A son was separated from his mother after birth. Fourty-two years later, he finally returns to his mother’s arms, sharing a long-overdue embrace.
“It knocked the wind out of me. ... I was suffocated by the gravity of this moment,” Jimmy Lipper Thyden told the Associated Press (AP) in a video call. “How do you hug someone in a way that makes up for 42 years of hugs?”
Thyden was separated from his Chilean mother, María Angélica González, after hospital workers informed her of his supposed death after a premature birth. His body was said to have already been disposed of.
It was not until Thyden read news stories about Chilean-bord adoptees who have reunited with their birth families that he began the search for his own.
He enlisted the help of Chilean nonprofit family service Nos Buscamos in April, where they discovered the history behind his separation from his mother.
“The paperwork I have for my adoption tells me I have no living relatives. And I learned in the last few months that I have a mama and I have four brothers and a sister,” he told AP.
A DNA test provided by Nos Buscamos verified that he was 100% Chilean, and matched to a first cousin who helped him with his search.
“I was trying to bookend 42 years of a life taken from her. Taken from us both,” he said.
Thyden reunited with González at her home in Valdivia, Chile. He was greeted with the sight of 42 balloons, each signifying a year separated from his Chilean family.
He told AP of his mother’s response after hearing from him.
“Mijo, you have no idea the oceans I’ve cried for you. How many nights I’ve laid awake praying that God let me live long enough to learn what happened to you,” she said.
Taken at birth
Thyden, currently a criminal defense attorney, said that his story was a case of “counterfeit adoption.”
According to a report from the Investigations Police of Chile, thousands of babies were separated from their Chilean birth families during the 1970s and 1980s– coinciding with the human rights violations that took place under the reign of Gen. Agusto Pinochet.
“The real story was these kids were stolen from poor families, poor women that didn’t know. They didn’t know how to defend themselves,” said Constanza del Río, the founder and director of Nos Buscamos.
Nos Buscamos, alongside other nonprofit family service organizations, have been providing their services to reconnect Chilean adoptees and suspected victims of child trafficking with their birth families.
During their time in Chile, Thyden and del Río worked with an investigator in an effort to address and help those who have also fallen victim to counterfeit adoption cases.
“It could have been a much worse story,” Thyden told AP, adding that there are people who find out “really unfortunate details about their origin.”
He added that there is no means–mechanism, financial, or the like–to assist Chilean adoptees in their journey to reunite with their birth family, saying that he had to sell a truck to pay for plane tickets and other expenses.
Del Río noted that their work is not for the money, but rather for recognition of the issue as well as the promise that things will change for the better.
“We are trying to make a difference. Not only with Jimmy and his family but we want to do it, the change, in the country,” she said.