A Bittersweet Adoption: The Support Story


It was March 4th, 1989. Pete and I had a beautiful wedding, the second one for both of us, with all of our kids—five in all—as part of the wedding party. Greg was twenty years old; Chris, eighteen; Katie, eleven; and both my daughter, Laurie, and Pete’s daughter, Kristin, were four. What an adorable family we made! Life would certainly be filled with hearts and flowers forevermore . . .

Fast forward five and a half years: many things had changed. Greg was now married with a wife and two sweet daughters living in Texas. Chris was away at college, and Katie was a teenager experimenting with life. The turmoil of her father’s second divorce and quick third marriage had sent her into more than one tailspin. Meanwhile, Laurie and Kristin enjoyed their childhood, pretending to be twins and then yelling for the other to get out of the room. Not all hearts and flowers, but not gut-wrenching either.

A Voice of Reason

I do not pretend I was extra intuitive, but that night in September of 1995, I knew enough about my daughter to know she was distressed about something. Guessing she was pregnant did not take very long, and I am thankful she was honest in her response. The one thing I knew was that nothing could be decided that night. I also realized my ranting would have no positive result. Plus, I was tired.

The following weekend involved meetings: with Katie’s dad and his new wife, and with Andy’s parents. It also required trying to keep a clear head and be a voice of reason. Ugh. We really did not know Andy very well, and he was a quiet guy. (Secretly, I called him “The Impregnator." It was mean, but I needed some small humor and wanted to put blame on him.) Finding out what he was thinking was not easy; however, his mother let us know pretty easily she thought an abortion was the answer. It took all I could do not to blurt out that we do not support abortion! That is what I believe, but I didn't know if Katie agreed. During the next many months, it would be her responsibility, along with Andy, to decide that future of their baby.

Katie made it clear in the next months she would not consider an abortion. Instead, she was leaning toward putting the baby up for adoption. She began gathering information from various agencies. I held my tongue as much as possible when she wistfully uttered how great it would be if she and Andy—or just Katie alone—raised the baby!

Gut-wrenching Decisions

Pete’s grandmother was in declining health in this same time period, and a lot of our time was spent tending to her until her death. As a respite between Gram’s passing and Katie’s due date in May, we took a family cruise to the Bahamas. Those were some of the strangest, funniest memories. We hid Katie’s seven-month pregnant belly behind hats and towels so as to not have any undue stares—or worse, so we wouldn’t be made to return home. I am pretty sure our shipmates spent a lot of time trying to figure out our family dynamic (and Pete is eight years younger than I am). The trip gave us all a time to imagine many various scenarios for us as a family in the years to come. For Katie, I believe she valued some time to think things through, and we thought she was pretty definite on the couple she and Andy had chosen. The meetings with the potential adoptive parents had gone well for all of them.

The actual birth of Nora was beautiful and, thankfully, easy. Katie was in good shape and strong; having that adorable little girl was fairly uneventful. The hard part, the really hard part, came when it was time to release that sweet baby, and for Katie to come to grips with the reality of placing her up for adoption. Although the agency was coming to take Nora to their nursery and we all knew she would be in great hands until final decisions were made, leaving the hospital with empty arms could not have been any sadder. I sobbed, Katie sobbed, Andy did not know what to do. Ugh, just ugh.

The next ten days were hard. All the close members of our family wanted to see this sweet baby and kiss her on her way. Trips back and forth were lengthy and exhausting, although no one complained. I do not remember if the potential adoptive family was also allowed to come and see Nora, but I thought of them a lot during this time. Katie and Andy wrestled over and over to find any way to keep this pink frothy bundle, but ultimately, they gave in to what we all pretty much knew was the best answer: permanent placement with the adoptive family.

Proud Mother and Grandmother

A date was set for the "Entrustment Ceremony" at the end of the ten day period. We all gathered at the agency by 10 a.m., and a nicely thought-out ceremony was followed with touches Katie and Andy added as their own. I brought a child’s Bible with an inscription for Nora, and Katie added several things including a letter for Nora only. Katie and Andy had changed and dressed Nora and held her tightly. When the time came to pass this tender little baby girl on to her new adoptive parents, we all held our breath. Could these two young people make a choice for the good of their baby? After what seemed a long time, Nora was settled into the arms of Christina. Breaths released. 

After the ceremony, our family—including Katie’s dad and her stepmother—had lunch at a local restaurant. Small talk was not possible. I wonder what the wait staff must have thought was going on with us. Heading home with Katie was gut wrenching. Crying and general sadness went on for several days, until finally the time to complete all her school work came, and plans to at least walk for the graduation ceremony were made. I do not know what this must have been like for Katie. I do know for me, I was proud she had made the decision not to abort this precious little girl. I was proud she cared more for this little one than what others thought of her.

Seasons of Sadness and Joy

The years that followed have not always been easy for Katie, in many ways. What has been delightful, though, is that there is a relationship between Katie and Nora, and because of that a relationship for us with this beautiful young granddaughter of ours. The summer before she left for college, she had reached out to meet her other half-siblings. It was a joyous time for all of them, though originally I could not be there.

A few days later, Nora and I were able to arrange a time to get together. We met at a local restaurant where my husband entertains as a magician and balloon artist. Nothing could have been more fun for us as we discovered Nora has a love for magic, and she was delighted with every trick Pete performed.

At this same meeting, we discovered the meaning of a tattoo she had on her shoulder: it was of several small birds, and the beginning of the letter Katie had written to her some 18 years earlier. That tattoo represents the ending of her physical time with Katie and the beginning of her life with her adoptive parents.  Katie also has a tattoo that represents Nora. On the inside of her left wrist is a tiny footprint that matches the print on the copy of the original birth certificate. Katie placed it there to always remind her of her beautiful firstborn.   

For me, the season of Katie’s first pregnancy was a trying one. I missed not getting to watch her mother her daughter. I struggle with how to include Nora, and have not found a good answer. Christmas stockings on the mantle, Easter baskets, and birthday gifts are not displayed and given with Nora’s name on them. I always count her when I proclaim the number of grandchildren we have, and no one really does a count to verify in family pictures. And now, though Katie has many children, I believe she still carries a heartbreak for the loss of Nora through adoption. I know we both acknowledge the birthdate to each other. For me, there is a sadness that we missed a lot in sweet Nora’s growing up. There is also joy, too, in getting to hear from her every so often or seeing a “like” or a comment on Facebook between us. I am thankful Katie and I can see that ultimately this was one of the trenches we went through together, and we have been able to pull each other out—with lots of pulling and pushing, crying and smiling, and love.

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