At age 19, Barbara Berry placed her 3-day-old son for adoption. Forty four years later, the two found each other, reuniting in Burlington, Vt., on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.
RYAN MERCER/FREE PRESS
BURLINGTON, Vt. — When her son was born, and for the next 44 years, Barbara Berry called him Jeremy.
She would think of him every year on his birthday, would remember the three days she held him at the Elizabeth Lund Home in South Burlington, before she placed him for adoption.
They finally met again Friday in a downtown Burlington hotel. His name, after all these years, is Jason Sargent.
“There’s something inside of you that just, it’s not settled. It’s just not,” Berry said in an interview, her eyes welling with tears, just minutes before she would meet her son. “A part of me is somewhere, and I just wanted to know where it was.”
Sargent grew up in Underhill, attended Mount Mansfield Union High School and graduated from Saint Michael’s College.
Jason Sargent and his birth mother Barbara Berry met in a private reunion at the Courtyard Marriott in Burlington on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017. Forty four years ago, Barbara Berry — 19 years old at the time — placed Jason for adoption. (Photo: RYAN MERCER/FREE PRESS)
He always knew he was adopted but had not begun to search for his birth mother until his niece died last year. He wanted to tell his birth mother that he was OK, and that she made the right decision.
The state of Vermont shares information about birth parents with their children if both generations want a connection. Sargent, who now lives in New Hampshire, began the process in March but delayed mailing the paperwork.
In August, Berry was on the phone with her mother, reviewing the results of her DNA test through the company 23andMe.
“I hit the button, and it said ‘Jason Sargent. Jason Sargent shares 50% of your DNA,'” Berry recalled. “And then it said, ‘Jason Sargent is your son.'”
Berry had always been convinced, and told her husband and three children, that one day she would see the son she placed for adoption when she was 19 years old. Still, the news was hard to digest.
“I walked around in the kitchen, and I thought OK, ‘You’ve got to calm down,’” said Berry, who grew up in Vermont and now lives in California. “This is crazy.”
Sargent’s phone lit up with an email. Sargent had received dozens of similar messages from distant relatives, but this one was unmistakably different.
“It was a little unnerving to find out that way at first,” Sargent said. “I was really skeptical about it until I got the paperwork back from the state confirming it.”
When the confirmation came, Berry and Sargent exchanged more messages and photos and set up phone and video calls.
“Every year on my birthday she takes a minute and thinks about me,” Sargent said. “To me, that was really when the gravity of how much this has affected her kind of hit me.”
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They arranged to bring family members along to meet Friday in Burlington, a city interwoven with both of their lives. He is already planning a trip to California next summer.
After their initial meeting Friday, which was also Berry’s birthday, it was obvious that Berry and Sargent had similar smiles.
“If I could have made a decision to have a happy ever ending story, this is it,” Berry said. “Seriously. And I knew. I’ve just always known, I don’t know why. But I’ve always known that this day was going to happen.”
They sat side-by-side for a final interview together.
“I was a little nervous before, just because of the unexpected,” Sargent said. “As soon as we met, it was just gone.”
“I told you,” Berry said, gently.
“She did. She absolutely did,” he said.
Follow April McCullum on Twitter: @April_McCullum
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