the other parents

This story was originally published on August 31, 2015 on The New Family.

This is my family. From the outside we may look different from most families, but the truth is we are just like every family. And just like every family the story of how we came together is unique. It took us a long time to find each other. I first met my husband in 1997. We grew up in the same very small town; separated by four years we seemed to always just miss each other at school. It wasn’t until after college when I began working across the street from his house that we finally met. Looking back it seems odd that we never encountered each other before that cold February day eighteen years ago, but like most things in life it was about the timing.

Our kids are perfect examples of that timing. We adopted our two sons, Chris in 2013 and Elijah this past year. It took a lot to bring the four of us together. In those early days when my husband and I were still getting to know each other, setting up house and accumulating dogs, our sons had not even been born. During our thirties when we were living a carefree life in New York City, Chris was just beginning his life on the other side of the country. By the time we met Elijah he was a walking, talking, mostly toilet using five year old.

My husband and I believe the boys were always meant to be our children, but we also understand that how these two kids came to be ours was due in great part to forces beyond our control.

The story of our family begins not with us, but with strangers. People we have never met. People we will never meet. These two sets of strangers are my children’s birth parents. They created my children; without them my children would not exist. I owe them everything because without them I would have nothing.

For reasons that no longer seem relevant, these two sets of strangers were unable to care for their children – now, my children – and so government entities intervened, agencies were called and caseworkers were enlisted. These caseworkers stayed with my children for many years. They were the one constant in a sea of uncertainty. They helped our kids navigate the difficult transition from birth parent to foster parent to forever family.

While my husband and I waited to meet our children it was their foster parents who cared for them. These unsung heroes taught my children to use the bathroom and color within the lines and understand their emotions and read and write and a million other things parents do every day. They kept a place, giving them hugs and bandaging their scraped knees. They were everything we could not be because the timing wasn’t right.

Until it was.

Two years ago it was just my husband and I — complete, but not quite.  Then the universe gave us Chris and Elijah. They changed our lives; they made us complete.

We became a family because of other people – these strangers and caseworkers and heroes who brought us together. Us. Four people in a world of seven billion. We found each other across four decades and thousands of miles and impossible odds.

That’s pretty remarkable.

Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One of You is the Mother? Available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback.