DNA test helps reunite mother, daughter after 30 years

A Dayton woman has been reunited with her eldest daughter more than 30 years after giving her up for adoption.

Unbeknownst to them, Sue Bailey, 56, of Dayton, and Jenna Behrmann, 31, of Loveland, had been living a 45-minute car drive apart.

“I feel I’ve come full circle,” Behrmann said on Saturday before their second reunion at Bailey’s home in Dayton. “I feel complete.”

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Mother and daughter first met in July after Behrmann used a DNA test and Facebook to trace back to Bailey, her biological mother.

While keeping it from her siblings, Bailey said she had prepared her other three children for the day they were reunited with a half-sister.

“To be honest with you, I was not surprised,” Bailey said.

“I made my choice on April 7, 1987,” Behrmann’s birthday, Bailey said. “It was her quest, if she wanted to come find me.”

Bailey gave up Behrmann to the Cincinnati Children's Home at birth.

She said she only realized she was pregnant at 7 ½ months while living in Hamilton.

“I was not equipped to deal with a baby,” Bailey said. “It’s not that I didn’t love her.”

In 1990, Bailey married and moved to Dayton, where she and her husband Bobby raised their family.

Behrmann said she always wondered about her biological mother, despite a happy childhood with loving adoptive parents, Melvin and Shirley.

“They always told me I was adopted,” she said. “I still had questions. I had to have answers.”

After Shirley died in 2005, Behrmann said she renewed her search.

She started with the name Sue Ellis (Bailey’s maiden name), which could be read through Wite-Out when held up to a light. She gleaned a few other pieces of basic information on adoption records.

The name was too common in the phone book. Other public records searches came up empty.

“I could never find anything,” she said.

Then Behrmann responded to an offer for a free DNA test from the MyHeritage family tree service.

The results led her to Bailey’s great aunt in Massachusetts, who directed her to an uncle in Columbus.

“If it wasn’t for the test, I would probably still be looking for her,” Behrmann said.

Anxious for the uncle to put her in touch with Bailey, Behrmann turned to Facebook and messaged half-sister Rachel.

“Within an hour, I was talking to Jenna on the phone,” Bailey said. “That was an awkward conversation.”

Bailey was especially thrilled to learn she had an 11th grandchild, Behrmann’s daughter, Bonnie, 5.

“I expect a lot more visits,” she said.

Bailey said she had decided, and stuck to her decision, not to go looking for Behrmann out of respect for the adoptive parents and their family life.

“She was their daughter,” Bailey said.

On Saturday, Behrmann, who grew up in the Eastgate area of Cincinnati, expected to meet half-brother Aaron, 23, for the first time.

“I always knew she existed,” he said, as TV cameramen jockeyed for position in the Baileys’ front room. “I just didn’t think it was going to happen. I’m ecstatic.”

Behrmann said she was nervous to call Bailey for the first time.

“When you’re adopted, you have no idea of the background that led up to your adoption. I didn’t know if she would be accepting,” Behrmann said. “She was and everyone in her family was completely accepting.”

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