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Decades, Distance, and DNA: Reunited after Adoption

Kate Payne
Maggie Payne-Blizzard and Liz Van Deusen meet for the first time

47 years ago, Iowa State Representative Marti Anderson gave birth to a baby girl. She gave her up for adoption and wondered about her ever since. Thanks to a home DNA test, she has now been reunited with her daughter.

On this Talk of Iowa, we share three stories of adopted children reconnecting with their biological families. Along with Anderson, Charity Nebbe talks with Iowa Citian Liz Van Deusen, who reconnected with her mother, Maggie Payne-Blizzard, after a DNA test connected the two. We also hear the story of Curtis Burlbaw and his biological mother, Jane Metcalf of Ames, played a game of email tag until they finally decided to pick up the phone.

For Anderson, her daughter was always in the back of her mind.

"I often thought when I was doing things, that I wanted to make her proud of me if we ever met," Anderson says. "So in addition to wanting to make my parents proud, I wanted to make my daughter proud of me in the event that we were reunited."

When her daughter found her through DNA results, it was a moment of catharsis for Anderson.

"'I have been waiting for this call for 47 years,'" Anderson recalls saying. 

For Van Deusen, meeting her mother was also cathartic.

“All the fear and the anxiety I had just vanished," Van Deusen says. "It was like sitting down for a coffee with an old friend.”

For these families, one of the joys of reuniting is finding similarities among estranged family members. For Burlbaw and Metcalf, creativity is the attribute that has stood the test of time and distance.

"It’s a family gene, I believe – it’s an insatiable appetite for music," Burlbaw says.

And though it is not easy to find one's role in an estranged family member's life, Van Deusen is glad for the opportunity.

"We’ll figure it out, " Van Deusen says. "We’ve got hopefully all the time in the world to work on that."

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer