By Christina Capecchi
For years folks told Mike and Maria Slavik that their blue colonial-style house looked like a Christmas card. Maria would be out mowing the lawn in the middle of July and someone would stop to say he loved the way it was decorated for the holidays. So they decided to make it into a card, editing a picture to resemble a painting, blurring the lights into longer strokes, darkening the red poinsettias in the window boxes and the red bows on the wreaths.
Their romance was kindled on Wednesday nights at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Hastings, Minn., a river town on the southern outskirts of the Twin Cities, where Maria led youth-group gatherings and Mike attended choir practice. They’d linger till it was time to lock up the church and then they’d take it to Tamales Mexican restaurant down the road, nursing margaritas, munching on chips and continuing the conversation. There were never enough hours.
Mike was drawn to Maria’s deep faith, compassionate nature and beautiful brown eyes. Maria admired Mike’s willingness to help anyone in need, manifest in his bright smile and the friendly tilt of his eyebrows. They married four years ago and settled into an 85-year-old house with hardwood floors, cast-iron radiators and built-ins, plus a fenced-in backyard where Maria planted two vegetable gardens.
Decorating for Christmas became one of their favorite things to do together. They begin the weekend after Thanksgiving. The first ornaments they hang on the tree are their matching “Baby’s First Christmas” satin balls, a kitten and a teddy on clear plastic framing the year 1978. The rest of the ornaments, along with the wrapped gifts below, are all silver and gold, like icicles dipped in honey.
But there is something missing from the happy scene: a baby of their own. Over the past three years, Maria has miscarried four times. She is one of 6.7 million American women – nearly 11 percent – who struggles to either conceive or carry a baby to term.
The decision she and Mike made to pursue adoption through Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave her a new sense of purpose. “One of the things that was so difficult for me, spiritually, with the pregnancy loss was this feeling of losing hope,” she told me. “Our Catholic faith is such a hope-based faith – it’s an Easter faith. The dark Friday eventually turns into Easter morning. When we moved into adoption, it was like, ‘There’s going to be some sun again.’”
Maria poured herself into creating a profile for prospective birth parents, curling up with her laptop in the three-season porch every evening for two weeks. She wrote about what kind of parents she and Mike intend to be and sprinkled in photos. With some editing from Mike, she went through several drafts. “The whole thing felt like a prayer,” she said.
Their profile is part of a personal website they built, MikeAndMariaAdopt.com, and it went live on Catholic Charities’ website two weeks before Thanksgiving. It is one of 10 in a book that birth parents who visit the agency can review.
In this open-adoption era, some adoptive couples launch ambitious marketing campaigns, securing newspaper ads, Craigslist notices, even billboards to reach women considering giving up their babies. But Mike and Maria trust that their simpler approach will speak to the right woman. Ultimately, it’s difficult to convey the three things that remain from their protracted quest to become parents: faith, hope and love.
For now Mike and Maria are embracing Advent, a season of anticipation, of waiting and praying for a baby that changes everything. Each Sunday they light their Advent wreath, trusting that light will one day conquer the darkness.
(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She can be reached at www.ReadChristina.com.)