Published January 2015
By The Cradle Staff
Many things have changed at The Cradle since Barbara and Norman Wolowicki adopted their first child 45 years ago. But one thing remains the same: People still see their dreams of becoming parents come true when they walk through the stately front door.
In a recent visit back to The Cradle, for the first time since they left the building with their second child in their arms 43 years ago, Norm and Barbara recall what led them to adoption.
The couple, who met while they were both working at A.C. Nielsen in Chicago, knew they wanted to have a family. “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 got two of the most beautiful children I could have hoped for.”
In the late 1960s there were up to 60 babies in the Nursery at any given time, and The Cradle was looking for 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 then 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 from family and purchasing cloth diapers (“No disposables back in those days!” says Norm.) Monday, Barbara went into 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.”
They picked up their daughter from The Cradle on January 14, 1969. “Janice was so quiet, such a good girl, always easygoing,” recalls Norm. “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!”
The drive home was wonderful, with Barbara holding baby Janice in her arms, since there were no car seats in those days either. “We showed her off all over,“ said Norm. “Our friends and neighbors didn’t even know we were in the process of adopting, so it was a fun surprise.”
Two years later, when the couple decided it was time for a sibling for Janice, 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 said. In fact, it was just two weeks after their paperwork was submitted that they got the call about baby Steve. He came home a month later, and the family was complete.
“The kids were always close – Steve came home just before Janice turned three, and she felt like it was her best ever birthday present,” Barbara says.
Now the Wolowickis’ two “Cradle babies” are 43 and 45, married, with children of their own. Janice, an RN, and her husband have two daughters (pictured above). Steve drives a truck and lives with his wife and son, left, in the Chicago suburbs. Barbara says 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 with the children. Barbara even got to be the caretaker for her two granddaughters, Caitlin and Tara, up until they started school. “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.
Adoption was always a comfortable topic in the Wolowicki household. “We always told the kids, from the time they were little, about being adopted, and it was never an issue in our family,” Barbara said. “They haven’t been interested in any information about their birth parents, although they might have questions about health background.”
Although adoption has changed so much since the Wolowickis brought their children home, they continue to support The Cradle through regular gifts and attending events. “The Cradle is our favorite charity,” Barbara says. “The Cradle gave us our children – how could we not be supportive?”