Leap of Faith: Adoptive Parents Share Their Perspective
- 2009 11 May
Editor's Note: This article is third in a special 3-part series on adoption. In February, blogger Jamey Stegmaier wrote an article for Crosswalk describing his experiences growing up as an adopted child. After a reunion with his biological mother via telephone, Jamey's birthmother, Laurel, shared her side of the adoption experience with Crosswalk. Now, Jamey's adoptive parents, Jay and Margot, share their side.
“Have you every thought of adopting a child? Would both of you be interested in adopting a child?”
Father Tom, a close friend and Catholic priest, asked these questions as we walked in the autumn sunshine. Jay and I barely glanced at each other’s eyes and smiled, and both said “Sure!” Maybe we were trying to show appropriate and mature interest, knowing that we both wanted to jump up and down and scream like kids at a birthday party. Ed McMahon: “Will you accept this check for $10 million?” Jay and Margot, looking at each other: “Sure!”
Jay and I had been married for 3 years and had not yet conceived a child. Our most intimate conversations often included some consideration of adoption. We had researched the topic and spoken to local agencies. At the time, agencies held long waiting lists of couples hoping to adopt babies.
So, that day, we asked more questions and found that our friend, Fr. Tom, a campus minister at a university, was working with a young student who hoped to find a stable and committed Catholic couple that would want to adopt the child she was carrying. Beyond that, she just needed the couple to pay some medical bills and to always let the child know that he/she was adopted. Most importantly, she was looking for a couple who would offer this baby a home with a chance to grow up knowing the unconditional love of two people who viewed this child as a precious gift.
The guidelines were simple. We hoped this special woman who was to play such an important part in our lives would come to know that we meant to keep this commitment, shower this child with love, and be the best parents possible.
We had about 3 months to “get ready”—6 months shorter than the average pregnancy. The anticipation was tangible. We wrote the birthmother a note about ourselves and sent it to Fr. Tom. We notified our workplaces that we would be taking maternity/paternity leave. And we waited.
The baby was due December 23. Would it be a Christmas baby? New Years Eve came and went and as the days in January ticked by, I began to wonder at times if this were real. Would this baby really come?
Well-meaning friends and family raised cautionary questions, which didn’t help our anxiety. But I also felt an overwhelming sense of compassion for the birthmother—what was she thinking and feeling as the waiting and wondering stretched into January?
Finally, the phone call came the morning of January 9. The birthmother was in labor. Yippee!! We learned that evening that a baby boy was born, and we could pick him up in 3 days.
We’ll always remember the moment when the baby was laid in our arms for the first time. We had flown to the city where he was born and were waiting in an apartment for Fr. Tom to deliver the baby to us.
After what seemed like an eternity, he arrived and laid the child in our arms. He was covered in a pure white blanket lined with light blue gingham check. He wore a daintily knit light blue hat with a light blue sweater. Underneath the sweater lay a solid white sleep and body suit edged in light blue. And most magically of all, in the middle of all of this fabric, sparkled a pair of light blue eyes staring up at us.
The eyes said, “Hi there, I lay my trust in you to love me as I have just been cared for these past 9 months.” To this day I believe a newborn baby dressed in white is simply perfect – like an angel sent from God.
We named him Jamey.
And so our lives as parents began. We settled right in, sharing night feedings, jumping at the opportunity to sit back in that wicker rocker holding the baby bundle in one arm and a bottle in the other, staring endlessly at those beautiful blue eyes so full of wonder. There are some vague memories about Social Services checking us out every few months, making sure the baby was healthy and that we remained suitable parents.
The questions from friends and relatives continued. How could we be sure that there would be nothing wrong with the baby? How could we be sure that the mother would not change her mind? How could we risk loving this baby with a fear that he could be taken away from us?
Faith as defined as “confident belief in the trustworthiness of a person”. We knew Fr. Tom for many years and had faith in his ability to love, care, and counsel the people involved.
Faith as defined as “belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” Disturbing anecdotes and television drama seemed foreign and irrelevant, and our faith in the integrity of this birth mother more than compensated for any lack of concrete proof or evidence that the child was ours to keep.
Of course, sometimes we look for, and benefit from, signs that confirm and reinforce our faith.
In this case, this sign came in the form of a letter from the birthmother written prior to the actual birth. It was a multi-page handwritten note on pink stationary. It was her story of love and concern for the baby’s welfare.
She gave us the sense that she had cared deeply and unconditionally for the child in its early stage of development. Her letter conveyed her hopes and dreams for her child, her deep desire for a loving, faithful mother and father to be a part of the child’s life. It painted a picture of one who makes caring, thoughtful, intelligent choices. She did not specify if she ate correctly or didn’t smoke or drink, but it was clear she loved this child from the start and would do whatever necessary and right to ensure the best for him.
So our life as a family began. We relied on our faith in God, in Fr. Tom, in this birth mother, and in the intangibles with us as this child grew and as we grew as parents.
Our family continued to grow with 2 pregnancies. Three hundred and sixty days later, Jamey’s little sister was born. Eight days later, on January 12, 1982, we received the final papers for Jamey’s adoption. Four years later, Jamey and his sister were joined by a little brother, my last pregnancy. Altogether, no other path to family could have been sweeter.
As for our promise to the birthmother: This Jamey has been raised by two parents in a loving, faith-filled Catholic environment, faith that was strengthened when he entered our world.
All of our children always knew that babies come into families in one of two ways: They could be adopted, or they could come from a mother’s “tummy.” It was a matter of fact. Either entry into a family was special and magical.
Over the years, Fr. Tom provided a conduit for us to let Jamey’s birthmother know of his and his family’s growth and development, and for her to give Jamey a chance to know the one whose choice gave him life. The first contact in letter form came from the birthmother when Jamey was about 13 years old. A few letters were exchanged between her and us. But when Jamey turned 18 a personal note and small gift came for him and us. Once again we informed him of her willingness to make contact; however we couldn’t know if or when Jamey would decide to close the distance between him and his birthmother. But we were ever thankful that he had that chance available.
Twenty-eight years ago, we could only hope that one day God would bless us with a child. As that hope was fulfilled through the love of Jamey’s birthmother, faith made easy work of the changes and uncertainties that accompanied our transition to a growing family. The chance to experience the simple, pure, unconditional love of a parent for a child was one of the best gifts we’ve ever been given, and it continues to be a blessing for us today.
We are pleased that Jamey and his birthmother have gotten in touch with one another. We’ve watched that tender process with wonder and appreciation, much as one might marvel at witnessing a birth, or any new and special relationship involving a loved one. We have given our lives to fulfilling a promise, and along the way have come to know a love that surpasses all understanding.
All thanks to a little faith.