Motherhood is not always what you’d expect.
Motherhood can be the depths of fear, delivering a baby weeks before she’s due and being petrified she won’t make it home. It can be the heights of joy, finally walking out of the hospital with that infant in your arms. Or it can be the heart-wrenching anguish of losing a baby only a week old. Motherhood can be the mountaintop bliss of adopting a newborn, knowing that he was meant for you. It can also be the confidence that his love for you won’t be diminished if he has a relationship with his birth mother.
All of this – every single experience – has been true for western Pennsylvania native Norma Lagios. She says she’s only been able to go through the extreme highs and lows of her unique maternal role through the grace of God. A woman of faith, she relies on the mercies of the Lord to get her through the hard times and to appreciate the good times. She says that it’s God who has enabled her to embrace motherhood at every turn.
Norma and her husband Nick were delighted when they first found out that she was expecting. They couldn’t wait to discover God’s blessings for their young family. As Norma’s pregnancy progressed, so did the difficulties. She was severely swollen and suffered eclampsia toxemia. Even with devoting herself to rest, she ended up in ICU with a slight stroke and failing kidneys. She delivered her little girl six weeks early. Amy was premature, and so Norma had to endure the pain and uncertainty of leaving the hospital without her baby. But in time little Amy gained strength and was able to go home with her parents. Life was good and Norma loved being a mother.
The Lagioses wanted more children – and three different doctors gave them three different diagnoses about her ability to carry another child. They considered, prayed and decided to move ahead with a second child.
It was on January 7 that Norma delivered a baby boy who weighed two pounds, five and a half ounces. Little Christopher John struggled to breathe and was in critically poor health. The doctors bluntly shared how bad his condition was, “Christopher’s kidneys are failing and he’s going to die.”
Nick remembers being at Norma’s parents’ house during that time and breaking down, sobbing uncontrollably. He was reaching out to the Lord to gain emotional stability. “It was when I was able to hold Christopher that God gave me a peace that stayed with me. That wasn’t the case for Norma, though. She continued to grieve.”
Their beloved little boy wasn’t with them long.
Christopher died on January 14, just one week after he was born.
Devastated, Norma again left the hospital without a newborn. She had to take down a Christmas tree and decorations from the holiday. She had a baby doll already bought for little Amy, intended for the time when they would both care for their “babies” together. And she had to face Christopher’s room and all the tiny clothes in the drawers.
Norma continued to turn to God for comfort. “My son was gone, but my daughter was alive. I knew I had to be whole for her to be whole.” She prayed for help to get through each day.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.
- Lamentations 3:22
Norma remembered that only months earlier she had read a magazine article about a woman who had lost her baby. It was a beautiful testimony that kept replaying in Norma’s mind. I can rise above this and move on, just as that woman did, she thought.
She took it to heart, prayed and talked to Nick. They both wanted to adopt a baby. Norma knew in her heart that God had a little one just for them, so she started investigating. Her advice to anyone in the situation is, “If you’re going to make it happen, you need to talk to people and search. You can’t sit back and wait for a baby to be dropped off on your doorstep. It’s like riding a bike. You can’t sit there. You have to pedal and keep pedaling, even when you don’t feel like it.”
Norma contacted pastors, lawyers, doctors, teachers and everyone she thought might come in contact with an unwed mother. She and Nick worked with multiple adoption agencies, filled out forms and completed interviews, from the other side of the state to the other side of the country. A couple of times they thought that there might be a baby for them, but each time something fell through.
In the meantime, she also wrote a letter to her doctor, letting him know that she didn’t blame him for the loss of Christopher. She appreciated his care. She also asked him to contact her if he ever found out about a baby in need of a loving home.
To her surprise, Norma’s doctor called her on October 14 and said that there was a premature baby from a mother who also suffered from toxemia – and he was available for adoption. This was nine months to the day after Christopher had died. He’d been born a week earlier, October 7, which was exactly nine months after Christopher had been born. The incredible timing of this baby’s creation was not lost on Norma.
She says it was clear that this baby was not a replacement for Christopher. God, she knew, had gone ahead of all of them, even before their loss, and had prepared this baby just for them.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
- Jeremiah 29:11
That baby was Jeffrey. From the time they brought him home, he was a gift to Norma, Nick and Amy, who was then four. The Lagios family was complete. Norma and Nick told Jeff when he was two that God gave him to them and he was adopted. He never felt he was “less than” a birth child, because he wasn’t. He readily understood that he was chosen and would proudly tell people, “I’m adopted.”
Jeff had health challenges during his early years, suffering from croup and other respiratory illnesses. He was hospitalized five times before starting school. Jeff, like Norma, was creative. She was artistic and he was musically talented. They related on a deep level.
The years went by, with both Amy and Jeff growing into adulthood. They both found their own paths in life and got married.
“Norma is fiercely dedicated to her family,” Nick describes. “That was true with her children, and now with her grandchildren.”
Norma had a surprise when she received a call from Jeff one evening and heard, “Mom, I had to let you know right away. I found my birth mother. I wanted to make sure she knows I’ve had a wonderful life and have been very loved.”
Norma’s heart soared for Jeff. Just as Jeff was not a replacement for Christopher, she was not a replacement for his birth mother. Both were meant for each other in an indelible way.
Jeff finally met his birth mother, Mary, and then the entire Lagios clan met her as well. Mary was only 17 when she had Jeff, and was unable to care for him herself. In a difficult situation at the time, she gave him up so that he could have a good life with a loving family. And he did.
Mary had prayed for Jeff and thought of him often over the years. Now they share a relationship.
Through it all, Norma is glad she embraced motherhood wholeheartedly, because she couldn’t imagine her life any other way. And the ripples of her love have had more of an impact than she could ever have imagined.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good for those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
- Romans 8:28
To all women who have given birth to children or given their best to raise children, congratulations to you on Mother’s Day and every day.
Feature Photography Contribution by Kristie Lang