From one mother to another

Adoptive mom thanks her son’s biological mother for giving her the child she could never have

Rachel Hernandez, 35, holds her adoptive 2-year-old son, Mason Alberto Hernandez.

Nori St. Paul/Citizen Correspondent

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Rachel Hernandez, 35, holds her adoptive 2-year-old son, Mason Alberto Hernandez. Nori St. Paul/Citizen Correspondent

A child just wasn’t in the cards for Rachel and Albert Hernandez. Nothing seemed to be going their way. First it was major medical roadblocks. Then depression and separation got in the way.

At least that is what the Naples couple used to think.

Rachel was only 12 the first time she saw 17-year-old Albert at a youth church function. It was love at first sight for the dark-haired Puerto Rican beauty.

“He saw me as a little girl,” said Hernandez, now 35, from her Naples home. “So we became best friends during our youth. We kept in touch while he was serving in the Marines. Once he was discharged, we saw each other for the first time in four years, and that’s when he fell in love with me.”

It was a fairy tale come true. Rachel married the man of her dreams on April 4, 1998. They had talked about the kids they wanted before they got married.

“We even had sets of names, talked about how they would grow up, and where we would live. We had a plan,” said Rachel.

But there would be no Mother’s Day celebrations for Rachel, and their fairy tale life began to show signs of trouble. In December 2000, Albert was diagnosed with pituitary adenoma — a tumor on his brain. The surgery was successful, but the couple was told that Albert’s chances of conceiving a child were slim to none.

But the born-again Christian couple had faith that they would conceive.

“Every month, I would say, OK, this is the one. I just knew that I would get pregnant. I had faith that God would make that happen,” Rachel said.

That faith was dashed in 2001. Rachel was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. She couldn’t produce the eggs to create a child.

“We were really brokenhearted as a man and a woman. Honestly, my faith even faltered a little. I just thought, OK, we gotta change our plan. Um, obviously there’s a different plan that God has for our life,” she said.

Rachel began getting depressed on a monthly basis. She cried a lot.

“We just quit talking about having a baby. Those were hard years for me, of knowing that I was meant to be a mom and not being able. Finally, it got so bad that we separated in 2006. It was so hard,” she said as tears welled up in her eyes. “I even felt like maybe it was my fault, and that God didn’t make me right, as a woman, you know?”

Then, everything changed.

“We got back together and even renewed our vows in 2008 at our church here in Naples. But we still didn’t have a child, and we just didn’t discuss it anymore. Albert said he was fine with just me. It was really me, I just needed my own child. It’s a maternal instinct, but it didn’t seem like it was God’s plan for my life. But I didn’t want to give up,” Rachel said.

Then something happened that altered their course.

“The pastor of our church, Pastor Randy, got back from the Philippines and he had a picture of a girl from an orphanage he visited. That’s when I knew,” she said.

Although the couple initially considered filing papers for an international adoption and selecting a child from overseas, the two eventually decided that they would be perfect happy with a child in need here in the U.S. So they contacted a local adoption agency, which warned them that they might have to wait years. However, it happened almost overnight.

“We filled out the application for an infant adoption, and almost right away we had a match,” Rachel said.

A representative from the agency, Hannah, called them not long after to tell them the good news. They had found a young Puerto Rican couple from Fort Myers that couldn’t afford their second child. The Hernandez couple were estatic since they are also from Puerto Rico.

“The couple was in high school,” said Rachel. “They already had one child, just a year old, and they were so young. They knew from the beginning they couldn’t raise another child.

In the United States, 31 percent of young women become pregnant at least once before they reach the age of 20. Eight in 10 of these pregnancies are unintended and 81 percent are to unmarried teens. From 1991 to 2004, there were 354,000 teen births in the state of Florida. In Collier County alone in 2004 there were 490 teen births at an estimated cost of $10 million to taxpayers from women who did not place the child up for adoption. Most of the costs of teen childbearing are for the negative consequences for the children of teen mother.

The next several months were a “whirlwind” for the couple. Six months after being accepted as adoptive parents, Rachel rushed down Livingston Road to pick her husband up from work so they could get to the hospital in Fort Myers where the birth mom was in labor. Suddenly, Rachel’s phone rings. Hannah was calling.

“Hannah says to me, ‘Mason’s here! Mason’s here!’ I cried, ‘It’s a boy?!’ I was shaking!

“She said, ‘Yes, it’s a boy! You have a son!’

“I called my husband and told him, and he said, ‘It’s a boy?’ And I said, ‘Yes!’ My husband just started crying, and he said, ‘Just hurry up and get here!’

On the way to the hospital, only silence. The couple was so excited, but the two couldn’t express their feelings with words. So they stayed quiet during the car ride. The two knew the mother could change her mind at any time, and that her family did not want her to place the baby for adoption.

According to area specialists, both adoptive parents and birth parents should be properly prepared for these intense emotions.

“Whether it’s bringing a child into the world, being able to raise a child, or loving a child — even from afar — receiving support is a core thread of the process of successful adoption,” said Kimberly Rodgers, a licensed clinical social worker and registered play therapist supervisor. Rodgers owns Monarch Therapy of Naples, an agency that offers many different counseling services, including adoption support.

“It was 12 years of planning and waiting and crying and breaking up and getting back together on this,” Rachel said. “We rode the elevator up to the room. She had just given birth, so he was new...new. We walked in and she was in the bed. The baby was in a little bassinette next to her. I thought, ‘Oh no, the baby is right next to her.’ But then she said, ‘There he is.’ And so I walked over to her first and I hugged her. Then I went around to the bassinette.

“I peeked in, and I saw him. Oh, I just melted. I thought, ‘That’s my son.’ Like there, that’s him. He’s ours. And so at that point the papers aren’t signed yet. She has 24 to 48 hours to change her mind. But I picked him up and I held him.

“We spent mostly the whole day with the birth mom. The whole time I kept thinking in the back of my mind that she might change her mind at any time. I wanted so badly to say to her, to beg her, ‘Please don’t change your mind,’ but I didn’t say it,” said Rachel through growing tears, the memories still emotional.

Rachel and Albert went home to Naples for the night, but they didn’t sleep.

“We got back to the hospital and Hannah meets us downstairs. She tells me that the birth mom was upstairs crying. She said that was the first time she ever saw her cry, and she said the birth mom looked down over Mason and she cried over him, and, um, that was sad. Because I thought, I could never give up my child.”

While telling the story, Rachel wiped tears from her cheeks. The memory is intensely sad to this woman who waited so long to have the chance to be a mother.

“We get into the elevator to go up to where Mason and the birth mom are. She is dressed because she has been discharged. Um, the birth dad is there, and their 1-year-old son is there. She’s holding Mason.

“I think, ‘Oh God. She’s probably broken down, but then she turns toward me and says, ‘Here’s your son.’

“So I walk over and I took Mason from her arms,” Rachel said. “Then we all go together out to the parking lot, and Albert gets our car and pulls up as we’re all just talking.

“She said, ‘Goodbye.’ I hugged her. Then I said, ‘I promise you I’ll take care of him for the rest of his life,’ and she said, ‘I know you will. The birth dad came around and hugged me, and he said, ‘Take care of him.’

“And I said, ‘I promise you, I’ll take care of him.’ And now, because of them, I am a mom. And I want to tell Mason’s birth mom, ‘I think you are a great mom. Happy Mother’s Day.’

“And most of all, I want to say…thank you.”

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For more information on adoption, log onto the Children’s Network of Southwest Florida’s website at www.childnetswfl.org or call (239) 226-1524.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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