Tom and Chris Glavine married in 1998, each bringing a child into the newly blended family. Then two more sons followed.
Surely they were complete, this very full family of six, whose dad was the two-time Cy Young Award winner pitching for the Atlanta Braves.
Yet something was missing for Chris Glavine – a baby girl. As a passionate, vocal Catholic, she was sure God wanted them to adopt.
Her husband wasn’t.
“This wasn’t anything I ever envisioned doing,” said Tom, 43, who retired recently and now broadcasts.
“I thought it was crazy from the start. I was like, ‘You sure you want to do that?’... We’re in a pretty good stage – retired, and we can do what we want to do. Are you sure you want to go back?”
What they got, by way of a pregnant young woman serving them at a local restaurant, was Kienan Patrick Glavine.
This 1-year-old, blue-eyed boy is their evidence of grace, proof that no amount of certainty will get you what you truly need. Kienan has turned into their reinvented family’s surest bond.
It’s late June, and the family is rushing home from one trip, heading out on the next.
Jonathan Flaig is Chris Glavine’s son from her first marriage. He’s the same age – 15 – as Amber Glavine, Tom’s daughter from his first marriage. Peyton, 11, and Mason, 9, are sons the Glavines had together.
Chris Glavine picks up the adoption story: “Tom didn’t feel a calling, but Tom being Tom, he was open to anything.”
The Glavines started paperwork for an adoption in 2008. They sought a closed adoption, to shield from the birth parents Tom’s identity as a famous athlete.
People who knew them asked: Weren’t four kids enough?
“Better you than me,” one friend scoffed.
Meanwhile, Chris Glavine’s baby radar was full on. Seeking a chips-and-salsa break one day between family sports events, she pulled into a restaurant.
“Whatcha got in there?” she playfully asked the young waitress about the bump under her apron.
“A little boy,” replied the woman.
“Oh if it had been a little girl I would have taken her right off your hands!” Chris Glavine said.
A typical sequence of drinks, chips, meal and check turned increasingly personal. The young woman confided that she was 19, a month from her due date and pretty sure that adoption was best for her.
Chris Glavine asked her about baseball, but she didn’t know anything about it. She gave the waitress the card of her adoption attorney. When the young woman called, Chris Glavine’s sureness over a baby girl waned. So much for the closed adoption.
At Northside Hospital on April 22, 2009, the Glavines waited in one postpartum room. Next door, the baby's biological parents said goodbye.
“Nothing could have prepared us for the emotion,” Chris Glavine said. “I told the mom, ‘You did so good!’ Then they handed him over, and I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
“Next door, the video started and there was love everywhere with Kienan. Questions, wonderment, why does he have this goopy stuff in his eyes?”
The boy spent his first night with his new dad sleeping nearby. Tom Glavine felt like he was babysitting; fatherhood didn’t kick in for several days. He’s seen more of Kienan’s babyhood than any of his older kids'.
In a family tree twisted from the half’s and step's that divorce leaves behind, Kienan has become the Glavines' common focus. This is most true for Jonathan, who goes to Blessed Trinity, and Amber, at Marist, who split time between the Glavines and their ex-spouses, who have second families, too.
“A lot of my friends have a hard time knowing how we’re all related – I draw a chart,” Amber said. “I have a 2-year-old sister at my mom’s and it’s fun. I love babies.”
“I have four [siblings] here and three at my dad’s house,” Jonathan said on his way to get more formula. “Only my close, close friends understand what’s going on. The others know that I have a bunch of brothers and sisters and my step-dad is Tom.
“I have to admit I thought [Kienan] would take away from my hockey and baseball, but I love having him around. It’s pretty crazy here, and he kind of brings us all together. We hang out with him. It wasn’t like we were falling apart before, but he just brings us together.”
Peyton and Mason Glavine have pitched in to care for their “Kienan Brudders.”
“I thought I would kind of miss being the baby and he would get all the attention, but I really always wanted a little brother,” said Mason. “I kind of like chasing him when he crawls.”
Peyton taught Kienan to play Call of Duty on the Xbox. “He’s very good. He has a lot of kills.”
Kienan reminds Chris Glavine of their previous reinventions, when she first met Tom in the 1980s, and then after the divorces.
“We had taken separate parallel paths and there was no reason we would meet again other than God,” she said. “A new word that we’ve learned is ‘godwink.’ Kienan was a godwink, because you’re not supposed to find a kid to adopt in a restaurant.
“It’s given us a better understanding of what really matters, and it’s not about anonymity.”
The Glavines have encouraged his birth parents to visit and take photos. Love – of both sets of parents – is what they want Kienan to know when they tell him how adoption reinvented his identity and theirs.
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