On this Christmas Day 2014, I am a father at 48-years of age.
My wife and I started trying to have kids in 2007, but we were unsuccessful. We kept at it, even trying the science route of fertility treatments for a while. The toxins in the treatments hit Missy hard. She has a hard time dealing with toxins in medication as a result of a condition related to a prior mold exposure. We decided it was time to look into adoption and sought out an agency in Raleigh, NC to help us start our search.
Since we began our search, we’ve moved a few times. In the world of adoption, with every move comes the necessity of a new home study and updated criminal background checks–county, state, and federal. The adoption process is extremely thorough and meant to weed out couples that may have colorful pasts.
After spending two months in Ecuador over the winter, we settled into our new apartment in Asheville, NC. We thought it was important to start marketing ourselves locally, so we printed out postcard size flyers and tacked them up in coffee shops and cafés around the city. We also re-engaged on the web, updating our Facebook Open Adoption page, our MissyandTony.com website, and our agency adoption page. Those efforts paid off when we were discovered by a local adoption attorney here in Asheville, Christopher Craig (of Craig Associates). Fortuitously, Chris connected with a local birth mother who was almost to term at 8-months at an adoption workshop held at the Pack Library in the city center.
Chris set up a meeting with the birth mom and she selected us! It was then 3 short weeks attending ultrasounds and quickly getting to know her and her own parents, who were super supportive of her on this journey. On December 7 at 2:42 am, Missy was with the birth mother in the delivery room and witnessed the birth of our son. Just like that, we became parents almost overnight.
It was definitely not as simple as it sounds. There were some legal hurdles we needed to clear up between birth mom and a prior relationship, as well as an issue the hospital’s risk management department wanted us to resolve. The week of the 7th was a busy time getting those details taken care of from our tiny overnight room in the NICU at Mission Hospital, also here in Asheville. Little Hudson David Antonio Zeoli needed just a bit of extra care, because he wasn’t feeling well after the delivery. It was nothing serious. The hospital was just being cautious. That day, our lives changed forever.
It’s an odd feeling going through the adoption process. I think adoption, while common, is not necessarily top of mind for most people who can conceive. It’s a different kind of waiting. When you’re in a search for an adoptive child, it can get monotonous and it can become a seemingly never-ending journey. There’s all the calls with the agency for guidance, education, and support. Then there’s the marketing of yourselves and your story to prospective birth moms. Of course, there’s the hours of filling out paperwork and more paperwork to go through the red tape that is there for the child’s safety, but sometimes seems so redundant. Lastly, there’s the waiting for something…anything to happen. It’s hit or miss. You might connect with a birth mother who isn’t ready. Or, in some cases, you are contacted by people trying to sell babies illegally and women who aren’t pregnant with mental health issues that can’t control their behavior. You have to be able to read between the lines. If you’ve never gone through the adoption process, it is a challenge to recognize when something is real or when it’s not.
I never, ever would have thought I would be here adopting a child at this point in my life. But somehow, this is where I am. I’m doing something I never, ever thought I’d do. I’m not going to say that I was 100% on board with adoption in the first place. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea, but I went along with it, because it was important to Missy and we really did need to start our family. I’d been building a business and knew how important it was to stay engaged in and relevant in my field. Looking for a child seemed like a distant possibility. Really? Someone is going to give us their child? Just like that? OK.
It’s like waiting for that trip to Disney World your parents had promised you after they’d postponed it a few years in a row. Sure, Disney World seemed like a great place, but with each passing year it felt so far away–like it was never going to happen. And to get there, you couldn’t go on your own. You needed someone to help you. As the waiting game commenced, there were times it just seemed like the Disney trip might never come. You began to treat waiting like it was something you wanted to look forward to, but without firm plans, you shift it back of mind, hoping for the day, but never fully investing in the idea.
Fortunately, we finally made it to the proverbial Disney World! Like all adoptions, it took some time. Weeks into months and months into years. But, now we are adoptive parents to this little amazing young man who we call, Hudson.
He’s here. After all the waiting and wishing, Missy and I finally get to realize what comes a little easier to so many people I’ve known over the years who were able to have kids. Many of my friends have kids graduating from college or in the workforce. Time went by. Not so fast, but just as fast as time goes by. Tick-tock, tick-tock, and the calendar flips to the next day after the last. Another year goes by and you wonder, “where did the time go?” You can’t really grasp what you’re not experiencing, because it’s hard to know what parenting is like unless you’re a parent.
BOOM! Now, we’re parents. Whoa! The whole world just stopped on a dime when someone said, “here you go…here’s your son.” We’ve arrived and are embracing this little man with all the love we have to give. With our hearts, minds, and spirit. We know that everyday he’s with us is a gift of immeasurable proportions. For this gift, we are incredibly grateful. It seems so surreal. We know adoptions happen everyday, but when they happen to you, it’s an experience one cannot really explain. Someone has made a plan for you to adopt their child and you begin a new journey without that same 9-months others have to plan. I’m now on my first ride at Disney World aka the “Interstellar Galactic World of the Marvelous (and Gassy) Hudson David Antonio Zeoli.” It’s just as fun now as it was back then.
I don’t much believe in Christmas miracles. I’m a pragmatist. I know Christmas is a man-made holiday that has become the most commercial holiday of them all. We make up these things to make sense of the world and create days to stop and celebrate for celebration’s sake. I know we had done the work to put ourselves in a place where we would be found, and we were. Yes, lightning does strike and people say magic does happen. I’m going to say that the universe felt the energy from our hearts and found a way for all that love to bring Hudson to us. The spirit of many warm and kind people looking out for us – all aligned for the same common purpose – to give Hudson an opportunity he might not have otherwise had out of the gate, most likely contributed to our celebration today.
On this Christmas Day, I am so grateful for my wife and so grateful for my son. I now have a family to call my own. Something many men aspire to have, because it’s innate in all of us to procreate, sustain and propel human existence. While it did not happen naturally, it happened the way it was meant to. We were given the gift of caring for a child who did not come from us, but is now with us forever. He is us and we are him, brought together as one family unit through the love, support, and recognition of others.
While I have faith there is a higher power, I find that power one of energy connecting everyone’s worlds. If that is God in some people’s minds, then God is the one to thank for providing the energy and connective tissue to bring this story to a wonderful close.
Thank you for reading. Good night and Merry Christmas.