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 and perspectives. 

Chasing Charleigh: An Adoption Story Filled With Love and Hope
By Becky Cortesi-Caruso

In November of 2013, we were thrilled to learn that our adoption story would be shared on Carrie Goldman’s Portrait of Adoption blog. I encouraged our child’s biological mother, Lisa, to write her point of view of the adoption process, as I wrote mine. Our stories were then merged into one.

I will never forget the first time that I was able to read our story, “The Day Charleigh Brought Two Families Together As One” in Chicago Now.  Just the title and cover photo brought joyful tears to my eyes!

Fast forward, seven years…

I can honestly and happily tell the world that Lisa and I continue to be very close. Lisa and her family are part of our family. There has not been a day that has gone by that I have not been thankful for Lisa being in our lives.

Many people have remarked on how lucky Charleigh is to be part of our family, but my response every time is that we are the lucky ones, because Lisa chose our family for this beautiful girl!

Charleigh knew early on that our families would be united as one. Lisa and Charleigh’s biological brothers and sister would be part of our lives, including on special occasions. For instance, we try to arrange Charleigh’s birthday parties around Lisa’s work schedule because we know how important it is for our family to spend celebrations with Lisa’s family.

One year, our families spent Easter together and we did an Easter Egg hunt for a total of six children between our families! One of my favorite pictures was of all of our children sitting together after the Easter egg hunt. One summer, Lisa brought her children to our summer home in Wisconsin. We spent countless hours talking about life and how fortunate we were to have such a great relationship. In addition, we spoke about Adrian, who is Charleigh’s older brother, and the beautiful bond he had with my husband, Mike.

Mike and I took care of Adrian the weekend of Charleigh’s birth; he was only eighteen months old. Mike and Adrian were like two peas in a pod. Lisa and I still joke around about how much food Mike fed Adrian that weekend! To this day, my husband asks about Adrian. Each year, he asks me to reach out to Lisa to wish Adrian a happy birthday!

There is no denying that our adoption story is somewhat unique, but we always knew going into the adoption process that we wanted it to be open. We are blessed that Lisa found us and we are blessed that our children know each other. No matter the distance between us, it will never change the love that exists between our families.

Our adoption journey is one of hope and love. Even so, Charleigh’s journey has not always been easy. Like many adopted children, she has wrestled with identity issues. As a mother, I sometimes struggle myself, trying to protect her from societal biases that she has already faced in her short lifetime. I have also struggled because — in addition to helping my child through her inner fears — I have to protect her from the prejudices of others.

I want to help other families like ours by sharing our story. Marcinson Press took an interest in us because they strongly believe that it’s important to relay both the struggles and the joys in adoption.

I believe in the sanctity of humility. However, I am really proud of the book that I wrote for my beautiful daughter, Chasing Charleigh: An Adoption Story Filled with Hope and Love. It is a story that encompasses our love and support of Charleigh, Lisa, and both of our families.

The best part about the book is seeing Charleigh’s reaction to it. A beginning reader, she now asks me if she can read parts of her book every single night. There are still a million questions, of course. But at the end of the day – at the end of every day, I tell her that her story is beautiful and one of a kind – just like her!

The adoption and post-adoption process has helped me tremendously to “live authentically, love unconditionally, and laugh often” through the challenging moments in life. We hope Chasing Charleigh: An Adoption Story Filled with Hope and Love serves as an example for others.

Excerpt from Chasing Charleigh:

I had one more question before bedtime. “Mommy, do you think I am special because I look different from you and Daddy?”

Mommy took a deep breath and said, “Charleigh, different is what makes the world go round.”

I was confused again.

Mommy told me that even though the color of my skin and texture of my hair is different than hers, it’s also what makes me beautiful!

Mommy put a mirror in front of my face and asked what I saw. I looked at my toothless smile and said, “I see me!”

Mommy looked into the mirror with me and said,
“I see a vivacious, kind, intelligent, strong-willed, strikingly beautiful little girl.”

“So, I am special?”

“My beautiful girl, you are beyond special. You are extraordinary!”

Becky Cortesi-Caruso has dedicated twenty-one years to being employed in public education. A former school social worker, she eventually made the leap of faith into school administration and is currently a Director of Special Education. Becky is happily married to her husband, Michael, and the proud mother of three children.