As a young engaged couple, we fantasized about the blessings of a large family. I’d been an only child for the first ten years of my life and my sweetheart had never known the joy and rivalry of sharing his life with a sibling, but we knew we wanted to be surrounded by little life forms and lots of them.
While our notion of large has grown during our twenty-one years of marriage, 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 God’s seed had already been mysteriously planted in our hearts.
Of course, like too many other naive couples we mapped out our life plan decades in advance. 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 in time, perhaps when we were a graying couple we’d enlist our names on the adoption register.
Two years and a few months into our wedded bliss, we gave up control (sort of) and God blessed our union with the miracle of 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, who we called Dimitri Mikhail.
But 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, bleeping machines, white coats and cold comments. After so many nights slept in corners 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, that mystery seed began to germinate. A child cannot be replaced, but the empty crib erected in our bedroom beckoned for a sweet-smelling occupant. Those brand new onesies and home made blankets kept babies on our minds and so we started the process of finding an adoption agency.
I can’t quite recall how everything worked out as it did, but then again my Heavenly Father has a way of steering my path without my ever knowing it. People and information simply appeared and so by year’s end we were jumping through the hoops of placement preference forms, background checks, recommendation letters, physicals, and interviews.
Eleven looong, nail-biting months later (of course, in retrospect, eleven months was less time than it took to conceive some of our children), 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, 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, making appointments, and checking in patients 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 cord sat our social worker, her voice pulsing through the phone lines. The equivalent I suppose 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 and impatience, we made the necessary arrangements and sped down the highway toward Greensboro. Like our mad dash to the maternity ward a year and a half earlier but a whole lot less painful (for me), we couldn’t wait to greet our newest blessing. Clueless to the agency’s mode of operations we were told to sit in an empty office, our stomachs churning with that kind of nervous joy/anxiety we’d felt on our wedding day. Unbeknownst to us, our little boy was being laid in a cradle just steps beyond our reach.
Finally, crossing the threshold of a small room down the agency hallway we beheld our first vision of him. Resting peacefully in a gorgeous cradle, draped in white with blue and pink trim, was our son, our second son. My heart ached from the swell of love that welled up within my chest. Early on in our parenting, an occasional ignorant bystander bludgeoned me with the proposition that biologically-connected love could somehow trump adoptive-love. In that moment, meeting my son for the very first time, such absurdity would be forever discredited.
With our son stretched across his lap, Greg 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 17 years ago now that we first became a family. Seventeen cherished years of watching that little person grow and mature into an intelligent, faithful, handsome young man with an opportunity-filled future before him. This second son wasn’t a replacement for the first, nor is he overshadowed by any sibling since, he is our beloved child, as are each and every one of our brood individually.
We were the youngest couple (at 25yo and 27yo) ever to apply at our chosen, local agency. Sadly, many couples consider adoption as a last resort, the silver medal in the race to parenthood. Not until they’ve exhausted their fertility expense account and shed rivers of tears do they finally relent and open their hearts to the adoptive process. They waste a lot of time and energy, in my opinion, not to mention prolonging their heartache. How thankful we are that God planted that tiny mustard seed so long ago and taught us that He is the Father of life, all life. He founded our family.
In the course of our Natural Family Planning classes, we always make a point of sprinkling seeds by reminding those fresh-faced couples that adoption is part of the Divine Plan. Being open to life extends beyond the biological mission. Our Lord and Savior, Himself, was raised at the hip of His foster-father and no one could question the complete charity and devotion that existed between Joseph and Jesus.
And how could we not have admiration and gratitude for our son’s birth mother, who sacrificed her body and surely pieces of her heart to allow him to grow within her. A woman, not much older than his is now, she heroically challenged the culture and carried her unexpected gift for eight months. 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 and we have tried our hardest to instill in him a sincere respect for her.
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 that inspired us to open more fully the flood gates to so many blessings. I never would have chosen that course, but in His infinite wisdom and mercy, God didn’t ask me to choose. He orders our path, He steers the ship and so much the greater is His vision of our passage.