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Children: Our Greatest Blessing

In honor of Adoption Awareness Month, we wanted to share this beautiful story of family with you. We thank God for the families willing to adopt, and we thank the mothers who give this incredible gift.

By Cathy Marshall

Nothing can be more disappointing than getting married, hoping to have children, and then hearing doctors tell you the chances would be slim to none.

At least 47 years ago my husband, Bob, and I dreamed about sharing our lives with children, and we looked forward to the day we would be so blessed. We knew that children were a special gift from God and wanted to experience the same joy that our friends and family experienced being parents. When we weren’t immediately blessed with children, we began a series of medical tests consistent with our Catholic faith.

I do remember our very good friend, Dr. Herbert Ratner, telling us to never lose hope. After another year or two of not conceiving, we decided to look into the possibility of adopting a child. We believed then, as now, that God is the Author or Life and that He creates families by blessing couples with either natural or adopted children.

Although I was only 26 at the time, our local Catholic adoption agency turned us down due to age since my husband was nine years older, but another Catholic adoption agency a few hours from our home allowed us to apply.

After filling out what seemed like mountains of paperwork about our own experiences growing up in our own families, finances, education, character references, and having our home “studied,” we were eventually approved to adopt a child and were placed on a waiting list. This period was a true time of “expecting,” wondering when our son or daughter would arrive and what he or she would be like.

There were no cell phones back then, so we had to provide our contact information whenever we went out of town, just in case the call came in while we were away. It turned out that we were visiting my parents and grandparents in New York when we were called by the adoption agency.

We were able to immediately share with our own parents and grandparents our incredible joy of that first moment hearing that we were to become parents. I remember my little five-year-old sister saying, “Cathy, you’re a mother now.”

We made arrangements to meet at the adoption agency a few days later. Nothing could prepare us for the incredible joy of meeting our daughter for the first time, a little girl we named Teresa in honor of Mother Teresa. In fact, shortly after bringing our little Teresa home, we were able to meet Mother Teresa at an event, and this now-saint even picked up Teresa!

Honestly, it was almost surreal knowing that our daughter would be part of our lives forever. We were so excited to show her off to everyone we knew! They joined in welcoming her, celebrating, and in thanking God for the gift of our child.

At the adoption agency, it became very clear that this was the child God picked for us to raise and share life with! Of course, all children are on loan to us from God, but He is very generous in allowing parents to share His creation!

Less than two years later we adopted our second child, our son Chris, who made his older sister, Teresa—who was a bit more serious—join in his easy smiles and exuberant laughter. Chris was literally belly laughing out loud as an infant of a few months old, and his laugh was contagious. Once, while visiting Bob’s aunts, uncles, and cousins in Pennsylvania, Chris saw for the first time a perky Pekinese dog, and he just started laughing and laughing. Soon everyone in the room started laughing uncontrollably for so many minutes we lost count!

Amazingly, on the very day Chris was born, our then almost three-year-old Teresa begged me to take her to Mass. I was not planning to go that day, but looking back, I am so glad we did, as it turned out to be the birthday of our soon-to-be-adopted son, Chris!

A couple of years later, we were fortunate to adopt our second daughter, Mary, who was absolutely adored by her older siblings. Upon our arrival at the adoption agency, as soon as Teresa and Chris were unbuckled from their car seats, they hugged each other in a very long embrace I have never forgotten. Although they were very young, they just knew that we were there to bring our third baby, their little sister, home for them to love.

A couple of years later, I became pregnant! Our first daughter, Teresa, then about five, said, “Mommy, now there will be laughter in the house,” recalling the birth to Sarah of Isaac, whose name means “laughter.”

Although we adopted our first three children, God surprised us with the births of our sons, Joey and Tommy! Our heavenly Father obviously had His own timetable and picked the children He wanted us to raise and share our life with!

Fast forward through 47 years of married life. We can honestly say that each child was and still is a great joy and blessing in our life and in the lives of so many others.

We lost our first son, Chris, in a tragic car accident. Losing a child is a terrible, indescribable suffering as any parent who has lost a child knows all too painfully. But we focus on the blessing of having Chris in our lives for the years that our Dear Lord allowed. Chris had a big heart and always had a terrific sense of humor. He brought so much joy and laughter to our family, friends, and relatives for the 19+ years he spent on earth! We pray for a great reunion in heaven.

Today we are blessed with eleven grandchildren! They fill our lives with laughter, love, amazement, and incredible joy! No one could have formed our family better than our Lord God, who loves us beyond all comprehension! And God knows how grateful we are to every one of our children’s birth mothers who made a selfless decision to choose life for their children!

In our world, the powers of darkness continue to glamorize self-absorption, all-consuming careers, power, fame, fortune, evil behaviors, and “freedom” to kill the most innocent and helpless among us—innocent preborn babies! The sadness, anger, and misery that such worldly “prizes” bring is evident!

There is a real peace of soul and mind that comes from loving and serving God and loving our neighbors. God gives us “free will” to choose His way or the world’s way. Just as the newborn Baby Jesus lit up the world on that first Christmas Day, His light shines in the innocent children He creates in His own image, whom He calls His own children.

Tragically, not everyone agrees that every human life is sacred and that children are a blessing. Those duped by the world calling children a burden cannot possibly know what they are missing!

Despite the many ups and downs and joys and sufferings of married life and raising our family, there seems to be no greater joy on earth than being parents and grandparents, whether children are given to us by God naturally or through adoption. Thank you, Lord, for blessing our lives with the gift of Your children! We can never repay such generosity, but please know how grateful we are for each of them!

And we pray for those who seek to share their lives with children through adoption that they too will be blessed by the Lord. Never lose hope, for nothing is impossible with God.

Cathy is married to Bob Marshall, who served in the Virginia state legislature.