SOUTHERN OHIO: Facebook helps Episcopal teen reunite with birth parents

March 6, 2011

Facebook keeps Lindy Gamble connected to the world. With more than 1,000 friends, the Cincinnati teen posts three to four times a day, with updates about her life and current events and comments about the latest drivel or triumph on TV.

This social networking tool also connected Lindy to the two people she felt were missing from her life: her biological mother and father.

Lindy's adoptive mother, the Rev. Deb Gamble, brought her home nine days after her birth. The adoption was finalized about a year later.

"I can remember holding Lindy in my arms, thinking this is the most beautiful baby who has ever been born, and she's mine," said Gamble, who retired in December after more than 15 years as a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio. "But I also looked into her eyes and said, 'There is something I want you to know: You are adopted. Two people have given life to you, and I've been given the privilege of raising you. But you are never to forget the two people who have given you life.'"

Gamble had encouraged Lindy to wait until she was 18 years old to seek out her parents. But Facebook offered an opportunity, and Lindy felt like she was ready.

About 18 months ago, at age 16, she started sending out personal messages to people on Facebook who had the same last names as her birth parents. Eventually, she found Pattie Lally.

In 1990, Lally and her mother suffered a serious car accident. It crushed both legs of her mother, and Pattie found herself as caregiver to her mother in addition to her job as a nurse. Their financial situation was precarious.

When Lally went into labor on Mother's Day of 1993, her own mother was in the same hospital, having her second leg amputated after complications from the accident. Lally and the biological father, Matthew Mincey, already had decided to place the baby for adoption.

"I didn't think it would be fair to bring Lindy into the kind of life I had," said Lally. "I would have loved to be a single mother, but it wouldn't have been fair. The things you need and want your child to have, I couldn't have given her. But in my heart, I've always sent her my love."

Gamble was serving as a Christian education director at St. Andrew's, Fort Thomas, Kentucky, when a parishioner called, insisting to see her that day.

"She walked in, sat down, and said, 'Do you want a baby?'"

Gamble had married 18 months earlier. She and her then-husband were having trouble conceiving. At age 38, Gamble figured her window of opportunity to become a mother had closed.

"When this woman walked into my office, I thought, 'If this isn't God at work, I don't know what is.'"

Five weeks after that chance encounter, Gamble brought Lindy home from the hospital.

Sixteen years later, Lindy didn't tell her mom at first that she had found Lally. The birth mother and daughter communicated by Facebook and then started texting. Meanwhile, Lindy continued to search for her birth father.

Lindy soon learned that her father had his own claim to fame: He is one of a very rare set of identical quadruplets conceived without fertility drugs. The genetic predisposition for multiples is in Lindy's blood.

She started texting her biological father too. They met for the first time at a local coffee shop.

Today, it's "like having a whole bunch of parents," said Lindy, who has long been involved in youth ministry in the Diocese of Southern Ohio. This is her last year at home -- she graduates from high school in May and plans to attend Notre Dame College of Ohio in Cleveland next fall.

"I would be lying if I said this hadn't brought up a lot of emotions within me," said Gamble. "I wasn't ready -- but Lindy was. The first time we went to a [biological] family gathering, I walked in and looked around and everybody looked like Lindy: same height, same build ... For the vast majority of our lives, we have been a single mom and a single child, and within two weeks, she went from that to an enormous family."

The reunions haven't been without some awkward moments. When she was searching for her father, she received back a Facebook message from a woman: "Are you sure you have the right person? My husband's name is Matthew, but we've been married for 21 years."
It turns out that Lindy had reached the right Matthew – her conception was the result of an extramarital affair.

Nevertheless, her biological father's wife "has been very accepting," said Lindy. "She talked to my dad, and she has accepted me as a family member and as a daughter."

For Lally, reconnecting with her birth daughter has been one of life's great joys.

"When I got the Facebook message, I was thrilled," said Lally. She hadn't sought out Lindy – she wanted the decision of whether to reconnect to be Lindy's. But when Lindy reached out, "it was as if the empty spot in my life was filled."

"I've always wished I could have made the other choice, but I know in my heart the adoption was the right choice," said Lally. "It was meant to be the way it was. And God brought her back to me, so I could see this amazing young woman and to show me that it really was the right choice.

"I'm very blessed and very lucky. I don't think I could have asked for anything better."

Over the past few months, Lally has helped the family while Gamble was nearly immobilized by back injuries and then surgery. Lally drives Lindy to and from school, giving the birth mother and daughter a chance to connect.

"Even when Lindy was 2 or 3, she was the type of child that I knew would find her birth parents," said Gamble. "She's always been very organized, focused, driven. But I could never have imagined that she would reconnect through Facebook or the Internet. It never crossed my mind. But that's her world."

Finding her birth parents has been an amazing gift, said Lindy.

"I was a little afraid, but I prayed about it. I asked God if I was doing the right thing," said Lindy. "I think the answer was yes. I had a right to know my birth parents. I think the reunion was part of God's plan."