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Open adoption builds a new kind of family for Hudson couple

What started out as sad news for three people has turned into something wonderful for them all - plus one.

Rick and Laura Hunt of Hudson were only married about a year before they found out they could not have their own biological children. Laura believes they were lucky to find out so quickly about their infertility when many couples go for years without knowing for sure if they can have children.

"And I tried thinking about us as childless for about a month, but after that I knew it wasn't for us," Laura said.

After researching area adoption agencies and options, the Hunts decided to go with Lutheran Social Services in Eau Claire, which services western Wisconsin. They knew about open adoption, and the idea of it appealed to them, but they wanted to know more. They attended an informational meeting about open adoption and the other options, went through the initial interview and were ready to proceed. What followed was a homestudy by LSS and the creation of a portfolio by the Hunts to introduce themselves to the birth mothers. Just a month before her baby was born, the Hunts were chosen by a birth mother. The couple met with her and prepared for their new baby. But within days of the infant girl's arrival, the birth mother changed her mind and decided not to go through with the adoption.

"It was a real blow to us. When you start this thing, your emotions are so up and down anyway, but to be so close and then to have it fall through was awful, the hardest thing I'd ever had to go through," said Laura. The couple say they spent the summer boating on the St. Croix River, trying not to talk about happened and trying to forget. But it wasn't over for the Hunts.

They received a call on Laura's birthday in October 2002 that a second birth mother had chosen them. She was about seven months pregnant and she wanted to meet them as soon as possible. The Hunts met "Mary" and felt an immediate bond with her, especially Laura.

"I can't exactly explain it but we just clicked. She's like a sister to me." Rick, while more reserved at first, felt the connection as well, and the couple put aside their fears and prepared once more for their new baby.

This new experience was entirely different from their previous one. "That's the thing with open adoption, every experience is different because all the players are. Right from the start with Mary we were part of every doctor's appointment. We talked almost every day. We really became close and we trusted her," said Laura.

The Hunts say not everyone in their lives understands open adoption and their relationship with Mary. "People are critical of it primarily because they worry that somehow we're going to get hurt or that we're risking our family," said Rick, "but just the opposite is true. Having Mary in Austin's life can only be good for him. He will not only know he's adopted but why he was - because she loved him and so did we. How can that be bad?"

Laura said their commitment to Mary as Austin's birth mother is a lifelong one and she believes that is what is best for everyone concerned. "He (Austin) will know from day one who is mother is and that she loves him. It's one more adult in his life who loves him and who loved him enough to give him the best chance possible."

Austin's birth mother said she has never regretted her decision to have her son adopted by the Hunts. "From the time I met them I kind of had this feeling that I was carrying the baby for them. And even though I fell in love with him the first minute I saw him, I always knew I would go through with the adoption. It was the best thing for him and for me."

To read the full story, please see pages 1A and 4A of the December 4, 2003 Hudson Star-Observer.

Meg Heaton

Meg Heaton has been a reporter with the Hudson Star Observer since 1990. She has a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and Native American Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

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