A year ago, Salomé Vonita Tadford shared with us the tragic story of how her son was taken from her when he was just three months old.
She shared how her pregnancy was a result of sexual assault by her half-brother. She was only 13 at the time and, once doctors confirmed she was pregnant, her parents sent her away to a place for unmarried young mothers.
On 17 September 1981, she gave birth alone, with no one to care for or console her, or to show her the ropes of motherhood. Her son weighed just 3.1 kilograms.
She described how he was a beautiful child, with a unique feature: a mark under his nipple that almost looked like a third nipple.
She named him Frits Brandon.
Losing her son
Tadford went back to her home after the birth, but the tension in the house was palpable, she said.
Three months later, without any warning, people arrived at the house, claiming they were welfare workers. At the time, her parents were at work and Tadford, confused and alone, watched helplessly as they took her son away.
She never saw him again, nor did she know where he was taken. She was only left with one photo of him, which she carried wherever she went.
Read the story here: 40 years ago 'welfare people' took my son, and I've never seen him again
'I found my son alive'
Since then, Tadford has married and had more children, but she never lost hope of finding her son. She started a Facebook page, called SonWhereRU, to create awareness and shared her story with News24.
Now, a year after we shared her story on our parenting site, Tadford reached out to us to share that she found her son in July this year.
Sharing how this miracle came about, Tadford tells us the special day started like any other in South Africa, along with the load shedding we have been experiencing.
With 10 minutes to go, she was boiling the kettle for a cup of coffee when she picked up her phone to check messages before the wi-fi service went off with the power.
Tadford saw she had received a message from an unknown number, at 04:53.
The message, from a woman named Lente, read:
Checking all the boxes
After having read Tadford's story on News24, Lente realised that certain details about the baby in the story matched those of her friend, also named Brandon.
Lente looked for Tadford on social media and, after finding her profile, reached out via Facebook messenger.
Tadford shared with us that she was in a daze. "I re-read the message. And again, a numbness overwhelmed me," she told us.
She says she called her husband, Leonard, and handed him the phone and watched him read the message over and over again. He suggested she ask the sender for more information, so she responded: "Hello. Thank you very much for the contact. I would like to know more."
The sender immediately responded with a copy of the adoption papers.
Upon going through the documents, Tadford and her husband realised that, except for the date of birth being shown as 18 September 1981, all the boxes were checked, including the hospital, Discoverers, which is where he was born and where she gave birth.
Tadford also noticed a handwritten message on the right of the adoption papers, "Ma. Salome Erasmus", which immediately got her attention, as this was in her mother's handwriting.
Tadford shared how she sat back into her chair, overcome with emotion, sharing that even Leonard had tears in his eyes.
"My son is alive! Not only that, somebody knows where he is," she recalls of her thought process during that life-changing moment.
Must read: 'After 20 years, I found my biological family' – adult adoptee shares how she came full circle
'I am actually talking with my son'
Tadford chatted to Lente for a few minutes, although she struggled with network signal from time to time, due to load shedding. She then received another message - this time from her son, Brandon.
Explaining this experience to us, Tadford shared: "I am overwhelmed with emotion. I'm actually talking with my son. But the signal disappears after three minutes of chatting. Load shedding is lifted, and we have a signal. Brandon calls again…… We chat and he called another few times after that."
During her chat with Brandon, Tadford arranged that they meet for the first time that very same day, which involved some travelling since Tadford lives in Krugersdorp, Gauteng, and Brandon in Pretoria.
Tadford and her husband, who has supported and encouraged her search all these years, hopped in the car and made their way to Pretoria..
Of that drive, Tadford shared: "I am going to meet my son, still filled with emotion and not knowing what to expect."
Soon enough, the pair arrived at the agreed venue and made their way to the restaurant, where Tadford met with her son for the first time after 40 years.
'I get to hold my son in my arms again'
"I finally have my arms around my son. After over 40 years, I get to hold my son in my arms again. Even though I must stand on my toes to reach around his neck! He has grown up to be quite a tall man," Tadford wrote after this momentous day.
Tadford went on to share about how she felt going to bed that day.
"That night, I climbed into bed. My prayers have changed. It's no longer 'keep him safe and return him to me', my prayers now are 'Thank you, God, for returning him to me and keeping him safe all these years'."
Also read: 'Turning lemons into lemonade': Mom with troubled childhood opens an NPO to help pregnant teens finish school
Salomé Vonita Tadford when she first met her son Fritz Brandon. Photo: Supplied/SonWhereRU Facebook page.
'I was shocked'
We reached out to Brandon himself to find out what he was feeling when he found out that his birth mother was alive and looking for him. He told us: "I was shocked. I was not looking for her until Lente reached out to her and she found out that she was my mother."
Brandon shared with us that he was married for three years and has a 16-year-old daughter from that marriage, making Tadford a grandmother too.
For Brandon, to have his birth mother in his life now is a miracle, as he has sadly lost both his adoptive parents. His adoptive mother died in a horrific crash in 1992 when he was only 11 years old, and his father passed away in 2009. Brandon was raised with a brother and sister, who Tadford has also now met.
Speaking about her son's adoptive mother, Tadford shared: "I so wish I could sit opposite her today and thank her for the wonderful values she instilled into my son."
She added that she expresses her heartfelt gratitude to the many people who have walked this journey with her, starting with her husband, who has supported her and driven the search forward over the years. She is also grateful to her children, family and friends who encouraged her not to give up.
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