Sarah Hudson, who was "sold" as a newborn in a New York baby ring that scammed adoptive mothers in the 1970s and 1980s, was reunited with her biological mother for the first time since her birth.
The Richmond, Va., woman was one of the first "Seymour Fenichel adoptees" to learn that she had been taken from her mother's arms in 1977 and handed over to an eager couple awaiting a baby.
"I am a black market baby," Hudson told the ABC affiliate WRIC 8 News team that accompanied her to Long Island to meet 53-year-old Kathleen Rhodes. "I was sold for all intents and purposes in a parking lot."
Hudson, along with her adoptive mother and husband, reunited amidst tears and lots of tissues on Aug. 7 in Miller Place, N.Y. Both said they had always loved each other -- even if from afar.
"Oh my God, the last time I saw you, you were like four days old," Rhodes told her daughter.
"But I did whisper in her ear when I was holding her, 'When you're ready, you come and find us.' I guess you heard my words," she said.
Each year, the Rhodes family celebrated Hudson's birthday on June 18 with a birthday cake.
"We've always known about her -- I've known for 10 years," said her sister Ashley, 26. "We've been waiting. We didn't know when she was going to come."
Rhodes ended up marrying the boyfriend who got her pregnant at age 18, so Ashley, Brittany, 24, Caitlyn, 23, and Taylor, 21, are all full siblings.
"I've never seen anyone who looks like me in my entire life, and I've always wondered where my eyes come from, why is my skin so tan," said Hudson. "These people look like my twins. There's no DNA test needed."
Watch the story in WRIC 8 News Richmond, Va.,on Thursday, Aug. 18.
After suffering a blood clot that almost killed her, Hudson struggled for more than a year to get details on her mother, whose name she knew -- Kathy Akeson.
Adoption records are closed in New York and 40 other states, and adoption advocates have been pushing to open records for just this reason.
"Here is an example of why honesty and openness in adoption is so critical," said Adam Pertman, executive director of the Adam B. Donaldson Adoption Institute.
"When adoption is in the shadows, things happen," he said. "In the dark, you can't see what's happening and prevent it. We cannot treat women as baby carriers and babies as snow tires for sale to the highest bidder."
Closed records are a "relic of the past," said Pertman, author of Adoption Nation. "It's based on mythology and fear, and one consequence of maintaining the status quo is it allows people to hide in cases like this one."
In 1988, Brooklyn lawyer Seymour Fenichel, along with his daughter Deborah Greenspan and Harriet and Lawrence Lauer, were indicted on 144 counts of child trafficking and falsifying birth records, often coercing women to give up their babies.
His crude tactics included briskly handing off babies in parking lots or in quick exchanges in the doorway of a hospital elevator.
Birth mothers weren't allowed to look at or hold their babies after birthing them. Some families seeking to adopt spent thousands on what they thought were agency fees and never received a child.
The quartet found housing for pregnant women in group homes and often registered them in hospitals under fake names. Couples paid up to $35,000 in cash to secure a baby. They were often asked to pony up more to cover "maintenance" for the girls, who never got a penny.