this is us

We received the call shortly after 4 p.m. It was a Wednesday. I had just picked up the boys from school. Chris was in the dining room doing his homework. Elijah was in the attic playing Minecraft. Todd was still at work. The phone rang. It was our adoption agency. They needed an emergency foster placement for a 12 year old boy. There weren’t many details, there never are, but they said there was a good chance the placement could become permanent. Would we be interested?

Over the years we’d received this phone call many times, but we had always said no. Todd and I had long ago weighed the risks and decided that short term foster placements were not something we could handle. It would be too hard on the boys. It would be too hard on us. We needed guarantees. We couldn’t do goodbyes.

But that day was different. I don’t know why. Looking back, it just was…

And so two hours later there was a 12 year old boy standing in our living room. The story of how this twelve year old boy came to be standing in our living room is not my story to tell…he was there now and in that moment as we introduced ourselves and made small talk and later adjourned to the street to play ball, in those moments, is where his story became our story.

He was scared, or maybe just in shock. I know we were, scared and definitely in shock. But we all put on our best faces and we made it work. Chris let him ride his bike. Elijah played catch with him. Todd and I assured him he was safe.

He was home.

Over the next few weeks we spent a lot of time in family court. Family court is the seventh circle of hell and no child should ever be forced to go there. The halls are lined with crying children and screaming adults. There is security and policemen and judges who have seen too much to be sympathetic. The holding room is painted a depressing brown and the walls are gouged and scratched and the carpets are stained with coffee and every chair in the room is broken.

The room was a metaphor for every person who had ever walked through its doors.

It was heartbreaking. I am 42 years old and I barely survived our first day in family court…at one point I disappeared into the restroom to cry. The whole system was sad and it made me feel hopeless and small and out of control.

By the time we were called in front of the judge, this scared twelve year old boy had been with us for less than sixteen hours. He was a stranger and yet without hesitation, with instinct, Todd and I became his fiercest advocates. Everything and everyone in that building had been designed to tear him down, but not on our watch. And not on his watch because he was strong, stronger than I realized, and besides we were in this together. We were a family.

As we walked out of the courtroom I put my hand on his shoulder and I said, “You’re staying with us. This is your home. You’re safe.”

That was eight months ago. That was the day we answered the phone. That was the day we said yes because that day was different.

I don’t know why.

Looking back, it just was…meant to be.

 

(un)planned parenthood

In 2011 life was complicated and I found myself in need of someone to talk to…someone on a professional level. As I was uninsured at this time in my complicated life my professional talking options proved to be limited. I did some research and eventually I found myself on the phone with Planned Parenthood. To my surprise, Planned Parenthood offered counseling services.

There was a Planned Parenthood a block from my office. I made an appointment and for twenty dollars a week I was able to talk with a rather good therapist. I went to see this rather good therapist off and on for the next eight months until life felt less complicated. Looking back it was the best money I ever spent and, at the risk of being melodramatic, it saved my life or at the very least helped to give me the life I have now and for that I am thankful.

The point is I am a big fan of Planned Parenthood.

Now every few years congress threatens to defund this very good organization because, as they would have you believe, behind every Planned Parenthood are alleys littered with the aborted fetuses of immoral, irresponsible loose women who have nothing better to do with their time than go to Planned Parenthood for their annual abortion. Every few years congress reminds us that the baby killers at Planned Parenthood are on the front lines of the pre-born Holocaust.

Or something along the lines of that nonsensical dystopian rubbish.

Of course it doesn’t matter that Planned Parenthood offers dozens of other services, ranging from general health maintenance to HIV testing to birth control to cancer screenings to counseling…nor does it matter that just three percent of their provided services are abortion related…nor does it matter that zero dollars of federal money is used on those three percent of abortion related services…nor does it matter that abortion is legal. None of that matters because they are facts and we no longer traffic in facts in President Trump’s America.

So I’m not going to argue pro-this or pro-that because that would be as pointless as expecting Americans to not be so stupid as to elect a misogynistic, racist, xenophobic, anti-LGBT, anti-Muslim, wall-building, tax-dodging, crotch-grabbing demagogue.

What I am going to ask is if your commitment to the pre-born is so great that it would have you deny millions of Americans access to affordable, safe and legal health services then what about after the child is born? Does your passion for the fetus translate to life outside the womb? What have you done to assist a child born into poverty or drug addiction or domestic violence or to a child who is simply just not wanted?

In the same breath that you denounce Planned Parenthood do you also condemn social services like welfare and programs like WIC and SNAP – services and programs that often keep alive the very children you claim to want to save, children who through no fault of their own were born into poverty or drug addiction or domestic violence?  Do you then vote for politicians and parties whose platforms promise to cut these programs that are the very lifeline of every unwanted child?

You hate abortion. You’re “conservative” or “religious” or it just goes against the core of who you are. Okay. Fine. I get it. As a parent of three adopted children who came from not the best circumstances it’s very easy to imagine a “what if” scenario that includes a world without my kids, but we aren’t talking about me. I have no trouble walking the walk.

But you.

Do you foster? Do you adopt? Have you ever even considered becoming a parent to a child who looks nothing like you? If social media and the internet are any indication then the answer is no. You are content with telling other people what they should and should not be doing. You fight for the pre-born but you have no interest in the forgotten seven year old or the abandoned five year old or the black kid because, after all, you’re white and you already have 2.2 kids who look just like you.

If you really care for that child you will stop being ignorant and a hypocrite. If you really care for that child you will give him a home even when he doesn’t look like you. And if you really care for that child you will vote for and support politicians who will guarantee him access to affordable, safe and legal health services.

I feel for Planned Parenthood whose biggest crime is trying to provide affordable, safe and legal health services in a country full of ignorant hypocrites. When you cut off access to health care people die and those people were once children and those children were once fetuses and those fetuses did not cease to matter simply because you did your part to make sure they got born.

fostering

Foster parents are a mixed bag. Many foster parents are some of the finest people you will ever meet, called to serve like a minister to God. Others are of a more basic variety, called to collect a monthly check from the state. My oldest son was blessed with the gold standard of foster parents. They gave him food and shelter and love and the hope that he would one day have a tomorrow better than today. My youngest son had a foster parent more tin than gold. Despite her many shortcomings, I admired her for doing the work that so many others would not.

I have great respect for foster parents. They do the heavy lifting. Foster parents rescue our children at a time when they are in desperate need of saving. They attach without becoming attached. They give love often without ever receiving it in return. They get the worst but rarely see the best. They hold a place and then they say goodbye.

I could never do that.

Or so I thought.

Eight days ago my husband and I became foster parents. Our agency called us with a child in need of an emergency placement. There were few details available. We discussed it. We considered all the many reasons why we should say “no” and then two hours later we found ourselves standing at the door welcoming a scared twelve year old into our home.

The specifics about this child and the story of our journey together will be a story for another time. We are not permitted to name the child or tell the child’s story or post the child’s photo. For now we have been tasked with doing the heavy lifting, with aiding in the rescue, with giving love.

For now we are holding a place.

And I’m okay with that…or so I tell myself even though it’s not true. What is true is that it took me all of fifteen minutes to attach. I won’t tell you how long it took me to love the kid, lest I embarrass myself, but suffice it to say if there is a goodbye it won’t be easy.

So we wait and we hold a place and we become attached and we fall in love and we see where all this takes us. We hope for the best and we prepare for the worst and we remind ourselves that no matter what we may be feeling this isn’t about us. This is about a kid who needed a home.


*This photo of Hillary Clinton has nothing to do with the story, but since I cannot show photos of the child I thought I’d use this opportunity to remind everyone to vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8 because #imwithher.

(remembering) the day i met my son

He was waiting for us at the door. I imagine he had been there for days, from the moment his foster parents told him we were coming. With his perfectly parted hair and his blue shirt buttoned to the very top button, he had a smile so big it threatened to swallow the whole of the earth. I suspected his bags were already packed, tucked discreetly behind the door, in anticipation of our arrival. He would have come home with us in that moment had we let him. He would have gone anywhere with us in that moment. Us, the parents he had been waiting a lifetime to meet.

It had been six weeks since the decision. Some faceless committee on the other side of the country deciding our future and creating our family. From the start all we had been given was a basic narrative and a photo. It’s the photo that gets you. It’s the photo that dares you to imagine a lifetime of birthdays and Christmases and bedtime hugs. It’s the photo that teases you with a tomorrow that may never happen.

That photo. It invades your dreams. It speaks to you. It sometimes calls you Dad.

I had that photo, his photo, on my computer, but I tried not to look at it, afraid that I would go even further down the rabbit hole. Without the photo he was just a collection of words; a story with a beginning, middle and a distant end. Without the photo, I could close the book, put it back on the shelf. Without the photo he was not real.

Except he was real and I had already imagined all of the birthdays and the Christmases and the lifetime of hugs. I heard his voice call me Dad. I pictured a future with him, my son — this boy I’d never met. And that was dangerous. Because the faceless committee on the other side of the country deciding our future might have hated us. They could have chosen another family, a better match.

Of course, that wasn’t the case. They chose us.

We traveled backward through four time zones, arriving in Oregon shortly after we had left Pittsburgh. It was a few miles from the hotel to his foster home and as we drove I remember looking over at my husband and thinking, This is the last time it will be just the two of us. In a few minutes, for the rest of our lives, it would now be the three of us (at least).

I closed the car door and rounded the corner to the house. Everything changed.

In the movies and in books when writers employ that laziest of clichés love at first sight, I always roll my eyes and silently chastise the author for condescending to his audience with weak plot devices. “Show, don’t tell!” I want to scream as I throw the book across the room. “This isn’t real life!” I say as I shake my fists in protest at the movie screen.

People do not fall in love at first sight. Except for parents. Parents fall in love at first sight. From the moment they see their child they are in love. And it does not matter if they are seeing a newborn or a seven year old, that love is immediate and unconditional and eternal.

The moment I saw my son standing at that door — with his perfectly parted hair and his blue shirt buttoned to the very top button and his smile so big it threatened to swallow the whole of the earth — I was in love. We may have lived in two different worlds for the first seven years of his life, but he was my son as sure as if I had made him. Looking at him I realized that every moment in my life before this moment had been nothing more than an audition.

Curtain up.

He opened the door, offering his hand to me in greeting. It had been a rehearsed bit meant to show respect, but also a subtle wink from his foster parents to let me know that they had done their job, that he had manners. He shook with his left hand. I shook with my right hand. It was very awkward, less of a hand shake and more of a hand embrace. Just another reason to love him.

He had decided that I would be called Dad and Todd would be Papa. “I’m Christopher,” he said. 

My son, Christopher. And me, his Dad. Was I really someone’s Dad?

We made our way to the living room and sat on the couch, my husband on the left and me on the right with our son between us as if he had always been there. A camera appeared, immortalizing our first moments as a family. The picture captures two smiling grown men, wide-eyed and deliriously happy, and a young boy, home at last. The photo sits in my son’s room. Sometimes I find myself staring at that photo and suddenly I am inside the picture, living a memory as if today were yesterday and yesterday were now.

1stphoto

I hear my son reading to us. I can’t remember the name of the book, just the sound of his voice. The voice I first imagined before there was a voice, when all I had was a photo and a collection of words. Christopher, Chris, sits across from me, his face buried in his book as he reads with tentative confidence. I close my eyes and his voice takes me out of the room, out of the house, past the hotel, past tomorrow, fast forwarding me through a life that has yet to happen. We are on the plane, back in Pittsburgh, at our home. He is eight, nine, eighteen, twenty-seven years old. There are birthdays and Christmases and a lifetime of hugs. No longer a child, now a man. From the beginning of our story to the end of mine. He reads and I see it all.

In July of 2013, my husband and I traveled to Oregon to meet our son for the first time. It was the beginning of a life-changing adventure. Five days later when we boarded a plane back to Pittsburgh with our soon-to-be-adopted then-seven year old son in tow, we were a family. Sometimes everything just falls into place. Sometimes love at first sight transcends cliché. Sometimes only a stale platitude will do: it was meant to be.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is 41 year old married gay man. He lives in Pittsburgh with his husband and two sons. Sean enjoys Law & Order reruns, Christmas movies in October, and Facebook stalking. He likes donuts and beer. Sometimes he goes to the gym.  He is the author of the blog seansbiggayblog where he attempt to chronicle his experiences as a parent.  The contents of his blog (and life) are 75% truth, 18% satire, 6% hyperbole and 1% drama. He is also the author of Which One of You is the Mother?

 

his story

My ten year old son Chris asked if he could write something for my blog. He wanted to share his story. The following post is written by him–these are his unedited words. 


 

My name is Chris and I have two dads. I was born in Oregon. I lived there with my grandma and grandpa and sisters. I love them and miss them. My sister Brittany and I would play cars and I played Mariokart on the DS my grandma gave me.

After my grandfather died, I went to live with a foster family. I stayed there for two years. My foster parents were named Brandi and Neal and they were very nice. I was grateful for them. They had a big backyard. There were other kids in the foster home and we played in the yard. All the kids were adopted, but then new kids would come to live there and we would play the Wii. I kept bugging my caseworker to find me a family.

When my caseworker told me I was going to be adopted I was very happy. I was so excited to meet my new family. I couldn’t stop smiling. The first time I met my Dads I thought they were awesome. They love me so much. I make them happy. We play all the time and now I have a brother too.

Some people think it’s strange having two Dads, but I don’t because I never had a mom and also because my Dads love me very much. I am so grateful for them and for being adopted.

Adoption gave me a family.

puppies for sale!

Last week this article was making the rounds on the internet: READ HERE

The article was about four siblings (ages 1, 3, 5, and 10) who were currently in foster care, but were now in need of a forever home. It read like a typical adoption profile complete with phrases like “the sweetest kids ever!” and “very smart!”

It gave a brief biography about each child, detailing the good and winking around the not-so good. The article was topped off by a photo of the four children, dressed in their color-coordinated Sunday best and smiling happily for all the world to consider.

(Cue sad music and Sarah McLachlan voiceover.)

Now because I have two adopted sons and because I have written a book about my experiences adopting, several friends thoughtfully posted the article on my social media.

I read it. I considered the photo. And then I got mad.

I was offended.

I hated the article. It minimized our adoption journey. It diminished our children’s story.

I have no doubt that the motivations in publishing this glorified adoption profile were pure. I am confident that The Northwest Florida Daily News meant only to draw attention to adoption and for that I applaud them.

There are more than 400,000 children in foster care with nearly one quarter of that number in need of a forever home, so adoption needs a voice.

But with its frame-ready photo and easy-breezy narrative this article served only to trivialize the adoption process. Certainly the comments on social media as well as those in the original NWF Daily News posting did just that with (supposedly) well-meaning people writing:

“I want them all! Please contact us.”

“Aww! They are so cute! I want them!”

“Are they free?”

“I’ll take them! I want babies.”

“Bring them on. I’ll take all four!”

First, adoption is not that easy. You cannot just say, “I’ll take them!” People interested in adoption first must be certified as a viable resource foster parent. In Pennsylvania this certification is a rigorous months-long process that requires more than 40 hours of parenting classes, FBI background checks, mountains of paperwork, references, a home study…the list goes on.

Then after being certified, prospective parents enter the matching phase. This back-and-forth between your caseworker and the caseworker of a waiting child can take anywhere from two weeks to two years…or more.

Becoming a parent is hard work.

These kids have already had one set of parents disappoint them. The last thing they need is to have another set of jokers flake on them. Simply put, if you’re the kind of person given to making statements like, “Bring them on. I’ll take all four!” then adoption is not for you.

Second, these are children. They are not puppies. I repeat, they are not puppies. This is not a craigslist ad. These children are not for sale. Their level of cuteness is irrelevant. These are real people with real problems. Most of these kids have been through shit that we can’t even imagine. They have been neglected and abused and abandoned, often multiple times, the victims of a system meant to protect them but one that seems hell-bent on breaking them.

So if you want these children, then do something. Stop making comments and start taking action. These children are more than a trending diversion in your newsfeed. They require more than your momentary consideration. They deserve more than your well-meaning empty declarations.

You see a cute photo.

I see a lifelong commitment.

(not) just some woman

I never met her. She was just this woman in a photograph. A stranger. My youngest son’s birth mother. Yesterday I received an email informing me that this woman, this stranger, my youngest son’s birth mother had died. And even though I never knew her, even though she was no one to me, even though I had hated her, I looked over at my son, barely six years old, and I was overcome by such profound sadness.

She was gone and he would never know her.

My son has no memory of this woman, his mother. She was as much a stranger to him as she was to me. He was taken from her custody at a very young age, the result of her poor choices and the unfortunate lifestyle that ultimately claimed her life. In the past when my son spoke of “his mother” he was referring to his foster mother, the only mother he had ever known, but still, this woman who died two weeks ago, she made him and if it had not been for her my son would not be my son.

One day my son will no longer be barely six years old and he will understand his story and he will realize before his fathers before his foster mother before his caseworkers there was his mother and he will ask about her.

He will ask who she was and what she looked like and does he look like her and why did she stop being his mother and can he meet her.

A few months ago we learned that my son’s birth mother had contacted his former caseworker. She had been asking about us. She wanted a photo or to send a birthday card or maybe to write a letter, I can’t remember.

Even though there was nothing she could have done, his adoption had been finalized and she had relinquished parental rights years ago, I was angry by her sudden reappearance. Since that moment I had been worried that she would somehow find out where we lived and show up unannounced on our doorstep. I worried that she would upset my son and cause confusion and disrupt our perfect life. And so when I read that email, before I looked over at my son before I felt such profound sadness, I felt relief.

And now I just feel guilty. And sad. And after I closed the email I hugged my son and I told him I loved him and he playfully pushed me away and said, “Not now, Dad.” And I suppose right now in this moment I just hope that one day when my son asks about his mother, after I tell him the truth, after I hug him, after I tell him I love him, he won’t push me away.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here.

 

 

holiday (monster truck) blues

The holidays can be a time of great joy and celebration, but also a time of profound sadness and grief. The period between carving a turkey and opening presents can bring up a host of memories for many people, especially adopted children. Perhaps it’s the tradition of the day or the gathering of families or the ghosts of holidays past. Whatever the reason, the days leading up to these special moments can be an emotional minefield.

For my two sons, both adopted, the holidays are a reminder of all they have lost—family, friends, pets, a favorite toy. The life our boys had before often goes unmentioned for months at a time, but every December, like the ghosts that haunt Scrooge, they reappear and make their presence known.

It was Chris who this year first began to steal visits down memory lane. At Thanksgiving dinner he waxed nostalgic about his grandmother’s mashed potatoes and her homemade mac-n-cheese. A few weeks later he recalled all the Christmas mornings spent playing with his three older sisters. Last night he told me (for the first time) about a blue monster truck his foster parents had given to him.

As Chris told me in great detail about this much-loved truck, I began to understand that he was not telling me so much as reminding himself. I could hear the sadness in my son’s voice as he tried to hold on to his former life, to maintain a connection to a past that grew more and more distant with each passing day.

I was reminded of this truth this past weekend as we cut down our Christmas tree. On our way to the tree farm Elijah began to talk about his “mom” and his life in West Virginia. Elijah was telling us a story about his (former) dogs when suddenly he paused and whispered, “I can’t remember their names anymore.”

If you want to know what it feels like to have your heart break or if you ever need a good cry, just imagine a five year old coming to the realization that life is full of pain.

These ghosts used to scare me. They would make me doubt myself as a parent and question my children’s happiness because if I were a good parent and if my children were truly happy then why would they need to visit the past? I thought the only way for our family to move forward was to run from these ghosts, but to run from them would be to deny my children their story.

And that would be wrong.

I tell myself those dogs had a name and that those names are important. I remind myself that while life at grandma’s house was not always easy for Chris, there were mashed potatoes and homemade mac-n-cheese and Christmas mornings with his sisters.

There were blue monster trucks.


Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

why aren’t you talking about my children?

November is National Adoption Month, but then you probably didn’t know that because CNN and MSNBC and FOX and The New York Times and The Washington Post and Twitter and Facebook and the entire Internet have yet to notify you of that fact.

There are 415,000 children in foster care in the United States. That is almost a half million children, or roughly the population of Wyoming, without a permanent home.

Every night these kids go to bed not knowing where they belong or if they belong. And every year more than 20,000 of them age out of the foster system. These kids have no family. They have no home.

Each year, we, the so-called greatest country in the world, turn our backs on these 20,000 children. We abandon them.

Still not interested?  Still not willing to hashtag adoption?  Still not willing to launch an all-out Facebook assault on your friends and family who think adoption “isn’t their problem?”

Perhaps it’s because adoption is benign. It isn’t sexy or controversial enough to warrant your concern. It doesn’t sell papers or generate page views.

There are no flag overlays for adoption. It fails to inspire hashtags. It lacks conflict.

It isn’t a red cup at war with Christmas.

It isn’t Syria.

But then this post isn’t about Syria. For the purposes of this post Syria is a prop and before you judge me for that truth bomb I caution you to go back over your social media feeds because the only difference between you and me is that I’m being honest.

A week from now after Syria has runs its course in our collective consciousness and the news cycle has moved onto its next big story I’m simply asking you to remember that those 415,000 kids will still be there.

Those kids will still need a home.

No one is talking about them now. No one is probably going to talk about them tomorrow, but they will still be there.

Now I am not implying that these nearly half a million homegrown children are more important than children in other parts of the world or refugees from Syria or people in Paris or homeless veterans. I am saying that these kids are here and they’re not going anywhere and no one is talking about them.

And why is that?

If Anderson Cooper or Megyn Kelly or Rachel Maddow or a minion dressed as Caitlyn Jenner told you right now to drop everything and talk about adoption would it suddenly merit your undivided attention? Would you go into keyboard warrior-mode and obsessively begin to post every link you could find on adoption? Would you casually begin to throw around the adoption equivalent of twenty-five cent phrases like “white privilege” and fifty cent words like “xenophobe”?

If I could go back in time and snap a photo of my son as a baby sitting in the corner of what was probably a crack house with a blanket thrown over him while his birth parents shot up drugs or if I could travel to another time and take a photo of my other son’s birth mother in jail while five months pregnant with him would these images bring a tear to your eye?

Would these photos incite your passion? Would you spend your day littering Facebook with an endless stream of nonsensical memes if foster children were like those puppies in the Sarah McLachlan commercial?

Would they, at last, deserve your consideration?

Would they?

For the record, I’m not implying that I’m better than you because I did something; because I adopted two of those 415,000 kids. The truth is my interest in adoption was self-serving. I had no time for adoption until adoption could do something for me.

But now that I know about adoption, now that those statistics are a part of my life, now that those numbers have a face, I wonder, why are there not more people taking action?

Because you don’t need to adopt to make a difference. You don’t need to foster to make a difference. There are so many ways in which you can change the lives of these children who are living in unsafe conditions, who don’t have a home, whose future is Dickensian.

Consider, the woman who saw a young mother living in a tent with her baby and called children services. The caseworker who removed a child from the home of his drug addicted grandmother. Those people, who by the way made it possible for us to have our children, did nothing more than care about something that wasn’t on the news or trending on social media.

I have been told that these two issues (Syria and adoption) are like comparing apples to oranges, and while that may be true, I don’t necessarily believe that the apples are more important than the oranges or vice versa. I just believe the apples get all the attention on your newsfeed while the oranges don’t even merit a share.

And for the record, yes, I am aware of just how manipulative this post is, because who’s going to be the person who calls out the guy who adopted two kids, but if this calculated manipulation gets you to consider for even thirty seconds the plight of these 415,000 kids with as much passion as you’ve exercised over the past few weeks on Syrian refugees and red cups then it will have been worth it.

Sean Michael O’Donnell is the author of Which One Of you is the Mother? It is available on Amazon here. Why haven’t you bought it yet?! Seriously.

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.