Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When Adoption is Messy and Beautiful All at Once

I met Steve and Maria in a tornado. They had come to my office to hear about consulting when tornadoes hit the KC metro area and we headed to the basement for cover; to wait it out and pray for the storm to pass and the blue skies to return. The chaos passed and we even glimpsed a rainbow when we returned back to up my office to talk more about their adoption. This couldn't have been more prophetic for their journey.

Just a few months later they were matched with a birth mama. We journeyed closely together as I was her birth parent counselor: meeting their birth mom for coffee and attending prenatal appointments. I watched their faces as they fell in love watching their son enter the world with Frank Sinatra playing in the background.

That was February 9, 2012. Just a few days later, what had been calm and peaceful and perfect turned upside down in moments in a way no one could have predicted. The tornado had hit.

The best way to share their story is through Maria's words. She shared this just a few weeks later on her blog:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 Broken-Hearted

I've started to write this post about 20 times. And erased it. And started again.  There is no pretty way to say that we lost our son...

Emerson was born on February 9th, 2012.

Photography by  Erica Short
Because his incredible birth mom allowed us to be present for the birth; I watched him enter the world and take his first breath and cry his first beautiful cry.  When they finally laid him on my bare chest, I wept with joy I had not known. Steve and I spent the next few days in the hospital falling in love with our beautiful son.  

After a few days, we found out that Emerson's birth father was interested in raising him. After 2.5 weeks of life with him, we found out that Emerson would not be coming home with us after all.

It's good right, a biological dad wanting to raise his child? Of course it is. I don't want to speak poorly of Emerson's birth dad. He was fighting for his son, just like we were fighting for ours. What's hard is falling in love with your son, believing with everything within you that he is your son, and then having to say goodbye to him...

It's INCREDIBLE how much Steve and I loved that boy (still love him) after only 2 weeks with him.  In fact, after only 2 hours with him, we would have both jumped in front of a bus to save him.

And so, our first adoption...failed. that's what they call it. Steve and I have come to hate the words "failed adoption." They sound like we did something wrong. I hope we didn't.

The loss of a child is just...nearly unbearable. All the things I thought I had made and prepared for Emerson...that he will never see.  It's hard to know what to even do with myself. Because so much of my life was preparing for this little bean. The days are long without Emerson on my chest, every moment I wish he was near.

Steve and I are still as close, no closer than ever. We LOVED being parents together. Steve realized how much he loved being dad to a newborn. We will start again, soon. Well, maybe not soon, but someday...

The Bible says that God is near to the broken-hearted. That he works for the good in our lives. And loves us more than we know or could even imagine.  As I cry, and life seems unbearable, I hold on to those things, because I have known them to be true...even when they don't feel true.

Well, that's my heart out there for all to see; broken and confused as it is, but trying to hope.  

Thanks for reading,


I walked through this with Steve and Maria and their courage and faith through all of it was mind-blowing. I watched them love Emerson and his birth family even when they were risking everything. We cried together and prayed together and held each other's hands waiting in a small court room, awaiting the eventual news that Emerson would not be their son.  To say it was heart-wrenching would be an understatement. 

But then, the blue skies began to appear after the storm. In a story only God could have written and orchestrated  we heard of a little boy in Florida...

Just weeks later, Maria then blogged this:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012  The story of Asher 

Oh my, its been a whirlwind since I last wrote. I can hardly believe what I am about to tell you. I am still processing it. 

Saying goodbye to Emerson left us unimaginably broken-hearted, but day by day small healing began with God's help. Steve and I reacted so differently to losing Emerson. Steve was immediately ready to be a parent again, because he realized how much he loved being a dad. At first, I felt as though I would never love again. But slowly I began to realize that I did really want to be a mom again, and soon. 

On Thursday March 8th, after many good but difficult talks, Steve and I felt peace about the decision to put our names back in the pool at the adoption agency that we are working with. Though we were still in pain, we felt we were also the same people who wanted to adopt, and are so ready to love a child. 

Exactly two weeks after we joined the pool, on Thursday March 22nd, I received a phone call. "Maria, there is a little baby boy in Florida who is 2 weeks old, BOTH his parents have signed consent and we wanted to know if you are interested." My mind blew up a little bit. 

It is extremely rare that both parents consent prior to an adoptive placement, and this is exactly what we had been praying for. I called Steve, who immediately said, "I'm in!" I couldn't believe how soon after Emerson this opportunity came and I wasn't quite sure I was ready, but I felt we could at least be ONE of the many profiles that the birth mom looked at and if God felt we weren't ready for the little guy then he would help the birth mom decide "no."

The next Monday we learned that the birthmom wanted to speak with us on the phone. We had an incredible talk with her that night and she told us she wanted us to adopt her boy. 

The next day, Tuesday, we hurriedly packed, did a bunch of paperwork, and drove the 19 hours to Florida (straight through, with the special adrenaline only felt by parents trying to get to meet their child for the first time :)

On Wednesday at about 3pm, we signed some paperwork with a lawyer and were granted custody. Then, we got to meet our son. He is beautiful (as you can see).  His birthmom wanted to be there to give him to us, so we got to meet her and get to know her a little bit.  

His birth mom had named him Michael which we changed to the middle name. His full name is Asher Michael Huxley Casteel. Asher means "happiness, blessed and fortunate" which could not more perfectly describe  how we feel to get to be parents to this little boy. 

We will never forget little Emerson and his place in our heart cannot be taken, but he was not able to be ours. And thankfully God made our hearts to hold love for so many people at a time :) We are so happy to be bonding with Asher and knowing that he will be in our family forever. he is beyond precious.

Life with Asher is wonderful. We are thankful every single second for this little miracle. He is SUCH a happy boy. Full of smiles at such a young age. 

 Images by Jeremy Parsons of we are the parsons.

*Don't judge my ugly outfit and hair, these were taken right when we brought Asher home and I had been riding in the car for a VERY long time :)
A few incredible facts: 
  • At first we toyed with the idea of waiting one month before getting back on the list at the agency, it seemed like a logical amount of time. But had we done that, we would not have gotten Asher. 
  • We had Emerson with us at the Ash Wednesday service at our church. I sat there feeling as if I was giving up my SON for lent. Asher was there with us on Easter. What redemption! (I don't mean that to sound as if Asher is a replacement [for you cannot replace one human with another,] but rather a great gift, after great loss.)
  • We had to stay in Florida for awhile for interstate paperwork to clear. This caused us to arrive home on my birthday. I finally brought my son home, for good. The best birthday present ever.
  • Asher's birth mom chose a family in Kansas City because she had already placed a son into an adoptive family in Kansas City. We already know the mom of Asher's biological half brother. They will grow up being friends and knowing they are brothers. 

Admittedly, this is one of my favorite parts of their story. Asher's biological brother, Christian, was adopted by an amazing family here in Kansas City. Christian's adoptive mother, Angela, walked closely with Steve and Maria as she worked at the agency for their first adoption with Emerson.  I can't tell you the celebration that happened at Christian's finalization party later that spring when the brothers met for the first time. Two families were brought together in the same city by the same birth mother and will grow to know and love each other. Two families originally brought together by a "failed adoption." 

I hesitated sharing Steve and Maria's story. Although their story is incredibly rare, failed adoptions do happen. Some people might walk away from reading their incredible journey only hearing the heartache and loss. Some people might say, "See, there's no way I could adopt. I could never walk through something like that..."  

And they might be right. But had Steve and Maria not said "yes" to loving with risk, they would not have their beautiful son Asher. They would not have had the opportunity to offer such selfless love to Emerson and his birth family. They would not have met Asher's biological brother. I can honestly say that I have never heard a story of a failed adoption without an incredible "after story" of how God used it in some kind of amazing way similar to this one.

Adoption is fraught with loss. The fact that birth parents are not in a season to parent their child. The fact that an adoptive couple has fought with infertility. The fact that our world is full of brokenness. The list goes on. But adoption is also filled with redemption. Restoration. Beauty. Selflessness.  

I'm glad I met Steve and Maria in the tornado that day. They have since become dear friends and I love watching Asher grow, knowing the amazing story of God's goodness. It turns out we really did get to see the skies part and see the rainbow at the end of it all.

To read more of Steve and Maria's life and visit Maria's amazing vintage etsy shop, visit her blog, Adelaide's Homesewn.  

1 comment:

  1. I'm just now reading this...such a wonderful coincidence that you posted about Maria and Steve the same day that I emailed you! Maria has been a big part of my husband's and my decision to move forward with adoption. I see her beautiful family and my heart fills with joy for her and Steve and makes me so excited to start down this path!


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