It was an emotional reunion no one could've prepared themselves for.
Jimmy Lippert Thyden, a criminal defense attorney residing in Virginia, reunited with his biological mother María Angélica González more than four decades after he said she was told he died shortly after his birth at a hospital in Chile.
"It knocked the wind out of me, I was suffocated by the gravity of this moment," Thyden told The Associated Press of the reunion in an interview published on Aug. 28. "How do you hug someone in a way that makes up for 42 years of hugs?"
Thyden's journey to find his relatives began earlier this year after he learned of Chilean-born adoptees who had been reunited with their birth families with the help of nonprofit Nos Buscamos.
According to Thyden, who summarized his case file to the outlet, the organization discovered that he was born prematurely at a hospital and placed in an incubator. Shortly after his birth, his mother was discharged from the hospital, but when she returned to get her baby, Thyden said she was told he passed away and that his body had been disposed of.
Based on a report from the Investigations Police of Chile, the organization told AP that an estimated "tens of thousands of babies were taken from Chilean families in the 1970s and 1980s," noting that the report detailed the documentation of Chilean-born children who "left the country and never came back."
Through Nos Buscamos, who teamed up with MyHeritage to provide at-home DNA testing kits for distribution to Chilean adoptees, Thyden was able to take a DNA test that confirmed he was, in fact, Chilean and proved to be a match him to cousin, who also used the genealogy company. From there, he was able to locate his birth mother.
"I was trying to bookend 42 years of a life taken from her," the lawyer told AP of his birth mom, who declined to participate in the interview. "Taken from us both."
Thyden—who recently traveled to Chile with his wife and two kids to meet his family—shared that upon arrival, he was greeted with 42 colorful balloons, which served a symbol for each year he spent away from his relatives.
"There is an empowerment in popping those balloons, he said, "empowerment in being there with your family to take inventory of all that was lost."
He also recalled González's emotional reaction after hearing from him for the first time: "Mijo, you have no idea the oceans I've cried for you. How many nights I've laid awake praying that God let me live long enough to learn what happened to you."