Adoption is a gratifying system that brings lives and families together in a way most cannot understand until firsthand experience. The St. Martin’s Episcopal School community celebrates differences and comes together to love each other as a family, despite not being related by blood. Family does not have to be a relationship made by having the same genealogy. Members of St. Martin’s involved in adoption specifically recognize that fact.
“It’s a very individual thing,” said Upper School Counselor Dr. Bill Rosenbaum. “I’ve seen a number of students throughout the years that have been adopted, and it didn’t affect them at all. Then I’ve seen some students who are affected by it. I think the students who were not poorly affected by it felt very good about the fact that they were adopted because they realized somebody really wanted them. Somebody went out and put an effort into finding a child and taking that child into their lives, which is really beautiful and powerful when you think about that.”
Senior Sarah Spell was adopted in a private adoption in which the woman handpicked the parents of the child she was bearing. According to Criminal Defense Lawyer and Father of Sarah Spell Buddy Spell, he and his wife were contacted in February 1998 asking if they would like to become parents. Without hesitation, his wife accepted, and they began the six-month wait until their baby girl arrived. Sarah Jane Spell, named after her grandmother and aunt, was born on Aug. 7, 1998 into a family that loved, wanted, and accepted her as their own.
“She has been my daughter since the moment I walked out of the hospital with her,” Buddy Spell said. “I know she’s my daughter because I see aspects of my wife’s personality and specks of my own in her as well.”
Sarah Spell often lived with people questioning her about her adoption as she grew up.
“I remember I knew (that I was adopted) when I was in second grade, and all my friends would ask me about it. They asked if I ever wanted to meet my birth parents and stuff.”
During these times, she thought about her birth parents and realized that she was grateful for the family and life she had.
“Sometimes there are moments when you think, ‘I was given up because I wasn’t wanted by her,’ but I try not to think of it like that,” Sarah Spell said. “I know I have a better family, and I’m lucky. I know my life wouldn’t be as privileged as it is now without my parents. They’ve spoiled me, taken me on trips, and educated me.”
Buddy Spell is grateful for the opportunity to share his life with his family because of adoption.
“Her mom and I couldn't have our own children, and I often wonder what would have become of us if we hadn’t been parents,” Buddy Spell said. “Because while we love our careers, and they’re very exciting and very rewarding, I’m not sure it would’ve been enough to sustain us. Having Sarah at St. Martin’s has been thrilling for us. It’s all been such a highlight in our lives. I went to school here, and my mother went to school here, and she met my father when he went to school here. So if it weren’t for St. Martin’s, I probably wouldn’t exist, and Sarah would be somewhere else. St. Martin’s is a big, big part of our lives. Had we not been parents, we wouldn’t get to have this experience that we enjoy so much.”
Sophomore Farah Wells was adopted from Ukraine into a caring family in October 2002 when she was 15 months old. During this month, she celebrates the day she became a part of the family that raised her to be who she is today. As some families call it, Gotcha Day, Homecoming Day, or Adoption Day is often a big deal in the household of adoptive families. It celebrates the day a child came home.
“If anything, it’s kind of like a birthday for my family in a sense,” Wells said. “My birthday is the day I celebrate who I am every year, but my October birthday celebrates who I am with my family, rather than just myself. So it’s not really a day where it’s like presents and stuff, but it’s more of a day that reminds us of how appreciative we are, how much my parents had to do to get to Ukraine, and how thankful I am that I’m with them.”
Being adopted gives a person a certain identity that makes them feel unique or special. Wells was chosen by her parents while living in an orphanage that didn’t have ideal living conditions for an infant, according to Wells. Wells is grateful to have been adopted from the orphanage with strict schedules, minimal clothing, and a lack of proper nutrition into a home where she is loved and cared for properly.
“I think that in a way, it’s kind of matured me,” Wells said. “I don’t think of it as some people gave up on me; I think of it as being so lucky that my parents got me. I love being adopted. I love telling my story. When people sometimes are like, ‘Oh my God, you’re not American,’ I can be like ‘Nope, I’m Ukrainian.’ I love being able to say that.”
Many parents go through difficulties when adopting a child; however, to the parent, the sacrifice is well worth it.
“I understood Ukrainian when I was a baby,” Wells said. “Even though I couldn’t fully speak it, I could only understand Ukrainian, which resulted in some difficulties when my parents got me. I didn’t understand them. It took me a while to begin to learn English, like phrases like ‘Stop’ or ‘Come here.’ I just think I was so fortunate and lucky to have parents that were willing to go through such great difficulties, even though they didn’t know if they were going to adopt me when they went, to see who I was.”
Other parents found that the challenge of adoption was well worth the reward.
“It’s pretty scary,” Buddy Spell said. “It’s a life-changing event to say the least. Because we didn’t have the experience of going through the pregnancy, one day she wasn’t here, and the next day she was, and she never left. It was a wonderful time, but it was a scary time because we had no idea if we were up to the task.”
Being the child of a parent who was adopted can have its unique qualities as well. Tobi Dennies, Sophomore Mikki Dennies’ mother, was adopted, and now she has a natural daughter of her own. According to Dennies, this can sometimes be frustrating because she feels she cannot provide a proper lineage or medical history for her daughter. Some diseases can skip a generation, and she doesn’t know what those might be.
In the end, whether related by blood or not, family is family, and people are people.
“I feel like it doesn’t make me different,” Sarah Spell said. “I’m still me.”