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Photography for this story by Kylee Ann Photography
This week has been indescribable. Our time spent here in the NICU with you has been sacred. I want to capture it, the best I can, while it is still so fresh. Most of this I am not going to share with others. You are peacefully resting under the billy lights, so here I sit with hours to do nothing but write.
Let me start way back at the beginning. For as long as I can remember I have had a strong longing to adopt. The first time I remember really feeling it was when I was maybe in the 5th grade. My mom, Grandma Larsen, read a book to me called The Family Nobody Wanted. It was about a couple who wanted a family so badly, but could never have children. Over time they were able to adopt 12 children. That book changed me. I remember knowing then that one day I would adopt.
Again when I was a teenager I watched a documentary about orphanages in Romania. I dreamed for years of ways I could get there and rock those motherless babies. When Dad and I were engaged, I remember sitting at an overlook of the temple discussing our future together. We discussed goals and expectations. I told him then that one day we were supposed to adopt a baby. He agreed we could, but not until years later did he have the same feelings I did. The Lord knew, Cannon, that we were supposed to find you and he spent my whole life preparing me so that we would be ready when you came.
Shortly before Ellie was born, the feelings that we needed to adopt started strong. One night when I was about seven months pregnant, I sat at the computer most of the night (when I should have been sleeping, but clearly couldn’t) researching multiple aspects of adoption. Dad thought I was losing it. Months later when I had to have a hysterectomy after she was born, I knew the time was coming.
I spent countless hours on my knees trying to sort through these promptings I was having. I knew we were supposed to find you, but where? How? When? I prayed. And prayed some more. Dad was not on the same page as I was at that point and was, I’m sure at times, overwhelmed by the conversations I would throw at him.
At one point I was thinking we should adopt twins. I told the Lord that I wanted twins, but someone was just going to have to bring them to us or Dad would never agree. One afternoon, a neighbor down the street, Sandy Curtis, called me. She knew I wanted to adopt, but she had no idea about the silent prayers I had been offering. She told me to sit down, then she went on to explain that someone from the adoption agency they had worked with had called her and had twins and wondered if she knew of a family that could take them. I knew immediately that those twins were not ours, but I also knew the Lord had heard my pleadings and was very aware of us. I had a profound feeling of our Heavenly Father’s love and whatever was supposed to happen, would work out. Many times throughout this process I reflected on that experience. A tender mercy that gave me peace many times over.
About April of 2013, I decided it was time and I started to work on Dad. He would listen and then he would tell me how grateful he was for our five kids. I would listen back and tell him I was grateful too, but someone was missing . . . or two or three. Finally one day I told him we were going to the temple. I made him a deal: if at the end of the session he could tell me that he felt we weren’t supposed to adopt, then I would drop it and never ask again. If he couldn’t, I was going to start our paperwork. Shortly after that we started.
The process was frustrating. I called multiple agencies. I looked at both domestic and international adoption. I could not settle on where to begin. About June I got in touch with a social worker and started our home study. And finally I settled on an agency in Sandy called A Guardian Angel. I filled out pages and pages and pages of paperwork. Still Dad sat. I had everything I could finish done and finally he started. We had a few setbacks. In October the government shutdown closed the Social Security office. The only thing we had left were our background checks. But we couldn’t find dad’s Social Security card and because of the shutdown they couldn’t issue him a new one. Finally, just before Thanksgiving, we were ready. I felt like the whole process was a game of hurry up so we could wait.
Wednesday, January 15, 2014, after I had dropped Ellie off at preschool, I quickly jumped on the agency website just to see what was going on. Listed was a baby boy born the night before. I called Dad and told him. He asked what I was doing looking at the agency website, since I had told him I wasn’t doing that anymore. I don’t know, I just did. A few hours later he called with limited details. Baby boy born the night before. Birth mom had lots of problems. It sounded risky. I told him I was nervous, but he said he was interested. I trust you, I said. Besides, we will get turned down anyway. A few hours later, Dad called. “Pack your bags, we are going to Salt Lake. We have a baby!” At first I didn’t believe him. “This is a really mean joke.” But he insisted.
She hadn’t had any prenatal care, no idea who the father was, she didn’t really even know how far along she was.
By 4:00 we were on our way to see you. As we drove down we started to get more information from our case worker and we started to realize that our birth mom was turning out to be a worst case scenario. She hadn’t had any prenatal care, no idea who the father was, she didn’t really even know how far along she was. She was bleeding and her water had been leaking for who knows how many days, and as the nurses told us later, she was “higher than a kite.” We wondered if we were walking into a nightmare situation. But we felt good, so we continued. We arrived just before 6:00 at Jordon Valley Medical Center in South Jordon. We met our case worker, Jodie, in the lobby. I was nervous. My stomach was in knots. What if the birth mom decided she didn’t like us? What problems was this new little baby going to have? Shift changes happen in the NICU at six, which means they kick everyone out for an hour while they get settled, so Jodie suggested we meet the birth mom first.
She was in the shower, so for a few minutes we waited in the waiting room for her to get ready. She was with her case worker, Mel, also from our agency, and we were with Jodie in her recovery room 220. We made small talk at first, asked how she was feeling. She told us you were beautiful. Here was a pretty woman, 5 ft tops, who was giving us the greatest gift in the world. What do you say to someone like that? I cried and told her I loved her. She admitted when she first talked to Mel, that she had been specific: I don’t want a Utah family and I want him to be an only child. We obviously didn’t fit either of those, but our profile was shown anyway.
Antonia, or Toni, as she told us her friends call her, then explained that as soon as she saw our profile, before she even read it, she knew we were the family for you. She told us she knew God brought us together. I began at that moment to recognize miracles. She told us she should have probably been placed for adoption as a baby. Instead, she led a life with a mother in and out of prison, a father who sexually abused her, and a drug addiction since age 13, when her mom first introduced her. She apologized when she told us she really had no idea who your birth father is. Her history was hard to hear. She sat across from me with very little hope in her eyes. And yet there was a glimmer. Enough that she recognized that she could give her new little baby more. More of everything she didn’t have and wanted. I asked her what she wanted me to tell you about her one day. It broke my heart as she sat there and stumbled over words, before she finally said there wasn’t really anything. She couldn’t even tell us a favorite color. Except pink. She doesn’t like pink. She asked about us. We told her as much as we could in a few short minutes.
Towards the end of our conversation, she told us the reason she wanted you to be an only child was so that you would be spoiled and loved more than anything. She went on, saying, “I think he might be spoiled and loved more in your family than if he was an only child.” Yes, I promised her. You will.
“I think he might be spoiled and loved more in your family than if he was an only child.”
And then it was time. Time to meet this little miracle we had been praying for for so long. The social worker buzzed us in: “Archeletta adoptive parents.” My heart leaped. They took us back into the NICU and handed us the most perfect little baby. Tears fell freely when I kissed you and said, “We found you. We’ve been waiting for you.” At that moment the empty place that had been plaguing my heart was filled. I knew you were exactly who God wanted us to find. I had a burden lifted off my shoulders that night. One that I recognized, but hadn’t realized how heavy it had been. Both dad and I fell in love at first sight. I couldn’t imagine our lives without you.