While adoption itself holds some similarities with regards to its process, each adoption journey is unique. Individual to whomever it involves. Even if those adoptions all stem from the same family. The process may share commonalities, but no two journeys are ever the same.
Lauralee Walker is one such mother who is no stranger to the adoption process. For the past seven years, she has served on the board with Adoption Choices of Colorado and mentors other birth mothers like herself through CORE training courses. Adoption Choices, she says, helped change her life. It is a great privilege for her to share her story and pass on the nuggets of wisdom she has gained from both the joys and heartaches of her adoption journey.
I had the honor of speaking to Lauralee about her experience, and was blessed by her courage and perseverance. She is truly an incredible woman and mother. She mentioned that she owes a huge debt of gratitude to Executive Director Christy Ikeler, who helped counsel and guide Lauralee through the ups and downs, and was there for her every step of the way.
The following interview and story is shared with her expressed permission. Her name, as well as the names of her children, are also used with Lauralee’s consent. Nathaniel’s adoptive parents’ names have been altered for their privacy.
RR: What did you know about adoption starting out?
LW: [Adoption] was always very familiar for me. My mom had placed my younger sister, and my aunt had placed. My sister has also placed. I never thought I’d find myself in [their shoes]. They all had very traumatic experiences, so my perception of adoption was pretty terrifying. When my mom placed my younger sister, my mom didn’t know where she went because it was a closed adoption. It was very traumatic for her.
RR: What was your path to adoption like?
LW: I’ve always taken pride in doing things the right way. I got married before I had any kids. My husband was my high school sweetheart, and I have always loved children. When my husband and I started trying, I went through several failed attempts and three miscarriages before I was told I’d never be able to carry.
When I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time, I was put on progesterone, which I thought was strange. Usually you don’t mix this medication with pregnancy. I wasn’t monitored very well, and ended up being on progesterone eight weeks longer than I should have been. But I was able to carry my son to term and was very excited about this. I had several ultrasounds. It felt like a dream come true. We were all very excited!
I vividly remember the day my son was born. My sister was there. She took my hand. My husband went off with my son. My sister kept saying, “he’s beautiful he’s so beautiful.” I knew something was wrong. They wouldn’t let me see my son at first. Then they told me. My son was born with a cleft lip and palate bilateral. The physician said it was the worst case he’d seen in his 30 years of practice. IIt was devastating. You go your whole life and imagine this Gerber baby, and then all of a sudden wonder how the world will see him…
Later, it was just me and him. He had this gaping hole in his face. But he was beautiful and he was mine. I knew I would spend whatever and do what I needed to do to love my little boy. As time went on, he wasn’t holding his head up or reaching the milestones he should be. We took this very personally. We wondered what we could’ve done differently. My husband took to it by drinking. A lot.
Ezekiel, my son, we found out, was born with a rare chromosome abnormality. He was going deaf and blind and having severe seizures. But he’s my little snowflake. Doctors told us he wouldn’t live to see three if we were lucky. So, instead of planning his future like typical parents would, we began cherishing all the time we had with him, while inside we were falling apart.
Then I find out I was pregnant with my second son. It was unexpected. He was born as my perfect, healthy Gerber baby. I named him Zedekiah.
At the time, we were learning a lot about Zeke. He was allergic to the sun, and his seizures were getting worse and worse. My husband’s drinking got worse, too, and I started using meth. I was…depressed and I’m sure I had postpartum depression. I was a new mom trying to figure things out. When my husband found out, though, he took my kids and left me.
RR: When did you decide to make a plan for adoption?
LW: When I found out I was pregnant with baby number three, I knew I couldn’t do it. I knew getting sober and getting Zeke and Zed back was my priority. So I started to fight. I’m so glad I fought for my kids. I wouldn’t be who I am today without Nathaniel — the son I placed for adoption.
I started looking up adoption agencies. I fired four of them before I found Christy [and Adoption Choices of Colorado]. She was so understanding. I felt heard and supported. I told her exactly what I wanted. I knew I didn’t want him to be in state, because I knew how attached I would get to him. I didn’t want to wonder if I’d run into him around every corner or what grocery store his adoptive family would use.
RR: How did you select the adoptive parents?
LW: I wanted him to be an only child. I couldn’t give him what he deserved, but I wanted to give him the world. I didn’t have a dog grow up, so I knew I wanted him to have a dog. I didn’t care how much money the family had, just how much love they had to give. I wanted to know they had been together a long time for stability, because I didn’t have that growing up. Also, I wanted him to have some sort of faith. Some Higher Power.
The first profile I looked at was a couple in GA. They’d been married for a long time, had a dog named Salty and the husband was a pastor. So right there…it basically fit everything! But I knew I couldn’t guarantee a healthy baby since I had been using. That, and Zeke was special needs. I needed the family to know that there was very real possibilities of what this baby might look like. I wanted them to know they’d have to prepare, and that I had some questions for them.
John told me on the phone, “We’ll do anything and everything to ensure that we can provide the money, and that he has the medical attention needed.”
With that, they flew out here so I could meet them and we went for an ultrasound…and I fell in love with them. They are amazing parents. My whole pregnancy we talked everyday on the phone. I wanted Sally to experience everything with me. If I was having a bad day, she was having a bad day, and so on. I wanted her to know that this was her kid.
RR: What was the hospital experience like? Were Nathaniel’s adoptive parents there?
LW: When John and Sally asked if they could be here for the birth, I said yes. But…secretly…I wanted time alone with my baby.
Nathaniel was born on May 31st. There was a huge storm in Atlanta that day, and John and Sally got delayed. So, I got to have the first eight hours with my son. I’m so glad I had that time. I would never wish anything bad on anyone, but I’m thankful it was just me and him in the beginning.
John and Sally didn’t share the name they had chosen until I was in early labor. They told me they chose Nathaniel Scott after Sally’s brother, who had passed away four years prior. Nathaniel was even born on her brother’s birthday. This was more confirmation to me that Nathaniel was where he needed to be.
When they got there, they asked if I would breastfeed. (Laugh) And I said, “Not if you want to leave here with a baby.” I had breastfed Zed, and we have an unexplainable bond.
Before he left, I wanted to make sure to get a picture of all three of my sons together. But when I left him the first time, it was the hardest I’d ever done. Saying goodbye to him. Knowing I had to have faith that after that, he was going to have a life far better than I could have given. Walking away and leaving him was devastating. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t leave him again. So I never got that picture. It’s my one regret, and I wish I had gotten it. I still don’t have it.
RR: How has this adoption impacted you?
LW: Mostly, my experience has been amazing and beautiful. I love the parents that John and Sally are. I’m so proud of them and so proud of Nathaniel. They have done a wonderful job molding him into a smart and well-founded young man.
I get to follow them on Facebook. The first five years, when Facebook wasn’t around, I got a photo album entitled, “Dear Birth Mother Laura: Here’s what I’ve been up to.” He’s the spitting-image of me. Most people only know I have Zeke and Zed, but when they see Nathaniel they say, “And we thought Zed looked like you!”
The sad and hard parts are just not hitting me. It wasn’t the fairy tale I’d always dreamed it would be. For years, John and Sally promised they’d bring Nathaniel for a visit, but they never have. That has been very difficult on me. I wonder why, and if they are judging me somehow.
I know John and Sally have sheltered Nathaniel from the reality of his brother, Zeke, and I wonder if that’s part of why they haven’t brought him. If that’s the case, I don’t think I get that. It’s turned into what I hoped it wouldn’t. But I have nothing negative to say. I know there are things on their side and mine, and he’s not my son he’s theirs. I respect their wishes, but it doesn’t mean I understand it entirely.
RR: How is your relationship with your son now?
LW: I’m closer to John and Sally than I am with Nathaniel. When I meet him face to face for the first time…I’m going to feel like I didn’t know him all those years, and that’s something I wanted to avoid. I know that that day is coming, and I’m gonna put my big girl pants on and I’m going to be ready.
Nathaniel will be 15 next month. (Pause) Oh my goodness. He’ll be 15. The last time I talked with Nathaniel was two years ago in June. Wow. Two years. I was driving to San Diego with my husband. It was May 31st…right around that time…Nathaniel’s birthday. He called and told me everything he’d gotten…and how he loves RC cars. That’s something my husband is really into, so I try and connect with him with the things he likes. When the Wii was popular, he told me he had Mario Galaxy, but not Mario Galaxy 2. I had it, so I mailed it to him.
I struggle with how to connect with him, though, because I don’t want him to feel like I’m trying to buy his love.
RR: When you were discussing the open adoption with Nathaniel’s adoptive parents, was there any agreement with birthdays and holidays?
LW: I actually can’t remember. I don’t think we talked about that. But I think that’s one thing I’d do differently. It’s a huge regret not having that communication between. What would that have been like — birthdays and holidays?
We wanted a semi-open adoption. Where I would get pictures — when Facebook wasn’t out — and talk on the phone. I have flown out to Georgia to see him. I saw him when he was two, and that’s the only time I’ve been out there. It’s hard to travel with Zeke. He’s 100% dependent on me. He’s autistic and his allergy to the sun causes his seizures, so it’s hard to do things with him on that level.
Seven years ago, Zeke was in a coma, and we almost lost him. We were making funeral arrangements.
John came to Colorado about 8-10 years ago for a business trip, and he met Zed at that time. Sally, however, has not come to visit.
RR: What advice would you give other birth mothers looking to adopt?
LW: The advice I would give is directed at adoptive parents. Having worked with them now, please don’t make promises you can’t keep. It’s hard wondering, and not knowing the reasons behind why Nathaniel isn’t coming to visit. Why he isn’t talking to me.
I know Nathaniel wasn’t meant for me. I was just a tool used for an amazing family. Nathaniel deserved the best life possible, and I couldn’t give it to him. I wouldn’t do this over; and, if I had the option, I would want my child to be healthy.
Adoption is scary, but I’m a very different person than who I started out as. I’ve graduated nursing school, and I got remarried in December to an amazing man. He stepped into a lot when he married me, and not all men would do that. But he did. My husband was born in Everett, WA and has worked with CORE for 24 years.
I love what I do. It’s been a long journey, but I love that its opened the doors for me to mentor birth mothers, and be there as much as they want me to be. It’s a healing process for me as well. They think I’m there just for them, but it goes both ways. I don’t think they know how much they are there for me, too.
About the Author
Rachel Robertson is a published journalist, book editor, certified Publishing Specialist, and aspiring novelist. She graduated from Central Washington University (CWU) in March 2011, having found her writing voice within the Creative Nonfiction genre and grew to work as a freelance book editor for small presses all across the United States.
In June 2018, she embarked on an internship with Virginia Frank and came on board with Adoption Choices Inc., Not for Profit 501(c)(3), in December 2018. Between her mutual passion with adoption and surrogacy, and her own personal history with adoption, Rachel is excited to research and share topics each week that will spread awareness and better serve the faithful patrons of Adoption Choices Inc.
When Rachel isn’t haunting her local Starbucks or Barnes and Noble, she’s avidly pouring over her Writer’s Digest subscription or cozying up with a cup of tea and book. She currently resides in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with her beloved wife and Border Collie.