Fingerprints

One mom's adoption tale.

My husband and I got married a year out of high school. Despite marrying so young, and both being stubborn firstborns, we've spent the majority of our marriage getting along pretty darn well. Babies came steadily, four in six years: two girls and two boys. A perfect family unit, we agreed.

But by 1997, when our "last" baby turned 3, I realized I wasn't ready to be done with babies. I wanted to renegotiate our deal. I longed to adopt a child.

John wasn't remotely ready to renegotiate. "Are you crazy?" he said, "Don't you think four kids is enough? Besides, we don't have that kind of money!"

I repeatedly tried to explain my logic, but John was unmoved. He honestly thought I had a screw loose. It was horrible. In the past, when we'd disagreed, we'd always been able to find some middle ground. But not this time. You can't adopt half a child. And to be fair to another child, my husband would have to enter into parenting wholeheartedly. That seemed impossible.

Many times during those long months of not seeing eye to eye, I wondered if I was crazy to be nurturing such a dream. Yet every time I resolved to give it up, another reminder presented itself. It seemed adoption was not meant to fade from my mind.

So I waited. And finally, after an endlessly long, impatient wait, things began to change. My husband would, now and then, ask a question about adoption. I'd answer the question with a nonchalance I was far from feeling. Then I'd mull over each casual question for days, afraid that I'd attached too much significance to it.

But then another question would come. And another. Real discussions followed cautious, theoretical leaving me both jubilant and riddled with uncertainty. Could John be seriously considering it?

When John asked me what I wanted for Christmas that year, I told him all I wanted was a copy of his fingerprints for a background check, the first step in the adoption process. When he didn't get upset at my request, my hope grew. But there were still worrisome moments too, normal moments all parents have when kids are fighting or vomiting or hunting for lost shoes.

During these instances, John would turn to me in a huff and say, "We don't need another kid!"

"No," I would say, "But a child out there needs us."

John asked me several times to expand my holiday wish list, probably hoping I would request a crock pot or a computer, not a child. I insisted that his fingerprints were all I wanted. By Christmas Eve my stomach was all knots, but I vowed to graciously accept John's decision, whatever it might be.

In the happy bedlam of four kids ripping gifts open as fast as they could, John casually tossed a tiny gift into my lap. Hands trembling, I ripped it open. Inside was a little gold key chain with a coin-shaped gold medallion.

John was watching me, and he asked, "What's on the back of the key chain?"

Heart thudding, I flipped the medallion over to look at the back. There, etched in the smooth gold on the back of the medallion, was a single golden thumbprint.