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Tiger Stripes

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May 2007

Every now and then an email really grabs our attention.  For me, it was about a tiger that accidentally suffocated her only cub.  She grew despondent over her loss.  She stopped eating.  Her zookeepers were rightly worried that she was on the road to death, and they did not know how to turn her around.  In desperation, they introduced several piglets fitted with tiger-striped sweaters into the mother’s cage.  Things changed.  The piglets took to her; the tiger took to them.  They became family.

I’ve never been offered a job at Animal Planet, but I know this much: those striped sweaters did not fool the mother.  Piglets no more look, smell, or sound like a tiger cub than we do.  That mother knew exactly what had been put in her cage ⎯ breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a midnight snack.   Yet the piglets needed a mother, and the tiger needed a cub.   The big cat’s instinct to nurture overcame her instinct to eat. The miraculous occurred not because the she was fooled but because she wasn’t.

What happened in that cage was adoption.  And the email has stayed with me because adoption has been a big part of our family’s life.  My wife Kathy and I raise six children, the last three adopted.  And like the tiger, our experience started with death, the death of our daughter Mary Katherine at seven months into Kathy’s fourth pregnancy.  At our ages, we figured that adoption was the best way to go.  The journey began.

We had planned to adopt a Vietnamese child, but God had other plans.  Our destination changed to South America, first to Paraguay, then twice to Bolivia. In South America parents give up children because they are too poor to raise them.  They leave their children on the doorsteps of convents, orphanages, and foster homes, hopeful of finding someone to help.  There the children grow, waiting for the day they will be loved in a real family.

If someone had told me before Mary Katherine’s death that I would adopt three kids, and from South America no less, I would have beaten him with a stick.  And as we readied for our first adoption, I wondered how I would bond with a child not of my flesh or even my race.   The question is significant for any adoptive parent. The answer comes when eyes meet, when hands touch.  It comes when the need to love meets the need to be loved.  At that moment, the tiger stripes don’t disappear.  They become irrelevant.

Folks call our children blest to be adopted.  Our response is always the same ⎯ our family has been blest!  From the moment that our amigos walked through our front door, they added sparkle and richness to our family life.  Like Kathy and me, our other kids took to them instantly and have bonded to them forever.  We can’t imagine our lives without them.  Mariana, Joseph, and Michael are not our adoptive kids.  They are our kids.

We were able to adopt in South America because there abortion is unacceptable.  Sadly, that is not so here.  Planned Parenthood reports that for fiscal year 2004-05, it provided 255,015 abortions but recommended only 1,414 adoptions ⎯ about one-half percent.  That tells us a couple things.  For one, Planned Parenthood has just about never met an abortion that it didn’t like or an adoption that it did.  And it also speaks volumes about our abortion mentality.  For many women, abortion is not the desired outcome.  They would like to birth and raise their child, but their circumstances make them feel trapped.  They may temporarily reject the thought of abortion, but it keeps returning because they see no alternative to abortion.  It’s like that demon who, swept out of the empty house, returns with cohorts more evil than himself (Mt 12:43-45).  When women choose abortion, lifetimes of regret, guilt, depression, and pain usually follow.  The demons have found a home, and they plan to stay.

But adoption can fill a house with something much better.  With love and hope.  With a chance for mothers to give their children what is best: life and love in a family.  Rest assured, there are countless couples willing to help a mother throughout her pregnancy and adopt her child.  They understand the needs of mother and child, and they have their own need to love.  It’s always a perfect fit.  And it will happen if we substitute our abortion mentality with an adoption mentality.

One of the empty promises of Roe v. Wade was than there would be no unwanted children.  The promise is empty because even before Roe, it was so false.  Someone has always wanted each child ⎯ God.  He conceived them, and He has loved them no matter what the circumstances. Still does.  He asks us to help.  Maybe you know someone who is pregnant but not ready, able, or willing to be a mother right now.  She has a better choice than abortion.  Tell her.  Maybe it’s your voice she needs to hear.  Maybe you know someone who would like to adopt but is a little afraid.  Maybe they just need a little push in the right direction.  Maybe it’s you.  Maybe it’s God’s Voice you’re hearing.  Listen with your heart.

Adoption is part of the miracle of life.  The stripes won’t matter.  Only the love will.


Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics.  He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois, where they raise their six kids.

© Paul V. Esposito 2007.  Culture of Life.  Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted.  Visit us on the web at

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