“I was loving life and living my dream… yet I knew I wanted more. I wanted a family. I wanted to adopt a child. In the fall of 2003, I began researching adoption options. I looked at the number of children who were waiting to be adopted and knew I had something to offer a child. I initially looked overseas, only to realize a domestic opportunity might arise sooner.
I received the phone call of my life on February 21. This was sooner than I ever could have imagined. I was ready, but I wasn’t prepared. But none of that mattered at all! My heart was ready and my support staff was determined to handle everything else. Only two people knew I was interested in adopting. I am usually an open book, but for some reason, I kept this secret to myself and two close friends.
I arrived at the hospital before Maia was an hour old. I met her beautiful birth mother who said, ‘It felt like an angel lifted a huge boulder off of her shoulders.’ She said this as soon as she knew someone had open arms to welcome this innocent baby.
I took Maia home from the hospital to arrive at my house fully equipped for an infant, all thanks to my friends and family. Reality set in at the moment everyone left… Maia and I were alone for the first time. I was a few weeks into our 2004 Division I softball season as a coach at this point. Maia attended her first game at 3 days old and was headed on a 10-hour bus ride to Oklahoma at just 5 days old. We boarded a plane together when she was 3 weeks old and she had already been in nine states by the time she was 3 months old. For some reason, softball losses did not consume me as they used to before February 21. Actually, neither did getting tossed from a game, since it meant I got to spend more time on the team bus with Maia.
Maia traveled across the USA and enjoyed amazing trips to Hawaii with UAB Softball. She always had outstanding role models around her and enjoyed meeting coaches and players from teams all around the country. She was an ‘only child’ for many years but she loved spending time with her cousins and our extended family.
One life-changing experience was when I received another call about a young baby that needed a home. I can remember it like it was yesterday, I was at the university recreation center in a fitness class. My friend and co-worker came and pulled me out of the class to tell me my attorney called and he needed me to respond quickly. There was a precious boy that needed me. I immediately borrowed dress clothes from co-workers and headed south. I didn’t think the court would appreciate me showing up in my coaching clothes.
It happened! A young birth mother asked me to care for her son in front of the court. I headed home that Wednesday with a beautiful 5-day-old baby. Maia fell in love and everyone welcomed him with love too. Maia had a baby brother! But Sunday night, just a few days later, forever changed my life again.
I received a call the birth mother changed her mind. Even though I knew this was a possibility and I had held off on naming this young man… it hurt. Telling Maia he was leaving our family was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I can remember calling Maia’s second-grade teacher and sobbing, telling her to keep an eye on Maia and to please help comfort her. My heart ached… I changed.
My outgoing, optimistic personality had turned into a withdrawn, hollow, and empty character. I turned into someone I didn’t know.
2 weeks later, I got another call from my attorney. He knew it was soon but wanted to let me know of another young baby boy that needed me. Only this time, there was so much more to the story. God used me and my pain to help expose a ruthless individual who was running an adoption scam. All of the sudden, I was back!
I knew I was called to help the already scammed families and prevent others from falling victim! We united with federal and local agents. The courts convicted the woman operating the scam. She spent years in prison. I jokingly told God, if He only would have told me why I was going through the previous heartbreak, I would have understood at the time.
You see, I do not believe the old saying, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ But I do believe there are ‘reasons everything happens.’ Similar words but yet a drastic difference! I am so happy I now have the pleasure of watching this young man grow through pictures and stories shared by his mom. He is where he needed to be and was a blessing to my family as well.
Maia and I were so happy and cherished every memory we were making. She was playing competitive travel softball and I was enjoying taking my team to five straight NCAA Regionals, with a Super Regional appearance in 2013. Summer camps, Colorado, California, Florida… we were always on the road making memories!
One June day in 2015, I received another call from my attorney. There was a young woman who had recently found out she was expecting. She wanted to meet me. My first response to my attorney was, ‘Do you know how old I am?’ I am 50 years old! God has a real sense of humor!
I met this young lady who I would immediately grow to love and oh how she inspired me! We went to doctor’s appointments together and had countless amazing conversations. Yes, I knew she could change her mind and I guarded my heart. Of course, I did not tell Maia or my parents out of protection for them, and because they may try to change my mind. What started out as a scheduled doctor’s appointment on September 30 quickly turned into the day ‘our’ son would be born. Holding the birth mother’s hand was one of the most rewarding moments of my life. It represented the trust and love she had for Luke and for me.
I will never forget Maia finding out about ‘Baby Luke.’ There was not a hospital room available for Luke and me so we stayed in the nursery. The day following his birth was my team’s final fall softball game. I told the nurses I was going six blocks away to our stadium and would return immediately following the game… with Luke’s sister. They were so excited to see her face when she first saw him!
Maia and I were walking to the car after the game, which I can’t even remember because of a lack of sleep. Of course, she had my phone and was playing a game when she saw a text saying, ‘Has Maia met Luke?’ Maia asked, ‘Who is Luke?’ With eyes wide open and my breath taken, I said, ‘Possibly your brother…’ She smiled so big! I told her I was taking her to meet him right then.
She was so excited… until we made it one more block down the road and I looked over at her. She was bawling her eyes out and said, ‘It has always been just you and me.’ Truthfully, at that moment, I thought, ‘I will find Luke the best home ever. I just can’t hurt Maia.’
Maia instantly fell in love with her brother the second she saw him. She held him and my heart as well. Cautiously, I reminded her there was a time period that needed to pass before it would become official, but she didn’t hold back. Our friends and family celebrated this incredible moment with us. We were now a family of three.
One of the greatest gifts of adoption is education. Often I have friends, acquaintances and complete strangers reach out to me and talk about their desire to adopt. Some of the greatest, and most emotional, moments are when I get to see someone I love finalize adoption with their children. It surfaces some of the strongest emotions for me. I realized people most likely felt like that for me when my children and I finalized their adoptions.
To those seeking to adopt, listen to your heart. Control what you can, be prepared at all times. Know that any risk is nothing compared to the joy adoption brings.
To all birth mothers, you are celebrated and cherished! I thank God often for their willingness to trust me with their biological child. Mother’s Day and my children’s birthdays are very special and I make it a point to reach out to their birth mothers with a thankful heart. They will always be in my prayers and hold a special place in my heart.
My ‘WHY’ will always be my two children. I loved every moment of my teaching and coaching career, but there came a moment when I knew it was time to retire to spend more time with my children and my family. I spent over 34 years in the Alabama system and made relationships that I will cherish forever. Now, I will spend every opportunity with my kids and be their biggest fan!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Marla Townsend of Birmingham, Alabama. You can follow her journey on her website and through her nonprofit, Empower U. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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‘The nurse came in and said, ‘Her new parents are ready for her.’ Only 15, I kissed her soft baby cheek, and placed her into the arms of her mama.’: Teen mom embarks on ‘beautiful’ open adoption journey, ‘I couldn’t have picked better parents’
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