‘Dear God, please bring me a 4-year-old sister.’ Then came an email. ‘Let’s not get our hopes up.’ I wanted to protect her.’: Couple adopts 3 ‘unlikely siblings,’ ‘We are a family’

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“‘I want you to pick some hills you would die on,’ the pastor said as we sat through one of our premarital counseling sessions. The answer was easy for me — mine was adoption. As a little girl, I watched a family we knew adopt from China and a seed was planted. The desire to adopt only grew as the years went by. Adoption was the hill I would die on.

‘I hadn’t really thought about it but I’m open to it,’ my now-husband replied.

‘I’m glad you’re open to it, but I need you to dig a little further. This isn’t just something I think I might do someday. It’s something I feel really strongly about,’ I went on to explain.

We discussed, prayed, sought advice from family and friends, and agreed if God had laid adoption so strongly on my heart, then we would follow His lead. After a year of marriage, we began discussing growing our family, and both felt lead to start our family through adoption. We announced the news to our family and friends, and they were excited and supportive. We were sometimes met with resistance and comments and questions like, ‘Don’t you want to have your own kids first?’ or ‘We didn’t know you were having fertility issues.’ These questions sting a little at first, but we extend grace and realize the concept of adoption, especially adopting first, is foreign to many.

A year later, we received the best Christmas present ever when our adoption agency called and said we had been chosen by an expectant mom who was due in less than a month. Before we knew it, we were on a plane flying across the country to meet this incredible mama. I’ll never forget sitting in that Applebee’s parking lot waiting to meet her for the first time, watching in our rearview mirror as a very pregnant woman hobbled inside. ‘Is that her? Is that her?’ we squealed with excitement! The next 72 hours were some of the most sacred days of our lives as we loved on this mama and together welcomed our daughter, Haven, into the world. Watching her selfless birth mom grieve her loss, all the while certain she was making the right decision, was heart-wrenching. Just a few days earlier we were strangers, and now we were forever tied together through this beautiful little girl.

Courtesy of Leah Braly

I’ll never forget the day we were all discharged from the hospital and said our goodbyes. The walk back to our room was the worst walk of my life. As we pushed our perfect baby girl in her bassinet back to our room, my heart broke for her selfless mama. In those moments, the brokenness of this world was never more apparent to me. The grief that overtook me was so unbearable Ben literally had to hold me up and help me walk back to our hospital room. I wasn’t prepared for it. I don’t think anyone can be. Adoption is beautiful, but it is truly born from loss.

Courtesy of Leah Braly
Courtesy of Leah Braly

A year and a half later, we were ready to jump back into the adoption process. A few months later, we got a call about a mama who expecting a precious baby boy. A sonogram revealed a possible heart condition, but she was already showing early signs of labor, and we likely wouldn’t have more information until after he was born. ‘What do you think, babe?’ I nervously asked my husband, expecting it would be a hard no for him. ‘He needs a family. I think we trust God,’ replied my husband.

Courtesy of Leah Braly

Although there were a lot of uncertainties, we both had peace and with voices shaking, we put our yes on the table. We prayed God would heal him, and just a few days later our son, Deacon, entered into the world. A team of medical professionals were waiting to assess him after birth, and much to everyone’s surprise, he had a completely healthy heart! Hours after birth, he began exhibiting signs of an infection, and the attending uttered: ‘We believe he might have an infection, and if it travels to his brain it will be devastating.’ Our hearts sank. In true Deacon fashion, he fought hard, and a week later, we busted out of the NICU. He is the roughest, toughest kid I know. I wouldn’t be surprised if he grows up to be a UFC fighter.

Courtesy of Leah Braly
Courtesy of Leah Braly

We knew we weren’t done growing our family and as the next few years passed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that we had a child who was already born. ‘Would it be weird if I told you I have this strong sense we have a child who is already alive?’ I whispered to my husband one night as we were drifting off to sleep. ‘Nothing would surprise me at this point,’ he responded. We decided we would update our home study and also get certified through foster care. We weren’t sure which route our next child would come through, but we knew they were out there and God would open the right doors.

Without fail, Haven would pray, ‘Dear God, please bring me a 4-year-old sister.’

‘Oh sweetie, let’s not get our hopes up. Who knows what God has planned? It could be a brother, a baby, a 2-year-old, we just don’t know,’ I’d reply, hoping to protect her from future disappointment.

Courtesy of Leah Braly

She was persistent and would often say, ‘I just know God is going to give me a sister!’ One morning, as we were waiting in the drop off line at school, an email popped up… ‘Urgent: 4-year-old Haitian girl.’ I work as an Adoption Consultant and see adoption cases weekly. But as soon as I read the subject line, I just knew. I kissed the kids goodbye and pulled over into the nearest parking lot so I could read through the details. There wasn’t much information, but like all of our adoptions, I had peace about it. Was this the little girl Haven had been praying for? The little girl who I had sensed for years was already out there somewhere?

I raced home to tell my husband, who was still asleep from a late night at work the evening before. I touched his shoulders to wake him and as his eyes barely opened I blurted, ‘There’s a 4-year-old girl,’ and I went on to share all the details. We prayed together, and it didn’t take long before both of us knew we wanted to be considered by her mama. A few days later, we got the call her mom chose us, and we were packing up the van to meet her. Hearing Haven exclaim, ‘God answered my prayers! I just knew He would,’ will forever be seared in my memory.

Courtesy of Leah Braly

The four of us nervously waited outside of a Chuck E. Cheese with Haven and Deacon arguing over who got to hold the gift bag with what is now Jordan’s beloved fluffy bunny inside. Those 10 minutes we waited to see her little face for the first time felt like an eternity. And then just like that, a joy-filled, little ball of energy came bouncing around the corner and into our hearts. Her mama walked toward us, holding her hand as the six of us awkwardly introduced ourselves to one another. The kids were instant buddies, and my heart nearly burst every time she’d call Haven ‘sister’ or Deacon ‘brother’ as they dodged from game to game. After hours of playing, we said goodnight. In the morning, we would have a meeting at the adoption agency and would officially take placement of her.

Courtesy of Leah Braly

When you add a non-newborn into your family, you welcome in this little person who has lived a life for years apart from you. We wondered so many things about her… What does she like to eat? What’s her favorite toy? What’s her favorite color? Strangers one day and the next, you’re mom and dad. It’s a surreal experience. Any time a child leaves all they’ve ever known, they experience a deep loss, and we’ve watched the effects of that trauma unfold in the lives of other adoptees. We prepared ourselves and our kids the transition would be difficult.

Courtesy of Leah Braly

I remember looking back at her in the rearview mirror with tear-filled eyes as we drove away from the agency with Ben saying, ‘And to think a week ago, we didn’t even know she existed.’ Jordan transitioned into our family so well. She and the kids meshed instantly, and most days, it feels like she’s always been here. She is kind, loving, joy-filled, and easy-going — all a testament to her birth mom who loved her so well for her first 4 years of life before making the hardest decision to place her for adoption. Our hearts will forever be indebted to each of our kid’s birth moms who entrusted their precious children to us.

Infinite Focus Photography

Our road to each of our children was filled with twists, turns, a failed adoption, and lots of waiting. But God was faithful, and He carried us each step of the way. While our family didn’t grow the traditional way, there is no denying we are family. I often find myself, in the simplest of moments, thanking God he brought these unlikely siblings together and He’s trusted my husband and me to raise them. The magnitude of this privilege is something we will never take for granted.”

Infinite Focus Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Leah Braly from Jacksonville, FL. You can follow their journey on Instagram and their blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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