On a recent Sunday afternoon, I attended a birthday party for a one year old boy named Joseph. Some of us call him Joe or Joey, but because one of his parents is Israeli, he is also called, Yossi (Hebrew). In any case, he is a very Latin appearing baby boy with velvety light brown skin, a very short nose with arched eye brows and dark chocolate eyes that are looking "right at you." His cheek bones are "Indian," like the Aztec and Inca tribes. He smiles when I tickle him, but a lot of the time he just stares into my eyes and listens because there is a lot going on in his smart little head.
He walks with that determined, bulldozer, broad-based toddler gait and he even stands on one foot fearlessly as he tests the feedback of balance back to his brain. He is getting to know himself and he has scaffolding from his parents and his granny. They don't want him to hurt himself and watch carefully so he falls gently and avoids too much danger. He is loved. He is precious. He is everything!
At his party, he was held by many and his cake was brought out and the candle was lit and we all sang, "Happy Birthday."
He was born September 2014 to a birth mother who had used drugs during the pregnancy and decided that she could not parent him. His possibly Latin-American birth father was not involved with the birth mother after conception. His birth mother was conscientious and came to a good hospital in New Jersey to give birth. He was in fact a "safe haven" baby withdrawing from maternal drug abuse and ready for placement with a family.
The adoptive parents are two gay men who have yearned to be parents forever and have been in a long term partnership for decades. They are sweet and devoted to one another and their respective families. One of the parents lost his father in the recent months, which necessitated a number of trips abroad. Joe was cared for by the other partner and his grandmother who is in her seventies and has the dearest southern accent ever. The support from their family and their friends in the community was evidenced by the numbers attending the pot luck party and the tearful speeches were testimony to the love and devotion to this nuclear family.
Their story is complicated with failed adoptions and never completed surrogate pregnancies. This time, Joe was happily placed with them when he was six weeks old with the promise of permanency. He was officially adopted in June. His parents lost a surrogate baby boy the week when Joe was turning one. That baby was due in October, but ended up being born a few weeks premature and for unknown reasons, died shortly after birth.
We could talk all about the suffering and pain of the loss of a baby, but what I want to share is that there was grief and joy (Inside Out Pixar production movie released by Walt Disney Productions) hand in hand for the parents and the community at this birthday celebration that felt quite natural. That is life, in fact, anywhere in the world.
What remains poignant is that Joe was an orphan and he became part of a family. He became a permanent little boy with a destiny for hopes and dreams that every child deserves.
All I could think as we sang "Happy Birthday," as the CEO of Worldwide Orphans, was that this is what we want for all the orphans and vulnerable children in the world, in the US and abroad. All children deserve a loving family.
Jane Aronson, CEO, Worldwide Orphans