August 17, 2007

Courageous heartsAdoption is a natural choice for Laura Williamson

Adopted as a baby, Laura Williamson and her husband, Brent, decided to follow family tradition and extend a loving home to their son, Shane Patrick. (Submitted photo)

Adopted as a baby, Laura Williamson and her husband, Brent, decided to follow family tradition and extend a loving home to their son, Shane Patrick. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: On Aug. 18, two women will be honored with the Courageous Heart Award from St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services, one of six agencies of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities. The awards to Julie Krasienko and Laura Williamson will be made during the agency’s 21st Annual Elizabella Ball. Here is the story of Laura Williamson.)

By John Shaughnessy

They sat in the third-floor waiting room outside the surgery unit, praying and worrying for their baby.

It was the seventh time in six months that Laura and Brent Williamson had brought their 9-month-old son, Shane Patrick, to Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.

The first time they even saw Shane was on March 5 in a heart doctor’s office at Riley—after they had agreed to adopt him.

Shane’s biological mother had decided she could no longer care for the “special needs” child who was born with a heart condition that needed to be repaired at birth, a boy who was also born with a cleft palate that would need several surgeries to correct.

At that March meeting, a nurse gave Laura a crash course in changing the tubes that Shane needed in his body. The doctor also gave the couple a large stack of medical information they would need to understand Shane’s medical challenges. Through it all, Laura and Brent couldn’t stop smiling at Shane. They had their child.

And for the first time in the 41 years of her life, Laura understood exactly how her own mother felt when she had adopted Laura as a baby.

Laura was adopted by Mary Lee and Don Mahan through St. Elizabeth’s Home in Indianapolis. She and Brent adopted Shane with the help of the same agency that now has a different name, St. Elizabeth/Coleman Pregnancy and Adoption Services—an agency that is part of Catholic Charities Indianapolis.

“I grew up in a very loving, stable home,” Laura said on Aug. 8 as she and Brent waited for an update about Shane’s second surgery to repair his cleft palate.

“My parents adopted another girl when I was 3, Krista. It was natural for me to think about adoption. Actually, I thought about adoption before we went through fertility treatments. I said we need to call St. Elizabeth’s and see what we have to do. For me, it was a natural choice.”

Still, when the couple first heard from St. Elizabeth/Coleman that Shane was available for adoption, they took time to decide whether they could handle his special needs. Laura immediately turned to her mother for advice.

“When she called and asked me about adopting a special needs child, I told her that you don’t know what you’re going to get when you have your own child,” Mahan recalled.

After that conversation, Laura decided to make the same choice her mother had made years before—the choice to offer a loving family to a child who needed one. So Shane joined Brent, Laura and Laura’s two daughters from a previous marriage, Sarah and Taylor.

“We took him home to a house full of people,” Laura recalled. “My mom was there, and so were Brent’s parents. My mom was thrilled. She told me she liked the fact that he was adopted. She liked that we were going through the same thing.”

There have been no regrets since they adopted Shane. He is being raised in the southern Indiana community of Sellersburg, just around the corner from the house where Laura grew up, and not too far from St. Joseph Parish in Clark County, where the family members have been longtime parishioners. The community of family and faith connects them. The addition of Shane gives them another blessing.

“It was kind of scary and overwhelming in the beginning but I said, ‘I think we can do this,’ ” Brent said. “He’s made me appreciate a lot of things more—the family, the girls she has, what we have, the dramatic changes in him. He’s made a dramatic change in my life.”

It’s why the couple was nervous and worried while awaiting news regarding Shane’s surgery. Nearly two hours after the surgery began, two doctors walked into the waiting room, looking for Laura and Brent. The doctors’ report made the couple smile, in joy and relief. The surgery was successful.

The hours of worrying and the days of caring partly explain why Laura is one of the two people that St. Elizabeth Coleman has chosen to honor with its Courageous Heart Award this year on Aug. 18. Still, she’s not convinced she deserves that honor.

“I don’t think I’d describe myself as courageous,” she said. “I’d describe myself as a wife and a mother.”

There’s courage in both those roles, but Laura finds courage and perspective from someone else.

“Shane has gone through a lot and he bounces back,” she said. “He’s the happiest baby. Because of him, we don’t sweat the small stuff anymore. Things that used to stress us, like work, they don’t bother us anymore. We’re just into enjoying him growing up—the laughs, the smiles. We have a better understanding of what’s important.”

They also have a better understanding of the connections of their lives. Laura smiled at how adoption has bonded three generations of her family.

“It just feels like everything has come full circle.” †

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