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By Susan Von Tobel

I walked into church late one Easter Sunday and squeezed out a space in the back pew. Towards the end of the service, I closed my eyes one more time to thank God for all the blessings He had bestowed on me, and to ask for guidance and direction in my life.

I suddenly felt a “knowing voice” within me saying: “You can adopt.” It threw me. But I couldn’t shake the convincing feeling that lingered. It was something I had never felt before.


Since my hysterectomy at age 39, I’d thought of adoption often

But there were potential setbacks. Since my hysterectomy at age 39, I had thought of adoption before. But I was single and felt it wouldn’t be fair to the child.  I was now 50 years old. Surely people would think I was the grandmother!

Once reassurance I clung to was that my parents were still alive and doing well in their eighties, so I was hopeful that their good genes had been passed down to me.

The minute I got home, I called a close friend to tell her what happened. Surprisingly, she said, “Go for it.”  “Really?” I questioned.

I had been an elementary teacher and was just completing my licensing hours to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. I felt qualified, but still wondered about my own capabilities.


Through the adoption process, I had unanswerable fears

I continually prayed as I moved forward in the process of adoption. First, the Home Visit with a social worker, followed by a ton of paperwork, financial reports, recommendations, birth certificates, and unanswerable fears. What would it be like? Could I do it alone?

As soon as I had doubts, I would see a child with her mother and it brought up a longing I didn’t recognize. Was God trying to convince me, or was I delusional?

Every day was filled with excitement, trepidation, anxiety, worry, and joy. I had inquired about domestic adoption and decided to adopt an older child.

A year later, I took a long flight to China with twenty-three other couples and singles, coming to meet their daughters.  In China, the girls are abandoned, in favor of a son, since families are only allowed to have one child.


 My daughter was scantily clad, with no shoes, a shaven head

As soon as I saw my 20-month old daughter, I cried.  She was mine, no doubt about it. We were all given our child in a dimly lit government office and no one noticed the sterile conditions or the lack of privacy.

All I could see was my daughter, placed in my arms, scantily clad, with no shoes, and her head shaven. I loved her so much. I never felt love like that before.

She came to me easily and as we traveled the two-hour trip back to the hotel, she fell asleep in my arms.  My heart filled. Neither of us was alone anymore. Our hearts connected because it was a gift from God for both of us. I felt, and still do, truly blessed.


Eventually they’d be tossed out, to a life of prostitution, or a job less favorable

We made a brief stop at the orphanage before we headed back, and as the bus driver pulled away, I saw older children looking out at us from the windows above. It broke my heart that I could only take one.

I wanted to yell “Stop the bus!” I wanted to take them all. I knew I couldn’t and I knew the life these young girls would have with little education, no families, and growing up in this five-story building, hot, without air conditioning.

Eventually they would be tossed out at age eighteen, into prostitution or a job even less favorable, with little, if any, money. My hope then, as it is now, that God would guide another woman, another family, to a child in wait.


Notes for this blog:

Susan Von Tobel, M.A., lives in Oregon with her now 15 year old daughter. She is happy to say that she is now 65, healthy, and has grown so much by this experience as a person and as a mother. She wouldn’t trade a day of this journey for anything. Her children’s books, are based on adoption and diversity in families, and are available on her website at www.susanvontobel.com (http://www NULL.susanvontobel NULL.com)  She would love to hear your comments and any questions you might have regarding China adoption or her experience.


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13 Responses to How I Became A Single Mom At 50

  1. Kirsten says:

    Thank you Ms. Tobel for sharing your beautiful story.

  2. Theresa says:

    Susan, that was beautiful. Thank you for sharing, I had no idea the struggles you had about your decision to adopt. Thank God you decided to do it! You are a wonderful mother and person.

  3. Karen says:

    What a wonderfully heartwarming story! Although I am not a mother through adoption, I am a mother over 50 (my son is currently 8 months old) and I find that motherhood is such a blessing and that these children bring so much joy into our lives! My heart is so full right now that if I could change anything, I really don’t think I would!! My journey has brought me here, and here is where I feel I should be!!

  4. Teri says:

    You are an inspiration to us all!
    I am happy to call you “friend”

  5. Lynn says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. Your daughter has a wonderful family.

  6. It’s great to see so much support! I loved Susan’s story! It was an inspiration and an affirmation that each mom’s journey of motherhood after 40 or 50 is completely unique. I hoped the ending might inspire others to adopt a girl baby from China.

  7. Susan Von Tobel (http://www NULL.familiesofdiversity NULL.com) says:

    Thank you all for your wonderfully supportive comments. I enjoy reminiscing about my journey to China. Looking back I often wonder how I did it!! That’s when I know that It was destined by God to be. I tell my daughter it wasn’t so much about me adopting a child. It was about “God bringing us together.” And Karen, I know what you mean about feeling blessed. I certainly do! Thank you all for reading my story.
    Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.

  8. Ana Como quedar embarazada (http://proyectomama NULL.net/) says:

    Thanks for sharing your story, I´m 45 and after nearly six years in fertility treatment failed, we decided to adopt, stories like yours inspire me and make me feel happy and hopeful with my decision.

  9. Susan says:

    That was so positive. It is the love that is most important, isn’t it? Kudos to you!

  10. Mimi (http://Laurelhillstudio NULL.com) says:

    Thanks for sharing…and so much credit to you for not giving up on your dream to be a mother! I am 52 and have a 30 month old little boy and twin girls who just turned one. My husband and I also have 3 adult boys from previous marriages who adore their small siblings! I can see they will be excellent fathers when the time comes. Crazy as life is right now, I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was the best decision we ever made…yes we are all blessed!

  11. Susan Matson says:

    As another adoptive mom of two girls from China, now 18 and 14, I can vouch for the richness of the experience. it is very hard these days to get a healthy infant or toddler from China. On the other hand there are many older and special needs children ..many of the special needs minor..who very much need homes. Highly recommended!!
    Susan, now 65 and mom to an 8th grader

  12. maria g says:

    I have many friends that have adopted and my neighbor was a single teacher at 45 that adopted a 2 yr. girl. Within a few months she looked ten years younger and now at 60 looks like she is in her early 50’s. That is what love and children do to us.

    I have a couple of friends that struggle to have a baby and to adopt for so many years, finally they adopted am 8 yr. old child also hispanic like them, and at first the boy was shy and only bonded a little with the father, the therapist said it will be a slow process but within a few months the boy was happy and opening up to both mother and father, why? because this couple had an adoring nephew 7 yrs old that would come and play with his new cousin and the adoptive boy bonded with his cousin and that opened his heart and to the whole family. I was overwelmed. Now the boy says to his adoptive parents: I think in our home we need to balance the adult/child ratio (jaja), he was a little brother or sister, jaja. But the parents play dumb for now and because his little boy has a new little cousin a little girl he is happy for the new extended family addition.

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