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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Great Expectations (Part 7)

It was June in Illinois.

The weather was fair and clear. Heather and I sat beneath the hickory oak with a three-day old infant. We were not hesitant. We were not ready to be parents. Not when this crisis began. Not now. Perhaps because we had made our decision so early, we had progressed through the pregnancy with his parents in mind and never wavered.

Wayne and Cathy met us beneath the oak tree. We introduced them to their son. We visited for a short while, they signed papers, and then they were back on the road.

Journey complete.

The recovery was certainly not seamless.

Despite our steady commitment, there was a period of emotional recovery that, at times, was difficult. But never regret. It was sad for many reasons. And happy as well. We made it through an unplanned pregnancy. I finished college. Our relationship was as strong as ever. And Michael had an older sister and loving parents.

I returned to work at the college research station. In the fall, I started graduate school at the University of Illinois. Heather stayed in Carbondale to finish her undergraduate. We would travel on the weekends to stay at one place or the other. But before that would happen, we would meet Wayne and Cathy one more time. It was at the hospital.

Blood was drawn.

It was an option, but paternity needed to be determined. If there were any health issues, it would be imperative to know the father's history. I gave a sample. Steve met us to provide a sample, too. And Michael, still an infant, had blood drawn from his foot. It took a few days for the results.

I was not the father.

I could say it didn't matter. To a large degree, it didn't. Michael was with his family. Heather and I made sure of that. What did it matter if I was his biological father or not? But it was impossible not to feel some sadness. Crisis is such.

The years passed and we kept in touch with Wayne and Cathy through letters. Cathy sent photos. Heather sent birthday cards. She finished college and moved in with me while she did an internship at a halfway house and I continued graduate school. In 1992, we got married. That same year, we arranged to meet with Wayne and Cathy.

The greatest fear of open adoption is the unknown.

It's the adoption tragedies that make the news, the disasters that get made into movies. In reality, they are often very cordial. For us, the correspondence helped us process the transition. Our top priority was always Michael. To see that happen, to witness his growth allowed us to grow with him. We eventually became the adults that we knew we would be, adults that just weren't there when he would need them.

Michael was two years old when we saw him. We spent a few hours with the family, got to see him play, got to hold him. Got to say goodbye. That closure made all the difference.

Two years later, we started a family. Ben was born. When his head crowned, I cried just as hard. Four years after that, there was Maddi and, despite my conviction that I'd been there, done that, I bawled a third time. We read books, rolled on the floor, took them for walks and blew out birthday candles.

And every June, Heather would send a birthday card to Michael. She would get pictures back and we watched him grow up.

Eighteen years after giving birth, we would meet him again.

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