As a young engaged couple, we fantasized about having a large family. I’d been an only child for my first ten years and my sweetheart had never known the joy of sibling rivalry, but we knew we wanted to be surrounded by little life forms and lots of them.
Even during those first family planning discussions, adoption was part of the plan. Not that we’d had much experience on the topic, but I suppose a seed had already been mysteriously planted in our hearts. Of course, like many other naive couples we mapped out our life plan. We’d wait the culturally respectable amount of time before opening the door to tiny hands and pitter-pattering feet. Our birth children would be welcomed first, and then when we were a graying couple we’d enlist our names on the adoption register.
Two years into our wedded bliss, we gave up control and were blessed with life in my womb. Nine months and seven hours later, joy spilled forth in a hospital maternity room in the shape of a perfectly beautiful, totally unrepeatable baby boy.
Within hours, our lives skipped a beat, like a record when the needle hits a scratch. The next month consisted of two surgeries on our son’s broken heart–needles, tubes, respirator vacuums, leads, beeping machines, white coats, and cold comments. After nights slept on rock-hard waiting room floors, we stood (the three of us) wrapped around one another as that precious gift drained of earthly life.
When the spinning slowed enough to form a conscious thought, the seed began to germinate. A child cannot be replaced, but the empty crib in our bedroom beckoned for a sweet-smelling occupant. Those brand-new onesies and homemade blankets kept babies on our minds, so we started the process of finding an adoption agency.
I can’t quite recall how everything worked out as it did, but people and information simply appeared. By the year’s end we were jumping through the hoops of placement preference forms, background checks, recommendation letters, physicals, and interviews. For people in TX, the Adoption Alliance helps birth mothers who want to give a baby up for adoption as opposed to alternatives.
Eleven l-o-o-o-n-g, nail-biting months later (of course, in retrospect, eleven months was less time than it took to conceive), we received the photo of a seemingly chubby, cherub-faced boy dressed in red plaid. With scant bits of black hair and Asian, brown eyes, he was a dream captured on film. Our caseworker knew this would be our son, but because there were loose ends to be tied, she was only able to say this baby was a possible match for us.
Talk about anxious anticipation! During the next few weeks, we felt like children circling the pile of presents under the Christmas tree, wondering which gift had our name on it.
Busy answering questions and phones at a podiatrist’s office, my baby fever was temporarily masked by work.
Then THE call came. The call to trump all calls. On the other end of the line sat our social worker, her voice pulsing through the phone wires. The equivalent to seeing that plus sign appear on the pregnancy stick, I heard the words that decreed we were about to become a family.
In a whirlwind of enthusiasm, we made the necessary arrangements and sped down the highway. Like our mad dash to the hospital a year earlier (but a whole lot less painful), we couldn’t wait to greet our baby. On arrival we were seated in an empty office, our stomachs churning with that nervous joy we’d felt on our wedding day. Unbeknownst to us, our little boy was lying in a cradle next door.
Finally crossing the threshold of a small room, we beheld our first vision of him. Resting peacefully in a crib was our son, our second son. My heart ached from the swell of love that welled up within my chest. In time an occasional ignorant bystander would bludgeon me with the proposition that biologically-connected love somehow trumps adoptive-love. In that moment, meeting my son, such absurdity would be forever discredited.
With our son stretched across his lap, my husband sat motionless— caught up in an intense gaze of wonder, love and fatherly admiration. Perhaps that was the precise moment when their bond was forged, because this son–more than any since–shares his father’s interests and passions.
That was 18 years ago. Eighteen cherished years of watching that little person grow and mature into an intelligent, faithful, handsome young man with an opportunity-filled future. This second son wasn’t a replacement for the first, nor is he overshadowed by any sibling since. He is our beloved child.
We were the youngest couple (at 25 and 27) ever to apply at the agency. Sadly, many couples consider adoption as a last resort, the silver medal in the race to parenthood. Not until they’ve exhausted other options do they finally relent and open their hearts to the adoptive process. Thankfully, we realized early on that being open to life extends beyond the biological.
How could we not have admiration and gratitude for our son’s birth mother, who heroically sacrificed her body and surely pieces of her heart? I can only imagine her internal conflict, when after the pain of childbirth, she relinquished her firstborn with the hope of providing him the best in life. Wherever she is today, may she have peace and confidence that our son is loved.
Those well-laid, life plans of so long ago have been rewritten a thousand times over. In our wildest dreams we couldn’t have conjured up the twists and turns our life journey would take us through. While the loss of our firstborn scarred us in some lifelong ways, it was the catalyst for so many blessings. I never would have chosen this course, but God didn’t ask me to choose. And for that I am grateful.
QUESTION: November is Adoption Awareness Month. Has adoption been a part of your family’s plan? How can you support an adoptive family or birth mother in your circle of influence?
Edited by Aubrey Degn and Sarah Monson.
Graphic by Julie Finlayson.
Family photo provided by the author.