72: Gift of the Ages

72: Gift of the Ages

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Gift of the Ages

Having a place to go — is a home. Having someone to love — is a family. Having both — is a blessing.

~Donna Hedges

For five years my wife Teresa and I had been waiting, hoping, and praying to adopt a child. Our international adoption from China kept getting pushed back so we registered with two private adoption agencies in Ontario. When nothing happened, we applied to Children’s Aid knowing we had a lot to offer an older child.

Three months earlier we had acquired a dog, at a time when we figured nothing would likely happen on the adoption front. We thought we’d at least have fun with a pup. We knew she’d be fun ripping open her gifts at Christmas.

A week later, we replied to an e-mail from a social worker asking for our full profile, a sixteen-page peek at our life. The full profile is only required when a prospective birth mom narrows her choice of adoptive parents to three couples from the twenty or more she reads about. We had provided our full profile a few times before but because we were the oldest couple of hundreds trying to adopt nothing had ever come of it. It was mainly couples in their thirties who were selected and at the time I was fifty-four and Teresa was forty-five.

The next evening we received a call from a social worker in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, who said, “I hope you’re sitting down because you’re going to get an early Christmas gift. A young woman gave birth yesterday to a healthy girl and she chose you and Teresa to be the baby’s adoptive parents! We need you to come to the Sault on Wednesday to pick up your baby. Congratulations!”

We were both in shock. Suddenly we were going to be parents. Older parents. We had nothing ready. We didn’t even know what we needed. A flurry of phone calls to relatives and friends kept Teresa busy writing down suggestions while I went to my pick-up hockey game to calm down. Her sister would get a “care bundle” of items to us. We needed an infant carrier/bed. Teresa had to put her job on hold for instant maternity leave. We had to quickly prepare a baby room.

The night of “the call” the social worker told us she had had to press the birth mom about the couple she was choosing, only to be told she was “going with the elderly couple.” Great, no longer “older”, now we were elderly!

So three nights later as we were to meet the social worker and birth mom for dinner in Sault Ste. Marie I entered the restaurant dressed as an old man with white hair, white beard, cane and slow limp. The two of them began laughing when I introduced us and with the ice broken, we had a great time learning about each other.

Shortly after we all arrived at the hospital to meet the baby. It was surreal picking up and cuddling this tiny child whom we had waited so long for. No Christmas present had ever, will ever, match the emotional bliss we both felt at that moment.

For the next two days we changed Brigitte’s diapers, fed her, bathed her, hugged her, and finally, after red tape delayed our departure, we left on the seven-hour drive back to Toronto. We took turns in the back seat with Brigitte, both Teresa and I guilty of shining a little flashlight on her every fifteen minutes to ensure she was breathing! Such rookie parents.

Brigitte’s first visits to Tim Horton restaurants were during that trip home (and she still loves going). We were tempted to tell everyone there our story! Arriving home late and exhausted, we were almost in tears as our neighbours and Teresa’s sister surprised us with a little bed they’d assembled.

New parents we were but it wasn’t a done deal. Every adoption has a thirty-day cooling off period during which the birth mother can choose to take her child back. We were mostly confident that Brigitte was staying but there was always that little doubt that haunted us right up to the final minute. Fortunately it was confirmed in our favour in mid-December and needless to say it was an unbelievable Christmas for us and our families, the “new” aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

In between diaper changes and feeding frenzies that Christmas I pulled out my guitar and Christmas music to sing a few things to Brigitte. I must admit that John Denver’s beautiful song, “A Baby Just Like You”, hit home very eloquently and I sang the chorus to her the first time through tears….

“O little angel, shining light, you’ve set my soul to dreaming. You’ve given back my joy in life, and filled me with new meaning.”

And now more than five years later Teresa and I are an even more “elderly couple” but really we’re years younger because of a gift named Brigitte.

~Michael Brennan

Toronto, Ontario

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