‘An elderly woman behind us said, ‘he’s beautiful.’ We both responded with a resounding, ‘Thank you!’: Adoptive mom says her son’s 17-year-old birth mother was her ‘saving grace,’ she’ll forever ‘be in awe’ of her

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“He was our dream come true. Five tear-filled years led us to this magical moment and this brand new nugget of perfection had finally made it into my arms. My husband and I gazed at our little bundle as we savored the delicious joy of his first coos. We were a family fulfilled.

‘That will be $132.76,’ murmured the cashier. I snapped back into my body and surveyed the conveyor belt stacked with diapers and onesies. Having served as Aunt and Uncle a few times over, we were familiar with the pint-sized supplies. These, though…these were for us. It was 6 days before the due date, and we were on a precarious edge.

The conception of our first child was not, shall we say, what one might expect. To be fair, we weren’t in the room when the baby was conceived, so I can’t properly speak to that particular miracle. Our conception story, rather, began with a painstaking process of paperwork, background checks, trainings, and home studies. It was romantic in its own way. After years navigating the infertility minefield, deciding to adopt was easy; it had always been part of our plan. When it became clear that traditional means were not playing out for us first, we pivoted. That adjustment opened the gateway for what our social worker referred to as ‘the easiest adoption ever.’

My husband fumbled with his wallet to pay for the stuff for the child that was not yet ours. This retail exchange was another step toward solidifying our parenthood, and the confluence of anticipation, elation, and terror was challenging to handle. Adoption is a funny thing in many respects, not the least of which is the element of surprise. As I nudged him impatiently, I felt my back pocket buzz.

‘Hello?’

‘You need to get to the hospital NOW!’ The baby’s aunt was a fierce advocate both for us and her sister who was now, apparently, in labor ahead of schedule. She yelled into the phone – in the nicest possible way – for us to get our butts in gear. Our son was on his way.

I squealed at my husband and announced to all of Target, ‘IT’S TIME!!’ In retrospect, this proclamation likely drew some befuddled looks, but in my mind the whole place erupted in applause as the Rite of Spring wafted over the loudspeaker (surely that happened, right?!) It felt as if The Hand of God lifted our car to the hospital parking lot and, as we nervously entered the maternity ward, we were overwhelmed with the enormity of it all. Our future was curled up in the belly of the most courageous person I had ever known. Now all we could do was stare at the pennies glistening in the atrium fountain and wait.

Courtesy of Merritt Minnemeyer

I concentrated all the love I could muster on her. Nicole, or Mama Cole as she would come to be known, was the beautiful bearer of our miracle. Just shy of 17, her clarity and strength were powerful to behold. We immediately fell in love upon meeting her. She was all of five-foot-nothing with strikingly sweet features and a spirit that knocked our socks off. If she ever wavered in her decision to honor us with her most profound gift, we never caught wind of it (which is just as well as I probably would have spontaneously combusted – I was wound pretty tightly around this whole thing). She and I had shopped for the layette together, marveled over ultrasounds, and slurped Jamba Juice while talking about boys, and family, and hopes for the future. This kid was an exceptional human.

In the months that followed, my husband and I recalled with wonder how we held her shoulders as we witnessed our son’s grand entrance. We recounted our terror when the cord was wrapped around his tiny neck like a miniature boa constrictor and how, when he screamed for the first time, our knees buckled in relief. I still can feel the palpable ache of love and loss in that room; even in the ‘easiest adoption ever,’ there was deep grief. Adoption is a complex, delicate, exquisite matrix of inextricable love.

Courtesy of Merritt Minnemeyer
Courtesy of Merritt Minnemeyer
Courtesy of Merritt Minnemeyer

We have stories just like any family. To this day I tease my now 14-year-old son about how his affection for B horror movies – a trait he shares with Mama Cole – surely is due to the TBS Halloween marathon that ran all night in the birthing room. That first year we spent holidays together exchanging gifts, sharing meals, and building the foundation of our newly minted tribe. While we don’t see each other as often as we would like nowadays (I have since moved away), Nicole and our boy share an abiding bond. I often refer to her as my ‘little sister’ with immense pride, though it is more accurate to say that she is my saving grace. During our most recent visit, that five-foot-nothing ‘kid’ took us out to dinner and brought us as her guests to the Aquarium. She’s a fully realized woman now, and shines even more radiantly than she did so many years ago. I will forever be in awe of her.

Courtesy of Merritt Minnemeyer
Courtesy of Merritt Minnemeyer

There is, of course, more to the story. There are loose ends, and unanswered questions, and much has transpired over the years. While the majority of our collective family has embraced our relationship, some still choose to stand on the sidelines. And that’s OK. I wouldn’t change our story for the world. Nicole not only gave us the most humbling gift in our boy, she also gave us her faith and her commitment to a life full of love. She is to this day one of my wisest teachers.

Our many memories are dynamic and rich. Perhaps my favorite, though, comes from an outing during which Mama Cole and I took our baby to a Christmas event. An elderly woman standing behind us, innocently attempting to make sense of us three, said gently, ‘he’s beautiful.’ We responded in tandem with a resounding, ‘Thank you!’ I followed up quickly with a qualifier. ‘I had nothing to do with it,’ I said, and winked at the mother of my child. Nicole responded with her trademark wisdom. ‘I’ll take credit for his good looks,’ she whispered. ‘You can take credit for his smile.’”

Courtesy of Merritt Minnemeyer

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Merritt Minnemeyer of New Paltz, New York. You can follow her journey on Instagram and her websiteDo you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read Merritt’s powerful backstory of adopting 3 sons, and losing her husband:

‘Cancer is a gift.’ My husband wrote. I scowled. Widowed at 35 with 3 adopted boys, I was angry as hell.’: Woman’s journey to new love, life thanks to 200-year-old haunted house

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