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.
The Day Charleigh Brought Two Families Together
Part One: By Lisa (Birthmother)
I’m a 28-year-old mother of four beautiful kids, three of whom I care for and ALL I will always love no matter what. I have a few future goals yet to accomplish. I'm funny and outgoing as well as outspoken. Me in a nutshell.
My pregnancy came while I was under difficult circumstances. With the little-to-nothing I had, and the fear of not knowing what was going to happen next for my little ones, my unborn child, and myself, I did what was best for us all. Life wasn't all about me anymore and things were about to get real.
I had been on birth control since after I had Adrian in Oct 2010. I certainly wasn't ready or planning to have any other babies -- I was unemployed, living with my sister, and trying to work through an unstable relationship.
And then I learned that my birth control failed and I was expecting. My search for a job was unsuccessful and stressful, and my attitude with my sister had overstayed its welcome. So, my cousin allowed me to stay with her for a little bit. As the jobless weeks continued, I eventually swallowed my pride and applied for the welfare programs.
During this time, the baby’s father and I stopped seeing each other. He became negligent toward our son and started denying our unborn child. I was busy working on things that were MUCH more important, and the unnecessary relationship drama was holding me back. Shortly after Adrian turned one, I found a job at a pharmacy. Things were finally looking up.
I liked working at the pharmacy and in the healthcare field. It made me feel good to help other people. But living with my cousin had become a piece of work. Her own job hunt was unsuccessful, and she grew impatient, thus causing me to move out and share an apartment with another cousin, where I finished out my pregnancy.
My belly was growing bigger and bigger. People were starting to get suspicious and ask me questions. I would deny anything was going on because I wasn't ready for the reactions of disappointment, especially from my family. Only my doctor knew, and I went for regular appointments.
One night while watching movies with my cousin and her kids, the idea of adoption just dawned on me. I was on a yahoo page, and ironically, Angel Adoption's link came across my screen. I clicked on the link to learn more about them and their organization.
My main interests were the location and openness of the potential adoptive parents. I did my homework and came across MANY different profiles. Nobody's profile stood out farther than Mike and Becky's. They were a beautiful couple that already had two kids. Their location isn't far from me at all, and they described themselves to be as open as I wanted. So, I contacted Angel, and the next day, I got a phone call with information about how to reach Becky. That night, I emailed her, and we continued to stay in touch as often as we could.
We have so many little things in common. From our kids, to our fathers and even BIRTHDAYS, there were similarities. It was uncanny. We eventually planned to meet. I was the most nervous person you could ever meet! I was in my ninth month at the time. On March 4th, we met at a McDonald's in my hometown. We sat there for a few hours talking and playing with the boys. We gave each other BIG hugs. It was refreshing to put a face to the person on the other side of the emails. We discussed how big our families are, why Mike and Becky chose to adopt, and why I chose adoption. We went on and on about so many things in the little time we spent together, and we kept in constant touch after that.
Being as secretive as possible, I told my family and friends that I was going to get my tubes tied. It was the only logical explanation I could use for why I was going to be in the hospital for a couple of days. On March 30, I met Becky and Mike at the hospital. Mike agreed to take care of Adrian while I was in labor (poor Mike!) and Becky stayed with me. She did everything she could to comfort me. And then I FINALLY gave birth to Charleigh.
The whole hospital stay was a little overwhelming. All I could think about was not bringing my new baby home. I comforted myself by knowing that she would be loved as much by Mike and Becky as she would be if she stayed with me. I took as many pictures and gave her as many kisses as I could, enough to hopefully hold me up til I would see her again. And I knew without a doubt that I was going to see her again.
Sunday came, and it was time for me to go home. I gave Becky and Mike the tightest, most intense hugs, and I watched as they drove away. I stayed in my room and cried myself to sleep that day. It was so hard, so very very hard. I'm crying right now thinking about it. But no matter HOW many tears fall, I know she's loved by so many people. THAT was the day Charleigh brought two families together. :)
Part Two: By Becky and Mike Caruso (The Adoptive Couple)
It has been eighteen months since the adoption of our beautiful baby girl, Charleigh. I will never forget the day we walked into the Angel Adoption Office. We were both nervous and very uncertain about the entire process.
During our interview, I paused for a minute, and stated to one of the owners of Angel Adoption, “We are taking a huge leap of faith.” On the drive home, Mike and I were very quiet with one another. It was one of those moments in life that is inexplicable. We both wanted to adopt, but we were so very nervous.
We began our adoption journey in 2011. I remember our social worker sitting down with us and asking us why we wanted to adopt. As a former social worker and now Director of Special Education, I could not help but overthink the question. I was so nervous about how to convey our passion to adopt. I spoke, and then it was Mike’s turn. When he spoke, I had tears in my eyes.
Mike told Kristina, “There were two very important perquisites that Becky had for me before we were to marry one another. First, Becky wanted to keep her maiden name for personal reasons. Second, Becky asked me if I would be willing to adopt someday. Of course, I said yes to both! So, here we sit before you.”
We worked quickly get through all of our coursework along with our background checks; it took only three to four weeks. But then the waiting began, and the waiting was the most difficult part. We waited for almost a year before our birthmother Lisa found us. It was the longest year of our lives, but once Lisa found us and we connected with her, it turned into a whirlwind experience.
We met our beautiful birthmother at McDonalds in Wisconsin in late January. By the end of March, we were at the hospital with her as she labored.
Mike and I took care of Lisa’s adorable little 18-month year old boy, Adrian, during the weekend that she was in the hospital, because no one in Lisa’s family knew about her pregnancy with Charleigh. The birth of our precious baby was very bittersweet. Lisa was so strong throughout the entire process, and I am grateful that she allowed me to be part of the birth of our daughter. We spoke about the names of our children. All of my children’s initials are C.C.C., and Lisa’s children’s names all begin with A. I asked her what she thought of the name I had picked out and she stated that she liked it. It was a strong and lovely name for our little girl.
Lisa and I had our moments of laughter and crying with one another, but never was there an awkward moment between us. After the birth of Charleigh, Lisa and I spent a few days in the hospital together talking about family and our lives. Lisa shared stories from her childhood that will forever leave a lasting impact on my life. I wish Lisa could see in herself what I see in her -- her intelligence and beauty.
During our conversation, I asked Lisa how she was getting home. She replied that she would take public transportation. Mike and I asked if we could drive her to her cousin’s house where she resided, and she agreed. I dropped her off across the street from her house to respect her privacy. The very next day she went back to work.
As soon as Lisa went into the apartment building, I began crying. I could not help but feel her pain. It was very hard to be truly happy for our family when I knew the sadness and suffering she would be going through.
I spent a week in Kenosha, Wisconsin because I could not yet cross over the state border with the baby. At the end of the week, my husband brought our older children to visit. We planned to meet Lisa for lunch. It was the first time that our children met Charleigh’s biological mother. They instantly liked her and talked her ear off.
Shortly thereafter, we began our lives in Illinois with our little bundle of joy! We began introducing Charliegh to family and friends. I expected to be happier when showing off our little girl, but I could not get past the guilt. When people commented on how blessed and fortunate Charleigh was for having us as parents, I found myself fighting back tears while saying, “No, we are the fortunate ones to have Charleigh in our lives.”
Now we continue to communicate with Lisa through Facebook, emails, phone calls, and visits. Lisa comes to stay with us for visits and we are blessed to know her family and her children. Our children view Lisa’s children as their “cousins.” We have the best of both worlds! We have Charleigh who is our “little miracle,” and we have her beautiful birthmother who continues to be in our lives.
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