Edmonton grandmother reunites with daughter 60 years after adoption

Janet Sims was flooded with emotion when she finally got to hear her daughter’s voice for the first time, after nearly 60 years of separation.

'It was just like we had known each other forever,' says Janet Sims, 80

Janet Sims, 80, holds a picture of herself taken when she was a young nurse. (Samuel Martin/CBC)

Janet Sims was flooded with emotion when she finally got to hear her daughter's voice for the first time.

She gave her baby girl up for adoption in the spring of 1958.

Mother and daughter spoke on the phone for the first time Tuesday afternoon, and the conversation left Sims with goosebumps.

"It was such an amazing day that I couldn't sleep, I was so fired up," said Sims, 80.

"We talked about all sorts of things, and honestly I have to tell you, it was like talking to my younger self. That's the only way I can describe it.

"She just sounds like she's the neatest person around. I'm really, really happy."

'I never even got a chance to hold her'

Deciding to give her daughter up for adoption was one of the most difficult decisions of her life, Sims said.

As an unmarried woman, at the beginning of a promising career, she felt she had no choice.

'If you got pregnant, you went away and you were ostracised."- Janet Sims

"It was very different than it is today," she said on Wednesday. "In the mid-50s, if you got pregnant, you went away and you were ostracized."

In the midst of nursing school in Edmonton, Sims went away to Vancouver to have her baby in secret.

She only got a glimpse of her newborn through the glass of the maternity ward, before her daughter was taken to a foster home.

"I never even got a chance to hold her, and they said I couldn't see her either. But you know, I went down to the nursery and did see her.

"It was so surreal. When it was over ... I got on with my life and I had to kind of put it behind me. Although that's so hard for a mother to do."

Years later, even after she married and had four more daughters, Sims always pined for the baby girl she had given up.

Janet Sims, 80, tracked down the daughter she gave up for adoption nearly 60 years ago - and now, the two plan to meet. 1:27
She signed her name to a passive registry, a database designed to reconnect adoptive parents with their birth children.

But she never got a match.

She quietly searched for years, and never told anyone but her husband.

When he died last year, she decided to resume her search in earnest.

With the blessing of her children, she sent away for the official birth and adoption records.

"I hadn't told my daughters, and I told them in May and they were very encouraging," said Sims, who called CBC 's Alberta@Noon radio show on Tuesday to share her story.

"So I applied for the birth certificate and the original adoption record. And the day it came, her name was there. 

"Within 20 minutes, I found her on Facebook. I was just totally overwhelmed.

"I took a little bit longer to get in touch with her because I wanted to pursue it carefully and not upset her."
The four other daughters of Janet Sims. (Samuel Martin/CBC)

Sims spent hours perfecting a letter to her daughter, and anxiously posted it, preparing for the worst. She feared she would be met with bitterness, even rejection.

A week later, a letter came in the mail. Her daughter was cautious but kind.

"I heard back from her and she said she never thought I would ever look for her, but she was very happy that I had," Sims said. "She said she had a wonderful childhood and wonderful parents.

"That made me feel really good, to know that she had a good upbringing."

'It was so natural'

The pair corresponded through letters and email for months. On Tuesday, they finally felt ready to talk.

Sims was "terrified" about the phone call, but as soon as she heard her daughter's voice she was flooded with relief. 

It was just like we had known each other forever.- Janet Sims

"It was so natural. It was just like we had known each other forever. We just couldn't think of enough things to talk about," Sims said.

"It gives me goosebumps, because it's almost like there's too much excitement in my life. But it's a good thing."

Sims will fly to Victoria, B.C., in three weeks to meet her daughter — and her daughter's two children — for the first time. She now has 12 grandchildren.

The entire family plans to get together in Calgary over the holidays.

"I  just feel so fortunate that it worked out the way it did, because you just never know when you go looking for someone," she said.

"It's a very good news story all the way around. I was aware that it might not work out that way. I was prepared, but it just looks like a really great, happy ending for me and my family."

About the Author

Wallis Snowdon


Wallis Snowdon is a digital journalist with CBC Edmonton. She has nearly a decade of experience reporting behind her. Originally from New Brunswick, her journalism career has taken her from Nova Scotia to Fort McMurray. Share your stories with Wallis at