Michael and his 3 parents: The first open adoption babies come of age

Michael and his 3 parents: The first open adoption babies come of age


Although this is the first time she has ever been in this room, there are signs of her everywhere. It’s in the family crest on the wall — the one her ancestors brought from Mexico more than 100 years ago, the one she sent to the young man who is now showing her around, back when he started delving into his roots. It’s in the prescription bottles on the bedside table, medications to calm the racing thoughts they both experience. And it’s in the diploma from an elite private school, representing her dream for his education.

It’s a big room, larger than any bedroom she’s ever had. It’s in an elegant, airy house, filled with mid-20th-century furniture and carefully curated artwork, in a neighborhood of Providence, R.I., that he describes as “a very white place.”

His tour continues through the kitchen, where she takes in the spread of fruits, bagels, juices, coffees and a homemade French-toast soufflé with freshly whipped cream. “Everything here is so perfect,” she says. “I think your Mom is trying to be perfect to show me I made the right choice,” and he nods, although he knows this is just what Mom does for guests. Then into the living room where he shows off the sculptures he makes by pouring molten metal into a bucket of water, resulting in what look like wafers of shiny, frozen confetti.

She listens closely, praises enthusiastically, but soon her attention is drawn to the coffee table, where there’s a copy of the New York Times Magazine from 1998. Inside is a photo of her at 23, her expression somewhere between amused and defiant, her hair showing the wide orange streak she got as soon as her pregnancy was over and she could use hair dye again.  “Now Taking Applications for My Baby,” reads the headline. Underneath, the caption says: “A new breed: Gina Bruystens, unlike previous generations of birth mothers, chose the adoptive parents of her unborn child.”

I wrote that article. I have sharp memories of the woman she was then, clearly recognizable in the woman now in her 40s. I recall the days I spent with her, and with the parents she chose to adopt her baby boy, with her own mother, with the head of the agency who facilitated his adoption, even her 5-year-old son who helped select a new family for his baby brother. (He liked the fact that the new parents had two dogs.) Everyone had something to say back then about this infant’s future, and I quoted them all — everyone, of course, but the newborn at the center of the tale.

Which is why we are all here together today.

“My name is Michael James Matt,” he had written in an email to me out of the blue a few months earlier. “19 years ago you wrote an article about me and my adoption. I would love to talk to you sometime about that article and how things have played out in the long run.”

News stories are snapshots. They capture what is true, or what seems most true, as the shutter clicks. They aim to stay out ahead, but almost the moment they enter the world they are literally yesterday’s news. Sometimes the very existence of an article changes the tale; often  time and circumstance overtake it. Whatever the reason, the end of a news piece is really just the beginning of the story. READ MORE