Published July 2011
By Heidi Bloom
“I’ve always wanted to adopt a child, since day one,” stated 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, 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 explained. “Mine was on December 31st, 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. Because pregnancy would have been risky for Sharon, however, adoption was a natural choice.
The couple came to The Cradle in 2007, completed their home study and went on the waiting list. And they waited. Almost 3 ½ years went by until they were selected by their son’s birthparents.
“We were getting calls periodically from Jane Page about potential matches,” Warren recalls, “and we were so excited. It was never a letdown for me 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 couple months, however, the woman had a change of heart and decided to parent.
Over the next two years the couple attended educational workshops and webinars, made sure their paperwork was in order, freshened up their profile, “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. Just as their profile went on that provider’s list, in February of this year, The Cradle called. They had been selected by young birthparents in Champaign, Illinois. “I was so happy,” Warren said. “The Cradle is where I’m from.”
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 birthfather, 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,” said Warren. “And that’s what hit – 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’s birthmother, with tremendous admiration. She and Tim were already raising a two-year-old son when Sandy became pregnant with Warren IV. “She is my hero,” Warren III declared. “I’m proud that he’s got her genes. She is smart, strong and determined – the kind of person who can pull through.”
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 explained. “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.
He also feels doubly blessed. “I’m lucky to have been chosen, a) by my parents who adopted me; and b) by the birthparents who wanted me to be Warren’s parents. That’s like winning the lottery twice.”
And how is the newest Warren Fellingham doing since he came home on April 11th? According to his proud father, “this kid is just the best of everything.” “But after waiting so long,” he continued, “we’re still in shock. 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, “all the troubles of the day fall off your back.” She is already reading 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 and four years for 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 Fellingham men 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 surmised with a laugh.