MONTREAL – Julie Levanhagen was adopted when she was just 9 days old.
Her parents collected her from the Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital maternity wing and they started a new life.
She spent the first seven years of her life growing up in Fabreville, before moving to Wisconsin and then settling in Arizona.
She’s cherished the 34 years she’s had with her parents and loves them dearly, but each year when her birthday comes around in July, she can’t help but get wistful about where she truly came from.
“It was always in the back of my mind I would do it one day,” she said about trying to track down her birth parents.
“I thought I was well adjusted, but I realized I could not watch anything about adoption without crying, so I thought maybe I wasn’t as well adjusted as I thought.”
Levanhagen said her parents always told her when she turned 18, they would help her find her birth parents if she wanted to.
When she got pregnant with her first child at 23, she suffered from a potentially dangerous form of preeclampsia.
It scared her, and she realized that if she had known more about her medical history, it may have helped.
“Even if I had known my medical history or my birth mother’s medical history, I may not have avoided it, but I could have gone into the situation better prepared,” Levanhagen told Global News.
One year ago, she decided to contact Montreal’s Centre Jeunesse and try and open her adoption records.
She knows very little about her parents; her mother was 22 and a nurse with six siblings, her father was 32 and an electrician.
Levanhagen was named Agathe at birth.
That’s the extent of her knowledge.
“I could have siblings,” she said.
Adoption records in Quebec are closed, which means the biological parents need to agree to be contacted.
If they don’t or if they are dead, those records can never be opened.
Adoption experts explained that can be tough on the child.
“It’s like another rejection,” said Caroline Fortin, of the Mouvements Retrouvailles, a non-profit agency that helps children find their birth families.
After a year of waiting with no information, Levanhagen took to social media.
She created a Facebook page in August, entitled Searching for my Birth Family, appealing to people with any information about her birth.
So far, 100,000 people have viewed the page.
“The majority of the people reached have been in Canada and that’s great,” said Levanhagen.
Levanhagen knows there is a chance her request will be denied, and she’s prepared for that, but she said she always knew what she would say to her parents if she met them for the first time.
“The first thing I would say is ‘thank you,’ because it’s a huge sacrifice to do what they did and it means a lot to me,” she said.
“I don’t come at this from a place of anger or sadness. I am just grateful for having been given the opportunity to have an amazing life with two loving parents.”
“I have been given a lot of opportunity and I am grateful that a 22-year-old had the foresight to know that’s what her child needed, that is pretty amazing.”