Cover image for Adoption journeys : parents tell their stories
Adoption journeys : parents tell their stories
Turner, Carole S. (Carole Stevenson), 1949-
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : McBooks Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
237 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library HV875.55 .T87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
Kenmore Library HV875.55 .T87 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



The purpose of this books is to help people understand the often difficult but always miraculous journeys adoptive parents travel to create their families. The poignant stories in Adoption Journeys will allow the reader to better understand and appreciate the exacting and often complex journeys taken by adoptive parents; they will increase admiration for adoptive families while dislodging prejudices about adoption; adoptees will better understand the experiences adoptive parents go through; and finally, those considering adoption will be inspired and encouraged to begin their own journeys.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

The primal desire to love and parent a child binds these adoption narratives, based on detailed interviews with 20 adoptive parents, including heterosexual, gay and single parents, those involved in transracial adoptions and foster parents. Turner, who with her husband adopted a baby girl from Thailand, probes the different motivations for adopting, from infertility to altruism, as well as the frustrations with maladroit social workers and numb bureaucrats that adoptive parents can encounter in the process. One couple, Mark and Allison, advocate the practice of "open adoption," in which the adoptive parents and the birth parents meet one another and are all involved in the baby's birth. Looking back on the experience after their adoption was finalized, however, they both discuss their fears that the birth mother would change her mind. Another couple, Carrie and Alex, decided to adopt a child from Lebanon because they had an affinity for the culture, though Alex stated that, he "did not want the birth mother to become part of our family." Limited to descriptive anecdotes with happy endings, this study will inspire those seeking to adopt, although it does not address the complex issues that arise as adoptive children grow older, which are explored in recent books such as Joyce Pavo's The Family of Adoption and Lynn C. Franklin's May the Circle Be Unbroken. Agent, Carolyn Krupp. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Excerpt Mark and Allison An open adoption "It seemed wise not to have any secrets; secrets breed dysfunction in a family, and I thought, Perhaps if there are no secrets, there won't be dysfunction. If my child knows from the very beginning about his birth parents, maybe it won't be a big deal. It will be a fact of life, like having freckles . If there's any kind of adoption that makes sense to me, it's open adoption." MARK AND ALLISON are a devoted couple who struggled with infertility for seven years. Their infertility took a tremendous toll on them as individuals and as a couple. It forced them to carefully examine their fears, motivations, and expectations about having a family. This introspection led them to conclude that honesty--to each other and to their child--was of primary importance to them. When they began the process to adopt a child they decided that an open adoption was the only kind that made sense for them. Their experience was not easy, yet despite their difficulties, they remain persuasive advocates of open adoption.     Allison was the second daughter born into a suburban family in New York in the early 1950s. Art exuberant dark-haired woman, Allison speaks candidly, intensely, and incongruously of a troubled childhood and tragic events in her family.     "My mother was a well-known artist," she began. "When I was about nine months old she had a nervous breakdown, which marked the beginning of her fairly severe mental illness. I was sent to live with my father's mother, and my sister was sent to our other grandmother. When I was three-and-a-half, I went home for about six months, but my mother was unable to handle me and sent me back to Nana's. I went back and forth so many times that to this day I have trouble with transitions and hate to say good-bye to people."     Allison's parents divorced when she was a teenager; she chose to go to boarding school. When Allison was in her senior year of high school, her mother committed suicide. "It was not completely unexpected," said Allison. "She had made several previous attempts. But it was obviously a shock." As a result of this tragedy, Allison spent several years in therapy and delayed starting college.     Mark, by contrast, had a happy childhood with loving parents and an older brother. A confident man with a round, friendly face, Mark sports a trim beard. His career in public relations makes him quite approachable. A failed first marriage left Mark a bit wary; nevertheless, two years after meeting Allison he proposed.     "He asked me to marry him on Christmas Day," remembered Allison. "A diamond ring was at the bottom of my Christmas stocking. He had tears in his eyes and couldn't speak when I opened it. I said, `Does this mean you want to have children?' He just nodded. I said, `Can we start trying right away?'     "I was twenty-six years old when we got married. We were living in Philadelphia, and I still had a year-and-a-half of college left to finish a nursing degree. We agreed that I would finish school before trying to get pregnant; then Mark wanted me to work for a year, but I said, `No, I've wanted to be pregnant for a long time. We've been married almost two years, we own a house, I'm almost thirty, and my clock is ticking.'"     Mark recalled, "When we started trying to get pregnant we had wine in front of a crackling fire--we wanted it to be memorable."     Allison added, "The first month there was great romance and wonder. I was sure I was pregnant and was shocked when my period came. After two or three more months it no longer felt like we were making love; we were trying to make a baby. I began to feel a sense of urgency. After nine months, I saw my first infertility specialist."     Thus began a stressful period of trying to pinpoint the reasons for their infertility and of experimenting with different ways of overcoming it. "We got sucked into the game," said Mark.     First Allison had a laparoscopy, which showed no endometriosis. Then she took a fertility drug, which caused large cysts to grow on one of her ovaries. When medication failed to eliminate the cysts, they had to be surgically removed. Allison said, "I talked to my former doctor about what I was going through, and he tried to urge me to work with somebody else; he didn't think the specialist was someone I should trust. But I was totally focused on this doctor; he had helped a good friend of mine get pregnant, and I wasn't interested in finding anyone else."     After three years Allison quit her job at the hospital and became a visiting nurse because of the more convenient schedule it offered. "I only had to work one weekend a month and no nights," explained Allison. "I really wanted to concentrate on getting pregnant. My new job had a different health care plan, which covered infertility but forced me to switch doctors. My life became a series of two-week cycles: menstruating, waiting to menstruate, waiting to find out if I was pregnant. It was awful, a really miserable time. I was feeling angry, discouraged, hopeless, helpless, furious ... I couldn't believe this [having a baby] would be denied to me. I thought, I've been through a crazy mother, a suicide, a mixed-up childhood; I made it through, I got married, I'm happy, and now I can't have a baby? I was in complete shock."     Mark talked about his side of things. "For me it was a depersonalizing, dehumanizing experience. It wasn't about having a child together; it was all about science--giving samples, very clinical. I felt like a machine who was expected to produce sperm on demand; it was never when I was in the mood. I went through a couple of episodes of sperm donations that were horribly insensitive to me. They put me in a small bathroom, and nurses were standing outside laughing and talking to each other. It was humiliating."     Five years into their quest to conceive, Mark and Allison went on a fishing vacation with friends. Allison had gone in for a pregnancy test on the morning they were leaving; the nurse told her to call about two-thirty for the results.     "By mid-afternoon we were driving through a sleepy little town in New York," said Allison. "I pulled off the road to use a pay phone. For the last hour I had been thinking, Could it be? Well, maybe this time ... I called and was put on hold. Then the nurse came back and said, `Allison, I have wonderful news for you. You're pregnant!' When I came out of the phone booth I saw Mark standing next to our car. I screamed at the top of my lungs, `We're pregnant!' I was hysterical? People were looking at me. Back in the car Mark said, `This can't be!' We kept looking at each other and saying, `I can't believe it!'"     Mark continued, "I instantly became lightheaded. It was surreal, bizarre. All of a sudden I was transported into a world of fantasy. While Allison went out fishing with our friends, I sat with a book but couldn't concentrate; all I could think about was having a child. This was great! The next morning we crashed. Allison began to bleed and miscarried. It was horrible. I tried to put the best face on it--this wasn't meant to happen, et cetera. I believe that nature selects and that pregnancies end for a reason. That's the intellectual side. But this was emotional. Allison was shattered; I felt protective of her. Our poor friends had to watch the whole thing unfold."     Allison described her emotional state, "I cried all the way home. I was a mess; it was a horrible crash."     "We came out of this experience thinking, We did it--there's hope! We got pregnant, by God, and we'll do it again ," said Mark. "But it never happened again, and that's when it became really dehumanizing. I think we continued for two more years. It kept dragging on and gradually felt more and more invasive. Allison's body was like a pincushion. I was giving her shots all the time. We'd take a month off and then come back to try again. It was not good for our relationship. It raises hell with a normal sex life. There was a growing sense of desperation, which started to invade our lives."     Allison added, "I went from being a happy-go-lucky, free-spirited, joyous person to someone who was barely able to present a veneer of her old personality; beneath that veneer was a seething rage because I was unable to have what came so easily to everybody else. I reached the point where I couldn't go to baby showers; I had good friends who got pregnant and I could no longer talk to them. It was too painful. Then I would feel guilty and ashamed for having those feelings.     "Eventually I was able to admit to myself, I don't want to feel like this anymore. I don't want to become the person I am becoming . I decided to try one last thing, GIFT [gamete inter-fallopian transfer]. This is a procedure where they fill you with Pergonal and make as many eggs as they can. Then they aspirate the eggs off the ovary and mix them with selected sperm, inject the two parts together back into your fallopian tubes, and leave the rest to nature. I knew this had a better rate of success than in vitro fertilization, and that the success rates after three attempts dropped off dramatically. That's why I decided to do three.     "I told Mark that this was the final procedure I was willing to undertake. He said, `If it doesn't work, then we'll adopt.' I seized on that idea and thought, Fine, I'm not sure I'm ready to adopt, but we'll get there if this doesn't work . The first two attempts failed, and on the third try, as they were putting me under general anesthesia, tears streamed down my face. The anesthesiologist asked, `What's wrong?' and I said, `This is it. If this doesn't work, I'm done. I can't do this anymore.'     "When the third attempt failed I went to see my doctor. He started talking about the next attempt, but I said, `No, there's no next month . I'm done. I came to say good-bye and thank you.' He asked me, `What are you going to do?' I said, `I don't know, but I can't do this anymore. I can't believe that I'm saying I'm ready to stop, but I can't do it again.' He said, `Well, you can always come back.' But I said, `No, I need closure here. I need to end this process because I just can't take it anymore. Physically I can't take it, my marriage can't take it, I'm done.' I felt relieved but terribly sad.     "The ultimate reason why I stopped our infertility treatments was that it was going to consume our marriage. It was going to eat it up and spit it out in a form that would not be acceptable to either of us. It was clear that it had already begun to do very destructive work. I was resentful. It also prevented us from dealing with any other problems in our marriage. All we dealt with was the infertility. There was no room for any other problem. I realized that you can't put other issues on hold forever and ever. We needed to have time to deal with other things, or we wouldn't survive."     "It was Allison's decision to stop trying," added Mark. "She'd had enough; she was punched out. Her body was a mess. She'd had raging hormones for five years with all those chemicals flowing through her, and she was emotionally destroyed."     "Right away I tried to talk to Mark about adoption," said Allison, "but he said, `Let's take six months off, relax, and stop thinking about all this.' We took six months off. It was then that I began to grieve the loss of my fertility. And during that time I also thought, I need to give equal time to the idea of not having children. I need to try on childlessness , which was how I saw it. I didn't see it as childfree; I saw it as childlessness. Mark was able to comfort me a little bit, but not to the extent that I needed. During this time some of our marital struggles began to surface. I wondered, Is this going to work? Is there anything left of this marriage? It felt like a shell. Seven years of having one sole focus had consumed me. I was not balanced, and I did not have perspective on it.     "Somehow the six months stretched into a year, and I was just about ready to bring up the subject of adoption again when suddenly Mark's brother was killed in an accident. His death brought us back together in a way that nothing else could have. I really identified with Mark the night that he got the phone call, and I watched him free-fall. Witnessing his reaction made me realize there was nothing I could do except to be there when he hit bottom and help him pick himself up again. I felt more needed, which was gratifying and drew us closer. I felt we were more of a couple and there was more unity."     Mark explained, "My brother's death was a turning point for me. It shattered me and the whole family. Initially his death froze me in my tracks on every level. But several months later I was able to look at his death and say to myself, There's a gift here that he's giving me if I choose to see it, and that is that life is terribly short (I was forty-four at the time), and if you're going to have a child, you'd better get going!     "For a lot of men, letting go of the desire of leaving progeny is a real issue. I had a dream about having a male child. I'd lost my brother, and my father was an only child; there was a sense of the family line dying out. I had a fantasy of witnessing the birth of my own child. I used to play over and over in my mind the scenario of the birth of my biological child--it was a really clear image for me. It was going to be a very big moment in my life; I had all that set up. I had to let go of that fantasy. Everybody has a lot to let go of in the adoption process.     "Allison convinced me to go with her and talk to an adoption counselor. I went in there and raged for an hour about infertility. I said, `I've just been through all these years of doctors controlling my life, and now I'm supposed to turn it over to lawyers and agencies? I don't think so!' To his credit, the counselor just listened to me and then said, `Absolutely. Those are very legitimate feelings. You're right and you're entitled to those feelings.' He let me go and I just punched myself out. When we walked out I felt very agitated but agreed to return the following week.     "On the way to the next appointment I turned to Allison in the car and said, `I don't know why, but I don't feel the same way I felt last week. I think I'm ready to talk about adoption and go to work on it.' The counselor (who had been adopted) was very skilled and empathetic and helped me cross through. It was cathartic."     Because of his brother's death, Mark's family decided not to celebrate Christmas that year, but his parents invited Mark and Allison, together with their daughter-in-law and granddaughter, to go on a cruise with them. That Christmas was the tenth anniversary of Mark and Allison's engagement, so they decided to have a private celebration of their own during the cruise. On Christmas morning Allison opened a gift from Mark. It was T. Berry Brazelton's book Touchpoints . Inside the front cover Mark had written the following: Will our little person be born this year? Boy or girl; how strange to contemplate, how scary to await. May we embrace his or her life with all the passion, intellect, patience, understanding, and love that we can summon It doesn't get much more serious than this. Love, Mark     "He also gave me another diamond ring," said Allison. "We went up on deck and told his parents that we were going to adopt a baby. They went crazy and we went crazy! That was how we got there.     "When we arrived home I bought several books on adoption and began to devour them. I realized that I had the preconceived notion that kids who were adopted are screwed up because they were given away, that someone didn't want them. I thought that someone who was adopted must always have a desire to know who their parents were and what they looked like. The books I read about open adoption really made sense to me. They gave me a new perspective about adoption and how it could be different; it didn't have to be the old secretive way.     "It seemed wise not to have any secrets; secrets breed dysfunction in a family, and I thought, Perhaps if there are no secrets, there won't be dysfunction. If my child knows from the very beginning about his birth parents, maybe it won't be a big deal. It will be a fact of life, like having freckles. If there's any kind of adoption that makes sense to me, it's open adoption ."     For Mark the concept of open adoption was not easy to embrace initially. "Open, to me, was an open concept," said Mark. "I was ready to consider an open adoption, but I wanted to control the parameters of how open it would be. I didn't like the idea of anyone coming and taking the child away or feeling that they could drop in anytime. I wasn't going to have my life invaded like that."     Allison contacted a friend who worked for a West Coast law firm specializing in adoption. This firm placed group ads in national publications on behalf of people interested in adopting. Prospective parents were required to fill out detailed questionnaires and work with local adoption agencies to do a home study and fulfill the legal provisions of their state. Within a short time, Allison and Mark had completed their forms and found a local agency to work with. The law firm also asked them to produce a brochure describing themselves, their lifestyle, their hopes for their child, and so on.     This brochure, complete with photographs, would be mailed to any candidate who had responded to the group ads. The firm pooled a group of people, bought ad space, and divided the cost among the participants. A typical ad would read, "Adoption: Ready, willing, and able couples wish to be loving family for your newborn. Make this a year of love and opportunity for your baby. Please call our attorney at the following 800 number. Void where prohibited." Calls would come in from birth mothers, who would be asked the date of the ad they were responding to. In that way the firm knew which group of brochures to send. Monthly bills for the law firm's services included extensive reports regarding the responses received for each ad and a tally of the brochures mailed to birth mothers.     Mark elaborated, "What we were really paying for was their ability, based on more than ten years of experience, to screen out women who would probably change their minds, who weren't really serious about giving their child up for adoption, who had various other problems, or who imposed conditions that could hinder the desired outcome. The law firm sifted out the variables for us. We were told they had a success rate of more than ninety percent.     "I wrote our brochure for the law firm to mail out to birth mothers. I regarded it as my ultimate public relations assignment. There's no tougher selling job than trying to convince someone you've never met to give you their child. I started by looking at a lot of other people's brochures. Most of them seemed to dwell on the material things a couple could offer a baby. We didn't like that approach and didn't want to be chosen for those reasons. We're not wealthy, we're comfortable. We wanted to be chosen for the type of parents we felt we would be."     "The law firm warned us that it would probably take six to nine months before we got a lead," said Allison. "They defined a lead as talking on the phone with a birth mother who had requested a conversation with us. We were told that talking with a birth mother did not mean everything would work out. It was just a first step. We started advertising on the Fourth of July weekend in 1994. We put our real names and real phone number on the brochure.     "Responses started to come in, and we received reports from the law firm saying, for instance, 9/23 screened lead from birth mother Kimberly of Virginia in response to USA Today ad run 9/20--client brochure sent; 9/25 screened lead from birth mother Alicia of Georgia in response to TV Guide ad run 9/19--no brochure sent because birth mother has religious preference.' It was good to get all this information. We knew our ads were going out and people were responding to them. The firm had a policy not to send brochures to any woman who was less than six months pregnant; they didn't want to get hooked up with a birth mother who might change her mind."     Mark and Allison began their home study with a local adoption agency. "We didn't have the best relationship with our social worker," recalled Mark. "She wasn't very sensitive. She knew her business, but she didn't convey warmth. Maybe we were needy, but she should have realized that. She was unavailable for a lot of our questions. The woman was basically a cold fish.     "I think everybody has this notion that a social worker comes to your home looking for dust, and of course that's not what happens. I didn't find it terribly threatening. This process did not pull us apart the way infertility treatments had. But my response to things over which I have no control can go one of two ways: I can go insane and try to control it, or I can wait for the situation to play itself out. I tried for the latter. We had a great summer; we went on a nice vacation and tried to relax."     On a Sunday night in January, six months after they had begun to advertise for a baby to adopt, Mark and Allison were reading in bed and were just about ready to turn out the lights when the phone rang.     "Mark answered the phone," said Allison. "I heard him say, `No, no ...' and he hung up. I asked him who it was. `It was a wrong number; somebody named Charlene calling collect.' A few minutes later the phone rang again. Mark sounded really annoyed when he answered. Then I heard him say, `Wait--wait!' He turned to me and said, `Allison, run in the other room and pick up the phone. This is a birth mother! She says she wants us to have her baby!'     "My hand was shaking as I picked up the phone and said hello. I heard a young woman say, `My name is Charlene; I'm from Kentucky and I'm nineteen years old. I'm six-and-a-half months pregnant, and I've just looked through a stack of brochures sent from your law firm. I just want to tell you that you're going to have a baby boy.'     "I said, `What?' She said, `I've had an ultrasound, and they're ninety-nine percent sure it's a boy. How does that make you feel?' The only thing I could think to say was, `I can't begin to describe my feelings, Charlene, but this must have been a hard phone call for you to make.' She admitted that it had been."     Mark added, "I felt like I needed to be scraped off the ceiling! My heart was racing and I could barely talk, but I said, `God, we've been waiting for this call, and now I'm speechless!' I could hear Allison jumping up and down with joy in the next room. `Let's keep talking now,' I said, `but can we also agree to talk again tomorrow night, because I don't think we're going to make too much sense tonight.' Charlene said sure. She sounded confident, like she was getting a big kick out of our reaction. I could hear her laughing. Then she said, `I guess I made your day, didn't I?' All I could think to say was, `How did you select us?'"     Charlene said, "I read nine brochures and I just loved yours. That picture of you with your dog was great. The Dalmatian is the dog of my dreams. My boyfriend, Jason, the birth father, picked you too. I toyed with the idea of keeping the baby, but my family came down on me like a ton of bricks. They said, `You can't keep this child. You can't afford it, you don't have a job, and we're not going to do it for you.'"     Mark continued, "Our hearts were pounding as we hung up the phones. You think you're ready for that call, but when it comes you find that you aren't. It is a unique experience. I had an incredible adrenaline rush; I felt giddy. When we got back into bed we were laughing and holding each other. We said, `Do you believe it? It finally happened!' We didn't sleep at all that night."     "I went to work the next day but didn't make it through the whole day," said Allison. "I had to come home and sleep. I was so exhausted! After I woke up from my nap I worried, Will she call again? I talked to the law firm and to our social worker, who asked me a thousand questions for which I didn't have answers. Charlene had said she would call at eight o'clock, and when eight-thirty came and went without the call I felt my stomach begin to churn.     "At eight-forty-five the phone finally rang, and it was Charlene and Jason. They apologized for being late. We asked them a lot of questions, which they answered. Charlene had had no prenatal care for the first five months because she didn't know she was pregnant! We said we'd love to meet them, and they said they'd like to meet us too. Before I knew it, Mark had jumped in and said, `Well, we could fly out this weekend.' I remember thinking, Okay! Here we go! It's beginning to take off ."     The next morning Allison phoned the law firm and was informed that Charlene needed to do a fair amount of paperwork before this could be called a solid lead. They advised Mark and Allison against meeting with Charlene and Jason before her paperwork had been returned to them. The information they sought included a letter from a doctor confirming her pregnancy and a detailed medical history. A few of the documents had to be notarized and sent back to the law firm via overnight courier. Charlene managed to get everything done and met their deadline, so Mark and Allison booked flights for the following weekend.     Mark explained, "We flew to Cincinnati and then drove for about an hour to a little town in Kentucky. It was the middle of January and twenty degrees below zero. We checked into a Holiday Inn where we had agreed to meet Charlene and Jason for lunch. I took a picture of Allison before we went downstairs to the cafe. She was completely rigid. When we walked into the cafe it was empty. We ordered some coffee, and all of a sudden in walked a young girl with a big coat wrapped around her; she was accompanied by a sheepish-looking young man. We knew it was them. They'd seen our photos on our brochure, so they walked right up to us. My first thought was, She's attractive looking and he's a handsome kid. This is going to be a beautiful child . We shook hands and invited them to sit down. We all acknowledged that we felt pretty nervous."     Allison continued, "We decided first to order some food. Charlene said, `Since I've been pregnant I crave steak all the time.' She ordered a hamburger, French fries, and a coke. She reeked of cigarettes. I thought, She should be drinking milk! And she obviously smokes, but we can't control everything. We're going to have to deal with this .     "Mark was great. He got the conversation going by pulling out some family photos we'd brought with us. I was much more nervous than he was. Mark told them about his parents and his childhood, and then Charlene asked me about mine. I didn't know how I was going to tell her about my mother. I started, but then I broke down and cried. The situation was so emotional, and it was hitting something in me. Mark sat there patting me while I blurted the whole story out. I think my honesty was okay with Jason and Charlene."     "We sat in the cafe for a couple of hours with them," said Mark, "and then I said, `Let's go out and see your world. Let's go for a ride. Show us your town, where you live, what you do.' They were happy to do that.     "We realized very quickly what a desperate place it was--just fast food restaurants and gas stations. Jason's father was fairly successful; he had a large trash collection business, but Charlene had nothing, and it showed. She was dressed rather shabbily. We cruised around and visited some friends of theirs at a dilapidated house. People seemed thrilled to meet us; they gave us big hugs and were very emotional.     "By now the glaze was wearing off a bit, and Allison and I were looking around and thinking, Okay, we can deal with this. We wouldn't want to spend the rest of our lives here, but we'll check it out . By late afternoon we were burning out on the place. It was pretty depressing. I looked at Charlene and thought, This girl needs to eat! So we took them to a steak house (a twenty-four-hour truck stop) for dinner. Their conversation consisted of fragments like, `I really want a new car' and `Me and Jason was really partying heavily the other night.' I kept telling myself, We're not adopting her, we're adopting her child . It was a dose of reality. When we got back to our hotel Allison and I looked at each other, and she said, `Oh my God, this is so desperate. I don't know if I can handle much more of this.'"     Allison continued, "I told Mark, `I'd like a helicopter to pull up outside right now and take me out of this town. I never want to see these people again.' It was suddenly too close. Suddenly I didn't want any part of it. I couldn't deal with it. I was depressed by the environment they lived in, at the hopelessness and lack of opportunity and their lack of awareness of any other kind of life. I'd never before imagined a life like theirs. There was nothing for them to do. There wasn't even a movie theater in the town. There were no resources for kids, and Jason and Charlene had no internal resources, no idea of other options people have in life. Both were high school graduates, but seemed to have no aspirations or desires. There was no parental support to foster ideas and no financial support for any kind of extended opportunities.     "Before going to bed I took out Charlene's medical report and noticed that she hadn't answered the questions about using drugs. My heart stopped. I said, `Mark, why didn't we notice this before? What are we going to do?' Wet decided we had to ask her about drugs. I knew I'd be too nervous, so Mark said he'd do it.     "We had agreed to have breakfast with Charlene and her father, Jim, the next morning. Her parents were divorced, and her father had remarried and had two young children. Jim was great. He said, `I just want you to know how happy I am for you and how happy I am for us. You are the answer to our prayers.' He got choked up. He said, `I envisioned a nun in a black habit whisking away my first grandchild and I would never know where he went, but now I'll know.' It was touching."     Mark added, "Jim was very nervous at first. But he was a sweet guy, and we bonded with him immediately. He was a recovering alcoholic and had been a drunk when Charlene was young; she paid the price for that. He worked as a vending machine repairman. I was amazed to learn that he was younger than I was."     After breakfast Mark asked Charlene about drugs. She admitted that she had used drugs in the past but said, "I did not use them since I've been pregnant. Maybe I've had a beer and a glass of wine. I do smoke, you know that."     "We had no choice but to accept what she said at face value," conceded Allison. "I wasn't sure, but I felt fairly confident that she wasn't using anything then. I realized there was nothing I could do about it. I told myself, You have to abandon your sense of the ideal and hop on the reality bus ."     Mark continued, "Charlene didn't hesitate or look away when I asked about drug use. We weren't prepared to take on a child with health problems. I felt we had rights. It may sound cold, but I wanted to adopt and raise a healthy child. I didn't want a child who would need to be institutionalized."     The next meeting took place with Sam and Sheila, Jason's parents. "When we drove up to their house, I realized this was the better side of town," said Mark. "We walked in, and they looked al us a bit warily. Jason sat down. He was very quiet. I said, `I guess you know how we all ended up here.' They said, `No, we don't.' They knew that Charlene was pregnant and that we were going to be the adoptive family, but they didn't know how it had come about. Jason hadn't told them anything! So I took out one of our brochures and explained. We spent about forty-five minutes playing catch-up with them. They seemed very tense. We learned that they had three grandchildren from two daughters whose marriages had broken up. I thought, This is not a family that has a good track record. How will they come to terms with saying good-bye to their next grandchild? "     Jason told Mark and Allison that he felt a responsibility toward his child, but he also said, "I'm too young, and there are too many other things I want to do with my life." He told them that he and Charlene had broken up for a while when she told him she was pregnant.     Later that day Charlene told Allison and Mark that her mother, Stella, didn't want to meet them; she hated Jason and refused to be in the same room with him. Apparently Stella had been pregnant with Charlene when she and Jim got married. Charlene explained that she was living with her grandparents (who didn't know that she was pregnant) and that she planned to go to Georgia to have the baby. Stella had a friend there who had agreed to let Charlene stay with her until the baby was born.     Mark said, "During the flight back home I thought about the weekend and realized it was a blur. But now we had vivid impressions of where this baby was coming from and who the players were. I knew we had moved to a new level, and the bottom line was that our child was going to be born of these two people. I thought, They come from tough circumstances, but they seem intelligent. They're attractive, but they're kids who would make the best commercial ever for the value of education. They're not stupid kids, they're very wily, they're survivors. We'll take our chances here ." (Continues...) Copyright © 1999 Carole S. Turner. All rights reserved.

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