My Mother Never Gave Up

In honor of November being National Adoption Awareness Month, Portrait of an Adoption is hosting the third annual acclaimed series, 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days.  Designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of adoption, this series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.

My Mother Never Gave Up

By Lucy McBain

After giving birth to me and then a baby boy who was stillborn, my mother's doctor advised her against anymore pregnancies.  My mother loved children and always wanted a large family.  She tried and tried to adopt more but was told that she didn't qualify since she had been proven capable of having her own children and that the adoptable babies had to go to barren couples.

Never one to give up, through various contacts she proceeded to adopt four more children over the years   - three boys and a girl.

The first was a baby boy from the local orphanage.  She had begged and begged for one of their babies.  A good friend of hers was chairman of the auxiliary but assured her that she could do nothing to help.   Finally, one day the friend called my mother and said she could have a child that was dying, if she signed a paper saying she would be financially responsible for his medical expenses and burial fees.

Being a woman of deep faith, Mom readily agreed and brought the boy home. She and her mother and her Christian Science practitioner prayed for him constantly. And either she or someone in our household held him and loved him every one of his waking moments. He not only survived, he rapidly thrived and eventually became a world class tri athlete.

Through a lawyer friend, my mother then got another newborn baby. We were so excited to have a tiny new baby in his pretty little organdy draped bassinet!  But within a few days, before all the legal papers were completed, the birth mother changed her mind, and the baby was returned to her. Gloom settled over our household for a while.

After WWII, my father, who had been in Europe with the OSS (the precursor to the CIA) during the war, took my mother back with him to Europe to show her where he had been during the war.  As long as she was going to Europe, she arranged to take several thousand layettes with her that her sorority had gathered to donate to Norway for their war orphans.

The Norwegian high official who received them from her thanked her profusely and told her that if there was ever any way they could thank her properly, they would love to do so. She replied, of course, that as a matter of fact, there was -- she would like to adopt one of those orphans.

There was much hemming and hawing and many excuses, talk of the time required to work it out, of her not being able to choose the child and the problem of how to transport the little one clear to Los Angeles, California from Norway. Undaunted, my mother never gave up, corresponded with them for months after returning home, sending care packages and many letters.

Six months later my father flew to New York to meet the boat and pick up my almost three-year-old new little brother, Erik, and fly him home to our eager and joyful waiting arms.

Ten years later, the real estate lady who had sold us our home came to my mother to say that her brother and his wife had just died in Buffalo, New York, leaving six children, ages 2 to 12 and no one there able to take them in.

Our realtor and her husband had built a comfortable, childless life in a nice one-bedroom apartment with no desire to become parents, and what was she to do?

My mother told her to bring them to Los Angeles and she would take whichever children the aunt couldn't handle. The aunt did so and put the three oldest kids in summer camp while my mother kept the three youngest ones. By the time school started, the aunt had bought a house and entered every one of them in school except the youngest, who was the only girl and at age two was too young for grammar school.

By then, we were all so attached to her, our baby doll, that we didn't want to give her back to her aunt.  Fortunately, the aunt was probably relieved and after some heated arguments, allowed her to stay with us permanently.

My mother eventually was able to adopt her. At one time or another, each of her brothers except one had been kicked out of their aunt's home and taken in by my mother.  Then the aunt would take that one back in and another would be rejected and come to live with us.  The oldest brother happened to be living with us when my sister's adoption came through and he got adopted too.

My mother always allowed them to keep in touch with their birth brothers.  So my sister knew very well that she was adopted.  She felt my parents were her only parents and that there was nothing odd about having two different sets of siblings living in two different households who were related to her but not to each other.

Nonetheless, one day she came home from grammar school and said everyone in her class was supposed to bring a baby picture of themselves to school the next day so everyone could guess who was who.  My mother didn't miss a beat. She went right to her drawer full of family photos, pulled out a baby picture of one of the others of us and gave it to my sister, who proudly took it to school the next day, none the wiser and all the happier.

My mother always assured my adopted siblings that she especially loved them, witness the fact that she chose them, they didn't just happen to her. [Like I did?]

And I?  I loved having all my siblings and am a better person for having them in my life.

Lucy McBain was born and raised in Los Angeles, went to 3rd St. public grammar school, Berkeley Hall School, Marlborough School for girls, and Stanford. Her amazing mom started over thirty important charity support organizations in L.A. and was voted the California Mother of the Year. Lucy McBain is happily married to a wonderful man, enjoying retirement in the beautiful California desert and delighting in her four precious grandchildren.

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