By Josh Saunders
A mum has shared her million to one encounter after finding the daughter she placed for adoption 17 years ago standing right behind her – and has now met her biological family.
Gina Crotts, 38, from Saratoga Springs, Utah, couldn’t believe her eyes upon turning around to see Kalyn mere feet away staring at her through a dance studio window.
She made the brave decision at the age of 19 to place her baby for adoption knowing she was single, living away from home and unable to raise a child.
Every year Kalyn’s adopted family would send Gina pictures and an update on how her life was going, which ‘settled her heart’ but she never stopped thinking about her daughter.
Gina would go onto have three other children with husband Brandon, 46, telling them all about their other sister, even celebrating her birthdays with cake, candles and singing.
She never knew if her Kalyn, now 18, would want to connect with her, fate brought them together while the mum was watching daughter Evie, 13, at a dance rehearsal.
Evie pointed out a teenager in the crowd outside, who she believed to be her sister, in disbelief the mum locked eyes with the young woman she last saw 17 years ago.
Since the freak encounter in October 2017 the pair have been texting, with Kalyn visiting Gina three months ago to meet her biological mum’s family.
Gina, who is writing a memoir about her experiences, said: “I was sitting with my back to the window, I turned back and that single wall and six feet, was all that was between us.
“I was shocked at first, then a second later full of sheer excitement, then hesitation in case she didn’t want to see me.
“I stopped at the door, I didn’t want to walk out and see her walking away because she wasn’t ready.
“Her adoptive dad gave her a choice, I didn’t want to confuse her and needed to be sure it was what she wanted.
“I could have run out there in a heartbeat, but I was cautious for her feelings.
“When I opened the door, she was standing in front of me.
“The first thing I asked her was, ‘Are you happy?’ she said ‘Yes’ and we were hugging, I had to pull away because I wanted to look at her.
“We couldn’t help but stare at each other, as we talked for longer, we would just look at each other and laugh.
“It really is wild to think about the odds and was such a great moment for me, I feel very fortunate.”
“My daughter always kept a picture of her sister in her room, so if anyone was to pick her out it would be Evie.”
After realising she was pregnant, Gina knew early-on that she couldn’t have an abortion and decided to go down the adoption route.
Sifting through files about different couples looking for a child, she selected a family who were due to give birth to a baby boy six weeks after her, believing the pair could be raised as twins.
Gina said: “It was really hard the whole pregnancy leading up to that one moment of delivery that’s supposed to be joyous, bringing life into the world.
“It was a mix of grief and happiness but knowing what was coming after, a lot of heartache.
“She spent a night with me and my family in my parents’ home before placing her the next day, having time with her outside of the hospital helped a lot.”
Gina quickly penned a poem for her daughter, ‘My little butterfly’ a symbol she would associate with her daughter and think of her whenever she saw one freely flying in the wind.
Kalyn’s adopted family kept in touch and sent updates several times a year until the age of five, then downsizing to once a year on her birthday.
Gina said: “I would receive a letter and a few pictures every year, I was given quite a bit of detail on how she was doing, how her life was going and more.
“I got to know a little of how happy she was, her hobbies and seeing the pictures helped to settle my heart.”
While her daughter was not physically present in Gina’s life, she would tell her other children about their sister and showed them pictures of her.
Each year on her birthday, the family would gather around with a cake, candles and sing to keep her a living part of their lives.
Gina said: “It was our decision not to surprise our children with their big secret sister and for them to know everything about her.
“Kalyn was a part of our lives before meeting again, she wasn’t there but it always felt like she was with us.”
After their unusual encounter in October 2017 Kalyn and her birth mum exchanged phone numbers.
Since then, they have bonded over text leading up to her visiting three months ago, just before Thanksgiving.
Gina said: “We are very fortunate it played out in this way, I’m very aware most birth moms don’t get this experience and I’m very fortunate for how my story ended up.
“Placing her for adoption didn’t mean I forgot about her but pushed me to be a better person, I wanted to be someone she would be proud to meet some day.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed but just excited to see where the relationship goes from here.”
For Kalyn meting her biological family has been a positive experience so far and she is looking forward to building stronger relationships with the family in the future.
Kalyn, a senior in high school, said: “When I first met everyone, walking into the door I felt wrapped in so much love.
“Here were all these people who had been loving me for 18 years, and I was just meeting them.
“It was like opening a door to a whole other part of my life I hadn’t previously explored.”
Kalyn grew-up knowing about ‘Angel Gina’, keeping a binder of letters from the family and a framed picture of her mum, but always longing to meet her.
Training in ballet during her younger years, she was drawn to a window where she could see dancers performing, she recalls wanting a girl obstructing her view to move out the way.
Little did she know that was her biological half-sister chatting to her birth-mother, who she would meet moments later.
Kalyn said: “In my mind, running into her was one of the best ways to meet for the first time, so I didn’t have to worry about the anticipation and nerves.
“It was way easier than I thought to talk to her, and upon meeting her I knew that we would always have a relationship from this day forward.
“Getting to know my birth mom has been a really good experience. We get to text a lot and so whenever something exciting happens I get to tell her.
“It’s cool getting to know who she is as a person and having a good relationship with her.