Barbara Walters, Others Tell Personal Adoption Stories

ByABC News

May 10, 2001 -- Barbara Walters used to find it painful to walk through a toy store.

More than 30 years ago, she and her husband, Lee Guber, wanted desperately to have children.

After Walters had three miscarriages, the couple decided to adopt a baby girl they named Jackie. Having a child, says Walters, "made her life complete."

Over the years, Walters discovered there were many others inside the ABC community who have made the decision to adopt, including weekend anchor Carole Simpson and former ABCNEWS correspondent Connie Chung, as well as talk-show host Rosie O'Donnell.

These parents and some of their children speak out about adoption and how it has changed their lives in an ABCNEWS special called Born in My Heart: A Love Story.

Though she has been generally private about her family, Walters, who co-produced the special, says she thinks the personal stories will resonate with the millions of people who have been touched by adoption. "Sharing our stories might make a difference in someone else's life," she says.

Connie Chung and Maury Povich

Though Chung and her talk-show host husband, Maury Povich, are almost as famous for their attempts to have a child as they are for their careers in television, they rarely talk publicly about their adopted son, Matthew.

When they adopted him, remembers Chung, "he was less than 24 hours old, and he was so beautiful. Maury let me hold him first … It was so unbelievable."

Among the issues they tackle with Walters is the prospect that their son may one day seek out his biological parents. Both Chung and Povich agree they would support such efforts, but Povich reveals it would bring him "mixed emotions."

"If he loves us as much as we love him," says Povich, "why would he want to do that?"

"He should, he should," interrupts Chung. "He deserves to do that if he wants do it."

'To Make a Difference'

Walters and Chung both chose to adopt because they were unable to bear children themselves. For others in the ABC special, the decision to adopt had more to do with saving a baby in need.

In the spring of 1990, 20/20 produced a series of horrifying stories on the thousands and thousands of babies neglected in orphanages in Romania. The producer, Janice Tomlin, was so moved by one of the baby girls she met while in Romania that she decided to adopt her. Six years later, she adopted another girl from a Romanian orphanage.

Though she is giving her daughters better lives than they could have hoped for in Romania, Tomlin thinks she is actually the one benefiting the most from the adoption. "They saved me," she tells Walters. "I'm the lucky one; I've got two of the best kids in the world."

Like Tomlin, Simpson was also moved to adopt while working on a story. She and her husband already had a 10-year-old biological daughter named Mallika, but she was moved to expand her family after reporting on unwanted black children in Chicago.

"There were 10 black babies available for every one white child available for adoption," Simpson says. So she and her husband decided to adopt 6-week-old Adam "to make a difference."

"When they put him in our arms … from that moment on, it was love at first sight, and I just adore him," Simpson says.

She adds, "We have people in the United States of America traveling to the far corners of the Earth, and there are black American babies in this country that need families."

ABCNEWS medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson, who adopted a child from Indonesia, adds that while the issue of race should not be overlooked, it can certainly be overcome.

"I think if love is there in the family, as it clearly has been in ours, it will overcome those difficulties," he says.

'I'm a Pampered, Rich Celebrity'

O'Donnell, who has done more to shine the spotlight on the issue of adoption than any public figure in recent years, explains that despite achieving her dreams of being in movies, she did not feel satisfied until she became a mom.

"I dreamed, 'Well I'm going to have a life and I'm going to be in the movies and then everything's going to be fine.' And I got there, and you know what, everything wasn't fine," she says. "Everything became fine the day my children arrived."

O'Donnell has adopted three children, and it has been reported that her partner, Kelli Carpenter, is pregnant. Though caring for three children is undoubtedly challenging, O'Donnell is quick to remind Walters that her success in show business has made it easier to be a mom. "How do I do it? I'm a pampered, rich celebrity," she says with equal parts humor and candor.

'She Had Me From Her Heart'

The one interview that Walters does not conduct is with her own daughter.

Jackie tells ABCNEWS' Cynthia McFadden — who was also adopted herself — that her mother explained adoption to her when she was a small child. Her mother explained: "Mommies can have babies either from their tummies or from their hearts … So she had me from her heart," Jackie says.

"That 'real parent' is really a horrible label, because what makes a parent is not necessarily who gives birth to you," Jackie says. "It's the one that wipes your butt, it's the one that takes a tissue and cleans up your tears. The one that is there for the good times and the bad."

Born In My Heart originally aired on April 20, 2001.

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