Matt Fyda never knew his birth mother.
The 31-year-old Oswego man was given up for adoption shortly after he was born in 1980 at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge. Up until November of last year, Fyda's chances were slim that he would ever find the woman who gave him life.
That's when the Illinois Adoption Act was amended to allow adopted people, age 21 or older, born after Jan. 1, 1946, to file a request for a noncertified copy of the birth certificate, which usually includes the names of the birth parents, their ages and places of birth.
Ever since the amendment's passage, Fyda has been searching intently for his mom, and on March 30, he finally came face to face with the woman he never thought he would meet.
Like many children adopted as an infant, Fyda didn't find out until he was old enough to understand that he had been given up for adoption.
“I didn’t really ask any questions until I was older,” he said. “I didn’t really want to know, and I didn’t want to make things weird with my family.”
Later in life, Fyda discovered that his mom had been 15 when she had him, and his father was also a teenager. Fyda said he never had any urge to look for his birth parents.
“Especially if I didn’t know if they wanted to be found or not,” he said.
Fyda's feelings started to change when he and his wife, Kate, had their first son, Blake, in 2008 and then another son, Nolan, a few years later.
“Once the boys were born, it was weird because they were the only two people I knew I was related to by blood,” he said. “I wanted to know my medical history too out of concerns for them.”
Recent figures show about 5,400 adopted children have applied for their noncertified birth certificate since the Illinois Adoption Act was amended in November. Kate Fyda said it's her hope that more people searching for their adopted parents will be able to find them.
“I am hoping by spreading the word through as many people as we can, that more people will be able to find that missing family member,” said Kate.
The search continues
Fyda took his search online last fall to see what he might find. Bits and pieces of information began to trickle out. On an adoption website, he found a post by a user made on July 21, 2008 with the description of: “Searching for baby boy born 12/26/1980 at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, Illinois.”
The poster’s last name was Ralls.
“It took away some of my fear,” he said. “I knew someone was looking for me.”
After more online investigation, Fyda applied for his birth certificate and it arrived at his Oswego home March 10.
“We’d just dropped the boys off at her parents and Kate gets the mail, and I somehow just knew it was in there,” Fyda said. “Then Kate's there holding the envelope in my face. I took it and just stared at it for a minute.”
His father’s name was not listed, but his mother’s was: Kim Ralls, the same surname as the online poster.
He and Kate immediately tried searching the web for her. The first thing that popped up was her name on a 1983 class reunion board for Palatine High School, along with the new name of “Nathanson” attached and an email address.
“The email was hard to write, I had a hard time starting,” Fyda said.
Sadly, the email bounced back. Fyda renewed the search and found a picture of Kim Ralls at a Cubs game from a Western Illinois University Alumni Association website. Fyda and his wife were both happy to learn Kim went to college and made the best of her life.
“It was nice to see, after she had a kid, she still went on to school,” Kate said.
As the search continued discrepancies regarding the woman's last name kept popping up, and the Fydas deduced that Kim had been married, gotten divorced, and was now remarried. She also now had two sons.
They found two addresses that belonged to her at one point, but Fyda didn’t want to send the letter to the wrong person.
“I was getting frustrated,” he said.
He’d found posts by her on Facebook, but had never been able to click on her profile. Then one day he found her older son, Matt's, Facebook page.
“It was crazy that she’d named him ‘Matt,’” said Kate. “Obviously she had no idea, since she didn’t name my Matt, but it was a crazy coincidence."
Fyda sent his half-brother a message, but later learned he never received it. Not ready to give up, Fyda tried once more to find his mother, but this time at a computer at work.
“And I still don’t know if she lowered her privacy settings or what, but she was the first result that popped up when I searched,” Fyda said.
He sent her a quick, generic message and waited for the response. It came back with a simple, but loving message:
“Wow Matt, I always hoped this day would come," she wrote.
The happy reunion
And so began a lively correspondence, first through Facebook, then to the phone and then video chat. Fyda said he hasn’t been close to his adoptive family for some time, so having this connection was very special.
“If I was still close with my adoptive family it wouldn’t be as exciting," he said. "I’ve heard how proud she is of me more in these last two weeks than in the last 10 years from my adoptive family.”
Fyda has two half-brothers now, as well: Matt, 19, and Aaron, 16. And his mother now has grandchildren.
“She says she can’t wait to spoil the boys,” Kate said.
Kim Nathanson boarded a flight March 30 to Chicago from Scottsdale, AZ, where she now lives, and greeted her son for the first time in 31 years at the airport. She stayed with the Fyda's in Oswego that weekend.
“We had a wonderful weekend with her,” Kate said. “Everyone was sad when she left and we’re already planning our next get-together!”