The Christmas season always gets me thinking about babies. You know, Baby Jesus and “Away in the Manger.” We’ve also been looking at baby pictures with my son Michael. He’s far from perfect, but he did play Baby Jesus four years ago! Both were precious, and in their own ways, amazing too.
I’ve been pretty pro-life for years. But there’s one more thing that cinched it for me. I was a baby too. Not just a baby, but an adopted one, from birth. You see, my natural mother was in trouble when she found out she was pregnant, over fifty years ago.
Back then, there was such a stigma against it that teenagers just didn’t have babies at home. Many of them had their pregnancies ended. Even her own mother was pushing for this.
But something deep inside her couldn’t do it, so they sent her off to the Chicago Foundlings Home. It was there where she would live until she’d delivered the baby and given it up for adoption.
I can’t imagine how that must have been for her, but I know she was pretty spunky. She was bound and determined to have me, but she also knew she wasn’t ready to take care of me. Giving me up was her best alternative.
Adopting a child was pretty difficult back then. Couples were screened and interviewed at length, for years. Even if you made it through the process, the chances were still less than one in four that you’d get a baby.
My parents couldn’t have children, but they really wanted kids, so they went through the lengthy process to adopt my sister. It took them another four years to get me. I hope I was worth the wait.
Meanwhile, my natural Mother was giving birth up in Chicago. She was born in Lerna, IL, and her family then moved to Loves Park, so Chicago was a good choice. It was close enough to get there, but far enough away, if you know what I mean.
When the girls gave birth, the procedure was to just take the baby away, right after delivery. They did this to try and avoid further emotional distress. But my birth mother asked them if she could just hold me for awhile. She softly spoke to me, held me, and then she let me go.
Forty-seven years went by. Every year on my birthday, she wondered where I was and how I was doing. Even after getting married, and having a child of her own, she says she was always sad on that one day, every year.
When my adopted Mom died from a sudden stroke in 2004, my wife Kathy started feeling that it was time to try to find my birth mother. I figured it might give her some comfort, at least knowing where I was, and that I was doing fine.
So in 2008, Kathy began a search. It took a year, and several different approaches, because they don’t just give you that information. They always try to protect the mothers at all costs.
It was frustrating at times, but she kept at it until she finally got a strong lead. She then got the help of a person who does this kind of work for a living. With that new lead, in just a few weeks, they found a woman living down in the Atlanta area.
Contact was made by our intermediary in 2009. My birth mother verified the facts and confirmed that I was the one she’d delivered and given up for adoption back in 1962.
Soon after, a phone call was arranged, and I spoke to my birth mother for the first time. For her, it was the second time. The first was all those years ago when she’d told me hello, and then goodbye.
I have to say, I was surprised at how much it’s meant to me. Originally, I was doing it for her. Over the years, I’ve come to realize it’s been for me too.
Now we talk regularly, and a year ago, Kathy and I drove down there to meet and spend some time with her and her family. She’s pretty amazing, and still quite spunky.
She could have taken the easy way out. Many did back then. They still do. Instead, Beth choose to do two difficult things. She gave birth to me, and then gave me up.
I’d always been grateful that I’d been given the chance to live, but I kind of always thought I’d been unwanted, too. After all these years, it was great to learn that wasn’t it at all.
There are a couple of other interesting things. Mom was born and raised in Northern Illinois. But she met and married a man from downstate Illinois, after both had moved down to Atlanta.
He went down there to attend the Music Business Institute. She took a job down there as a travel agent. It turns out that he was from right here in Paris, IL, where I live and raise my own family. Small world.
There’s more. Around that time, I was a cop on patrol. One night, I’d stopped a car that was going very slowly and riding the outer line on the highway. There was a chance they might be driving under the influence (driving below the speed limit is often a clue, as is continually dipping below the line).
It turned out to be a nice older couple on the way home, and the driver was just having a little trouble trying to find his turn. After making sure everything was O.K., I said “good night, be careful” and we all went on our way.
When we were talking, Mom told me her husband’s parents had apparently already met me. You see, they’d called and told them about this nice officer who stopped them to make sure they were alright! They decided not to drive at night after that, and had even remembered my name. Small world indeed.
“Away in a manger, no room for a bed. The little Lord Jesus lays down His sweet head….”. Thank God for mothers, and babies too.