Mom Meets the Daughter She Gave Up 34 Years Ago for First Time: 'I Was Afraid She Would Hate Me'
It was a tearful reunion between a mother and her daughter, given up at birth 34 years ago.
The words, "Hi mom," were all it took for 50-year-old Jennie Sandoval Sanders to burst into tears when she finally met the daughter she gave up for adoption when she was only 17 years old.
"I was afraid she would hate me and be angry at me," Sandoval Sanders wrote on Facebook.
But the surprise meeting in the the video by Love What Matters, organized by long-lost daughter Dina Hardaway, 34, and Sandoval Sanders' 25-year-old daughter, proves otherwise.
Hardaway told InsideEdition.com that she grew up knowing she was adopted. What's more is that she was proud of it.
"There was never one ounce of negative feeling about [being adopted]," Hardaway explained. "I've always thought it was the most selfless thing [she] could do. It's hope. She took a gamble."
Yet, she explained she had different phases in wanting to meet her biological mother. When she was a teenager, she was curious to know who gave birth to her. Once she became a mom, she said she wanted her five children to know they had family out there.
Hardaway decided to begin the search for her long lost mother online by posting to an online forum for the Chaparral Adoption Agency, which organized her adoption.
Two years later, Sandoval Sanders reached out to her.
The pair messaged each other back and forth, speaking hesitantly, until Sandoval Sanders brought up a stuffed turtle she gifted her newborn before she gave her up.
"When I was a teenager, my mother that raised me had given me a gift. It was a green stuffed animal turtle," she explained. Her mother then told her that it had come from her birth mother, the only hint to solving her closed-adoption mystery.
"As soon as she sent me that message," Hardaway said, "I said, 'The turtle gives it away. Please call me when you're ready to talk."
They first began chatting early November of 2011. By Thanksgiving, they were running into each other's arms.
"My biggest things that I wanted to get across to her was that I was so blessed to be raised by amazing people," she told InsideEdition.com. "If she had any regrets, I didn't want her to live with them. I loved her for the choices that she made to hope that I would be placed in a better situation than she could have given me at the time."
In an emotional Facebook post, Sandoval Sanders explained that she was 16 when she became pregnant with Hardaway, and her parents gave her an ultimatum: Give up the baby for adoption, or never come back home.
She chose the former, and was then moved to an unwed mothers home for nearly three months.
After she gave birth, she wrote: "I sobbingly and tearfully signed the papers that would take my baby away from me. I missed her. I cried many tears."
But, their meeting gave Sandoval Sanders — who went on to give birth two more children later in life — the reassurance she needed, writing, "She had a wonderful life and parents who loved and could take care of her and a big brother... all the things I wished for her, she was given."
Although Sandoval Sanders continues to live in New Mexico while Hardaway, now 38, lives in Boise, Idaho, they continue to keep in touch.
Hardaway has since introduced her children to their extended family, and tries to attend the annual Sandoval family reunion when she can.
She even flew down to New Mexico when she turned 35, to spend her first birthday with her new found mom.
"She bought me 35 years worth of gifts," Hardaway explained. Laid out on the floor was each gift Sandoval Sanders had intended to give her in the 35 years they were apart.