A Santa Clarita woman's dream came true this fall when she finally met someone most people take for granted - her birth mother.
Her journey and search will be chronicled Monday night when the ABC show "Find My Family" premieres. The new reality show helps children and parents and siblings reunite after being separated for several years - including adopted children and birth parents who are searching.
Maria Finn, 43, had exhausted all avenues she thought were available. She had been registered with an adoptee group for several years, but ran into roadblocks along the way. On top of that, work, marriage and raising two girls kept her busy and sometimes the desire to find her mother was pushed to the back of her mind.
She is quick to say that her upbringing was a good one and that her family has always been open to her searching; although a seven-year delay in getting non-identifying information from Los Angeles County (where her adoption originated) did frustrate her at one point.
"I had been looking for 20 years," she said. "I knew my mother's last name and I knew my last name and had a birth name given to me, but I still couldn't find her. It was kind of a fluke, that after I sent some updated information to the registry for adoptees, ABC contacted me about the show."
Researchers from show hit a few snags, but were successful, discovering that Finn's birth mother had been searching for her daughter for several years as well.
"We had our reunion in September," she recalls. "It was awesome, it was amazing, the meeting was great and we've been in contact ever since. We talk two or three times a week."
The experience for Finn's daughters was unique because their father was adopted as well, so the girls could only look as far back as their parents to see someone who looked like them.
"My daughters thought it was amazing, for my girls the only blood relatives they've ever had were their dad and myself, meeting their grandmother and seeing there is so much of a similarity between her and them, it was great," Finn said.
While she always wanted to find her mother, she admits to some initial hesitance that she overcame when she realized she might actually meet her with their help.
"You have to put it in perspective that you are filming something, " she explained. "People think reality TV has a lot of drawbacks, but they tried not to be too intrusive, they really let you be you. They let us talk about the things we wanted to talk about, they would remind us 'tell us about this,' but for the most part, what you see is what it is. They don't pull the rug out from underneath you. Out of all the reality shows, they stuck to the reality of what it is, the feelings."
Finn said that she had to take a personality test and meet with psychologists to make sure the show's outcome wouldn't cause problems. She added that the show personnel said that was part of their screening process as well.
"They really wanted to find people who had been searching, not someone who just wanted to be on a show. I didn't seek them out. For me it was a win-win," she said. "They were the ones who found her, and I'm grateful that they were able to do it."
Finn found that her mother had been looking for her and both hired a private investigator and "Search Angels" on the internet, but said that they had given her a negative feeling.
"They told her if she hasn't found you yet, that mean she doesn't want to find you. She thought I should be able to find her easy."
Like many adoptees, Finn's search was sporadic; at times it was her first priority and others, it was on the back burner.
"You go on with your life, you can't let it consume you," she said. "That was probably out of anything for the show, they really want you to be falling down on the ground sobbing because you've been desperately looking for this person your entire life. In my heart I had been, but you have to go on with your life and do your day-to-day things, but in the back of your mind, you know there's this missing piece."
When her mother first saw her, she said Finn had "her father's eyes."
"We have a mole in the same place on our face and there are some really interesting characteristics; we say things similar, we have the same likes in certain areas. It's interesting to see how someone you were never around is so similar."
Finn learned that she was given up for adoption because her mother, who had been with Finn's father for 10 years before she was born, wanted the family to stay together, but the father's music career took precedence. Despite a last-minute proposal, her mother thought the best thing for her baby was to be adopted by a family who could give them a stable upbringing.
Meeting him, though, might be the next step.
"My mother is still close to his family and his sister sent him a registered letter telling him about me," she said. "I have decided that I'm focusing on this reunion that has taken place with her and get to know this part of my family. But she said when I'm ready, she has his address and that it wouldn't bother her at all if I contacted him."
When the show comes on Monday, Finn plans on watching it with her husband and daughters, playing it low key.
"It's kind of a crazy thing to go through," she said. It hit me two weeks ago that my private life of being adopted when it's always been just my thing is not so private anymore. I kind of decided at the beginning, you don't know what you're getting into until you're in it. We had to go through this public thing to get where we got."
Right now, she's focusing on Christmas, when she and her family will spend their first holiday with Finn's mother and sister in Utah.
"She has two little girls who look like my girls when they were little," Finn said. "That's so amazing. We're really looking forward to it."