Harry and Jeanne Chandler wanted to adopt one baby boy. They got a call – they had a baby waiting for them to adopt.
Then they got another call.
The Chandlers had two babies waiting.
The Chandlers adopted both baby boys, from two different adoption agencies. Owen Chandler, junior in biomedical sciences, and Austin Chandler, junior in civil engineering, were born six days apart, Austin being the oldest and refusing to let Owen forget it.
Harry was an engineer and Jeanne was a teacher when they were married. They wanted to have kids and found that adoption would be their only choice. After adopting their first child, Evan Chandler, they knew they wanted another son.
“My parents had applied for two organizations, but they were only expecting one,” Owen said. “It’s hard to get one kid. You have to jump through so many hoops and wait months.”
The Chandlers had applied to Agape Adoption and Lifeline Children’s Services looking for their next baby boy. When both agencies returned with good news in the span of the same week, Harry and Jeanne had a choice to make.
“They said, ‘Well, we are going to take both of them,’” Owen said.
The biological parents of both children were high schoolers, and Owen said the decision was easy for the Chandlers. Owen and Austin became brothers. Owen said his parents started out unable to have children, prayed for one more child and got two.
Owen has met his biological parents, and before he was born they chose Harry and Jeanne to raise Owen. He said he didn’t find it difficult to compartmentalize because he has never known anything else.
Austin was and always would be his brother. Harry and Jeanne would always be his parents.
His biological parents were eventually married and Owen has a sister. His sister attends the University of Alabama. Owen laughed and said, “Nobody’s perfect.”
“It was cool, but it never made me stop loving my parents,” Owen said. “Now that I am a Christian, I see that love is infinite, and you can make as much as you want. Just because I give love to someone else doesn’t mean I am taking it.”
Austin, having not met his biological parents, said he isn’t opposed to finding them, but there isn’t anything driving him to or from it. He said he is amazed by the process of adoption and the opportunity to give life a chance.
Austin said their faith is symbolic of how God chooses his children, similar to adoption in their minds like they were chosen.
Adoption aside, Owen laughed and said Austin was Harry’s son through and through.
“They are both civil engineers, they both have selective hearing–” Owen was saying when Austin cut him off.
“Woah, woah, woah. What are you talking about?”
Owen laughed and continued.
“They are both thinkers,” Owen said. “If they are building a desk, mom and I will not help because if we do one thing wrong, it’s ‘Stop, stop.’”
Owen said their childhood and who they are now is a testament to nature versus nurture. Most of their personality traits and characteristics come from their adoptive parents.
“My dad and I nerd out together,” Austin said. “But, deep down I am a momma’s boy, and I take traits from both of them.”
Austin went on about how encouraging his parents are, saying they expect just enough. He said they taught them the best lessons, including how to speak to every person in the church parking lot before leaving on Sunday, despite how hungry they might be.
“My mom is beautiful; she plays piano; she loves kids; she was a teacher; she is the hostest with the mostest,” Owen said. "She will host your tail off.”
The brothers laughed about their time in high school, remembering close calls at curfew when they waited outside for the other to arrive, hoping if they walked in together the punishment would be less.
When the brothers were growing up, many people assumed they were orphans or had been adopted through the foster care system. Owen said that process is extremely different from being chosen and adopted before birth like they were. Austin and Owen grew up knowing they were adopted.
They said there was never a sit-down moment when they were told Jeanne and Harry weren’t their “real” parents.
“There is just something so special about being adopted because you are chosen from the beginning,” Austin said.
Owen said the moment he remembers really understanding the adoption was in second grade when he was in a heritage play. The teacher asked all the students to go home and ask their parents about their heritage and come dressed accordingly.
Owen said he didn’t know what he was, but his mother knew Austin and he would be English chimney sweeps because Harry and Jeanne were English.
“That was the first time I realized, ‘Oh, that’s what adoption is,’” Owen said.
By the age of 13, Owen said they completely understood. They were lucky to never experience an identity crisis related to the adoption.
They said they never really had the chance to worry about being adopted because they had each other along the way. Austin is the oldest and laughed when he remembered lording over Owen for six days when he was able to drive and Owen wasn’t.
The two have stuck together tightly for most of high school and college, even living with each other freshman year of college. In middle school, they bickered a good bit.
There was one night Owen remembered realizing how much he loved his adopted brother. They were with a group of high school guys from their church in a hot tub one night. The group began to pray and Owen listened to Austin’s prayer and Austin, his.
“Austin prayed and then I prayed, and we prayed for each other,” Owen said. “I was like, ‘Lord, thank you for Austin. I am not worthy to have a brother like him, and I just treat him awfully,’ and he prayed the same thing. We finished the prayer, and we were sobbing.”
The guys pushed them into the center of the hot tub and they “hugged it out.”
Owen said he doesn’t remember another fight since that night.
Austin said there have never been questions of whether their birth parents didn’t want them or where they were because they had each other and their parents that were what they needed and more.
“Relationships are very dynamic, and who you are isn’t necessarily where you came from, but it’s what you do with those experiences,” Owen said.