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Warren’s Open Adoption Story: A Father and Son Both Adopted From The Cradle

Learn how a Cradle adoptee and his wife chose to build their family through adoption, and how connecting with their son’s birth parents changed his feelings about the open adoption process. 

“I’ve always wanted to adopt a child, since day one,” says Warren Fellingham III. “I think it’s one of the best things you can do.” Warren was adopted through The Cradle in 1968, and his younger sister, Margo, was adopted in 1972. The siblings knew from the beginning that they were adopted.

“We’ve always had what our parents called a ‘coming home day,’” Warren says. “Mine was on December 31, so just when you thought you couldn’t get any more presents, there would be a coming home day gift. Margo’s was in April. That made us feel special.”

When Warren married Sharon Massel following a 12-year courtship, they knew they wanted to start a family. However, because pregnancy would have been risky for Sharon, adoption was a natural choice.

Starting the Adoption Process With The Cradle

Warren and Sharon came to The Cradle in 2007, completed their home study and went on the waiting list. And they waited — more than three years went by before they were selected by their son’s birth parents.

“We were getting calls periodically from [The Cradle] about potential matches,” Warren says. “We were so excited. It was never a letdown for me [when we didn’t match] because it was nice knowing a baby got placed, even if it wasn’t with us. Waiting parents had become parents. It was harder for Sharon.” 

Around Warren’s 40th birthday in November 2008, he and Sharon were chosen by the mother of a baby girl who had already been born and was staying in The Cradle Nursery. After a few months, however, the birth parent had a change of heart and decided to parent the child.

Over the next two years, the couple attended educational workshops and webinars, made sure their paperwork was in order, freshened up their profile and “kept the fires burning,” as Warren describes it. They also began to feel as if they might never be picked, so they applied to another adoption provider in Illinois. Just as their profile went on that provider’s list, in February 2011, The Cradle called. Warren and Sharon had been selected by young birth parents in Champaign, Illinois. 

“I was so happy,” Warren says. “The Cradle is where I’m from.”

Meeting with Birth Parents for the First Time

Things moved quickly after that. The baby, a boy, was due in April. Sharon and Warren made several trips from their home in Evanston to Champaign to visit with the birth family. They learned that one reason they had been chosen, out of the nine families under consideration, was that a specific item in their profile resonated with the birth father, Tim.

“There was a line Sharon had written about me, ‘Warren is a mechanic and owns his own service station,’ with a picture of us in front of my snowplow truck,” Warren says. “That’s what resonated. Tim saw it and pulled it aside because the only job he’s had that he truly liked was working in a service station.”

Warren speaks of Sandy — his son, Warren IV’s birth mother — with tremendous admiration. She and Tim were already raising a 2-year-old son when Sandy became pregnant with Warren IV. “She is my hero,” Warren III says. “I’m proud that he has her genes. She is smart, strong and determined — the kind of person who can pull through.”

Embracing Open Adoption

This relationship has also helped Warren, who was placed in a closed adoption, come to terms with some of his own doubts. 

“Having Sandy in the picture, and knowing why she chose adoption, has filled in so many gaps,” he says. “In many ways, I think it has answered a lot of questions I had about my own adoption.” Going through this experience, as well as taking classes at The Cradle, has made Warren a “convert” to open adoption.

Settling Into Life as a Second-Generation Adoptive Family

“After waiting so long, we’re still in shock,” Warren says. “I know we have a child — he cries in the middle of the night, he’s getting bigger, his fingernails need cutting. I know it’s all very real, but sometimes I just can’t believe it.”

When he heads to work in the morning a mere two blocks from home, Warren III misses Warren IV (whom he’s taken to calling “Chumley” from the 1960s cartoon show, Tennessee Tuxedo). “Is he sleeping now?” he wonders. “Is he happy? What is he wearing? Did he have enough to eat?”

“If Sharon brings Chumley by the station in the stroller for a visit,” he says, “all the troubles of the day fall off your back.” She reads their son books about adoption, such as The Night We Brought You Home.

Grandma Judy and Grandpa Warren Fellingham Jr. are overjoyed. They, too, waited a long time for their Cradle babies — two years for Warren III and four years for their daughter Margo — so they understood what Warren and Sharon were going through and supported them in every way.

It is easy to imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when all three generations of Fellinghams are together, and someone pokes their head in the room and asks for “Warren.” What then? “We’ll probably be like the Three Stooges,” Warren III says with a laugh.

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.

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