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Giving Me Her Quilt--and Her Dream

For years, I held onto my grandmother's pink quilt, hoping one day I'd have a daughter to give it to.

by Laura Mills

My grandmother gave me a pink quilt. My grandfather had passed away, and she was selling the farmhouse in Michigan where they had lived for over 50 years. We were in the attic going through a closetful of things my grandmother had kept for years: the crumbled remains of a papier-mâché alligator my dad had made in Boy Scouts, a World War II ration book, and the pink quilt.

My grandmother started the quilt when she was pregnant with my aunt. After my aunt was born, my grandmother hadn't had time to finish the quilt, so it sat in the closet with the other treasures.

My brother and my cousins either had boys or weren't planning to have children anytime soon, so my grandmother handed me the quilt and said, "I'm counting on you to have a girl."

I was honored. My cousin Beth was older, and the daughter of the daughter for whom the quilt had been started. I had assumed it would go to her. She had married young and already had two fine sons. Giving the pink quilt to me seemed to be Grandma's way of saying, "You have a contribution to make, too. And you can give the family something we don't have--a girl." I was still in graduate school and figured I had plenty of time to work on that.

I finished graduate school, got a job, got an apartment, and thought, "OK, time to find someone and start a family." Why is that so easy for some people? Why was it so hard for me? Finally, I decided to explore adoption. All along I'd been thinking I could adopt if things didn't work out. And things had definitely not worked out.

So I found an agency and started exploring the options. It was around that time that I asked my mom about finishing the quilt. I'd carried it with me through all the jobs, the apartments, and the years, always intending to finish it. But I'm not the seamstress my mom is, and I knew she'd have more fun working on it than I would. And that would make the quilt more special. So I told my parents I was looking into adoption (they were all for it) and asked Mom to finish the quilt.

The U.S. State Department shut down adoptions from the first country I looked into, Guatemala, before I even had a chance to submit my application. So I did more research and decided to adopt from Vietnam. This time I got my application in. About two months later, that government shut down adoptions to the United States.

I was at sea for a while. The finished quilt sat in the spare room, taunting me as I tried to find another option. In the meantime, my grandmother died peacefully in her sleep at the age of 93, still without a female great-grandchild. But it wasn't just for Grandma that I wanted a baby. I wanted one, too. I was coming to terms with the possibility of never getting married. But the idea of never being a mother was more than I could face.

I looked at in vitro, surrogacy, and private adoption, but decided to get licensed as a foster parent. Some of the training classes were heartbreaking, especially the interviews with kids who had aged out of the system. I reluctantly put away my dreams of an infant girl and focused on being open to any child who became available.

Meanwhile, my youngest cousin got married. When he and his wife had a baby girl, I thought about giving them the pink quilt, to keep it in the family.

I'm glad I didn't.

About 18 months ago I got "the call." An infant girl. I couldn't believe it. It took all this time to get exactly what I'd wanted all along.

Today the pink quilt hangs on the wall of my daughter's room. I named her after my grandmother.


Laura Mills is a university archivist. She and her daughter, Amy, live in Evanston, Illinois.

PHOTO: Laura Mills holds her daughter (2 months, U.S. foster) in front of the treasured pink quilt.


PARENT-TO-PARENT: Sharing Our News

On our Facebook page we asked readers: After you decided to adopt, who was the first person you told? What did he or she say? Here are some of your responses:

  • "My mom, and she said, 'You'll be a wonderful mother.'"
  • "My sister, and she started crying for joy. We both suffered from infertility. She had three miracles, but my husband and I had nothing after trying for 12 years."
  • "My parents, and they said, 'Yes, yes, yes!'"
  • "Our parents. We had good and bad reactions, but all is great now."
  • "We told my sister. She said, 'God has a plan for you.' My family has been so supportive!"
  • "My sons, and they said, 'Can we name her?'"
  • "My grandmother. She said, 'Ooh, you're not going to get one of those black babies, are you' We don't talk to her these days."
  • "When I decided to adopt, the first person I told was my 10-year-old son. He said, 'Now I won't be alone anymore.'"
  • "My parents, and they said, 'At last!'"

What options did you consider while looking at adoption? How did you decide? Share your experiences at Adoptive Families Circle.

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