Woman adopted at birth flies to Germany to meet biological mother for the first time

Catherine Spaulding was born in Heidelberg, Germany and adopted at birth by an American military couple stationed in Stuttgart.
Published: Dec. 30, 2021 at 4:38 PM EST
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VINE GROVE, Ky. (WAVE) - How far would you go to find home?

For Catherine Spaulding, that questioned is answered in time.

[I’m] 66 [years old],” Spaulding said. “I was adopted at three...three months.”

Spaulding was born in Heidelberg, Germany on Feb. 7, 1955. Her mother, Gisela Tieck, 17 years old at the time, was forced to give Spaulding up at birth.

On the other side of the adoption paperwork were Joseph and Thelma West.

The West’s were an American military couple currently stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, unable to conceive children of their own.

They adopted her and another child and brought them to America.

“I never felt different than any other child,” Spaulding said. “I just never did. I was never meant to. I was never flagged as, ‘well, she’s not blood.’ I have always been accepted and loved.”

Spaulding had a great childhood. She grew up and raised children and grandchildren of her own. But a family filled with love couldn’t keep her from wondering ‘what if.’

“I’ve always been curious [who my mother was],” Spaulding said.

Over the years, Spaulding’s adopted parents died. In February, her brother Mike, adopted with her in Germany, died suddenly from cancer.

She began to feel like an orphan again.

“When they passed, it was like we’ve tried to take the role on with our kids and all the grandkids, but there’s always something missing,” Spaulding said. “There’s always something missing.”

Spaulding’s daughter Saundra Mattingly set out to help her find it.

In May, she reached out to a woman who specializes in reuniting German orphans with their biological families. After a few days of exchanging emails, the woman was able to locate Spaulding’s mother in the small village of Huffler.

The woman sent Mattingly the address and they sent a package to Germany, complete with pictures, letters and other memories from the past few decades.

A few weeks later, Mattingly received a Facebook friend request and message from Beate Barz, her cousin in Huffler.

“I was emotional,” Mattingly said. “I was excited. It sort of felt surreal, like I was hearing somebody else’s story and not my own. I was not expecting it to be so positive so quickly. I looked [at the message] and it said Huffler, Germany. And I was like, ‘oh my gosh, they got the letter.’ And she sent me a friend request and a message that said, ‘we received the letter from your mother Catherine. We are thrilled. We’ve always known about her. We’ve wanted to find her and we’d love to talk.”

Spaulding and her two daughters packed their bags, applied for their passports and scrounged up the money for the airline tickets.

In October, they flew 4,400 miles to Huffler.

Spaulding finally met her mother.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Spaulding said. “Like I said before, everything just kind of fell into place. It was meant to be. It was like fate, destiny, whatever you want to call it. We were meant to find these people.”

They spent the next two weeks touring Germany and getting to know their family.

They even got a little face time in the local newspaper.

“They had a reporter and a photographer there and they did the story that after 66 years I had come home,” Spaulding said.

Eventually, they returned to Kentucky.

The reminders of the memories made overseas lay cluttered on Spaulding’s dining room table. Trinkets, photos and keepsakes that serve as souvenirs from their trip home, a home that’d been waiting for them for decades.

“How you can have people that far away from you all those years and not know about them and then when you meet them it’s like there’ been no time, except there has been,” Spaulding said. “There’s been 66 years.”

Spaulding told WAVE 3 News she continues to keep in contact with her German family and is currently planning another trip to Germany.

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