There's a little girl named Willow Elaine. She's almost 7 months old. And her story has never been told.
And that's a shame. Because it is such an amazing story.
So here we go...
Drew and I started the adoption process for baby number two in February of 2022. We decided to take a different route (more on that in another post to come) than we did with Jaylen and we signed on with a nationwide agency, Lifetime Adoptions. After the welcome call and initial application we began to work on our website for birthmothers to view. We were still in the editing phase so we were not a "live" family to be viewed just yet.
But it didn't matter. God had a plan.
May 4, 2022 I received a phone call from Lifetime that we had been chosen as adoptive parents. Confused, shocked, and very much caught off guard I tried to process this as they explained the birthmother situation to me and I scribbled notes on the back of a TJ Maxx receipt I grabbed out of a drawer.
Let me back up.
In the adoption world...typically...you become a viewable family, are sent birthmother situations, decide if you want to submit your profile for birthmom to view, and then wait to hear if you were chosen by birthmother. NONE of this happened before the May 4th phone call. None of it. As I stated before, we were still editing our profile, there was nothing to view for our family.
But, God had a plan.
A birthmother who was well into her pregnancy walked in to the Lifetime agency office (also never happens anymore since everything is very virtually based), said she wanted a white, Christian family with one other child to raise her baby and wanted to choose that family today. The agency happened to have a picture of us lying around from our application, birthmom liked it and said she wanted us to raise her baby. She stated that she believed that her baby and Jaylen would resemble each other and that made her decision. End of story.
We were matched.
We knew very little about birthmother, and that was ok, but the most frustrating part was we didn't know a due date and this little baby was not giving any signs as to when it was planning to come (we didn't know gender). We immediately packed go bags so we would be ready whenever we got the call.
God had a plan and had it timed out just perfectly.
June 24th, around 9am we learn that Roe vs. Wade had been overturned. Babies lives are going to be saved. Praise. Jesus. And then at 12pm I receive a phone call that one special little baby girl who was given the chance at life has been born. This special baby girl is our little Willow. See, God's timing was perfectly crafted. We were told to get to the hospital by the following day at 2pm to sign all paperwork and meet our daughter face to face.
What I haven't mentioned, but most of you probably know, is I am an extremely impatient person. We had many false alarms as to when this little baby was going to be born and I got frustrated by the many changes and decided to unpack my hospital bag because I couldn't handle just letting it sit there and stare at me while we waited for this baby to enter the world.
I also haven't mentioned that I am not at all someone who thinks clearly in an emergency/panic/emotional situation. So, after receiving the phone call that Willow was born I attempted to pack my hospital bag again...completely flustered...completely emotional...completely panicked. You can only imagine how that went. Many things were forgotten and many random things were thrown into the bag in the fluster.
June 25th around 2pm we arrive at the hospital about two hours away from home and are feeling all of the emotions. The plan was to sign paperwork, meet our daughter, and head home to Orlando.
God had a different plan.
When we arrived to the hospital, birthmom had already been discharged and had gone home. No big deal right? Wrong! No paperwork had been signed, we had zero rights or ability to see our daughter who was now in the NICU being cared for and we had no idea why. I wish I could put into words what we felt that hour to two hours of waiting to hear from birthmom and ask her to come back to the hospital to sign paperwork. Doubt, fear, anger, sadness, and 7 million unrealistic scenarios filled our brain as we waited to hear back from birthmom. Finally, two hours later paperwork was signed and we met our daughter face to face. Because she was in NICU only two people are allowed bedside so I had to meet our daughter with birthmother by my side, while Drew had to wait another 20 grueling minutes in the waiting room.
But, God was there, with His plan in place.
The charge nurse that day was an adoptive mama. She understood all of the emotion that had already been experienced thus far and she overruled the two person bedside rule and brought Drew in. And there we stood, with Willow, side by side just in awe of her beauty and tiny little self (a whole 5 lbs 3 oz).
Our little girl. Willow Elaine.
After some time birthmother said her goodbyes and went on her way. Talk about something tough to watch... phew.
From that moment on we went into parent protection mode, meeting with doctors and nurses to see exactly what the medical needs were for our little one and what her NICU stay was going to look like. Eating was not Willow's favorite thing to do so we knew we had a long road ahead of us to get her strong enough and eating on her own.
The next 14 days are somewhat a blur because there were SO many moving parts. Willow was in a hospital two hours away from home. We were attempting to juggle Jaylen's schedule, Willow's feeding schedule, and having a place to stay. Jaylen handled it like a champ, going back and forth between grandparents and eventually being with us for most of the stay. Drew was the brains and logic behind our schedules. I was, shockingly, the emotional wreck trying to just find places for us to sleep and make this as "normal" as possible since we didn't know how long this would be our life. Many hotel nights and two Air BNB's later we knew our little fighter was getting stronger and making gains, but we still didn't know when we would be home and be able to begin our life as a family of four.
It was nuts, and not at all what we had planned, but God knew what we needed in those 14 days.
There were so many sweet, sweet moments during these 14 hectic days. First, we met some of the best NICU nurses on the face of the earth. They constantly reminded us to rely on God, allowed us to eat our feelings when we needed too (as long as we shared with them), and promised us they would care for our Willow the best they possibly could when we were gone. They answered our millions of questions, cried with us on the hard days, and celebrated victories with us on the good days. God knew my mama heart needed these women in my life. While Jaylen was with us, he was not able to be in the NICU, so Drew and I would take shifts at the hospital and whoever wasn't at the hospital would explore with Jaylen. We had so much fun exploring Tampa and the surrounding area with him every day.
One of the most amazing things about our NICU stay was that we were able to witness with our own eyes the healing power of Jesus unfold right in front of us. Watching Willow gain strength literally by the hour, watching the medical plan formulate and work as planned, watching the gifted medical team work and care of her, all of it was so perfectly crafted by God. That song "Waymaker" really hit home during the stay at NICU. "Waymaker, Miracle worker, Promise Keeper, Light in the Darkness. My God. That is who you are!" We were able to witness every single one of those attributes of God during our stay.
God has a plan. Have I mentioned that?
July 11th. My birthday. The nurses tell us, "You're going home." The. Best. Birthday. Present. Ever. Willow Elaine had fought long and hard to make sure she was gaining weight, eating enough, and getting stronger. Jaylen got to meet his little sister, which still melts my heart looking at the pictures, and our time together as a family of four began. It was weird, being sad to leave the NICU because they had become our support system and family, while also being so ecstatic that we could go home to our "normal" life.
So there it is. The beginning of Willow's story.