Barbara and Norman Wolowicki share their story of forming a family through adoption, their ongoing support for The Cradle and the role the adoption agency has played in their lives.
Norm and Barbara met while they were both working at A.C. Nielsen in Chicago. They always knew they wanted to have children, and after several years of marriage, it was this desire for a family that led them to adoption.
“We had been married for six years and really wanted a baby,” Barbara says. “Our doctor said there was nothing medically wrong. He suggested we put in an adoption application and then I might get pregnant, which was what they told families back then. It never worked for me, but I [now have] two of the most beautiful children I could have hoped for.”
Starting the Adoption Process in Chicago
In the late 1960s, when there were up to 60 babies in the Nursery at any given time, The Cradle was seeking adoptive parents. “We called, had an interview in September, and our daughter was born in December,” Norm says.
“I remember it was a Friday and I was at home,” Barbara recalls with a smile. “Our social worker called and said, ‘You have a baby girl.’ I was so excited! I called Norm right away and we went shopping — we had nothing, not a crib or clothes, nothing! We hadn’t told anyone, not even our families, because it wasn’t a sure thing.”
The couple spent the weekend buying and assembling a crib, picking up borrowed baby clothes and purchasing cloth diapers. (“No disposables back in those days!” Norm says.) On Monday, Barbara went to her office to tell her boss she would not be returning to work because she was about to become a mom.
“He said he wanted me to stay working and he would let me work from home, which I did for the next 25 years,” Barbara says. “He was a man ahead of his time.”
Forming a Family Through Adoption
Barbara and Norm adopted their daughter Janice at The Cradle in January 1969. “Janice was so quiet, such a good girl, always easygoing,” Norm says. “I remember they had us change her into the clothes we brought from home, and we were on our way in less than an hour!”
On the drive home, Barbara held baby Janice in her arms since there were no car seats in those days either. “We showed her off all over,“ Norm says. “Our friends and neighbors didn’t even know we were in the process of adopting, so it was a fun surprise.”
Two years later, the couple decided it was time for a sibling for Janice and began the adoption process again. This time, they prepared for a longer wait.
“Since we already had a child, we were told it could take up to a year, but that was OK with us,” Norm says.
In fact, it was just two weeks after their paperwork was submitted that they got the call about baby Steve, whom they adopted a month later.
“The kids were always close. Steve came home just before Janice turned three, and she felt like it was her best birthday present ever,” Barbara says.
Talking About Adoption and Watching Their Family Grow
Adoption was always a comfortable topic in the Wolowicki household.
“From the time they were little, we always told the kids about being adopted, and it was never an issue in our family,” Barbara says. “They haven’t been interested in any information about their birth parents, although they might have questions about their health backgrounds.”
Now the Wolowickis’ two Cradle babies are married with children of their own. Janice, an RN, and her husband have two daughters. Steve drives a truck and lives with his wife and son in the Chicago suburbs. Barbara says her grandson Justin is the “spitting image” of Steve when he was a baby.
Barbara and Norm dote on their three grandchildren and enjoy sharing their love of travel and Chicago adventures.
“We are so close to those grandkids — when they bring their boyfriends over, they know if Grandma doesn’t approve, it’s trouble!” Barbara says.
Although adoption has changed so much since the Wolowickis brought their children home, they continue to support The Cradle through regular gifts and by attending events. “The Cradle is our favorite [nonprofit],” Barbara says. “The Cradle [connected us to] our children — how could we not be supportive?”
For 100 years and counting, The Cradle has built nurturing families and provided lifelong support to people whose lives have been touched by adoption. Faces of The Cradle is a celebration of their stories. Meet more of the people who make what we do possible and all the more meaningful.