It sounds like something straight out of a movie, but an Utah woman who has been actively searching for her birth mother for over a decade finally found and reunited with her. Rachel Ruiz shared the emotional encounter on TikTok, where it has amassed over 4 million views. “I finally reunited with my birth mom after 34 years!” she captioned the video. “My adoption was closed and I’ve been trying to find her for over 10 years with failed attempt after failed attempt.” The obstacles keeping them apart made their serendipitous reunion all the more moving.
In 1988, Angie Howard gave birth to Ruiz when she was only 17 years old and put her up for adoption after two weeks. Given the customs at the end of the 1980s, her adoption was closed, meaning that her adoptive and birth parents maintained their privacy and had no way of learning each other’s identity. The information given to the the adoptive family was very limited. They knew their baby’s birth mother’s height, hair color, religion, education level, and hobbies, but nothing that could help actually identify or locate her.
Ruiz's parents never hid the fact that Rachel was adopted. “My parents were open about telling me from a young age that I was adopted, so it wasn’t a secret and I never felt as though I wasn’t their daughter,” she says. When she turned 18, she even received two symbolic gifts that were handed over during the adoption process: a knit blanket and a letter from her mom, written when she was born. In the letter, Howard wrote that she hoped they'd reunite someday. After reading her birth mother's words, she felt compelled to look for her. “I wanted to show her that this decision was a good one and that I was happy and healthy,” Ruiz told Today. “That’s when my parents and I put in the work to find her.”
Although her biological family name was whited out on the adoption papers, she managed to make out some of the information and learned that her birth last name was Deveraux—a fact that came in handy when she took an DNA test through Ancestry.com in 2014. “I started freaking out because my top two matches on my Ancestry test were Deveraux,” she recalled in a follow-up video. She messaged both individuals, but got no response.
Years later, while going through the documents again, she managed to decipher her grandfather's name—same as one of the DNA matches—and the university he used to teach at. After a Google search, her grandfather's obituary popped up, and with it came the name of his children, including her mom. After looking up the female names on Facebook, she found one with birthday messages pointing out to a certain age. Ruiz did the math, and realized she was the one.
“I sent her a Facebook message that basically said, ‘Hey, I believe we are related after looking at my adoption papers and my DNA test,'” Ruiz said. While it took a while for Howard to see her message (because it wound up in the hidden inbox reserved for people you’re not friends with on Facebook), she responded right after reading it on Christmas Day. “She wrote, ‘I think you are onto something … I've been praying for this day for 34 years and always wished you would show up on my doorstep,'” said Ruiz.
In the end, it was the other way around, with Howard, who now lives in Arizona, showing up on Ruiz's doorstep. “Angie said, ‘I am coming to Utah and would love to meet you,'” Ruiz recounted. “She wanted her family to be complete.” The happy encounter took place in late January, and Ruiz's husband, Felix, documented the excitement on video. “I was pacing the floor and my heart was beating a million times a minute,” Ruiz remembers. “I saw Angie pull up through the doorbell camera and remove her coat and set her purse down so she could hug me.”
The video shows them hugging tightly before Howard takes a step back to look at her biological daughter's face and kiss her forehead before going into a hug again. “It was like looking into a mirror. We have the same facial features and a low voice,” she said about her first impression. “We’re both artistic and free-spirited.”
Howard was then introduced to Ruiz's parents, sharing an equally tearful moment. “My mom thanked Angie, as my parents couldn't have biological children,” said Ruiz. “Angie said how grateful she was that I was raised by such loving parents. She always prayed for that.”
A woman from Utah named Rachel Ruiz was finally reunited with her birth mother, 34 years after being given up for adoption, and after a decade-long search.
@rachelhruiz I finally reunited with my birth mom after 34 years! My adoption was closed and I’ve been trying to find her for over 10 years with failed attempt after failed attempt. Thank you @ancestry for being a huge reason why this was able to happen. #adoption #birthmomreunion #adoptionreunion #birthmom #adoptionsucess #closedadoption #ancestrydna #love ♬ Unstoppable (I put my armor on, show you how strong I am) – Sia
The woman shared the emotional encounter on TikTok, where it has amassed over 4 million views. She then posted a follow-up video recounting how she found her birth mother.
@rachelhruiz Replying to @lillylovingangtsta Story time! #adoption #adoptionreunion #birthmom #closedadoption #adoptionsuccessstory #love #ancestrydna ♬ Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God) [2018 Remaster] – Kate Bush