The time had come for my husband and me to make a momentous decision that would change our lives forever. Both of us had grown up in big families; Mike had five siblings, and I had six. We both knew the joys and happiness of being part of a large family, and we wanted to have the same kind of family - with four children, at least.
We had moved into our four-bedroom home about eight years before, but the rooms were empty and the silence was deafening. We wanted to hear the sound of children padding down the hallway in their slippers. We wanted to say goodnight prayers with them before they went to sleep. We wanted to be good parents and encourage and comfort our children as needed. This was our wish, but no matter how hard we tried, our wish would not come true.
Actually, I had been pregnant once, right before we moved into our house. But then I had a miscarriage, and the hopes and dreams of a family were soon replaced with feelings of grief and despair. What if I could never give birth to a child? What would we do then? We had tried so many times to get pregnant and when we finally did, I miscarried. Our hopes and dreams of a big family soon grew dim.
Three more years passed by and still no baby. We went to fertility specialists and had all sorts of tests and procedures done. Nothing happened. No matter what we tried, I did not become pregnant.
It was around this time that I decided I needed a change of pace. The plan was for me to go to nursing school, and when I graduated I could work in the operating room. I had two sisters who worked in the operating room and it sounded like the perfect job for me.
I started nursing school. I had a very hectic schedule, working full-time during the day and going to school in the evenings. My weekends were filled with studying and working at the hospital as a nursing student. But no matter how hard I worked, whether it be at my job or in school, I knew there was a hole in our lives. I also knew that the only thing that would fill this hole would be a baby.
This is when Mike and I made the decision to go through Catholic Charities and begin the process of adoption. We wanted a newborn, and Mike wanted a son. So after getting through all the paperwork and red tape, it was finally just a matter of waiting for the baby. We were informed that it would be about three years for the adoption to occur. This meant that I would have plenty of time to graduate from nursing school and find a nursing position before our baby arrived. We would name him Joseph Michael - Joseph after my husband's father, and Michael after my husband.
Another year passed, and then it happened. I was home studying for a big exam that we were having that evening. As I was sitting in the kitchen, surrounded by all my books and notebooks, I received a phone call from my husband, Mike.
"What are you doing?" he asked nonchalantly.
"I'm studying for the test - what do you think I 'm doing?" Because of the difficulty of the upcoming exam, I was under a lot of pressure, and therefore a little grumpy.
"Are you sitting down?"
"That is the standard position used to study for a test; of course I'm sitting down!" I kept thinking that we were wasting valuable time on the phone when I could be studying for the exam.
"Good, because I've got something important to tell you."
"Okay, what is it?" I answered, hoping the conversation was almost over. I wished he would just hurry up and get it over with so I could get back to studying.
I could hardly believe it. When Mike said "She called," I knew exactly who he was referring to. I don't know how I knew, but I did. He was talking about the social worker from the adoption agency.
"Really? Oh my gosh, really? This isn't one of your pranks, is it? Did she really call?" He had finally gotten my attention and a shiver of excitement ran through me.
"Yes, dear, she really did call. I wouldn't fool around about something like that. Anyway, she said that tomorrow we can come and pick up our son."
Now this was too much. When Mike said we could pick up our son, I just lost it. There was a huge lump in my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes. Before I knew it, there I was, crying uncontrollably.
"What's the matter, Cindy? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine; I'm just so happy, that's all, and it's happening a lot earlier than we thought, so I'm surprised, too!" It was a minute or two before I could stop sobbing, and then I started to ask questions.
"How big is he? When was he born? Is he eating cereal yet?" I questioned, as I gave Mike the third degree about our new son.
"Whoa, hang on honey. I didn't ask her all those questions, but I knew you would, so she gave me her telephone number and said you could call any time and she'd give you all the details."
So Mike gave me the telephone number and now all I wanted to do was hang up so I could call the social worker.
"Well," I said, "you're probably pretty busy at work, so I suppose I should let you go."
Mike laughed and said, "Okay, okay, I get the hint. You want me to hang up so you can call the social worker. Got it. Go ahead and call her and then we'll talk before you go to class tonight. I think we've got some planning to do."
"You're right about that. I'll be waiting."
When I put the receiver down my mind was spinning out of control. All I kept thinking about was the baby. What does he look like? How big is he? Does he have a family history of any medical problems? What day was he born on?
I called Catholic Social Services and they connected me with Lisa, the social worker in charge of our case.
"This is Lisa. How may I help you?"
"Hi Lisa. This is Cindy. I believe you spoke with my husband a little while ago?"
"Yes, I did. Tomorrow's the big day! How are you feeling? Are you excited?"
"Oh, my goodness, I'm so happy! Words can't even begin to describe how I feel. We're so excited, but we didn't expect the baby for at least another year. So you have really taken us by surprise. Today we'll have to go out and get diapers and formula and whatever else he may need. We do have the nursery completed, thank goodness."
"That's wonderful. I'm sure you have some questions?"
"I have so many questions. How old is he now?"
"Let's see - here it is - he's eight weeks old."
"Wow, he's young. That's great! What's his birth date?"
"Okay, let's see - where did I find that before? Here it is. His birth date is listed as November 22nd."
I couldn't believe my ears. November 22nd! My hands started to tremble and I couldn't hold back the tears that had filled my eyes. Then I began to cry and it seemed as though I would never be able to stop.
"Cindy - are you okay? What's wrong? Did I say something to upset you?" Lisa asked as I was sobbing.
I tried to stop crying and regain my composure. After a minute or two I was able to speak again.
"Sorry. You just took me by surprise, that's all."
"Took you by surprise about what?"
"Okay." I took a deep breath. "You see, a few years back I was pregnant right before we moved into our house, but I had a miscarriage. It was awful, and after that we tried so hard to conceive again, but failing that, we decided to adopt. But the reason I was crying is because when I was pregnant, the baby's due date was November 22nd, the same birth date as our new son. I can hardly believe it."
"Oh Cindy, you just gave me goosebumps. This is wonderful. I believe this little boy is meant to be your son. Congratulations!"
"Thanks. What time should we come tomorrow?"
"Ten o'clock. And bring an outfit for him to wear when he meets his new mommy and daddy."
I'll never forget how I felt the next morning as we climbed the huge staircase to the second floor of the Catholic Charities building. Feelings of elation, joy, hope, relief, and even trepidation were coursing through me. The phrase "stairway to heaven" crossed my mind because I knew that bringing our son home would be just like the beginning our our own personal heaven on earth. Once we reached the top of the stairs, Lisa showed us into a little room where we could sit and wait while she prepared our baby to meet us. I gave her the clothing I had brought for him to be dressed in. She left the room and gently closed the door. Not a word passed between me and my husband; we just sat there, holding hands, waiting for our new son to appear.
Before long, the door opened and Lisa entered room, carrying our son in her arms. There he was - our baby, our son, our little Joey. I tried to hold back the tears on this happy occasion. Lisa said to us, "Mom and Dad -- meet your new son." I held out my arms and she gently placed him into them. He was awake and alert and didn't seem to mind being handed over to me. When I looked up, Lisa was gone. My husband and I were alone with out new little bundle of joy.
As I looked into the face of our sweet little baby, I felt unconditional love for him flow through me.
It was then that I knew - this little boy resting in my arms truly was meant to be our son, our little Joey.
On November 22nd, we will celebrate with Joe on his 31st birthday. He has a B.A. degree, works in a corporate position at a nationwide company, and is one of the finest young men that we know. We love him dearly and are very proud of him.
As soon as he was old enough to understand, Joe has known that he was adopted. His two younger sisters, Sarah and Stephanie, who were born five and seven years after he was adopted and who are not adopted, also know that he is adopted. If you ask them, they will tell you that he is the best big brother in the world; and if you ask him, he will tell you that family is the most important thing in his life.
When Joe turned eighteen, we told him that if he ever wanted to know any information about his birth mother, all he needed to do was ask.
He has never asked a single question.
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