Wendy Novak was 19 years old when she put her newborn daughter up for adoption with Lutheran Social Services in North Dakota.
It was 1980 and Novak had been the victim of date rape, she said. She was in no shape to be a mother, but abortion was never a consideration for her. “It’s against me,” she told InsideEdition.com. “There’s so many parents out there who can’t have children. I had a wonderful mom and dad. I wanted her to have that,” the 55-year-old woman, now a grandmother, said.
Her daughter did have that. Heather Swenson was raised in Fargo by a loving couple named Stan and Mary Krogh. Heather, who is now 36 and married with a daughter, knew she was adopted. Her parents told her at a very young age.
“It made me feel a little bit special,” she said with a laugh. “They always said, ‘If you want to find your birth mother, we’ll support you.’’’
When she was in her 20s, Swenson requested the paperwork to begin the process of finding her biological mother, but put off filling it out. Not far away, Wendy Novak also got the requisite forms, and they sat on her dresser for weeks.
‘What if she doesn’t want to know me?’ Novak said to herself. ‘What if she doesn’t want to have anything to do with me?’
Heather Swenson, left, and Wendy Novak. (Lutheran Social Services)
Finally, prodded by her sister-in-law who was battling cancer, Novak began the process last year of finding her daughter. Lutheran Social Services approached Swenson.
Several forms, letters, phone calls and emails later, Novak and Swenson arranged to meet at Lutheran Social Services on Jan. 21, Swenson’s birthday.
As they hugged and cried they realized they already knew each other. In 2004, at a department store in Moorhead, Minnesota, Novak worked in the office and Swenson worked in the cosmetics department. They weren’t close and they didn’t have much interaction, but Novak remembers thinking how pretty Swenson was, and how friendly she was to everyone.
The fact that the two women look very much alike never occurred to either of them.
“If you walked around thinking that everyone is your birth mother, you’ll go crazy,” Swenson said.
Both have a hard time describing their feelings when they were reunited.
Novak remembers thinking , “It’s finally happening. I grabbed her and held her tight. No regret. No sadness. I was just over the top.”
Swenson said the experience is still sinking in. Like Novak, she feels nothing negative. “She made a choice to give me a mom and a dad. A lot of people would want to terminate a pregnancy that occurred because of something like that.
“What an amazing woman she is to make a decision like that.”
The two women live about 15 miles apart. They talk online. They celebrated Mother’s Day together.
Novak was married for 18 years and has a grown son and a daughter. She is now divorced.
“She is just so like us,” Novak said. “It’s like we’ve always known each other. She’s just part of us.”