Adoption has been a part of my life from the beginning. My birth mother became pregnant at an early age and was not in a position to raise me on her own and decided to put me up for adoption. So she turned to the Brightside For Families And Children in Holyoke, Massachusetts. It has changed considerably since then but at the time it was a place where unwed teenage mothers would go to for help. It was operated by an Order of Catholic Nuns. The girls could be housed and cared for there during their pregnancy and upon the birth of the child, decide whether or not to keep it or place it for adoption. Should they decide to place it for adoption, the nuns would then care for the child and orchestrate the adoption process. A lot of families were blessed during those years.
The adoption process was not an easy one. These nuns did not just hand these children out to anyone that asked. But I was blessed with parents that passed every test with flying colors. I was actually 13 months old at the time I was adopted. I had somehow broken a leg in my crib and was not allowed to be adopted out until the healing process was complete. I take full responsibility for the broken leg. It was by no means the result of any form of abuse or neglect. I have never met a more loving, caring and attentive group of people than the Sisters of Providence. Anyway, this turned out to be my lucky “break”, so to speak! For I could not have been blessed with any more wonderful parents and would have already been adopted out had I not broken my leg. When they arrived at Brightside the nun that greeted them said that they had just the child for them. And that I looked just like my Dad. I firmly believe that it was meant to be.
My parents and I have always been close but during those early years, before siblings, my mother and I were especially close. We spent a lot of quality time together. We would walk to the park down the street. Walk to visit my Dad at work. And stop for ice cream on the way back. You get the picture. Mom had waited a long time for a child and was enjoying every moment of it. But then the inevitable happened. I asked my parents for a sister!
So back to Brightside we go. And we came home with my beautiful sister. I was content for the time being. I was a big brother. But after a while, my sister and I decided that there should be one more. And so, we asked our parents for a brother!
And back to Brightside we go. This time we came home with our wonderful brother. We knew that the family was now complete. We were all where we belonged. And our parents had the family that they had longed for.
We had always been aware of the fact that we were adopted. It was never a secret and we were taught to be proud of that fact. And we were. So much so that our favorite bedtime story was how our parents went and picked us out one by one at “the sisters”, as we grew to call Brightside when we were young.
But the story does not end here. I grew to adulthood, married and had a family of my own. Unfortunately, I became a victim of statistics and my wife and I divorced after nine years of marriage. However, our union produced two wonderful children. And they in turn have produced wonderful grandchildren.
It was my second wife who was unable to conceive and we embarked on a journey together in pursuit of a family. Of course, adoption held a place near and dear to my heart. My wife, on the other hand, had no experience with adoption (other than marrying me) and was determined to at least “attempt” to bear children naturally. So after several failed (and expensive) IVF’s, the thought of adoption worked its way into her mind and heart.
“We had always been aware of the fact that we were adopted”
Throughout this process, we learned of and joined the local chapter of Resolve. Resolve is an Association and support group that is dedicated to ensuring that all people challenged in their family building journey reach resolution. It didn’t take me long to secure a position on the Board. I was also the Advocacy Chairman and wrote and published the monthly newsletter. I may not have been changing diapers at the time but I was very busy.
It was through our association with other members of the group that we learned of foreign adoption. China was the hotspot at the time. However, it was not cheap. We knew couples that mortgaged their homes to finance the required trips to China and legal fees. That being said, we did know several that had successfully gone down this path. We had actually considered and explored the option. Briefly. Then reality set in. The cost of the several failed IVF’s had decimated any financial reserves that would have financed any foreign adoption attempts.
Sometime later we learned of a woman that lived in Atlanta and was pregnant with her umpteenth child. She had put all of them thus far up for adoption and planned on doing the same with the current pregnancy. She agreed to allow us to adopt the child upon birth. So…..we bought plane tickets, nursery furnishings and everything down to pampers and pacifiers! We were ready! But it was not meant to be. We were told that on the way to the hospital she decided to keep this one. Allegedly because the labor pains with this one hurt worse than the others. Sadly, we were also told later that mother and child were living in a broken down bus and the baby had a cardboard box for a crib. We were heartbroken but could do nothing.
Just a few days later, a neighbor came to tell us that the 15 year old girl next door was pregnant and planning to put the baby up for adoption. We knew the girl well but had not yet heard of the pregnancy. That afternoon we saw her walking up the sidewalk and called to her to come to the house. We showed her the nursery. We spoke of our interest in adoption. It was at that point that she informed us that she wanted no one but us to be the parents of her unborn child. So…..we began our search for a family on the other side of the world and wound up right next door.
Throughout the pregnancy, she spent a lot of time at our home, ate many meals with us and my wife would accompany her to many prenatal visits. When it came time to welcome our son into the world (yes, we knew by then that it was to be a boy) we all ventured to the hospital to await the delivery. This included both natural grandmothers. By now, we had gotten to know them both. The delivery was smooth and everyone went home the next day.
Our birth mother continued to live next door for several years and so had an opportunity that few birth mothers do. She got to watch our son grow and interact with him daily. And to this day, she has contact with both our son and daughter. In fact, she recently attended our daughters high school graduation! It has pretty much been the ultimate in open adoptions.
There is a subplot to this story. My birth mother (remember her?) had reached out to me through Brightside. She had provided a very detailed family medical history. She also expressed that she was open to meeting, should I be willing to do so as well. She did not pressure me but it was clear that it was something that she deeply desired. To be honest, it was not something that I had ever been interested in. I was not against it per se but my parents had been so loving and nurturing that I had no needs that were not met. But while spending so much time with the birth mother of our adopted children (remember her?) I became well aware of the emotions of a mother about to intentionally separate herself from her child. It was then that I first thought of the woman that was out there somewhere and was most likely wondering if I was alright. If I had a good childhood. If she had made the right decision. So I contacted Brightside and let them know that I would be open to establishing contact and was given the information to do so.
I waited until I was on a vacation to visit my parents to make the call. I assumed that she still resided in the area and I had since moved to Texas. When I did make the call, I learned that she had long ago moved to Michigan! Anyway, to make a long story short, she made a trip to visit me in Texas a few months later. Along with my totally awesome sister that I never knew I had. And since then we stay in regular contact.
Seems like a happy ending, right? Well, it was not over yet! Our birth mother was once again with child. She had given birth to a daughter after the boy that we adopted, but this was a third and she was wanting us to adopt this child as well. Of course, we agreed. And three and a half years after our son was born, our daughter graced us with her presence.
They have both since grown into wonderful young adults and we love them both dearly.
So as you see, adoption, both closed and open has been a major part of my life from the beginning. And continues to be. Were I a younger man, I would do it again! But I am not. In fact, as of this writing, my first great grandchild is preparing to make its (don’t know the sex yet) appearance in about six months. And THAT is the happy ending that I’ve been leading up to! Oh, and did I mention that my sister has an adopted son as well? It’s a bonafide family tradition!
“So as you see, adoption, both closed and open has been a major part of my life from the beginning”
The photo below is of our family and was taken during the summer of 2017. Other than my two adopted children sharing a birth mother, there are no two people in the photo that are genetically connected. We like to call it family by choice! The only member of the family that is not pictured is my wife, Sandra, who was not able to accompany us on that particular journey to the old hometown. But she was definitely with us in spirit.