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Two Adoptions by Valerie Diana Nielsen

( A Comparison of How Adoptions were Handled in the 1930’s and the 1960’s )

I was born in 1928. Unfortunately for my mother she was unmarried at the time. In those times this was considered a terrible disgrace. To make things worse my grandfather was a school headmaster. He did not want anyone to know about this so he sent her to live with a relative in a different town. I was born in Weymouth, England and later lived in an orphanage in Surrey, England. I did live for a short while with foster parents but I do not remember them. I must also have had friends in the orphanage but I cannot remember and there was never any contact after I left.

In 1934 two ladies from the orphanage took me to an office in London. We sat together in a room until a woman entered and they told me that she was my mother and I was going home with her. In the orphanage my name was Joan but during the train ride to Monmouthshire my mother told me that in the future I would be called Diana. This was confusing to me at six years of age. I just sat there too numb to cry. The whole experience was cold and impersonal.

My husband and I were married in 1963, one week after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Six years later we contacted the St. Croix social service department to inquire about adopting a baby. They work with the Children’s Home Society of Florida. We underwent local interviews and procedures and were told that we were approved. The waiting time varies as they make careful matches between children and prospective parents.

About three months into this waiting period I became very ill and was told to put my affairs in order prior to major surgery. This was a terrible blow and any thought of adoption went out of my head. Fortunately, everything went well and in March 1969 the Society contacted us with the great news that they a perfect match for us. A beautiful baby girl, six weeks old, was ready and that we should fly to Miami to get her. Of course, we were thrilled but there was no way that I could travel so soon after my surgery. We were so concerned that this development might cause us to loose out on the adoption. When I explained my situation they were so kind and said that they would keep her an extra six weeks and by that time I would be well enough to travel. Then my husband had a brilliant idea. He suggested having one of their social workers bring the baby to St. Croix where we lived. We said that we would pick up the bill and the social worker could have a mini vacation. The airport was very small and everyone knew, our baby was coming. When she got there, there was a lot of cooing and special attention paid to her. It was special. Not wanting to make the exchange in public, we invited the social worker to our home and she came with our adorable baby girl. We call Eastern Air Lines, our stork.

I had been a nurse and during the first few days when I was bathing Pia she seemed just like so many other babies that I had cared for over the years. At the end of the first week she started smiling at us and I knew we had bonded and all was well. We named her Pia Tonni after her grandmother and she is now a beautiful young lady who got married in March of 2002. This experience was warm, humane and loving; everything one would want in getting a start in life.

Originally Posted (Jul 02, 2002)


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