by Kathleen M. Gallagher
My friend Mary is one-of-a-kind. She is a retired police lieutenant from suburban Long Island, where we both grew up. Today Mary has relocated to a rural hamlet in the northernmost county of New York State. She owns a 300+ acre farm that includes goats, cows, horses, a donkey, two dogs, and lots of chickens, some of whom occasionally roam through the farmhouse.
As if that wasn’t enough, Mary is also a single mom who is parenting two energetic fourth-graders – Luke and Sebastian. She’s an adoptive parent who opened her heart and her home to two baby boys in need of some love and stability. I am in awe of her strength and her courage.
Somewhat later in life, with an established career, Mary knew that she wanted to adopt. She felt a calling. She pursued both domestic and international adoption tracks at the same time.
She’d be the first to tell you that adoption is not an easy road. You have to be in it for the long haul, wade through all the cumbersome paperwork, endure home studies and evaluations, provide references and fingerprints. You have to find the right agencies, attorneys, notaries and courts. And you have to have a large chunk of change to absorb all the medical and legal fees, travel expenditures, court costs and other related expenses.
States like New York don’t provide an awful lot of incentive for folks to adopt; there’s no tax credit or deduction available for those expenses, even for those who might adopt a child out of the foster care system or a child with some special needs, as Mary did. There are requirements and restrictions on who can adopt that vary from state to state and country to country. It’s pretty tough to untangle.
But Mary persevered, and her Catholic faith sustained her; she prayed her way through. She adopted Sebastian first, here in New York, then received a call just a few months later from the Kazakhstan government, telling her about a baby boy left in an orphanage. She relied on her family to care for Sebastian as she ventured on her own, twice, to the central Asian country, ultimately welcoming Luke into his permanent family.
Because Luke is hearing impaired, the family lived in Canada for two years so he could attend a special school that has helped him learn the skills he uses every day to listen, speak and thrive. His progress has been truly amazing, a testament to Mary’s love and devotion.
The family talks openly about the adoptions, though the boys don’t seem all that inquisitive at this point – they’re too busy with homework and farm chores. Mary has let them know she is always willing to answer any questions they may have, and they pray for their birth mommies each and every night.
Mary wishes that young girls faced with an unplanned pregnancy could somehow know about the hundreds of thousands of people who desperately desire children. Nine months, she says, is the blink of an eye, and those girls have the ability to give the greatest gift in the world.
Gallagher is the director of pro-life activities for the New York State Catholic Conference.