I am blessed to be surrounded by a large and loving family as shown in the picture below taken at Becca and Chris’ wedding on Saturday, June 8, 2019.
My wife Janet and I married on July 15, 1978. I am a middle child with an older sister and younger brother. Janet is the second child in a family of ten with four sisters and five brothers.
We are the proud parents of five adult children. We had difficulty conceiving children and made two in-vitro-fertilization attempts without success. Our first daughter is adopted. Janet had ongoing back problems which led to a spinal fusion. After this surgery, to our surprise and delight, conceiving children was no longer a problem.
Our daughter Meredith Jessica was born on February 23, 1986. We learned that her birth Mom selected us to be her adoptive parents and picked her up when she was 17 days old.That is the legal minimum in Nova Scotia. This was such a special time in our lives and we were such rookies. When you adopt, there is no time to prepare. In two days I built baby furniture, acquired a car seat, assembled a stroller, purchased a variety of baby foods, baby bottles, disposable diapers, etc. A funny moment was during the first diaper change; we’re reading the instructions on the side of the package to make sure we do it right, take way too long, and Meredith is turning a little blue as it was a cold in our room. We didn’t let that happen again. By the way, her name Jessica was assigned by her birth mother. It is a common practice to keep a birth name to retain a connection to an adopted child’s origins. Both Meredith’s birth Mom Kelly and birth Dad Ron agreed that they would meet when she turned 19. Meredith has a close and loving relationship with both her birth parents which has enriched her life. Ironically they both studied and became journalists. That is the same educational path Meredith pursued without knowing her birth parents were part of the industry. In fact, her current position is as the Communications Lead with the NDP Caucus of Nova Scotia. About a decade ago, her birth Dad held that position. That’s qualifies as twilight zone creepy, eh? What wonderful moment in our lives.
On January 31, 1988 we closed on our first house purchase which is where we continue to live today after 32 years. A few days after we moved in, Janet pointed out that she was a little late. We assumed this was due to the excitement of transitioning from renters to home owners. None the less, I dropped a urine sample at the lab and we discovered there was a baby on the way with an expected birth early in the fall. On September 17, 1988 after a long labour, Adam Brad arrived. He proved to be such a good baby and we now had what we thought would be our complete family. He loved to be held and cuddled. Our standard line was Janet spent months with a baby glued to her hip. Live was good. We considered Adam’s birth a miracle and gift from God.
Surprise! We were just getting used to life as the parents of two children when we discovered Janet was pregnant again. How was this possible? How could be go so many years unable to conceive and now we had a new delivery date for early fall. On September 2, 1989 after a relatively short labour, Christopher Aaron arrived. I was a little worried as his head looked like a cone but within minutes the plates settled into a normal shape. This was slightly less than a year after his older brother’s birth so they officially are called Irish Twins. For all eternity there is a 15-day period when they are the same age. Although not really true, for years I’ve been saying, “The first time Adam slept through the entire night, Janet woke me up with the news that her water broke.” Wow … from one child to three in such a short time. Life had taken an unexpected but remarkable new direction.
We really thought that we were done and viewed Adam and Chris as gifts from God. Surprise again! Drew Leslie Thomas arrived on December 30, 1990. His due date was supposed to be in January but on Christmas Eve Janet slipped and fell down a few steps leaving church. Drew arrived about a month early. The most notable feature is that his ears had no shape. Apparently they are one of the last features to develop in the womb. Otherwise, he was pretty healthy. Sadly this didn’t last and before long he landed in ICU with pneumonia. His life wasn’t off to a great start and ICU in a children’s hospital is such a frightening place to visit. Here was a tiny baby attached to medical equipment with constant beeps and bells under bright lights. Janet never left the hospital and thankfully we brought a healthy boy home before too long with ears that now had some shape. Leaving he ICU, my heart ached for the parents of other little patients which had little likelihood of survival. In spite of this difficult start to life, Drew became an inquisitive and adventurous child.
There are moments when I think we must have been crazy but both Janet and I agreed we still had an empty seat in the van and it was time to fill it. On May 5, 1993 after a very quick delivery, Melanie Elizabeth Louise arrived to the joy of a beautiful sunset on the horizon. It was a spiritual sign that God had blessed us once again. Throughout the pregnancy Janet was so sure we had another boy on the way that we planned to use the name Nicolas for a boy and Nicole for a girl. At the time of birth when asked what we planned to call the baby girl, I said “Nicole.” From the other side of the room I heard Janet say is a non-negotiable voice the name “Melanie.” My response was, “I stand corrected.” Her other names are from out Mothers; Elizabeth for Janet’s Mom and Louise for my Mom. We didn’t notice at the time that her initials were MEL.
So now with five children, our house was full. It became very busy. A couple of years later, when we learned there were 8-passenger vans on the market, we decided there was one more child in us. While trying to conceive we learned that Janet had breast cancer so that plan came to an end.
And the Family is Growing
Meredith and Adam are free spirits. Chris and Drew are married. Melanie is in a relationship that we expect will lead to marriage.
Chris took a year off from his music studies at Dalhousie to attend the St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission in Bruno, SK along with other devoted Catholics from across the country. This enhanced his his deep religious beliefs and after he graduated from Dal, he returned to become the school’s recruiter as well as an instructor in the program. He also decided to pursue graduate studies through an online program at The Augustine Institute in Denver, CO. This program includes on-site intensives once a year. While on campus, he met the devoted and caring Becca Arend, who was in the same program but a year ahead of Chris. A courtship ensured, Chris fell in love, and Becca and Chris were married in her home parish outside Minneapolis, MN on Saturday, June 8, 2019. It was a beautiful event with perfect weather and a flawless ceremony and reception. Becca and Chris live and work in Halifax.
Drew left Dartmouth, NS to complete Grade 12 at the Etobicoke School of the Arts (ESA) in Toronto, ON in 2009. It is here where he met the creative and talented Jade Douris, fell in love, and they were married on Tuesday, December 31, 2019 at Hotel OCHO on Spadina Aveune in Toronto, ON. Jade and Drew now live and work in Halifax. They have both decided to change their last name to Douris-O’Hara.
Melanie headed to Church Point, NS after high schoo to study en français at Université Sainte-Anne to become a teacher. During her time at school she came out and met the beautiful and brilliant Marissa de Blois, who was studying Social Work. They fell in love and live together in Dartmouth, NS. We expect an engagement announcement anytime with another wonderful marriage in the future.
It is so wonderful that all five children currently live and work close to home. They will be a source of love and support for the road ahead.
On a Final Note
Janet’s cancer was a difficult period in our lives. A left-breast mastectomy and hormone treatment proved successful and Janet’s winning battle with cancer is nothing more than a distant memory.
I fully plan to join her as a cancer survivor in the near future. We will celebrate our 42nd anniversary in July with many more ahead.