Not a lot of good has happened to Meredith Jeter in the past 30 years or so.
Growing up in Denton, Texas, she became addicted to meth at age 16 and got pregnant.
She wanted to raise the baby on her own, but knew it really wasn't an option.
"The thought of keeping it was more of a fantasy than it was ever going to be a reality," Jeter said recently from a sober-living residence in north Fargo.
She decided adoption was the best path.
Jeter got clean during her pregnancy. But after giving birth and signing over the rights to her son, she fell deep into a long cycle of drug and alcohol addiction.
About a year ago, however, Jeter found sobriety, and recently, her outlook changed even more dramatically.
A chance genealogy test turned up the son she said goodbye to, so long ago.
Around the same time her son, now an adult, was developing a profile with California genomics company 23andMe, Jeter's sister was doing the same, sending in a saliva sample to see what the test revealed.
Jana Solhjem of rural McLeod, N.D., wasn't specifically looking for her nephew at the time, but was thrilled for her sister that she found him.
"I know she's waited 32 years for this," Solhjem said.
The baby Jeter named Brendon in those brief early moments after his birth is now named Cameron, is 32 and lives in Oklahoma. The Forum is only using his first name, at Jeter's request.
Solhjem was at first apprehensive about messaging her newly discovered nephew.
His 23andMe profile said he wanted to learn about his genetic history-nothing about a desire to meet his birth mother. Solhjem didn't want her sister to feel hurt if he wasn't interested.
Once Cameron gave the go-ahead for an electronic introduction, Solhjem planned a dinner, where she had Jeter open three small gift-wrapped packages.
The first contained an outline of the state of Oklahoma. The second held Jeter's son's baby picture. The third, a current picture of Cameron, which elicited screams of excitement from Jeter.
Solhjem set up a Skype chat for the two, and they've talked a few times since. They don't have a face-to-face meeting planned yet, wanting to take a slow approach.
A woman who said she's never had a strong maternal instinct, Jeter is now trying to navigate her newfound "mom" status.
"It's sort of scary, you know. And overwhelming and perfect and a blessing, and so many of those good words that I so rarely use," she said.
A rocky road
Jeter, 49, has come far from the days of discord and heartache.
She used to buy vodka by the case, drinking a gallon every day, she said.
She found the love of her life, a man who "lifted her up," only to see him die two years later from an enlarged heart.
Another man she dated beat her frequently, breaking ribs, an arm and her jaw.
One violent episode left her in a coma for 10 days, she said, a low point that started a rocky road to recovery, filled with improvements and setbacks.
Now, she finds herself in a position of developing a relationship with her only child, the son she's never known.
She's learned he has great adoptive parents, an adopted sister, a good job and a girlfriend, and that getting to know him could be exciting, complicated and difficult.
She's also looking at Mother's Day in a way she never has before.
"I'm a mom," she said, almost in disbelief.
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