On their very first date in 1999, Christopher and Michael McGuire discussed how much both of them wanted a family.
A couple years after their commitment ceremony in 2005, they decided the time was right to begin building their family. Because they had friends who had adopted through The Cradle, they were immediately drawn to the agency. In spring 2008 the couple submitted their application, and entered the waiting parents’ pool that fall.
Be it coincidence or fate, the sister of a friend of Christopher and Michael was in the process of making an adoption plan for her baby through The Cradle at the same time. She selected them from all of the families presented to her, met with them, and felt confident in her choice. Julia was born at 2:11 a.m. on Thursday, July 16, 2009, and Christopher and Michael were invited by her birth mom to be in the delivery room. Christopher even cut the umbilical cord. Julia came to The Cradle Nursery on Saturday and went home with her dads on Tuesday the 21st.
A year and half later, they decided it was time to give Julia a sibling. They submitted a new application to The Cradle in February 2011, but instead of creating the traditional profile, they opted for something more unique. Hiring a production crew to follow their family around for a day, Christopher and Michael created a video to share their story. In it they describe Julia’s adoption as catching “lightning in a bottle”- a beautiful miracle, and one they believed they could repeat with their second adoption. Julia’s birth mom is featured prominently in the video as well.
After going on the waiting list in late November 2011, they were selected in the summer of 2012. Hayden was born on July 11 and went home with them from the hospital a couple days later. Their two miracles have birthdays just five days apart.
Christopher and Michael hope to make a second video that includes Hayden to help him understand his individual adoption story.
“The ‘Lightning’ video is such an important part of Julia’s understanding of adoption,” said Michael. “In fact, there’s music in the video, that when she hears it on commercials or in restaurants or wherever, she says, ‘that’s my adoption music.’”
Today, the McGuires have positive open relationships with both Julia’s birth mother and Hayden’s birth parents. The kids understand their adoption stories, see their birth parents often, and even sometimes receive gifts from both birth families.
“So it’s a big extended family, and everybody is really open and loving,” said Christopher. “The kids know who everybody is, and that’s just going to grow and develop. It’s a matter of growing up where everybody knows the story, and it’s not anything that’s kept a secret.”
“Julia, being older, understands her story somewhat better. She is very aware of her relationship with her birth mother,” says Michael, who describes Julia as six-going-on-sixteen. Carving out a space for her and her mother has been challenging from time to time, but something that Christopher and Michael are prepared to work through with her. Julia also has a lot of questions—some that her dads can answer, but others that they think would be better answered by her mom.
“The great thing is, we can say to Julia, ‘I can tell you my thoughts on that, but you want to know what? Why don’t we plan on scheduling some time with Mom and we can talk about it with her?’” said Michael. “I think it creates an opportunity for Julia’s birth mother to be a part of that dialogue, so that we’re not speaking on her behalf, and ultimately if Julia has questions she can be comfortable asking her those questions, too.”
The couple has also taken advantage of The Cradle’s Center for Lifelong Adoption Support by meeting with adoption therapist and certified Theraplay® practitioner Mandy Jones. They worry about Julia’s perfectionist tendencies, and that they might be rooted in concerns their daughter can’t yet express. Julia looks forward to the weekly sessions with Mandy, and Christopher and Michael enjoy learning how to help her through guided play and bonding activities. They also know that if Hayden has questions or concerns, they will be prepared to help him, too.
The McGuires feel that openness plays a big part in how children understand their adoption stories.
“The reality is openness is not something that ever stops evolving,” Michael explained. “It’s something that everybody needs to keep investing in and keep exploring, because as the child grows, their relationships change and mature… It’s ultimately our responsibility to our children to make sure we are making the decisions that are in their best interests.”
Just last November, Christopher and Michael legally married, but since they had already established a home together, instead of linens and cookware they asked for a more personally meaningful gift—donations to The Cradle. They created “The McGuire Family Wedding” personal fundraising page on cradlefoundation.org, generating an outpouring of support from friends and family.
“One of the things we wanted to do was help people who knew and loved us, and knew our story, to be really connected to something that was so important to us,” said Michael. “It was not necessarily about underscoring the fact that Julia and Hayden were adopted, but that they were adopted from The Cradle… I do think it is the unsung institution in the North Shore and the Chicagoland area.”
To watch Christopher, Michael and Julia’s lovely video, click here.
Photo above: Julia with her birth mom