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Love of life

An infertile couple’s journey through heartbreak and joy to become parents

By Stacie Rathbun

Who’s going to cut the umbilical cord?” the doctor asked.

Kate* looked at me. “Do you want to?”

Standing in a delivery room I was seeing labor and birth for the first time. A joyous pain. My husband, Tim’s, and my first child was entering the world. We had endured years of waiting and wanting and weeping. But my joy was possible because of the pain of a beautiful teenager on that hospital bed.

Cutting the cord was more than just an honor; it was symbolic of what was to come for Kate and for our family. She soon placed her perfect 6-pound, 13-ounce baby girl in my arms as Tim waited in a hospital gown just outside the delivery room. We would feed our baby her first bottle.

Kate’s journey

Who was this courageous teen who would go through the pain of childbirth and then add to it the pain of leaving her baby with virtual strangers? She is our baby’s birth mom, our friend, who has blessed us beyond words.

The decision was not forced on Kate. She could have chosen to parent. She already had a son and was raising him with the help of her mom. When she found she was pregnant and had almost carried the baby to term, she realized she didn’t have the ability to raise two children. She contacted an adoption agency and asked what she would need to do to place her baby for adoption.

Tim’s and my journey

Tim and I were almost six years into our marriage and desperately longed for a child. I had been diagnosed with stage 4 endometriosis and was told conceiving naturally would be a miracle. We tried artificial insemination, but after two failed attempts I told Tim I was finished. I could not face any more tests or surgeries.

But I wasn’t ready to give up my desire to be a mom. I taught high school students; I led a youth Bible study; I mentored other people’s children. Of course, adoption beckoned, but where would we start?

Still, Tim was more than ready, and I made an appointment with a social worker at Louisiana Health and Children’s Services in February 2006. She mentioned an adoption agency in Texas where couples seemed to get their babies soon after application. Spurred by her encouraging words, I contacted the agency in March 2006 for an application. In July, Tim and I were invited with 10 other couples to meet with the agency’s personnel.

What a joy not to be the odd couple out. Everyone had stories of heartaches ranging from serious health problems to failed placements. Our agency had a history of placing quickly, sometimes as early as a few weeks after orientation weekend. The weekend marked the beginning of “a psychological pregnancy,” as the agency termed it. We were told to go home and tell people we were “expecting.” Some of the last words the administrator spoke rang in our ears: “It’s not a matter of if; it’s when. So get the nursery ready and wash those clothes.”

Baby Rathbun’s journey

We filed paperwork and created a profile for birth mothers to view. Ours would be an open adoption where we exchanged names, phone calls, and even visits before and after the birth of the baby.

At the end of August 2006 I received a call from the agency telling me a young lady wished to talk with us after viewing our profile. The conversation was awkward, but I knew we connected. I also knew the agency would encourage Kate to talk with more than one couple.

The wait began … again.

A week later the agency called. “Kate wants to talk with you again,” our coordinator said. Kate and I talked again. We made arrangements for her to talk to Tim later that evening. Before we said good-bye, she said the words I had dreamed of hearing: “I want to let you know that I chose you and your husband to be the parents of my little girl.” Talking on my cell phone, standing in the parking lot of Evangel Christian Academy, the high school where I teach, I was speechless. I had one thought: Our miracle is happening.

Because we had agreed to an open adoption, Tim and I drove six hours to meet the birth mother on Sept. 23, 2006, planning to return to Shreveport until the due date, Oct. 6. When we arrived, Kate was already in labor. Ava Alexis Rathbun was born on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2006, at 1:40 p.m.

The time had come for me to cut the cord.

The Rathbun family journey

Tim and I learned that in a moment of desperation early in her pregnancy, Kate went to have an abortion. She was $100 short.

When I asked Kate why she chose us out of a stack of impressive profiles, she said, “I saw that you lead a youth Bible study in your home. I don’t know much about God or Christians, but I know that is how I want my little girl to be raised.”

A decision we had made years before to have a small group in our home led to the one thing that set us apart from other adoptive parents.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, Ava Alexis became our legally adopted baby. We spent the next few days in the area taking Kate to lunch, having her photo taken with her baby, and leaving the baby with her birth family for three hours. (Ava is the name Kate would have given her; we chose Alexis.) Tim, her 6-foot, 5-inch daddy, has other names: Sugar Bear, Hon, Baby Love and Pumpkin.

When Ava Alexis was dedicated to the Lord on Jan. 14, 2007, her pastor, Denny Duron, acknowledged that she is a child of destiny because her life was spared. Those who knew Alexis’ story wept with joy. Tim and I acknowledge God’s perfect plan for one special baby — who is loved dearly both by her birth family and adoptive parents.

*Name has been changed.

STACIE RATHBUN, husband Tim and daughter Alexis attend Shreveport Community Church in Shreveport, Louisiana.

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