IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Mother reunites with child she thought had died nearly 30 years ago

A day after giving birth at age 16, Tina Bejarano Gardere was told her daughter died from an infection. Decades later, she discovered that wasn't the case.
/ Source: TODAY

A woman got the surprise of her life when she discovered that the baby she was told had died shortly after birth nearly three decades ago was indeed alive.

In 1990, California resident Tina Bejarano Gardere was 16 and a mother to a 1-year-old when she delivered her second child, a baby girl, who she says was taken from her after her mother urged her to put the child up for adoption. A day after giving birth, Bejarano Gardere's mother told her the baby died after having developed an infection.

She opened up about the harrowing ordeal in an interview with Natalie Morales that aired Thursday on the 3rd hour of TODAY.

“I was devastated,” she told Natalie.

Unbeknownst to Bejarano Gardere, that child, named Kristin Cooke, actually had lived and is now a transgender man. Cooke was adopted by a family in Nevada at 10 days old.

Kristin Cooke, left, embracing his birth mother, Tina Bejarano Gardere, and his 1-year-old daughter.
Kristin Cooke, left, embracing his birth mother, Tina Bejarano Gardere, and his 1-year-old daughter.TODAY

In December 2018, Cooke, whose wife was expecting a child at the time, took a DNA test.

“It was really just to find out more about my heritage, because we were having a baby of our own,” said Cooke, who joined his birth mother for the sit-down with Natalie. “And I wanted to be able to tell her, you know, about me, 'cause I never knew growing up.”

The test came back with a parent and a sibling match, so Cooke decided to reach out to Bejarano Gardere.

Hearing from the child she believed had been dead for so long moved Bejarano Gardere to tears.

“When I got Kristin's message, I was in class,” she said. “And I see, ‘Ancestry says they have a match for you, a message.’ And it was Kristin. And I started bawling right there in class, and I ran out of class and I called (my husband) Eric, and I was like, 'Babe, she's alive.’”

When they connected, Cooke revealed he is transgender.

“I love him no matter what,” Bejarano Gardere said. “This is what I know, and this is my son.”

The two talked and texted for months before agreeing to finally meet in person, shortly before Thanksgiving of this year.

"I was so nervous and wondering, 'Is he gonna like me? Is he gonna like the family?' I don't want this to be a one time thing," Bejarano Gardere said.

They may both have felt anxious, but things went off without a hitch.

“It felt nice. It was a bundle of nerves and a bundle of, you know, happiness and joy and everything mixed together,” Cooke said.

Now that they have met, Bejarano Gardere would like to meet Cooke’s family and thank them for raising such a good man.