ver since I was a kid, I dreamed of being a mother. I had watched my mom scurry around the house, raising my six brothers and me. The sight of babies made my heart thump wildly. I would tug at her sleeve during nursery on Sunday morning whispering, Can I hold the baby? It was my greatest desire.
During college, I sat at a dock in Chattanooga, Tennessee, beside a quiet introvert named Kevin. After circling the same group for months, I thought of him as more than a friend. At the dock, we were falling in love, talking about the future, swinging our legs back and forth.
I asked him if he wanted kids. He told me, “I would love to be a dad one day,” passing the test. I wanted to be surrounded by the squeals of tickles on the couch and soccer games in jagged, green grass. I wanted Kevin in my future family photo.
Two years later, he gathered me up in my wedding dress and walked me down the aisle with brand new rings on our hands at 21 years old.
For the first four years, we lived in Dallas, Texas. I nannied three kids and also babysat on the weekends, even when I moved to a full-time cubicle job. Many of my seminary friends were trying to get conceive, pregnant, or raising babies. Family life surrounded me and the itch to have my own got stronger and stronger. My heart had to be patient, but I knew it was only a matter of time before we would be installing car seats and I would finally be the honored guest at my own baby shower.
In 2015, a private Christian school in Clermont, Florida, hired my husband to teach. We moved blindly, not knowing the area but relying on God’s leading. I jumped up and down when Kevin and I talked about “pulling the goalie.” We knew it was time to start our family, and I counted down the days of working full time and settling down into motherhood.
In the morning light, I would lie in bed and think about where we would be in nine months if I got pregnant. I scheduled. I schemed. I touched my pale stomach and wondered how far my belly would stick out and when.
But after one year and twelve menstrual cycles, we classified as struggling with infertility. I didn’t feel infertile or hopeless; I was just slightly disappointed. Trying to get pregnant was like an app running in the background of my life—I spent little time thinking about it because we had time. Although I wasn’t worried, my doctor advised me to get blood work done to check on my hormones and ovulation.
Unfortunately, we spent the next few years getting tested, meeting with a fertility doctor, and confirming his diagnosis of unexplained infertility.
In 2019, I turned 30 years old and crumbled into a fiery heap of long-standing despair, denial, and overwhelming grief. It was a Sunday morning at church when my heart’s dam broke and tears flooded me. On the outside, I tried to listen to a Bible lesson, but on the inside, my own thoughts of childlessness distracted me. I fled to the bathroom handicap stall and sat on the wooden toddler step-stool. I folded my skirt beneath me and let my emotions take over my body. I reached for the thin toilet paper to sop up my tears, my head pounding in a reckoning of my reality.
I was married nine years with a good job, a beautiful house and four years of trying to conceive with no success. How did this happen?
My life had floated by me without fulfilling my one great desire. The road of denial merged with grief. I had pushed away my infertility for so long that it demanded to meet me face to face. It would not stay silent any longer. I grieved at home with the help of a friend who spent six hours in my living room with me.
From that day on, my decision to become a mother became more about action than emotion. I felt God telling me, “Your kids are out there. Go get them.” Our three options were: foster care, medical treatment, or adoption. We attended classes, called agents, gathered research, and then sat down to decide.
“You know how high school athlete host a big press conference? They lay hats on the table and then pick the hat of their final decision?” Kevin nodded. I pretended I had three hats in front of me. Foster care, medical treatment, and adoption.
“I am tired of going to the doctor, my body has been through enough. I don’t want to pursue further medical treatment. Foster care is beautiful, needed, and so, so hard. I can’t do that right now. I need permanence.”
He looked at me. “I would like to adopt.” When he smiled and agreed, I breathed a sigh of relief. At last, we had a plan.
Suddenly we were on the phone with lawyers and caseworkers, and a home study agent. We were offered an infant abandoned at the hospital, and for the first time, Kevin and I looked at each other with a parental glow. We were ready.
Two days later, the difficult news came that they had chosen another family. We were both surprised at how shattered we felt. I took a bike ride that afternoon crying hot tears of anger. All I could feel was the disappointment of the moment. I couldn’t even fathom what our future might be.
That heartbreak bound us together even more as Kevin and I cried in each other’s arms. It showed us how ready we were, how we both wanted to be parents. We would drop everything and do anything to grow our family.
For four months, we applied for several birthmother situations in Florida, and then waited to hear back. Sometimes it took days, sometimes over a week. The minutes were grueling. Finally, on February 1st, I received a notification about a baby girl due in just a few weeks.
We were out to lunch the next day when the caseworker called to give us details. She said we were one of three possible families and she was going to see the birthmother in three days. Our eyes widened. This was really happening. “I need your adoptive profile sent to me overnight so I can present it to her.” She told us.
Kevin scrambled for to-go boxes, as we had barely touched our food. We raced home to get the flash drive, then to the office store to print. I got up early Monday morning to ship it, excitement and nerves shooting through me.
My phone never left my side on Wednesday and at 2:30pm I got the text that said, “Do you have a name for this baby?” I knew she had chosen us and I couldn’t stop smiling. We called our families and the hot sunlight streaming through my window lit up the living room.
In February 2020, right before the quarantine hit, we drove to the hospital by ourselves and drove home with an almost seven-pound baby girl in a fuchsia car seat. We named her Eden Renee, seeing her as a gift of paradise and rebirth after years of confusion, heartache, and questioning.
Getting to know Eden’s beautiful birthmother Ashley and feeling God’s love for her has been one of the most transformative privileges of my life. I have never loved someone so unconditionally while at the same time, feeling immense gratitude and awe by her sacrifice. Receiving the gift of a beautiful baby girl felt so unreal that I struggled for months to accept that Eden was my daughter.
Then on Mother’s Day, the hardest day of the year for those with infertility, I looked into her brown eyes and thanked her for making me a mom. I quietly cried, embracing motherhood for the first time.
Caring for a newborn while my husband worked full-time and in the middle of a pandemic was challenging. I hated being inside so much, so we took a lot of walks. My days were filled with keeping Eden busy because she did not like to be by herself. At night, I would collapse into bed after cluster feeding and holding her for hours before she passed out for the night. It was mentally and physically exhausting, but we knew it was worth it.
When Ashley texted me on Halloween (Eden was eight months old) with a picture of a positive pregnancy test and asking “Do you want another baby?”, Kevin and I agreed right away. We knew how important biological siblings were in adoption, so we said yes! Little did we know that taking care of two babies only fifteen months apart would be an even greater challenge. It was our faith that carried us through the decision, and God’s peace rested with us as we prepared for another baby.
Shiloh Elise came to us as a preemie in May 2021. After staying ten days in the NICU, she came home with us at just under five pounds. She is still getting the hang of this world, but growing and even rocking a double chin if you look at her just right!
Both adoptions totaled $65,000, and we paid one after the other in 2020 and then 2021. God provided the money through the sale of two homes, one being a fixer-upper that Kevin worked on at night and during weekends for a year. Both times, God provided the money before we even knew we would need it.
Our family came to us. My hunch that our kids were out there was right, and now they are safely tucked in our wild little home, helping me outnumber my husband. We maintain a positive, open relationship with the birth family and have never regretted it. The girls will one day realize the sacrifice their birthmother made to give them a two-parent, loving and safe home in which to grow up together.
We see God’s beauty in our baby girls every day, and we receive His grace to raise them with wisdom, patience and compassion. Having two so close together has already proven to be very time consuming, exhausting and challenging, as they both rely on us for everything at this point. Kevin and I both have had long days and nights taking care of them. But we know they will only be little for a few years, so we are doing our very best to be patient and give ourselves a lot of grace.
Looking back to when Kevin and I first met and talked about having kids, adoption never even crossed our minds at that point. But knowing Eden and Shiloh are ours has never once made us doubt or question whether we did the right thing. These are our beautiful girls. We are a family.