Family is Pam Slaton's passion—whether it's her own or someone else's. By day, she's a wife and the mother of two teenage boys. By night, she's a genealogist who specializes in locating missing family, friends and loved ones. In 2006, she famously helped RunDMC's Darryl McDaniels find his birth mother. "It's extremely rewarding to be able to make a phone call and tell someone that their search is over," she says.
Reconnecting lost loved ones isn't just work for Pam—it's personal. She started her business after the search for her own birth mother ended badly. "I loved my family, [but] I think there's a big misconception that people search because they're lacking something," she says. "I don't understand why people don't understand that basic need to know who gave you life."
From the outside, Linda's life appears complete. She went to college on a scholarship and landed a job on Wall Street. She married and had a wonderful son. Still, something was always missing—the baby girl she gave up for adoption when she was a teenager.
At age 15, Linda says she ran away from an abusive home. After living on the streets for a few months, she returned home—and found out she was pregnant. "I hadn't experienced the feeling of love," she says. "And I thought: 'God, I'm going to have a baby, and this baby is going to love me. It's going to be my baby.'"
When she was seven months pregnant, Linda got heartbreaking news. "My social worker said, 'I just have to tell you, your mom said no way is this baby ever coming into your house,'" she says. "I just raged. It made no sense."
Feeling like she had no other choice, Linda gave the baby up for adoption in 1968. "I knew that the last time I held her was the last time I held her," she says.
Now, Pam is helping Linda find the baby girl she loved from the start.
After working around the clock for three days, Pam picks up a lead on a woman named Laura. Her hunch was right—Laura is Linda's long-lost baby girl. "I have lived all my life dying for a family, not having one," Laura says.
When Laura hears the news, she is in disbelief. "My childhood, it was difficult," she says. "I used to think that from the day that I was born, I've been rejected because I haven't been able to find anybody that cares about me. I can't believe I'm going to meet her. I can't believe she actually looked for me."
A few days after Pam's call, Laura flies more than 2,000 miles to meet the woman who gave her life.
Linda and Laura not only meet one another—they learn they have more family than they could have dreamed of. Linda meets Laura's three children, and Laura discovers she has a half-brother. Laura also learns that Linda is the one who named her. "It's like a validation," Laura says. "When your birth mother looks for you, it's a validation that you were never forgotten and it heals a piece of you. It's a gift."
After a night of talking, Linda and Laura sit together on Oprah's stage. In 24 hours since she's met her mother, Laura says she's experienced every emotion. "Now I'm just facing reality. It is a reality," she says. "And I don't want it to end."
Linda says it felt surreal waking up and knowing her daughter. Still, she says she struggled after she learned Laura's life was not what she hoped for her baby. "I had a fantasy life for Laura. I had her in a castle having this great life. And that's not what was there," Linda says. "But looking at her and being so proud of her and all of her accomplishments and seeing her brother and her together just melts my heart knowing that she's not alone. And she loves me as much as I love her."
After a reunion like Linda and Laura's, Pam says it's normal to feel a wide range of emotions. "It's a tough balancing act, and it's anticlimactic in a way because the search and the finding is such a peak. It's such a high," she says. "Then you realize that you are now in a position where you are strangers but you are supposed to feel a love, and it becomes very difficult to kind of manage it."
Adoptive parents may also experience their own ups and downs. Pam says adoptive parents should understand it's nothing personal if their children decide to search for their birth parents. "It's just a desire to know. You need to know your Chapter 1," she says. "We're not searching to trade you in. Our family is our family that we were raised with."