When I was 12 years old our church had a guest speaker come and talk about adoption. The speaker passed out a little flyer with the precious faces of two babies on the front and spoke about the many children just like these that needed a safe and loving home to grow up in. I couldn’t take my eyes off that flyer and in that magical moment, my heart confirmed that I would adopt someday. After my first year of college, I decided to travel to Southeast Asia with a team of people to work in aids orphanages and hospitals. This experience was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time. In the months I spent with those amazing Cambodian children, my deep desire to adopt grew stronger and my love for orphans overwhelmed every part of my heart.
Shortly after I returned to the United States, I met my soon to be husband through some mutual friends. The next day we bumped into each other at a coffee shop and Jared told me about how he had just gotten back from Southeast Asia as well and was in the process of planning a trip to Sierra Leone, Africa. Jared and a few of his friends wanted to share their love of art and the healing that takes places through art therapy at an orphanage there. They also wanted to get to know the village with the hopes of opening up a center for women with disabilities. When women are unable to provide for their children due to disabilities, many of those children become orphaned. I left the coffee shop that day wanting to be a part of Jared’s life. He had the most beautiful, kind heart and his desire to help those in need was contagious.
While we were dating, we had all the typical conversations couples have about their dreams for the futures. During one of these converstations, I asked Jared how many children he wanted. This question felt exceptionally important because Jared comes from a big family! I love big families, but also never wanted to have more than one biological child. I nervously shared my adoption dreams with Jared and as I spoke, his eyes lit up and a huge smile formed across his face. Jared said, ever since he was young he has wanted to adopt too! My heart leaped out of my chest because I knew we were a match made in heaven!
Our story is dreamy, isn’t it?! However, we all know that isn’t how life actually works. When we decided to begin growing our family, we struggled for years with infertility. It was incredibly discouraging and because I had always desired to adopt, I wanted to quit trying and being the adoption process. However, Jared was not ready to venture down that road. This caused a lot of conflict in our marriage. I felt helpless and broken. Why couldn’t my body just make a baby? We kept trying and eventually I got pregnant a month after I had miscarried at 11 weeks. I was overjoyed and completely terrified the entire pregnancy.
I have always felt like names were incredibly significant. They hold a lot of power and meaning. I had been praying for a name for our daughter, but nothing was coming. One evening I was very anxious and asked Jared to read me a children’s book. This always calmed my spirit. He went upstairs and grabbed a book. It was Alice in Bible Land, the story of Esther. This was my absolute favorite story book as a child. Who doesn’t love a Bible, Disney princess? While he was reading to me, I said, “I wish the name Esther wasn’t so old fashioned. I would name my daughter that.” Jared leaned his head back and shut his eyes. Then he looked at me and said “what about Estelle”?! I had never heard that name before, but I loved it! We looked it up and it means Star, just like Esther did. The summer before I got pregnant we were camping in the back of our truck. We saw so many shooting stars, and of course, we had to make a wish. I wished for a baby, and Jared said he wished for one too. I knew that name was a promise that our little “star” would be ok. It didn’t stop me from worrying during my pregnancy, but deep down, I knew this baby would be safe.
It was chilly day in November, a month after my daughter had turned one. We were all snuggled up together in her nursery contemplating how lucky our family was. Then a deep pain filled Jared and I’s heart as we were reminded of all the children we had seen over the years that would never have a life of safety, security, love and opportunities. In that moment we agreed that it was time to start our adoption journey.
We started our contract with Faithful Adoption Consultants in January of 2018 after 3 months of filling out paperwork. This included countless background checks, visits with a social worker, trainings, medical evaluations and full disclosure of all of our finances. It was invasive, but understandably necessary. We were told that we would have a baby within a year and by March we were matched with a birth mama through an agency from Kansas. Her baby was due in July. I was incredibly uncomfortable with a 5 month march period, but I was reassured by the agency that this was an ideal case and I didn’t need to worry. We spent countless hours on the phone getting to know the birth mama, as well as flying out to see her in Kansas. I liked her a lot. She was funny, and sassy.
As the months went by, I could tell the birth mama was changing her mind. I believe all the financial and emotional support gave her the strength to consider raising this baby. I told the agency multiple times that she wanted to keep the baby, but I was reassured over and over again that her lack of communication and weird interactions were totally normal. At the beginning of July a nurse from the hospital called our agency to let us know that our baby was born. In Kansas there is no time limit to how long a mama has to decide to sign over her rights. So we waited for days and days. The birth mama disappeared with the baby and we never heard from her again. A police report was filed and the case was label adoption fraud. We lost $20,000 and experienced months of emotional turmoil. There are hundreds of details that I have left out as I am still trying to wrap my head around everything that happened.
We stayed with our agency in Kansas until January of this year in hopes that we would be matched again, but we never saw a single case. Faithful Adoption Consultants took us back on and began showing us cases from all over the country. Every week we would get two or three cases. We had 24-48 hours to say yes or no to the case. If we said yes, the birth mama would get our profile, which was full of pictures of our family and our story. She would also get four to five other profiles. Then she would pick a family. Sometimes this would take a few days and other times it would take a week. We did this for months, saying yes to over 30 cases. I have never experienced anything like this before. The up and down and weekly uncertainty was pure hell. I couldn’t sleep at night and all my joy for life was gone.
We finally decided in June of 2020 to leave our agency. I couldn’t physically do it anymore. We didn’t have a plan, but we knew we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing. A week after we left our agency I was standing in the kitchen and Adoption Choices of Kansas flashed in my mind. I had seen this agency before when we were being presented cases. I called the social worker and told her everything that was going on. She said she remembered us, and ironically, there was a baby girl in the hospital right now that they were trying to find families for. I called Jared and asked if he felt comfortable saying yes, and he did. We were both sure this was our baby, how random was that? Three long hopeful and anxiety provoking days passed. Finally the social worker called and said she was so sorry but the mama had chosen another family. There are no words to describe the feelings that came after. The look in my husbands eyes reflected mine and it was full of pain and defeat. We were done. We could not put our family through this any longer. I cried for days and then felt a deep sense of relief.
It was exactly three weeks later on July 15th. I received a text message from that same social worker in Kansas. “I emailed you a case. There is a baby being born in Oklahoma right now and we need to find families”. The reason they need to find families for cases like this is because there are things like drugs, STDs and other potentially dangerous things that could cause health issues. If we would have seen this case when we first started the process, we would have never said yes, however, we were immune to it all by this point. We submitted our profile, but had zero expectation. The next day at 4:30, the social worker asked how soon we could get to Tulsa, we had been chosen.
Our baby girl is perfect in every way. She is beyond beautiful and she was always meant to be a part our family. Her adoption will not be finalized until this January, but God gave us a name for her to calm my anxious heart.
Like young couples always do, Jared and I picked out our favorite baby names. We both loved the name Lucy and agreed that this would be our baby girls name someday. As I mentioned earlier, we had a few miscarriages. One of the babies we miscarried we decided to name Lucy. Estelle also had a cabbage patch doll that she has been playing with for the last 2 years named Lucy. When I got to the hospital, I looked above our new baby’s crib and it said Baby Girl Lucy. The babies in the NICU are identified by the birth mom’s last name. This is another promise that my baby girl is going to be ok. As we wait these next few months out, I have made a vow to stay present, trust in the beauty within all the pain, and surrender my need to know how and when all the details will unfold. Every time I look into my children’s eyes, I am reminded that we are living in a miracle.