This past September, in the Holidome of the Holiday Inn French Quarter in Perrysburg, a 38-year barrier was swept aside as a mother and her child got to know each other for the first time.
“We sat there from 2 to 11 p.m. Neither one of us wanted to leave,” Lisa, the daughter, recalled. “We had so much to find out, so much to catch up on.”
On the one hand, it was like we were strangers. But then we also had this very deep connection that I think we both were aware of,” Pam, the mother, added.
Catholic Charities arranged adoption
A priest put her in touch with Catholic Charities, and in 1974, when the baby girl was born, an adoption was arranged. Lisa, who is now married with children of her own, was raised in a loving home.
“I was told at three or four years old that I was adopted, which meant I was very special. I have a sister who was also adopted, and I have two older brothers. But my childhood was wonderful. I never felt I was any different. In fact, even after meeting Pam, my family is still my family. It will always be that way.”
Buble song hits ‘Home’
Lisa has been working to find her birth mother since 1996. She searched birth records, the Ohio Adoption Registry and various agencies. Eventually, after several stops and starts, a friend of hers suggested she get in touch with the people at Catholic Charities Adoption Services at the Diocese of Toledo, who help reunite Catholic Charities adoptees with their birth parents.
“For me, it was important to find out who I came from,” Lisa said. “I wanted to fi nd out who I look like.”
One day about a year ago, a letter from Catholic Charities with the news that her birth mother had been found arrived at Lisa’s home. Lisa was running errands and her husband called her with the news.
“I’ll never forget that phone call,” Lisa said. “While he was telling me, Michael Buble was singing ‘I Want to Go Home’ on the radio. It was like this was meant to be. I called Catholic Charities and said I want to go through with it.”
‘Just trying to figure out where we all fit in’
When you see Pam and Lisa together, you notice there are similarities between the two – their looks, their walk and even their handwriting. It’s a bit uncanny.
Pam said that when her oldest son was ten years old, he told her he always felt he had an older sibling. So when she told him about Lisa, he was not surprised.
“All of my family has been very supportive. They were all excited to meet her.”
So the two families spent this past Thanksgiving together and got to know each other. It’s been an adjustment, Lisa said.
“I think we’re all just trying to figure out where we all fit in.”
By now, of course, the answer is clear: Together.
Baby Spencer was looking smart, all decked out for the photo shoot in his bow tie and new sweater. Of course it helps that when you’re just six weeks old, you don’t really have any old clothes.
Mom and Dad, Debbie and Todd, were as proud as any new parents you’ll ever see. And even more grateful than most, perhaps, since Spencer’s arrival was so long awaited and so intensely prayed for.
Even the story of Spencer’s arrival is inspiring. Todd and Debbie, who live in Toledo, took adoption parenting classes through Catholic Charities, finishing up in July of 2012. The baby’s nursery was finished, the paperwork was filled out and the home visits were completed, but they were never exactly sure if they were on anyone’s short list for consideration as adoptive parents.
Franciscan prayer partners
Then one day this past January, Debbie discovered that her adoption assessor from Catholic Charities had posted a prayer resource on Facebook.
“A community of Franciscan brothers were accepting prayer requests. So I asked them to pray that Todd and I receive a baby and also that they pray for the child’s birth parents,” she said.
The very next day they were called to come to a local hospital to meet with a birth mother. Naturally, they supposed they were going to another interview appointment. But they hadn’t factored in the power of prayer.
They went home from the hospital that day with a new, very sweet, incalculably cute, and very, very funny baby boy.
“We were surprised and thrilled. When we drove there, we didn’t even know the baby had been born yet,” Todd recalled. “As soon as they put him in my arms, I knew he was mine. You just naturally fall in love. It was like he was meant to be with us all along,” Debbie said.
Thanks be to God – and to the brothers of good St. Francis.
Like most parents, Amy Schnorberger gets teary talking about the gift that her children represent. But, unlike most parents, her gratitude is directed toward specific human beings as well as God. Because Amy and her husband, John, are the adoptive parents of Katy, 7, and Drew, 5, both of whom were granted life by mothers who could have chosen otherwise.
“When John and I got married, we just wanted to be parents. It didn’t matter how we accomplished that, really. We just wanted to raise children,” Mrs. Schnorberger said. “I can’t even tell you how much our children mean to us.”
Both adoptions were handled sensitively
“There are so many issues that surround any adoption. There is so much information both sets of parents need to have to make a good decision. Catholic Charities helped with all of that. There was no sense of hurrying the process along. They were thorough enough for all parties to feel they were making a good decision,” Mrs. Schnorberger said.
The Schnorbergers enjoy open adoptions for both of their children, which means they remain in periodic contact with the birth families of both of their children.
“How open you want your adoption to be is always up to the families involved,” Mrs. Schnorberger said. “And that’s where Catholic Charities is of service. They take the time to make sure the situation’s going to work for everybody – the child, of course, but also the birth family and the adoptive family. All of them need to be on the same page.”
The Schnorbergers looked at different adoption options – both international agencies and independent adoption services. But they felt that Catholic Charities’ compassionate and complete counseling process offered the best opportunity for both sets of parents to understand and give their consent.
“You have to remember, it’s not easy for birth mothers,” Mrs. Schnorberger said. “They have to think things through as they carry the child. And then at the end of that road, they have to say good-bye. I think it’s important that the selflessness of birth mothers be recognized.”
“In fact, at our house on Mother’s Day, these women are very much honored. It means so much when they tell us, ‘Every time we see you with these kids, we know we did what was best for them.’”