God Knew Better (Our Adoption Story)

“There’s no heartbeat. I’m so sorry.” Those were the words we heard after round 7 of IVF.  Round 2 gave us our miracle son, Cooper, after 4 1/2 years of infertility treatments. And round 7 was the only other round of IVF that gave us another successful pregnancy after an additional 4 years of treatments. This baby, due on Valentine’s Day and forever known as our sweet Valentine, was our answer to the prayer to give Cooper a sibling and playmate.

After our miscarriage, we spent time grieving and praying about our next step. We still had one more embryo saved for a final transfer, but God knew better.  He began dealing with us about adoption.  We worked on researching and starting the adoption process while taking our final shot at carrying our own child again.  When our final embryo went on to Heaven with the other 10, we knew God was telling us it was time to adopt.

Fast forward a year and a half and we were approved for adoption! Not two weeks later after we were approved, our then six year old, Cooper, began telling us that God told him He was sending us TWO babies to adopt. We gently explained that wasn’t usually what happens. “God normally just sends one baby to a mommy’s belly,” we explained. But he was insistent and continued talking about it every day.

That was January 23rd of 2019.  Within a week of that day, our future birth mom found out she was pregnant.  With TWINS.  We wouldn't find out about her and the babies until June.  In early June, we were given a profile opportunity from our adoption agency with a birth mom having twins.  As soon as I read the words, "...mom having twins..." my heart skipped a beat.  I knew almost instantly that these were our babies.  And most of that is because of a little 6 year old who heard from God and had been preparing our hearts for the past 6 months to receive two more babies.  

In July, we met with the birth mom.  I remember being a nervous wreck going to meet her.  

What was she like?  Did I really want to see her or talk to her about adopting her babies?  Would she accept us? Would she be willing to give up control after the birth of her babies?  

But God knew better.  The minute we walked in the door of the restaurant and saw her, my heart was at peace.  Justin and I both felt at ease from the very start of the conversation.  

We waited 3 weeks, but finally we heard that she had chosen our family to adopt her twins!  Excitement, gratefulness, and the anxiety of growing from a family of 3 to 5 began to sink in.  We told our family and friends, showers were planned, and we started decorating a nursery for two.

We had about 6 or 7 weeks to prepare ourselves for twins.  But God knew better.  The morning of August 12, 2019 (just 3 weeks later), we got a call from the agency that our birth mom was headed to the hospital and might possibly be in early labor.  "Just stay put," they told us. "The doctors are trying to stop her labor for now."  I was shaking after that phone call with all the premie thoughts and fears: 

It's too early.  Are the babies in danger? I'm not ready for this.  We only have one crib set up with the other one on back order.  Cooper goes to first grade in two days...can't they wait until after he starts so I don't miss out on my last few summer days with him??

I took a few (ok, a LOT of) deep breaths, said lots of prayers, and after talking to Justin, I was feeling better.  Right then, I told Cooper what was going on and told him we were going to make the best of his last two days before school and before babies.  A "Yes" day was in order.  We spent all day at home doing pretend play and planning out a Darth Vader costume for mommy made of black felt scraps I had left over.  I will treasure that memory forever!

Justin came home early from work that day and we decided to go out to eat at what we would later say was an ironic (and innocent) choice for our soon to be family of 5: FIVE GUYS.  :) We enjoyed our burgers and walked over to get some frozen yogurt when Justin got the call. "We can't stop her labor.  We are doing an emergency c-section shortly.  Come on over as soon as you can."

We ran home and packed.  And I left my house in a complete Star Wars disaster zone (did I mention leaving a messy house is one of my biggest nightmares??) to make the LONG 4 and a half hour hike across the state. 

Justin, Cooper and I arrived to the hospital at 11:30 pm.  On Cooper's second to last day before school started.  Remember how selfish I was in wanting the babies to wait until Cooper started school?  God knew better.  He knew it would be important for Cooper to come be with the babies that first night and next morning and knew we wouldn't have done that if he was already in school.  

The first night, Cooper only got to facetime the babies because of guardianship paperwork being finalized.  Justin and I got our first glimpse of the babies and I remember thinking how tiny and absolutely perfect they looked.  I told Justin, "They're like perfect tiny little baby dolls."

I looked at Knox William.  He weighed 3 pounds, 10 ounces and was 16.75 inches long.  We were afraid they would both have problems breathing being 32 weekers.  But God knew better.  Knox only had minimal oxygen and would go off of it within 24 hours...they started taking him off of it sooner than later because he kept yanking his oxygen out of his nose! :)

Then, we went to Evelyn Joye.  She weighed 3 pounds, 8 ounces and was 15.5 inches long. I remember being in disbelief that I actually had a daughter.  I remember wondering what this new experience would be like with a girl in the family.  And I remember her toes.

Evelyn's toes were puffy and her feet were both swollen.  I remember asking Justin if he thought they were swollen and why that was.  By the next morning, we would have an explanation.  The neonatologist came in and asked if we noticed her feet.  "Of course.  Do you know why they are that way?"  "Swollen feet are a common marker for kids with Turner's Syndrome..."  Everything after that just sounded like mush.  "Chromosomal issue....similar to down's syndrome....smaller stature...only in girls...." I remember thinking, "How is this happening to me? To my baby girl that was so perfect with only healthy ultrasounds?" But God knew better.  Her labs were sent off and it would take a week to find out the results.  A full week of praying for God to heal our baby.  I remember obsessing over her toes and whether I thought they had gone down just a little bit or not.  And they did go down some, but not much.

A week later, we had our answer.  No Turner's.  God knew better.  I remember feeling relieved and also, at that point, not surprised.  God had brought our family through so much already that I knew He had this step ordered too...no matter what the step was.  The doctor told us the swelling was probably due to her position in the womb and should continue to go down over the next several days and week.

We never got a chance to see our birth mom on the day she delivered.  She was too tired by the time we got there which was completely understandable.  It was okay with us to not see her because we weren't sure exactly how we would handle that.  But God knew better.  The babies were born on Monday.  On Wednesday, the birth mom came to visit the babies and once again it was a peaceful time.  She held the babies and cried all while telling the babies how beautiful and perfect they were and that this was exactly what needed to happen.  I remember how incredibly brave I thought she was.  And heartbroken...all wrapped in one.  She told us her dad had come with her, but didn't want to see the babies because it was just too hard for him.  Her counselor stepped in with her and took some photos for her to keep.

That next day, Justin had stepped out of the NICU to get a snack and I was alone with the babies.  He would later tell me that he rode the elevator up with a man who looked exactly like our birth mom.  "You're (birth mom)'s dad, aren't you?" Justin asked him.  

"Yes, yes sir I am. You're the twins' father, aren't you?"  

Justin introduced himself and asked if he was headed up to see the babies.  He offered to take him back to see them.

As Justin walked back in the NICU, he had a calm, but unusual look on his face.  He looked straight at me and said, "Whitney, this is (name removed for privacy), (birth mom)'s dad."  And I was immediately nervous.  But God knew better.

I remember giving him the once over and thinking this man looked like a farmer version of my deceased grandfather: white hair, worn denim overalls, and the gentlest voice you've ever heard and softest eyes you've ever seen.  Justin introduced him to the babies.  And we stepped back to give him space.  We watched through our own teary eyes as the man we had just met walked back and forth between each isolette.  After seeing each of the babies a few times and asking their names, he looked at us with tears in his eyes, shook his head affirmatively and said solemnly, "Well, it's time for me to go."  He shook our hands and walked out.  Justin and I both looked at each other with tears streaming down our faces.  I will never forget that moment that God allowed us to share with him. Because as beautiful as adoption is, there is always loss and grief for some.  And that grandfather grieved heavily, but quietly that day.

I thought that was the end of the grandfather story, but the counselor would later tell us that he told her, "I still don't understand it, but those sure are mighty fine parents those babies got."  God knew better.

The trip across the state on the night the babies were born was exciting and stressful.  

How would we make this work? How could Cooper go back to school with us being so far away for so long?  And where would we stay and how much would THAT cost? 

But God knew better. We were so blessed with family that took care of Cooper and brought him back and forth to us each weekend.  Family on both sides did above and beyond what we expected or deserved and we are so grateful!

As for where we would stay... Justin and I had started to look at hotel costs, versus an Air B&B, versus a furnished apartment for a month. But God knew better.  This NICU offered us an empty hospital room to stay in for as long as we needed it.  Yes, I know many NICUs are "room in," but we had learned this one was not...so we were not expecting rooming accommodations.  But the best part?  The room was COMPLIMENTARY.  It didn't cost us a penny!

Justin decided to work remotely from the hospital.  Praise the Lord for a great boss who was super flexible with him.  I was worried he would need to start his 6 week adoption leave early and use it all up in the NICU.  But God knew better.  He was able to work remotely the entire time we were away from home and only needed to drive over to go into work for 2 days!  His employer had recently upped the adoption benefits to allow dads up to 6 weeks to stay home with babies and now all of it would be used after the babies came home...another God miracle!

A few days after the babies were born, we began wondering about transferring to a hospital closer to home.  The small NICU we were in was great and the doctor and nursers were FABULOUS, but there is just no place like home.  I wanted to ask, but I'm also a people pleaser so I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings by making them feel like we weren't happy there.  But God knew better.  The first weekend we were there, another doctor from a hospital back home came to round on the NICU babies to give the single neonatologist at the NICU a much needed break. I couldn't believe that of all the places she would be from, it would be our home hospital over four hours away!  As much as I wanted to ask her, I still didn't bring the transfer up. 

A week or so later our regular Neonatologist asked us what we thought about transferring hospitals.  "All of my beds are full, and I'm having to turn away babies.  I'm happy to keep you here, but I just feel like it's important for you to get closer to home if you can.  You see...God knew better.  He knew I might never ask.  And He knew of a way to make it necessary to transfer. 

We began the transfer process.  It wasn't easy.  Okay, it was impossibly difficult!!  The business people in the hospital back home didn't want to accept the babies' insurance at first. And we saw a dead end.  But God knew better.  He opened doors and made a stressful financial situation one that was eventually solved and even turned out better than we could've imagined.  The transfer to our home NICU was on!

We were scheduled to transfer Labor Day Monday in two separate ambulances.  Evelyn would go on Monday with me following behind her.  And Knox and Justin would come Tuesday in another ambulance.  But God knew better.  Monday morning, we got up and heard the transfer was a no-go.  We were frustrated.  Our Neonatologist was frustrated and our home NICU doctors were frustrated.  The hospital's ambulance company changed their tune and decided they wouldn't travel that far.  This dragged out over a couple of days and by Wednesday morning, we were told, "We are still working on it, but it doesn't look like it's going to happen now.  I'm so sorry." But God knew better.  Late Wednesday afternoon, they had found an ambulance company that would take the babies.  And get this...both could go in the SAME AMBULANCE! An answer to prayer! We waited a few extra days, but God's answer was way better than our own once again.

When we got to our hospital back home, we were overwhelmed by God's faithfulness.  We were given a PRIVATE room with just our babies.  Our first NICU was an open bay NICU with 12 beds crammed into a room not much bigger than our private NICU room they were showing us for JUST OUR FAMILY!  I remember Justin spinning circles with his arms open like Julie Andrews on The Sound of Music. :)  We just couldn't believe all the space we had after 3 and a half weeks of tight spaces!

Then, they took us to the Ronald McDonald house.  We knew about this option, but weren't sure if we would use it or stay at our house, or sleep in the NICU... But God knew better.  This brand new facility was TOP NOTCH! We knew immediately we would stay there.  There were only 6 rooms, but 2 were available because of the UNUSUALLY LOW number of babies the NICU had at the time... :) We were approved almost immediately and began moving in.

How much of a blessing was the Ronald McDonald House?  A HUGE one.  Cooper was able to sleep with us on his own air mattress in our very spacious room.  We had our own (not hospital grade) shower to use.  AND, there was a fully stocked kitchen with snacks.  Plus, people around the area provided home cooked meals cooked at the RMH for free every night.  I looked at Justin immediately when they told me that and said, "Jesus even gave me home cooked meals!"  That was one of the main things I missed about being far away from home and grew tired of constantly choosing which restaurant to eat at! And the meals were amazing too...not just pizza or take out.  But elaborate meals prepared just for our family and other just like us!

Being 32 weekers we expected a lot to go wrong in their world for a while.  And they had their share of "typical hurdles" like feeding, brady desats, and holding their temperature.  But with all the complications that can come out of being in the NICU for 45 days, would you believe that the "worst extra issue" that we dealt with was SALT? We discovered a couple of weeks in that both babies have a rare genetic mutation disorder that causes their body to get rid of salt faster than it should.  My vocabulary tripled over 48 hours of learning this and getting labs drawn, and all the things.  My mind raced all over the place of what this could mean.  But God knew better.  He knew that it just simply meant to add salt to their diet (I mean, how lucky are they, really??).  So they get their dose of "french fries" with their milk 4 times a day right now and big brother is super jealous! #saltlover

Part of the reason why their stay in the NICU was longer than it should've been was because of this disorder.  Their bodies took time to adjust to the salt and steroids needed to help their sodium levels balance out.  We were told they would be on hormones and salt for a good while before they most likely began to need less and less assistance as their bodies aged.  Probably at least 1-3 years.  Most likely longer.  But God knew better.  And two weeks before they were discharged their bodies started retaining fluid.  The neonatologists, endocrinologists and geneticist all agreed it was related to their sodium issue.  

Typically, we retain fluid when we have too much sodium in our bodies.  But this disorder meant they had too low of sodium and we needed to give them sodium and steroids to keep their levels up...

So they treated the fluid retention and backed off the hormone dose.  And they puffed up again.  And I got frustrated.  But God knew better.  

So they treated the fluid retention again and reduced the hormone dose again.  And they puffed up again.  And I got frustrated.  But God knew better.  

Finally, they were down to an unbelievably low dose of the hormone with their sodium levels remaining normal!  And while we don't have the final answer yet, I believe God is using this to show that he is sovereign over gene mutations, too.  That what was supposed to take 3+ years to adjust to, God is helping their bodies adjust to in just 3 weeks.  Once again, where we saw ashes, he saw beauty.  Once again, where we were frustrated, God knew better.

Do I wish they didn't have to deal with this salt issue?  Absolutely.  Do I pray every day for God to heal them completely of this disorder? 1000% yes.  But I know that God knows better.  What scientists see as a 1 and 80,000 chance of a gene mutation, God sees as two uniquely designed individuals that are fearfully and wonderfully made to love salt more than the rest of us! :)

Toward the end of our NICU journey, Justin was contacted about a new job position.  It would be with the same company, but a better opportunity.  But we worried about the timing of this and the babies.  He was getting ready to take 4-6 weeks off of leave with the babies...and nobody would want to hire someone about to go on leave.  But God knew better.  He interviewed in just a few days and told them what was going on with the twins and his plans for leave so there would be no surprises. Justin was offered the job just a few days later. All of this happening within a week.  His new boss brought him the offer letter and said, "I'll be flexible about a lot of things, but there's one thing I'm not budging on.  You're taking every bit of your 6 week leave. I have TWINS and I know exactly what that's like.  Take it and don't feel a single bit bad about it."  How faithful is our God in every single detail? God gave him a better job at a very unusual transition time and still allowed him to keep his adoption benefits.  

As the weeks passed by, Evelyn's toes and feet swelling went down and then back up, but never completely away.  The doctors puzzled over it, we asked questions about it, and no one yet has been able to put their finger on it as to why they are still swollen when she doesn't have Turner's and she's done all the treatments to relieve her fluid retention. The best the doctor's can come up with is that is just one "of her characteristics."  But God knows better.  I firmly believe that God left her chubby feet and chubby toes as a reminder.  A reminder that our little girl may have very well been born with Turner's and God chose to use her for a healing testimony.  We will never know why her toes and feet remain chubby to this day.  But I'll love them and cherish them as long as they are chubby.  And every time I look at them, it will be a reminder that...

"...my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, " declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."  Isaiah 55:8-9

God has been MORE than faithful to our family.  He changes not...despite the twists and turns of our story, He was our constant.  When we couldn't see a way through a diagnosis, a financial situation, a room and board situation, or an adoption story, he knew and he was faithful to take care of us.  God just knew better.

2 comments

  1. This is a beautiful story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I love the way Whitney punctuated it throughout with "God knew better." An amazing story!!! Charlene Boutwell

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    1. Thank you so much. God writes amazing stories!
      Whitney :)

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