Haley Young sat nervously in her living room not knowing what to expect. The surprising phone call on Monday afternoon had left her shocked and apprehensive – but also curious. She had been contacted, out of the blue, by a person she never thought she would hear from. And now, two days later, that person was coming over to talk face to face, and Haley knew this individual could have a dramatic effect on her family’s life.
She glanced at the clock on the mantle. Haley had set the time for their visit when her son would be in school and her husband at work. She wanted to ensure that they would be alone without interruptions.
The person would be arriving at any moment, and she was feeling anxious because there were so many issues this individual’s visit could raise and that was something that she desperately wanted to avoid. Haley did not want her life, and more importantly, the lives of those she loved to be turned upside down. However, they were going to discuss a subject so close to her heart that she could not help being worried. Everything about this meeting was unsettling.
However, she had willingly agreed to meet with this stranger in her home because of the extreme circumstances surrounding their previously unknown relationship to each other. But it was a conversation Haley never anticipated she would ever have.
Because she was sitting on the sofa, Haley was close enough to the window to hear a car pull into the driveway. She instinctively held her breath.
A few seconds later the doorbell rang, and Haley flinched. She told herself to calm down and relax, but her body did not respond. Every muscle remained tense as she made her way to the door.
Haley closed her eyes for a moment as she fought against the wave of anxiety sweeping over her. Knowing this was a moment that could change the lives of her family forever, she slowly opened the door and came face to face with the biological mother of her child.
The slender woman standing in her doorway appeared to be seven or eight years younger than Haley. For just a moment they stood in awkward silence and then the woman spoke. “Mrs. Young?”
“Yes,” Haley replied. “You must be Miss Wyman.”
The woman nodded. “Please, you can call me Lisa.”
“Okay, and I’m Haley. Come on in.”
Haley felt somewhat relieved as she watched her visitor walk through the room and sit down in a large chair. It appeared that Lisa was just as nervous as she was.
Haley sat back down in the same spot on the sofa. “Would you like some coffee or something else to drink?”
“No, thank you.” Lisa shifted uneasily in her chair and then said, “I want you to know how much it means to me that you agreed to let me come over. I know this can’t be easy for you.”
Haley nodded. “I admit I was caught off guard when you called. At first, I didn’t know what to think, but, of course, I realize that this is part of your life just like it is mine.”
Lisa looked away, and when she turned back an expression of anguish had clouded her face. “I want to assure you that I have no ulterior motives for wanting to see you today. I do not want to disrupt your lives.”
“I appreciate that. I have to be honest, I was concerned that you were interested in somehow altering the relationships we have built in our family.”
“I promise you that is not the case.”
Haley breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you.”
Lisa took a moment and looked around the living room. Her eyes swept across a series of pictures on the wall until she noticed one in particular. She gasped and quickly covered her mouth because she knew it was a photo of her son. Instantly, she felt a surge of emotion as she saw his face for the first time in eight years.
Haley watched her visitor and couldn’t begin to imagine what the woman was feeling. Softly she said, “His name is Jason.”
Lisa’s eyes edged with tears as she smiled. “Jason! That is perfect. It is so strange to think about a person every day without even knowing their name.”
Haley’s nervousness eased as she began to feel empathy for the woman sitting in her front room. She did not seem like someone to be feared but rather she was a person who had made an unbelievably difficult decision that she would live with forever.
Lisa said, “It’s hard to believe that in just three days he’ll be eight years old. In some ways, it seems like yesterday that I gave birth and in other ways, it feels like a lifetime ago.”
Haley took a moment and considered the last eight years. “You have no idea how often I’ve thought about you.”
Lisa looked down. “You must think I’m a terrible person. Anyone who would give up their own child……” She bit her lip in an attempt to control her emotion.
“No, no. Just the opposite.” Haley did her best to reassure her. “I’ve always thought it was incredibly courageous that you went ahead with your pregnancy. But it must have been so difficult to give the baby up.”
With her voice trembling, Lisa said, “It was the hardest thing I could ever imagine doing. When I made the decision to carry my baby to term, I could only hope that he would someday have a family like yours. I’m so glad I got to meet you. I have worried for eight years about what had become of him and to know that you are his family means everything to me.”
Haley was touched by her words. “I have been curious about your situation as well. I’ve wondered who you were and the circumstances of Jason’s birth. I find it very moving that you’ve continued to care about him through the years. That shows that you are a compassionate person.”
Lisa appreciated her thoughtfulness. “You are very kind. I’m sure you were shocked when I contacted you. I really didn’t think you’d be willing to meet with me.” As she spoke her eyes kept going back to the photo of Jason on the wall. She was amazed at how beautiful her son was.
After a long pause, Lisa said, “I had so many people tell me it would be best to terminate my pregnancy, but although I felt pressured, I couldn’t do it. I wanted to keep my baby, but I knew what a mess my life was. I don’t want to make excuses, but I was only seventeen, and the father wanted nothing to do with me after I told him I was pregnant. I doubt that he ever found out our baby had Down syndrome.”
Lisa blinked back tears as she tried to convey her life at the time. “I was young and alone. I didn’t have the confidence that I could be the mother my baby deserved. I realize now that I was right. I wasn’t mature enough to handle the responsibility of caring for an infant, especially one with a disability, and I admit I was scared. But even though I’d made a serious mistake, I didn’t believe that gave me the right to deny my baby his life.”
Haley said, “You were in an incredibly difficult situation.”
“Yes, I was, but I’m still haunted by the fact that I took the easy way out.”
“I don’t think that’s true. You delivered your baby. You gave Jason a future. I think that was amazingly brave. I certainly don’t think that was the easy way out. I’m sure you’re aware of the statistics regarding terminations after a positive test for Down syndrome.”
Lisa said, “Yes. They’re heartbreaking.”
Haley had no desire to be judgmental. “I believe each woman must decide for themselves – but no one can fault you for putting your child up for adoption because no one can know what you were thinking or feeling. I’m sure you made the best decision you could under the circumstances.”
Lisa nodded. “Thank you. I will say that meeting you helps me believe it was the right decision.”
Haley softly said, “A lot of seventeen-year-old girls would not have been that wise.”
“Unfortunately, it was a lack of wisdom that got me in that position to start with, but I couldn’t let the baby suffer the consequences of my poor judgment.”
“Well, it seems like you have your life together now.”
“Yes, I finished high school and then went on to college and got my business degree. Fortunately, I was hired right out of school and my career is off to a good start.”
“That’s wonderful. You worked hard to turn your life around.”
“I’ve tried – but nothing can change the past. We can’t undo the mistakes we make. We’re forced to live with the results of our actions.”
“You’re right, however, we can choose to move forward. We can choose not to allow the past to dictate the future.”
“I know, and I have moved on with my life, but there has always been a part of me that couldn’t let go of that little boy. Even though I gave him up, there is still a bond that I don’t think will ever be broken.”
Haley understood. “Yes, I so desperately wanted that bond with a child of my own, but it just wasn’t to be. So now I have a different bond with Jason, but one that is just as real and strong.”
She looked with respect at her visitor. “I will be eternally grateful for your decision. I can’t imagine what our lives would be like without our son.”
Lisa was pleased. “I am so happy to hear that.”
Haley now felt comfortable with her guest, and she wanted her to feel the same way. “I’m sure you have a lot of questions. I’ll do my best to answer them.”
“All right. I don’t want to be too nosey, but I’ve spent so many years wondering. I would love to hear whatever you would like to tell me about him.”
Haley smiled warmly. “Jason is a wonderful little boy. He’s energetic and inquisitive, and he enjoys trying new things. Currently, his favorite activity is swimming. We go to the pool at least a couple of times a week. He loves being in the water……Let’s see, his favorite color is blue, that’s why he’s wearing a blue shirt in the photo, and his favorite food is pizza. He could eat it seven days a week. On the other hand, he absolutely refuses to eat potato salad.
“Overall, I would say he’s pretty much like any eight-year-old. He can be stubborn, and sometimes he’s mischievous, but he is usually very sweet and well mannered. He especially enjoys going to school, and he has been successfully mainstreamed.”
Lisa hesitated for a moment and then asked, “How did he progress regarding milestones?”
Haley answered honestly. “He progressed at his own pace. There were delays in some areas. It took him a little longer to walk, and he did not talk until he was four, but now he talks more than anyone in the family.”
Lisa could not help but ask the question she had wondered about the most. “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but why did you choose to adopt a baby with Down syndrome?”
“When my husband and I found out that we could not have children on our own we decided to adopt. Growing up, I had an aunt who had a developmental disability and seeing how she loved unconditionally made me want to adopt a child that would provide us with the same kind of relationship. Of course, each individual is different, with their own particular strengths and characteristics but no matter what, we wanted to love them and give them a home.”
“Something I was unwilling to do.” Lisa sat back in her chair. “I don’t think the guilt will ever ease.”
Haley realized that Lisa was opening up to her in a way she had not expected. “Well, I hope that finding out that Jason has a wonderful life will give you comfort. Just remember that your decision to continue your pregnancy has had a positive effect on many lives.”
Lisa answered with sincere admiration. “You and your husband are the ones who deserve the credit. You stepped up and adopted a baby with special needs, even though you didn’t know what the future held for that child.”
“There is certainly nothing special about us. We’re just two average people who wanted a child to love, and we chose a baby that might be overlooked by others.”
“How old was Jason when you adopted him?”
“He was six months old. Thankfully, his health was relatively good We did not face the heart problems that some families deal with. However, he does have some issues with his vision, and he wears hearing aids – but none of that slows him down or gets in his way.”
Haley thought back to the moment that changed her life. “I remember the first time I saw him. He was so tiny for his age. But he had the most beautiful eyes, and as soon as I held him in my arms, I knew he had to become part of our family.”
“Has raising a child with Down syndrome been what you expected, or has it been more challenging?”
“That’s a good question. Actually, I didn’t know what to expect. Of course, we did a lot of research, and we talked to other families that had children with Down syndrome, but every individual is unique. What might be true for one person or family might not be true for us. So, we just took it day by day and tried to face each issue as it came up. We’ve done the best we could, but we’re certainly not perfect, and I’m sure we’ve made many mistakes, but we’ve also learned a great deal about ourselves and about Jason.”
Lisa studied the face of the woman who was raising her child, and she felt an enormous sense of relief that her baby had found a home with people who could provide him with the opportunities in life he deserved. In a tone of voice filled with appreciation, she said, “Thank you for loving him.”
Haley was surprised by her candor, but she returned it with heartfelt sincerity. “Thank you for giving Jason life and allowing us to have the opportunity to adopt him.”
They sat in silence for a few moments as Haley tried to imagine what it must feel like after eight years to finally see a photo of the child you never had the chance to know. She wondered what Lisa had endured in that span of time and what her hopes were for the future.
Slowly an idea began to form in Haley’s mind. She had not mentioned the phone call to her husband because she wanted to have an open mind when she met Jason’s mother, and she did not want to take the chance that his opinion would influence her. Now that she had spent a little time with Lisa, Haley was thinking of making an offer that she believed her husband would understand and support. However, she was not sure how her visitor would respond. But all she could do was ask.
Gently, Haley said, “I’m not trying to put you on the spot, but would you like to meet Jason?”
A look of shock swept over Lisa’s face.
Haley continued. “On Saturday we’re having a birthday party for him. Some of his friends from school will be there as well as some family members. He’s very excited about it. If it is something you would like to do, I could introduce you to everyone as a friend. Jason is always happy to meet new people.”
Lisa could no longer hold back the tears that began to stream down her face. “I can’t believe you would do that for me.” Just the thought of getting to actually see his face and hear his voice was more than she had ever hoped for.
Haley smiled. “If it goes well, and I can’t think of any reason why it wouldn’t, I’d like for you to be a part of Jason’s life……But it’s important that you know that we have no plans to ever tell him he’s adopted. We believe it would be too confusing and unsettling for him.”
Lisa nodded. “I agree completely. You and your husband are his family.”
Haley was thankful that she was willing to accept the fact that adoption was never going to be mentioned. “With that understanding, I think it would benefit both you and Jason to get to know each other.”
“That would be wonderful! Haley, I just don’t know how to thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me. We have both played a crucial role in his life.”
They chatted for a few more minutes and then Lisa stood up to go. With heartfelt conviction, she said, “I don’t think Jason could have a better mother than you. He is so lucky that you and your husband adopted him.”
As they walked to the front door, Haley said, “Actually, I think we are the lucky ones to have found him – and you are the person who made that possible. Another woman might not have continued the pregnancy, so he wouldn’t have had the chance to find a home where he is loved and cared for. But it took both of us, you and me to make that happen. Jason is blessed to have two mothers.”
Lisa reached into her pocket and pulled out a tissue to dry her eyes. “I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for agreeing to see me and for your thoughtful invitation to Jason’s birthday party.”
“It’s been a pleasure meeting you, Lisa, and I think getting together has helped both of us. We no longer have to wonder about Jason’s past or his future. I’m really looking forward to having you be a part of his life.”
Haley watched as Lisa walked to her car. Stepping back in the house, everything they had talked about began to sink in. Something Haley had dreaded had turned out to be life changing in a far different way than anticipated. Thankfully, Jason’s biological mother was no longer a mystery but rather a person Haley could relate to and understand.
Walking through the living room, she glanced at her son’s photo on the wall, and it made her smile because Haley knew, without a doubt, that she and Lisa shared a bond that no one else on earth could truly understand.