praying for this day for 34 years and always wished you would show up on my doorstep."
As a Christmas gift, Ruiz printed out the Facebook conversation with Howard and gave it to Brent and Marianne, and they were thrilled with joy, according to her. She found out that although her birth mother currently resides in Arizona, she was raised in Pleasant Grove, Utah, which is approximately 30 minutes from her hometown of Draper. Ruiz recalls that her birth mother, Angie, expressed her desire to meet her in person, saying, "I am coming to Utah and would love to meet you." Angie wanted to complete her family. On January 26, 2023, Howard and Ruiz met for the first time, and Ruiz's husband recorded the nervous moments leading up to the meeting.
As Ruiz anxiously paced the floor, she saw Angie arrive and remove her coat and purse before coming in to hug her. Ruiz said, "My heart was beating a million times a minute." She also shared that when she faced her birth mom, "It was like looking into a mirror." Ruiz and Angie share similar facial features, a low voice, and artistic and free-spirited personalities. Ruiz even gifted Angie a painting of a woman with a butterfly on her face, which Angie had painted years before.
According to Ruiz, her mother thanked Howard because they were unable to have biological children. Howard expressed her gratitude, saying she had always prayed for Ruiz to be raised by such loving parents. In June, Ruiz and her husband are expecting a baby girl through surrogacy. Completing her family, says Ruiz, "is a dream come true."