When, at the age of 16, April O’Neil’s social worker told her she’d like to adopt her, April’s world was turned upside down. Here, April movingly describes her immediate emotions moments after she was told.
It was clear to me that I was standing in one spot—so it must have been the room that was spinning. I was in the principal’s office standing face to face with a woman who, with very few words, wanted to shake up my whole world.
I had known this woman for six years of my very confusing life, and trusted her to some degree; she was my social worker after all. I was standing in the office looking at her cheery face as we exchanged greetings. Soon, her expression turned serious and, looking me straight in the eyes, she proclaimed with sincerity, “April, I think you need a sense of family.” My mind began racing as she continued, “I would like you to be a part of my family. I want to adopt you.” My first response to these shocking words was, to some extent, to feel irate. “Family!” I thought to myself, “I don’t need a family. I have friends, I have the best friends ever.” I stood silently in the office, unaware of the people around me awaiting a response. A thousand-and-one thoughts raced through my head and I wanted to shout—I wanted to scream. But I couldn’t get anything out. I was silent. The mere idea of speaking may have exposed my vulnerability. I looked up and met her gentle eyes, only to quickly look away. I was so full of questions and fear, I could concentrate on very little. She spoke again, this time in a softer voice. “I know it’s a lot to think about,” she began, “so I will leave it to you and whenever you’re ready, just give me a call.” And with that, she was gone.
I turned and ran out of the office as quickly as possible, my destination irrelevant. I ran through the halls, past my next class, not stopping for anything. As I ran, my mind was spinning—just as the office had been earlier. “I couldn’t get adopted,” I thought. “I couldn’t move homes.” Plus, I concluded, “I have friends, right? I don’t need a family: my friends are there for me. They care.” As I stopped running, I found myself in the middle of a nearby forest, surrounded by trees and wide open spaces. As I gazed around I noticed a nest in a nearby tree, holding two baby birds. I watched as the birds stretched out their necks, awaiting their mother’s return. This fascinating part of nature continued to play out as I looked on. “When was the last time I needed a mother?” I thought to myself, Perhaps the better question was, ”When was the last time someone needed me?” With that final thought, my knee’s buckled beneath me. I collapsed, and began to cry uncontrollably for countless reasons. I curled my body like a small cat, and closed my eyes. The ground was damp, but that didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore—everything was going to change.
After a half an hour of what seemed like endless sobbing, I sat up and looked at the birds nest; the mother had returned and was feeding her famished chicks. “I need to feel needed,” I thought, “I need to be loved.” I pulled myself off the soggy ground, took a deep breath, and announced to the world, “I need to be adopted.”
Editors note: April joined her new family a few months later. We are grateful that she shared her lovely story with us. Happy Mother’s Day to April and her new mom!