Quality Time

Nicole Gross, left, Michelle Brandt and Carol Musielak met for lunch at Joey B’s in Ballwin last the summer.

Submitted Photo

Nicole Gross grew up wondering who her biological parents are and about two years ago, her wish finally came true.

Gross was adopted when she was 6 weeks old to a family in Ballwin. She is the youngest of six who were also all adopted by Ron and Marie Peters.

“I come from a very large Catholic family,” Gross said. “We’ve always known that we had been adopted.”

As a child, Gross said she used to watch family reunions featured on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”

“I would see these reunion shows and I was like ‘That is the coolest thing, but that will never happen to me,’ ” Gross said.

“I just have always wanted to know my biological family – the history, the health history,” she said.

Her adoptive mom Marie Peters knew her biological Mom’s name, Carol Musielak, and Gross said she tried looking her up in the phone book, but had no luck.

“When I was younger, I remember thumbing through the Yellow Pages,” Gross said.

Around her birthday in September is when she thought about her biological family the most.

“I would always kind of get emotional and wonder if, you know, they thought about me,” Gross said.

Gross, now 47, moved to St. Clair with her husband and children eight years ago.

The Search

As a way to track her biological parents, Gross’ adoptive mom, Marie Peters, suggested Gross contact the organization where she was adopted from, Catholic Charities. Gross said she wrote in asking about her biological mom.

The organization would introduce one another if both parties wrote in; however, Musielak did not know about it.

In October 2015, her adoptive sister Michele Peters volunteered to help Gross locate her biological mom. Michele Peters found an online comment Musielak had written on a high school page, according to Gross.

From there, Michele Peters was able to find Musielak on Facebook and her contact information.

“She’s like the computer guru. I do not have patience for the internet,” Gross said with a laugh. “She was so lovely to go and research this for me.”

Upon finding Musielak’s Facebook page, Marie Peters confirmed it was her from information she was given when Gross was adopted.

“(I) was like, ‘I don’t think that’s it’ because there was a picture of Carol and (her biological half sister) Michelle (Brandt) and I was like ‘I look nothing like them’” Gross said with a laugh.

Gross sent a letter to Musielak explaining she was her biological daughter. When Musielak received the letter, she said she thought it was an announcement from a craft fair that she had recently visited.

“I thought maybe it was somebody getting a hold of me about maybe winning something,” she said.

“I was a little bit shocked, but not totally,” Musielak said upon reading the letter.

Musielak responded to Gross’ letter and eventually, they chatted on the phone.

“Thank goodness she responded,” Gross said.

Small World

It was that same phone call they both discovered Gross and her half-sister Michelle Brandt both work at St. Luke’s Hospital. Gross has been a lab technician for 15 years and Brandt has been a sleep technologist for 19 years.

“It was so funny because (Musielak) was like ‘So where do you work that you have to be at work so early?’ ”

“I was like ‘I work at St. Luke’s Hospital in Chesterfield’ and she was like ‘Oh my God, oh my God,’ ” Gross said.

“And I was thinking maybe she had a bad experience there or something. She’s like ‘No, your sister works there too.’ ”

“I almost fell off the stool. It was crazy,” Gross said.

Afterward, Musielak called Brandt about the news. Brandt said she remembers getting the phone call while shopping at Hobby Lobby.

“I was like ‘Oh my gosh this is so crazy,’ ” Brandt said.

“The fact that we didn’t know, but you know, we probably have been in the same area whether it be the cafeteria, whether I’ve been running upstairs to the pharmacy or something. I’ve been to all areas of the hospital.

“It took me by surprise,” she said.

It was discovered Gross’ adoptive sister Michele Peters lives within walking distance of her half brother Kevin Morose in South County. She has one other half brother, Steven Musielak, who lives in Colorado.

“In my adoptive family, I’m more towards the younger (sibling) and with this side, I’m the oldest,” Gross said.

“God works in mysterious ways and it’s great.”

The Reunion

Gross met Musielak and Brandt for the first time at Mimi’s Cafe in Chesterfield in November 2015.

“Of course I was nervous,” Gross said.

She added that she wanted to bring Marie Peters with her for support.

“My adoptive mom, she’s like ‘I think this is something you need to do on your own,’ ” she said.

Brandt said it was awesome meeting her half sister for the first time.

“I was really excited to have a sister,” Brandt said.

Although Brandt has a stepsister, they were not close growing up, she added.

“We have a wonderful, sweet family, but teens and tweens, they don’t often get along,” she said.

Information

Gross brought paperwork to show Musielak that Marie Peters gave Gross as an adult, which includes information about Musielak and her medical report from the day she was born. The report stated she weighed 5 pounds and 5 ounces.

Additionally, she brought the note that her foster parents had written to her adoptive parents. Musielak said she did not know Gross was in foster care before being adopted.

Reason Why

Musielak gave Gross up for adoption for her daughter to have a better life. At the time of her birth, Musielak said she was not in “a good situation.”

“I don’t hold that against Carol at all,” Gross said. “I grew up in a great family and things happen for a reason.”

All three noted how times were different in the 1970’s and it was taboo to be single and have a child out of wedlock. Nowadays, being a single parent is more acceptable.

“I have a great niece who’s unmarried (and) has a little boy,” Musielak said.

“And everybody just thinks …” Musielak started to say. “He walks on water,” Brandt finished.

Ever After

Gross, Brandt, Musielak and their families have gotten together since the initial reunion for barbecues, holidays, lunches and more. Their next goal is to plan a vacation together.

After years of wondering and searching, Gross said it was a relief to finally meet her biological family.

“A big weight was lifted off my shoulders because it always was in the back of my head,” Gross said.

“I’m just thankful that things happened the way they did.”