April 11, 2013

Shepherd's Adoption Story, Part I

So, what's the story? 
Many people have asked me this question. It seems easy enough to answer, afterall, I lived it. But every single time I end up drawing blanks as I try to encompass all that has happened in the last month and a half into a simple sentence. In many ways, I have been incapable of even understanding it all myself. In an attempt to gather my thoughts and make sense of everything we've been through, here it is. The story. 

After 2 years full of heartbreak and sacrifice in adoption my patience had worn thin. Many days I would cry and wonder why building a family has to be so hard for us. Ben and I decided to become a licensed Foster family and open up every avenue possible for our children to come home. After months of preparation we were finally approved and ready to start taking children into our home. The first phone call we got from our social worker was perfect. Two small children that needed us. I was so excited to finally be getting more children in our home, but I wanted to make sure we were the right place for them. I prayed. The answer was no. What?! NO?! They were not meant to come to us. A week later we got another call for a newborn baby girl that needed a home. Again, we prayed. The answer was, again, no. I was so sad and questioned my faith and the clear answers we were receiving. I just couldn't understand why the Lord would say "no" after all this time. Only a few days later, on February 8th, we received an email from Kathleen, an expectant birthmom. Ben and I were out on a date when I saw the email on my phone. We pulled into a dark, empty parking lot and read it together. She was having a boy and he would have some special needs. His spine did not develop properly and we would not know the extent of how he would be affected until after birth. We needed to decide if that was something we could handle, and we had to decide quickly since he was scheduled to be born via C-section on March 18th. 
We cried and cried when we read her words. We were happy and sad and confused all at the same time. Before saying anything we decided to pray. In my minds eye I saw a boy in a wheelchair with lots of black hair. He was on a stage accepting his high school diploma and we were so proud of him. A well known primary song entered my mind and I heard the words to Nephi's Courage echoing,"I will go; I will do the thing the Lord commands.
I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey." 
When I opened my eyes and looked at Ben, he was crying and said, "I think we're going to Texas". We knew. This was our son and nothing else mattered. The Lord knows us, he knows everything about us, and he knows what we are capable of so we have to trust him. We anxiously responded to Kathleen's email and hoped she would also know we were his family. She didn't have much time to decide, because a few short weeks later he surprised us all and was born February 28th, 5 weeks early.
I was beside myself when we found out he had been born. It was hard not to feel a little resentful towards the Lord's timing, I wanted so badly to be present for his birth. It wasn't until later that we realized, due to his birthmothers medical condition, that he most likely would not have made it another week in utero. His early delivery was,indeed, a blessing in disguise. He was immediately transported to the NICU in Odessa, Texas and we were told he may be there for at least 3 weeks. I could barely breath knowing our new baby was so far away in the hospital. Our past adoption experiences had also made me paranoid, worrying about all the things that could go wrong with a delayed placement. We waited a whole week and I couldn't take it anymore, I wanted, needed, to be there. 

Midland, Texas. Famously known as the childhood home of George W. Bush. It's extremely dry, flat, and hot. When Isla and I flew in we were amazed to see thousands of miles of dirt dotted with little, white, square patches as far as the eye could see. Oil riggs. The good news is that for what Midland lacks in scenery, it makes up for in plenty of Texas charm. Lots of oil money and a housing shortage meant that even the shady hotels were $150.00 a night and usually occupied by oil rigging crews. The LDS Mission Leader's wife, Stephanie, had been helping Kathleen with her birth plan and is a true example of what it means to serve others. She had asked if anyone in the ward knew of an apartment we could rent. Our prayers were answered when we received the most generous offer in the form of an email from a woman named Jamie. Her husband had tragically passed away in a car accident, 8 months earlier. They had raised his 5 children from a previous marriage and had another darling little girl together. When he passed away, the five older children had to go and live across the country with their biological family and she and her five year old daughter were left with each other, picking up the pieces after losing their entire world. As a result they had quite a few empty bedrooms and an extra car they would be happy to share with us. She said it would help them heal to serve  others. Even as a write this it brings tears to my eyes, and I cannot express the level of gratitude I feel for this sweet mother and daughter. We had a place to stay, a home with a sweet spirit, a car, but most of all we had friends. People who made us feel welcome and at home when we were most vulnerable. Jamie listened and reassured me in dark moments, she watched my daughter so I could go to the hospital, and Isla had a sweet playmate to keep her busy. I will never forget her loving Christ-like example and generosity to us during this time and at a time when they, themselves, are grieving.

The first time I walked into Odessa Regional Medical Center I was buzzing with nervous anticipation. I was thrilled to finally be meeting my new son, but we had limited information about his medical condition and I didn't know what to expect. I had prepared for the worst case scenario, which, with a diagnosis of Caudal Regression Syndrome, could be substantial. I had been reassured so many times in my prayers that he was going to be okay, but in that moment the fear crept its way into my subconscious. When I saw his tiny body with so many tubes and wires and beeping machines, it was heartbreaking, but I couldn't believe how amazing he looked. He does have some birth defects, due to unmanaged type II diabetes in his birthmom, but to me he looked so perfect in comparison to what I had prepared myself for that I was completely overjoyed. Oh, my, goodness, his cheeks and his HAIR! This kid had my heart at hello and I knew in that moment I would move mountains for him. Little did I know how much I would need to.  


  1. Kindle, that was beautifully written. Thank you for sharing. I love you and am praying for you.
    You are amazing!

  2. Even though I know this story I still read it and choked on my sobs when I read the last sentence and gazed at the picture of this beautiful mom and her baby boy.... I love you ya know...

  3. This is full of blessings and I love it! He's such a blessing for your family, and you guys are such a blessing for him :-) and even though I haven't met Jamie, I love her, and I know that I can help her in her time of loss with my prayers.

  4. YOu are amazing - but that comes as no surprise to anyone - - - God bless you - He has many more blessingsin store for you I'm sure. WE love you - pray for you - and any of us will be willing to help at any notice. What a lucky little guy Shep is - - and a strong one TOO !

  5. I need more! I've already read this a few times. LOVE. You are amazing.

  6. WOW! I cried through the entire story. Sheesh that is so amazing. I am so happy for your
    new little guy to be apart of such a loving family. You both are wonderful people. I can't wait for more pictures.

  7. What an amazing story, I can't wait to hear the rest! You probably don't remember, but we met at FSA a couple of years ago and I have enjoyed following your blog occasionally since. I have been so excited to hear more about your sweet little boy.

    Also, my husband is from Midland, Texas. You are absolutely right, it is very flat and brown :).