I think I made up for lost time. I was huge by six months. My mom, Annette, says I was chubby...and cute. It's the stuff that moms have to say.
I always knew I was adopted. We celebrated all your basic stuff, holidays, first snows, birthdays, but we also celebrated adoption days I asked my mom how she came up with the idea.
She said, "It was special. The birthday was fine but I wasn't there for your birthday. We thought we would celebrate the day you came into our lives."
It worked for me. Adoption days were like second birthdays, complete with presents, cake and signs. And my Dad always brought me flowers. I will never forget that. I was happy and never felt like life was missing something.
But in the back of my mind, I did always wonder is there someone out there who looks like me? I had the chance to find out when the law changed in Illinois last November.
I sent in my application and got my original birth certificate in April. I saw my birth mother's name for the first time and immediately started Googling. So did all the reporters at work. It's in our blood.
I went back to work after dinner that night and one of the reporters handed me a piece of paper. On it was a name.
"Maybe it's a brother," she said.
I called and chatted for a minute, asking if he knew a Leslie Parro.
"That's my sister," he said. "Let me get you her number."
It was that easy. People search for years and spend thousands of dollars to get to this point. Thank goodness for the internet and my nosy friends. I sat there wondering what to do. Just two hours ago, I was reading her name for the first time. Now I had a phone number? This was unreal.
Dave Benton asked me what I wanted to do.
"I can't call," I said.
"What does your gut tell you to do?" he asked.
"Then do that."
So I marched into the conference room and shut the door. I looked at the clock. It was 9:10 p.m. I was on the air in forty minutes. I picked up the phone and started to dial. I had no idea what I was going to say.
It rang. A woman answered.
"Is this Leslie Parro?" I asked.
"Yes," she responded.
"My name is Jennifer and I think we might be related."
Her voice was calm.
I got right to it. "Did you have a baby on April 3, 1971?"
"Yes." Her voice was a little shaky now.
I paused. "I'm pretty sure you're my mom."
There was silence. I thought she was either going to hang up the phone or she had a heart attack. After what seemed like an eternity, she finally said something.
"I knew you would call me one day."
We both started sobbing, unable to process what was happening. I had pictured this moment for years and here it was. All in the WCIA conference room.
We finally managed to start talking and the conversation was surreal. I thanked her for making the decision she did. She said it was the hardest thing she's ever had to do.
We discovered she lives just ten miles from my mom's house and was the principal at a school in the suburb I grew up in. Even better, I found out I had a sister and brother who knew all about the baby their mom gave up 41 years ago.
I looked at the clock and realized it was 9:30. I told her I had to go do the news. She asked how I would be able to do it after all this.
"You don't know me yet, but you gave birth to a pretty Type-A girl. It's what I do."
We hung up and I walked out into the newsroom. Everyone was staring.
"I just talked to my mom," I cried.
People started hugging me. Derick tried not crying himself. Aaron found her picture on Facebook. We all surrounded the computer and there it was. The picture I had wanted to see for as long as I could remember. And yes, there is someone out there who looks like me.