How it all began...
A Sense of Peace
Going into our marriage, April had three biological children, two already graduated from high school and one, Hannah, finishing middle school. On our very first date, Matthew asked if April would be open to having additional children, and while the answer was a resounding yes, we knew that if we did choose to have children together, it would have to be through adoption. Not long after we got married, the research for adoption providers began. April knew that after interviewing Angel there was a peace in choosing adoption and Angel was incredible.
Coming into the adoption process, we had discussed at length what preferences we felt best for our family. We knew we lived in a community where interracial families are not as common as others, and we weren’t sure how a child would be treated or how our family would be received, so we chose to be more selective in our preferences, understanding the risk we were taking. After one year of waiting without being selected by an expectant mother, April was praying and felt very prompted that we had boxed ourselves in and maybe God’s plan for us wasn’t within the preferences we had limited ourselves to.
That evening at dinner, April mentioned the idea of opening up our preferences to include additional ethnicities. Both Matthew and Hannah shared they had recently had the same thoughts, and we immediately called Angel. Although our profile was not selected immediately after the update, we knew that the change was the right one.
A Long-Awaited Day
One afternoon while student teaching, April had her phone on, which was different for her. She received a call from Angel, which was also odd as we weren’t expecting to talk to anyone as our monthly call had just happened a few days before. Angel left a message asking us to call immediately, and April called as soon as school was out. She was told our profile had been selected and that an expectant mother wanted to speak with us that night! April said yes without hesitation, knowing Matthew would be on board. At home, after sharing the news, everyone was emotional, we knew this was the day we had waited so long for to come.
We spoke with the expectant mother that evening and had a great first conversation. While we were eager to know about her, we didn’t want her to feel as though we were prying. When she asked if there was anything we wanted to know, we said yes, but we told her we didn’t want to push too hard. Her response was “You’re going to be raising my son. You have the right to ask me questions.” She was having a boy! We were over the moon! Through the conversation, we also learned the expectant mother was a high-risk pregnancy and would likely deliver very early. Her previous son had been born at 25 weeks, and she asked if we were prepared for a similar situation. We told her we were prepared for whatever journey lay ahead.
A Very Early Birth
About one month after initially connecting with the expectant mother, April’s brother-in-law passed away, and April headed to her sister’s house, 12 hours away, to help with funeral arrangements and provide support. At that time, we had only shared with their immediate family that we were connected with an expectant mother. We had planned to make their announcement public that week, but out of respect for April’s sister and her mourning process, we decided to wait to share the news publicly. One week after the funeral, April’s sister’s urged us to share the news about the connection with extended family and friends saying, “our family could use positive news right now. I think it’s time.” After sharing our news that night we received a tremendous amount of encouragement, support, and love via messages, emails, and calls.
The next morning, April was planning to head home after having been away for ten days. She, however, woke to an email from the expectant mother that read, “Congratulations Mom and Dad! Zechariah was born at 10:38pm last night.” After a mini freakout, April began packing so she could start driving to meet Zechariah, but her mom reminded her she might want to call Matthew!
When April got ahold of Matthew at work, she first told him, “Congratulations, Dad!” followed by “You need to be on the next flight!” He booked the next flight out, and April drove to the birthmother’s state to meet Zechariah.
Our Small, Sweet Son
When April arrived at the hospital late that afternoon, everyone was prepared for her and brought her in to meet Zechariah for the first time. Being born at only 29 weeks, he was in isolation from the other babies in NICU, and April had to gown and mask up to meet him. As soon as she lay eyes on him, he took her breath away. He was the smallest baby she had ever seen at only 2lbs 3oz, but he was beautiful. The wires hooked to him and the small oxygen mask over his face were overwhelming, but she was instantly in love.
Matthew’s flight landed late that evening, and although the hospital was closed to visitors, they made an exception and he was able to meet Zechariah around midnight. We could not believe this miracle baby was ours.
37 Days of Walking in Faith
The first handful of days in the hospital were amazing. Zechariah grew stronger each day, and the nurses were wonderful at teaching us how to care for him.
Seven days after his birth, Zechariah’s birthmother was supposed to be able to sign over parental consents but a call came in that we were not expecting. We were under the impression his birthfather agreed with adoption, so we were devastated when we found out the morning of day seven that he had in fact filed a petition to block the adoption. We then had to wait 30 days to allow time for him to hire an attorney and file for a court date. Zechariah’s birthmother could not sign over parental rights, and we were not allowed to make medical decisions on Zechariah’s behalf. Thankfully, Zechariah’s birthmother and the attorney were phenomenal, and they filed for us to have medical power of attorney.
We spent the next couple of weeks walking in total faith, surprisingly at peace. The birthmother continued to reassure them she did not believe the birthfather wanted to parent. Her reassurance did help. We offered to meet or speak with the birthfather if it would help him, and he initially declined. After more than 20 days of waiting the birthfather agreed to a conversation with them. We were all able to have a conference call, with the help of the hospital. The birthfather stated that he just wanted to have a decision in choosing the people who were going to be raising his child. We completely understood, we respected him, and were open to answering any questions he had and even meeting with him if he so desired. The birthfather told them that their conversation and the fact that they had been with Zechariah from day one was all he needed, and that he was not going to pursue any further action. Zechariah was ours. Thirty-seven days after Zechariah was born, paperwork was finally started.
A Long-Awaited Meeting
After seven weeks in the NICU, we were given the notice that Zechariah was going to be discharged in 48 hours. Zechariah’s birthmother had not yet met him or us, but they wanted to let her know they were going to be headed home soon, so we notified her by phone. Both she and Zechariah’s birthfather chose to come to the hospital to meet him and say their good-bye’s. We all spent about one hour together, and both birth parents had the opportunity to hold him. Both his birthparents stared at Zechariah with adoring eyes, and as heartwarming as it was, it was equally as heartbreaking because we were witnessing their love yet their loss. As much as he was our son, he was their son too. At that moment, the four of us joined as parents to this one beautiful child. After they both kissed him goodbye and left, for what they believed would be the last time, April melted to the floor, feeling the full weight of their loss.
With only 24 hours left to discharge, the hospital excitedly changed their hospital wristbands from “other family” to “parents.” This small but thoughtful change made everything so real for us.
Finding a Way
When Zechariah was about one and a half, April received a number of calls from an unknown number. She ignored them, assuming it was a telemarketer. Days later, she received a call from Angel, which really caught her off guard. They told her that Zechariah’s birthmother had been trying to get ahold of them. She was pregnant again and wanted to know if they were interested in adopting this child. They were blown away. Once they had joked about this, but now it was a reality. After April shared the news with Matthew and Hannah, it was an immediate yes but had reservations about how everything was going to be paid for. We had just started selling all of Zechariah’s baby stuff, so that would all need to be replaced, and what about another long NICU stay? How would we swing that with a toddler? But our hearts told us, this baby is ours too, and we would find a way we would just walk in faith once again.
We immediately got ahold of the attorney and Zechariah’s birthmother. This was the first time we had spoken with Zechariah’s birthmother in one and a half years, although they exchanged messages a few times, there had been no verbal contact since the meeting in the NICU. She told us she didn’t reach out directly because she was nervous we might have said no. We told her how blessed we felt to be able to adopt biological siblings and how amazing it was that she would reach out and trust us again.
Given her history with early deliveries, we knew she could literally deliver any time. Within days, we had a bag packed and rough travel arrangements made. April’s mom came to stay with us and planned to travel with us when the time came to provide help with Zechariah.
The second pregnancy with Zechariah’s birthmother was different from what was experienced before. We could tell she wasn’t receiving the same level of care she had with Zechariah’s pregnancy, which was worrisome because she was high risk. We were really concerned, and with the help of Angel and the attorney, we were able to get her a doctor’s appointment.
By the time her doctor’s appointment happened, she was already 34 weeks pregnant, which was significantly further along than she had been with Zechariah. The same day of her doctor’s appointment, she called April and said she knew the gender and she had an induction date: “It’s a girl, and I will be induced today at 3:30 p.m.”
We dropped what they were doing and left immediately, three hours after the call to be exact! We chose to drive straight through, which was a 15 hour long drive, because we really wanted to be there for the birth. After dropping April’s mom and Zechariah off at the Airbnb, we went to the hospital. When the nurse came in to make a progress check, we left to go to the cafeteria. As soon as we got downstairs, the nurse called and said that the baby was coming. We had NOT traveled all this way to miss our daughter being born. We ran upstairs and got there just in time for the final pushes and together we welcomed Felicity into the world.
After Felicity was born, her birthmother asked if she could hold her. There was no reason she needed to ask to hold her own daughter, but we understood that she was being respectful to us. After holding her for just a couple minutes, Felicity was taken to the NICU, and Matthew went with her while April remained with the birthmother for a short time. The first 48 hours of Felicity’s NICU stay were incredibly challenging. She was struggling from unknown complications. Once we were aware of her needs, the nursing staff was able to care for her, and the remaining two weeks in the NICU, although difficult and sleep deprived, were overall as smooth as possible.
A Story of Love
After discharge, we invited Zechariah and Felicity’s birthmother to the Airbnb to spend time with us. She accepted the offer and was able to spend the afternoon playing with Zechariah and holding Felicity. We were able to get some great pictures of the three of them together, which we will cherish forever.
Over the next couple years, we continued to update our private Facebook group with photos and updates of the kids. We spoke with Zechariah and Felicity’s birthmother a number of times and even discussed visiting with her and allowing her two children to meet Zechariah and Felicity and grow their relationship. However, just before Felicity’s third birthday, Zechariah and Felicity’s biological grandmother reached out to us and shared some tragic news, the children’s birthmother had passed away. The devastation and shock was awful.
Her passing has changed our adoption story immensely. Our children will now only have the memories we have of their birthmother, not their own. Now, more than ever, we are thankful that their birthmother chose to spend that afternoon with us before we brought Felicity home. Both adoptions brought a wonderful woman into our lives and for that we will always love her and hold her dear in our hearts.