Welcome to 30 Adoption Portraits in 30 Days, hosted by Portrait of an Adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying adoption experiences.
By Peggy Kirby
I Had Always Thought Of This Day And What It Would Be Like
Jerry and I were married in August of 1983. We always knew we wanted children. Jerry was working on the road with his job and only home on the weekends, so we knew it might take a little longer for us to become pregnant.
After a year of trying and no pregnancy, we decided to see a doctor. A friend of ours suggested we see her fertility doctor in Nashville, TN. After a few visits, it was determined that Jerry needed surgery, which he had, and it was successful in helping him.
At this point, the attention was turned to me because had some problems as well. I had several laparoscopies, but nothing had helped me become pregnant. All this time, we were on an emotional roller coaster. We decided to try another doctor in the CFAR unit located at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. They did more tests on me; I tried fertility drugs, and Jerry was on medications as well. These medications gave me hot flashes that caused me to have to take my temperature every morning. However, still no pregnancy.
We had tried for about six years and during this time, my mom and dad both passed away from cancer, following Jerry’s dad, who passed about a year prior to our marriage. The doctors at Vanderbilt talked with us about donor sperm, in vitro fertilization, and many other options. We decided to try the in vitro a try. We told our caseworker, who had become like family, what we had decided to do.
But when the CFAR team reviewed our case, they all felt that the best choice for our family would be adoption. We were disappointed that in vitro wasn’t an option, to say the least, but we looked into adoption with great zeal. We were on the roller coaster again!
For the next month, I called several adoption agencies across the nation, only to be told ‘NO’ due to us being of different faiths; I am a member of the Church of Christ, and Jerry was a Missionary Baptist. We had even asked family member of ours, who knew a worker in an agency, to ask for us — but to no avail.
We went into our next appointment at the CFAR trying not to bother ourselves with negative thoughts about not being able to adopt, inability to become pregnant or fears that we would always be a family of two! Our caseworker met with us to find out how were doing with the adoption process. I explained to her how many phone calls I had made, only to be told that they would not even send us an application because we were of two different religions. AGAPA, Church of Christ Adoption agency, would not take us, and the same was true of the Baptist adoption agency. I told her that some friends told us to lie to one or the other to get accepted. However, Jerry and I were against lying.
At this time, our caseworker told us about two agencies in Nashville that looked at the prospective adoptive couple and their whole relationship, not just their religious beliefs. (Roller Coaster time, again). Did we even dare to hope that this might be the answer?
I called one of the agencies that she had recommended. They affirmed that they just wanted to place babies in loving homes! WOW is all we could think. Was it really going to happen?
After completing the application process, we waited patiently for a call to set up our first meeting. This was in 1989, back when we did not have an answering machine. I taught school and did not get home before the agency’s office closed. We waited and waited, but still no appointment. We began to get worried. Jerry was based out of Nashville, so he went by their office one day and found out that they had been trying to get in touch with us to set up a meeting. Jerry, at that moment, set a meeting for the very next week!
When we arrived, the director said he did not think we would be good candidates for placement of a baby in our home. The office was on the second floor, but our hearts were in the basement!
We took a deep breath and proceeded to talk with him anyway for almost an hour. We both thought we were at the end of our journey to become parents. As the session was ending, much to our utmost surprise, the director stated that he would be glad to accept our application for adoption! (Roller Coaster to the top of the world!) Right before he told us this news, he told of a baby that had been born and was transferred to Vanderbilt NICU for breathing problems. He asked us to pray for that baby and have our churches to pray also.
We had to do a ton of work to get the adoption process completed. We live in the county and had to have our water tested, our house inspected by the local fire department, get recommendation letters from several people, and the list went on. All this took some time, but we completed all of the paperwork! We then waited for the ‘CALL!’
This process started in late April of 1989. On July 3rd Jerry’s family was celebrating the 4th of July early. We were at his Mom’s house until about 10:00 pm, when we came home and went to bed.
Around 11:00 pm, the phone rang and I answered it, a little scared due to the late hour. The caller kept asking me if I was awake and I was telling him yes, I was awake. By this time, Jerry was getting concerned and asking me questions as to what was going on.
It was the director of our adoption agency asking if we wanted a baby boy. I said YES, without even asking Jerry—he was still in the dark about everything. The director said we had to be in his office by 9:00am Monday to pick up our son.
This was before 24-hour Wal-Marts or Kmarts; we had nothing for a baby at all in our house! It had taken less than four months for us to become parents. We hadn’t purchased any baby stuff; we seldom went into the baby section of a store unless buying shower gifts for other couples; it had been too painful.
Jerry, Granny, and I were on our way to Nashville to pick up our baby boy. We had to borrow a car seat to bring our son, Justin Andrew, home. He was the most beautiful baby we had ever seen. He was ours, and we were thrilled! We were living a dream.
As we carried him out of the office and down the steps, I thought, what have we gotten into! Can we do this? Could we raise this precious bundle to be a wonderful person? To put it plainly, I was scared, happy, tearful, excited, and a host of other emotions at the same time.
Justin changed our lives so much that day. We became a family of three. He was loved and accepted — actually fought over by all our family and friends! We had the pleasure of watching him grow. We loved every minute of it.
We decided that Justin would know that he was adopted from early in his life. We wanted him to know that his Birth Mother had loved him but could not take care of him. She was very young. In my teaching career, I have dealt with divorced parents that worked together well, and some that did not. I did not want Justin to hear anything but good things about his Birth Mother.
Jerry and I also knew that the day might come when he would want to find her or she might want to find him. It was difficult to imagine how we would handle that situation. We more or less put this discussion on the back burner and enjoyed his growing up.
When Justin was almost three, Ruby, aka Granny, passed away. Granny had been Justin’s babysitter until she became sick. A neighbor lady, Nanny, watched Justin until he entered Kindergarten.
Right after Granny died, I became sick for several weeks. I could not get over whatever it was. I went to our family doctor, and he ordered tests for kidney stones and gall bladder. They did the gall bladder and it was fine. Next came the x-rays. I kept on noticing the sign that stated if you thought you might be pregnant, tell the tech. I thought it was impossible; after all, we had been to Vanderbilt and in infertility program for almost six years.
However, I did mention all this to the tech, who then refused to do the x-ray and had went to get the doctor. She asked if I had done a pregnancy test? I told her no and why I had not done so. She took me back to the ultra sound and had them check to see if I was pregnant. The tech left the room in the middle of the exam leaving me scared thinking she had found something wrong.
The doctor came in and told me that I was indeed pregnant! I got dressed, still in disbelief, but happy beyond measure. When I came out, the doctor had told the whole office that I was pregnant and about the trouble we had had getting pregnant and all.
This was before HIPPA laws, and I did not care who knew. They gave me pictures to prove that I was pregnant, because I knew no one would believe me. Best of all, Justin was going to be a big brother!
Justin was a great protector and fan of Steven. Oh, they fought and defended each other, too. We were complete, our family of four.
We used the word adoption in our everyday life, but did not make a big deal of it, either. We told our sons that GOD had bless us twice, and we were blessed indeed.
Our sons kept us busy. They were into sports and lots of athletic stuff, which brought along the broken bones on each one.
When Justin was 6 or 7, there was a day when we were talking about his adoption, as we often did. He loved to hear the story about when we got him and all the details. I happened to ask Steven if he knew what adoption meant? He said no. I started to explain it to him, but Justin asked me if I wanted him to tell him. “Hey, Mom, do you want me to tell him about adoption?”
I told Justin to go ahead. Justin told Steven that Steven had been in Mommy’s tummy, but he hadn’t. He had been in someone else’s tummy. She could not take care of him, so she let him come and live with Mommy and Daddy. Steven just said okay.
That was it.
Justin was into all the school and church activities that he could manage. He was an ‘A’ student most of the time. He worked hard at everything he did. He graduated 4th in his class of over 200 students. We were and are proud of all he has accomplished.
Justin’s next step is his life was going to college. He graduated Cum Laude. He went on two mission trips and some cruises with us during college. During his undergrad years, he met his future wife, Brittany. He had a goal of becoming a pharmacist. He went on five interviews and was accepted to each school. He chose Lipscomb University in Nashville, TN.
After his first year, during the summer, I received a call for Justin from the Department of Children’s Services. I gave them his number. I called Jerry and Justin to let them know about the phone call.
We knew that our world was about to be turned upside down. We had all these questions and no answers. The ‘what ifs’ hit us from all sides. We chose not to tell anyone about this call until a meeting was set up between Justin and his Birth Mother, Michelle. I wanted to tell someone about this and be able to talk to a woman, but they talked me out of it. I needed a woman to keep me sane, and to hear my side as a mother, but I did as they wanted.
It took from June to November for the meeting to take place. Needless to say, we were on that roller coaster again. Jerry, Brittany, and I were able to meet with Michelle on the same day.
Words cannot describe how great that meeting went for all of us. We were able to meet her husband, Mark and their two sons. What a relief, Michelle and her family were wonderful. All the dreaded fears melted away. Oh, we still had a lot of things to work out, but I believe all involved felt relief after that meeting.
I had always thought of this day and what it would be like. I wanted to do something to let Michelle know what she meant to me and our family. I thought about giving her flowers, or something on that order. Then it came to me — we loved pictures, so maybe she would like an album of Justin as he grew up.
Jerry and I went to work put together Justin’s life in photos and tapes. We had this gift with us, but did not take it in when we first met. Michelle was talking with me and started asking about pictures of Justin and asked if would we mind sharing with her. I told her, “Wait just a minute,” and I went and retrieved the package from the van.
She loved all the pictures of him and his life. I also wrote her a letter that I ask her to read later, which she did. We had Michelle and her family to our house the following Monday for an early Thanksgiving meal.
We all have had to work through many feelings during our journey. You know how babies do not come with manuals? Neither did this experience. We have had a few bumps along the way, but we have been able to work our way past them.
With all the misplaced worries and dread, Jerry and I are so happy that Justin knows his birth Mother, Mark and his brothers. As Michelle ended her letter last year in saying “How many parents can say, ‘My son the doctor!’” Well, Mark, Michelle, Jerry and I can!
Peggy has been married to Jerry for 33 years. Together they have experienced the tribulations of failed fertility, both the beauty and difficulty of adoption and the incredible joy of against-the odds pregnancy. Peggy taught for 34 years as an elementary and special education teacher in the school system, and she spent 15 years working with children with special needs through the Tennessee Early Intervention System. Since her retirement in 2014, she and Jerry I have enjoyed several cross country road trips as well as spending lots of time with their two wonderful sons and their daughter-in-law, Brittany, Justin’s wife.
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