“If you would have told me I would officially become a new mama at 54, I would have told you that you were crazy. Little did I know, the Lord had someone we had known for 20 years who needed us as much as we needed her to fulfill our family. She is more like me in some ways than my bio kids are! We have similar backgrounds of neglect and abuse. I knew when I held our last granddaughter in the hospital almost two years ago, I would be the grandma to our new daughter Rachel’s babies. It was just two months after that, at our Christmas dinner, that the subject came up regarding adopting Rachel. Sometimes when you ask the simplest questions, the floodgates open and out of that, blessings pour.
We all noticed Rachel was struggling with how our holiday was progressing, and it took our oldest daughter Alicia asking why she was so quiet for the truth to come out. We all felt she was keeping something back, and when asked, she told us she wanted to be a permanent part of our family. We all sat there for only about five seconds, then our son Will said, ‘Do you want Mom and Dad to adopt you?’ With tears in her eyes, she said, ‘Yes.’ My husband and I looked at each other, and with a smile, it was a done deal. From that moment, every one of us felt our hearts were now ready to fully love and embrace her as ours. Now the nieces had an ‘Aunt’ Rachel, we had a fourth kid, and my husband asked me if we would have to build the dance floor again when she got married.
When I dreamed of having a family, it always included having a bunch of kids. I just knew if I couldn’t have them biologically, I would adopt. When my husband and I talked about how many children we wanted to have, we decided five would be the right amount. We married young and started to have a family. But with each pregnancy and C-section delivery, I knew my hopes of having a large family was not going to happen. My husband and talked about having more than our original three, but since he had lost his mom to cancer when he was four, we decided trying to have another baby wasn’t worth the cost of my possibly losing my life in childbirth.
Life has a way of speeding by, and before we could blink, we had teenagers and a daughter in college. I had heard many stories of adoption and even embryo adoption, and always felt these ideas tugging at my heart. I know people in their forties adopt, but my husband was not on board. One of my good friends had adopted internationally and twice through the foster care system.
She once told me that even though I had not adopted, I still took care of kids who needed a mother figure. We had fostered my great-nephew for a school year, and I learned to love unconditionally. All the challenges he had made me realize adoption is not for the weak at heart.
We met Rachel when she was five at our church. She is two weeks to the day younger than our youngest bio daughter Charity. They grew up together, and she would spend time with us off and on during the next 13 years. In the summers, she and Charity would each practice their 4H baking projects at our house, staying up late and making memories that would, unbeknown to them, bind them together in a unique way. As soon as she could drive, Rachel would spend all the major holidays celebrating with our family.
When Rachel graduated high school, she enrolled with Charity in a small Christian college and continued to live with her bio family. She was planning on getting an apartment of her own the following year but instead, she accepted our offer to come and live with us while she entered her first year of nursing. During this time, my husband and I felt living in a stable, loving home would help her ease into nursing school without all the expense and stress that would come with living on her own. She and Charity called each other ‘roomies’ and made more memories. We saw her grow more confident and secure in being with us and doing ‘normal’ family things.
During her second year of nursing school, she decided to move out and room with her bio sister Sara. After just a year, we again asked her to come home because of a situation involving abuse in the family. Rachel went on to live with us one more time before getting her RN degree and becoming an independent, beautiful young woman who has shown us time and time again what it takes to overcome obstacles.
We held a Gotcha Party during quarantine to celebrate Rachel’s official name change. To my surprise and delight, when they announced her name, she had added my middle name, Renee, to hers! I burst into tears and was reminded again: God is good!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Dawn Stauffer. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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