the last word
Finding My Son

“He looks just like you!” The people who know that Che (pronounced Chay) is adopted are as amazed as I am by that fact.

The notion to explore adoption was given birth in my Auntie’s kitchen when she burst forth with the declaration that I should adopt. The tension I felt was caused by the fear of resurrecting the tragedy of my late term miscarriage a few years earlier.

Where did she get such an idea? I didn’t know anything about adopting. For the sake of peace, I simply said, “maybe.”

Che Jackson

Over the next several weeks it seemed adoption kept popping up in my life - Dateline stories, newsprint stories. I also participated in a colleague’s research project which involved watching a video about adoption. That did it. I decided to begin my journey into adoption on the web.

I found an extremely informational site. The first word of advice was to talk to individuals who have had experiences with adoption. It turned out that a family living just a block away from my Auntie’s house had a positive experience. I decided to move forward with the same agency with which they worked. The agency primarily arranged open adoptions because of their belief that ultimately, it is healthier for the child. I attended an informational meeting and learned all I needed to get started.

I filed my application in early August. By September I was registered for the required adoption class. I learned a lot about the history of adoption in this country and why, if done well with a lot of counseling and support, open adoption was critical to a child’s development and a birth mother’s future. I was also challenged to reconsider my judgment of birth mothers. It is amazing how we so quickly and easily cast judgment about others whose experiences we know nothing about. I admit I was one of those people. How could a mother give up her baby? But the class included a two-hour panel discussion with birth mothers who told their stories. It was a very powerful moment.

The third step in the process was the state mandated home study. It was grueling. Sometimes I resented the scrutiny. After all, no one needs state approval to give birth. But I got over it and got through it. I was approved and ready to move on by early February. I spent the remainder of the month putting my profile together. Once my profile was complete I could be picked in a matter of days or weeks.

Sure enough, I received a call in early March. It was a baby girl, due April 8. We drove to Pittsburgh and met birth mom. We cleaned out the extra room and painted it pink. I was completely surprised with a lavish baby shower at the College. Baby now had everything she needed from Looney Toons to a portable playpen. But then, we waited, and waited and waited.

Finally, the dreaded call came. Baby went home with mom. Mom changed her mind. In adoption lingo it’s a “disappointment.” Disappointment hardly describes the experience. For me, it was devastation.

My friends and family kept me going with their positive attitude. I tried hard to believe that “my” baby was on her way. Then came Mother’s Day. It caught me off guard. I decided I was going to stay home alone, brood and maybe eat ice cream and watch Lifetime for Women. But Lifetime was sponsoring a mother’s day marathon. I turned on the TV to a scene with adoptive parents in the delivery room with birth mom. The weight of all my grief came crashing down. I turned off the TV, unplugged the phone and cried. I had a talk with God, too. It went on for hours, but I was forced to pull myself together to go to my mother’s house that evening.

As I walked in the door, my mother asked where I’d been. Someone whose name I did not recognize had been trying to reach me all day. When I returned the call, I met Gale, an adoption caseworker from an agency in another state. Gale called to tell me about a little boy who had been born the night before. His birth mom picked me over a married couple. Gale knew I had a preference for a baby girl but she had heard a lot about me from my caseworker after the “disappointment” and she said she just felt like this was my son. Gale gave me all the details, including the fact that birth mom had checked out and gone home without knowing if I would agree to parent the little boy she delivered the night before. They’d waited all day trying to reach me directly.

I could barely process the information I was hearing. All the while I was losing faith and blaming God, it had already been done. I was overwhelmed with humility and awe. I hardly responded, but I took down the information and we agreed that I “would think about it overnight” and call her in the morning.

Late that night I was awakened by the thought that that little baby was in some hospital all alone. That’s when I knew he was my son.

— Kim Jackson is the associate dean of academic services and director of multicultural affairs. She is also the proud mother of baby Che.