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Woman finds birthparents after long search

Abandoned in a Long Island hospital parking lot

Abandoned in a Long Island hospital parking lot the day she was born, Amy Brown, now 31, has found her birthparents -- and closure -- after years of searching.. (July 3, 2012) Credit: Craig Ruttle

Amy Brown feels reborn -- free of the uncertainty that had been burdening her for so long.

Abandoned in a Long Island hospital parking lot the day she was born, Brown, now 31, has found her birthparents -- and closure -- after years of searching.

"I feel fulfilled," she said. "I cannot stop thinking about it."

For the parents -- Cynthia and Salvatore Mills of Gilmanton, N.H. -- the surprise reunion has helped erase decades of regret.

"My husband and I thought about Amy every single day," Cynthia said. "My last couple weeks are the happiest of my life."

The long-awaited breakthrough came July 8.

The Mills learned about Brown's search after seeing a Newsday clipping and reached out to her via Facebook. They spoke by phone the next day.

Brown said she now chats with them daily, over the phone or through the Internet. Their first face-to-face meeting, an emotional family reunion, is planned for Aug. 9 at the Mills' home.

The Mills were "young and stupid" teenagers when they had Amy and left her in a panic, Cynthia, 48, recalled.

She said she got pregnant before her junior year at Oceanside High School in 1980, but she didn't tell anyone -- not even her boyfriend, Sal. She feared the pregnancy would tear apart her conservative Catholic family.

"There was a lot of denial," said Cynthia, a waitress and substitute teacher. "Nobody asked me any questions. . . . I didn't show enough for it to be noticeable."

She said she gave birth alone in her parents' garage on April 22, 1981, six weeks after turning 17. She took the newborn to Sal's house.

The unexpected introduction left him feeling "shocked, overwhelmed, numb and confused," he recalled.

Sal Mills, a year older and about to graduate, advised her to safely abandon the baby. They left the tiny girl in a car parked outside what was then Lydia E. Hall Hospital in Freeport, waiting in the lot until a nurse took the baby inside.

At the time, child abandonment was punishable by up to 4 years in prison. Now, the 2000 Abandonment Infant Protection Act allows parents to leave infants at "appropriate locations," including hospitals and staffed fire and police stations.

"There was no rationale, really," said Sal, 49, a correction officer. "We were young, didn't know better and were terribly scared. We figured at a hospital she'd be taken care of."

He joined the Marines after high school and married Cynthia the summer after she graduated in 1982. They settled in New Hampshire, raising three other daughters ages 17 to 26.

But they never stopped thinking about the daughter they gave away.

"Nothing ever changed," Cynthia said. "We always wanted to find her."

Brown accepts her birthparents' anguish.

"They were scared," she said. "I get it."

After 13 months in foster care, Brown was adopted and lived first in Lynbrook and then upstate in Red Hook. She now works as a nursing assistant and lives in Kingston with her boyfriend of 13 years, Trevor Tunison, and their three children: Malachi, 11, Gabriel, 9, and Ayla, 7.

She said the search for her birthparents, helped by the Internet, intensified during the past four years after she received a 1981 Newsday clipping about a baby found in a hospital parking lot.

Last month, the Mills learned of Brown's search and whereabouts after a family member showed them the recent newspaper report. They immediately "friended" Brown on Facebook.

"I hoped for this, but I didn't expect it," Brown said, adding that she has the same voice, hair and forehead as her three younger sisters.

"Her outlook on life is so much more positive now," Tunison said. "She has something to look forward to."

Sal Mills said that he and his wife wouldn't object to a DNA test to prove their relation to Brown.

"I kind of wanted to [do a test] because then it puts her with us, if that's what she wants," he said. "Somehow she wants to be connected to the family."

The Mills said the August reunion can't come soon enough. Not only will they see their long-lost daughter, they'll also meet their grandchildren. "I get goose bumps," Cynthia Mills said.

Brown, meanwhile, said she has assured her adoptive parents that she doesn't intend to replace them.

"It's more family," she said. "There are more people out there to love."

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