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They Had to Give Back Their Baby Boy

Laura and Mark adopted a baby boy and had him home for two weeks before his birth mother took him back. They were devastated and their relationship suffered as a result. Can this marriage be saved?


A Painful Loss

"Cameron was home two weeks when his birth mother wanted him back," Laura Barr told us in May 2000. She and her husband, Mark Musselman, had learned early in the birth mother's pregnancy that they'd be adopting the baby boy she was carrying; the entire family anticipated his arrival. In Colorado, where Laura and Mark live, adoption law allows a birth mother the right to change her mind after a child is born, and in this case she did. When Cameron was taken back, Laura and Mark were devastated, as were their two children, Alexis, then 5, also adopted, and Christopher, then 3, their biological child. Alexis even asked, "Is my birth mommy going to take me away, too?"

Mark, CEO of a sportswear company, swore he would never put his family through that pain again. "The adoption process is so emotionally charged, I don't know if I can handle it," he said. But Laura, a part-time music teacher, was desperate to try one more time. "Two doesn't feel like a family to me," she said. "I want another baby, and I don't understand why Mark is so against it." The two, now both 37, were at a stalemate. Finally, they sought the help of Lynn Heitler, LCSW, a marriage therapist in Denver who helped Laura accept Mark's decision of not going through the adoption process again. Three years later, we checked in with Laura and Mark to see how they are doing.

Did They Succeed?

Mark: A year and a half after we went through counseling, one of my best friends died unexpectedly. It was a tragedy that made me realize how precious, and short, life can be.

Laura: The morning of the funeral, we received a call from the adoption agency. They had not removed us from their list of potential parents. To our surprise, they said they had a baby girl ready for us to adopt.

Mark: The minute I took that call, I knew I wanted that child more than anything. Our therapist helped us talk about the decision without dredging up painful memories.

Laura: We knew that the mother could change her mind again — but we felt so much stronger as a couple that we knew we had to take the risk. Laura and Mark waited patiently for two months until the adoption was final. To their delight, this time the process went without incident and the little girl they named Olivia was officially theirs.

Laura: And then — another miracle. When Olivia was 9 months old, I found out I was pregnant!

Mark: Devon is 2, Olivia is 4, and now our family is really complete. Our life is crazy, with budgets and bills and runny noses, but when we look at these four little faces, we know we wouldn't trade a minute of it.

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