Written by Kristi Evaristo Russell
Adoption came into our lives after experiencing a sudden and unexpected pregnancy loss of our son Owen James at twenty-four weeks.
My husband Brian and I were both devastated at the loss of our son Owen in 2009. It was something that we didn’t expect and still aren’t sure why it happened. Our lives were changed forever after losing him. We both decided to have tests done to see if there was something that might have caused the miscarriage. We were told that we both had reproductive related issues and would not be able to conceive.
About a year after losing Owen, we decided that it was the right time to try to expand our family again and we prayed about adoption. It felt like the right choice for us and we both went through the process with a local adoption agency and were asked to put together a book about our family. We included many pictures of us and tried our best to present ourselves to the potential birth mother about who we were to help her make the best decision in placing her child for adoption. One of the photos that we included in the book was a photo of the Christmas giving tree from our church. We both felt like since we were active at our church and this was a ministry that we were involved in, it would be nice to include a photo. Little did we know, that including that photo of the giving tree would play a significant part in our adoption story.
We received a phone call soon after we were approved from the adoption agency and submitted our book. The agency asked us to come in to speak to them in person because they had a unique and rare situation that had presented itself and they needed to speak to us right away. My husband and I eagerly met with the adoption agency and couldn’t believe what they were telling us. A young, unwed teen in her senior year of high school that was pregnant and wanting to place her child for adoption had been at the agency looking through the books of potential adoptive parents. She looked through our book and when she got to the photo of the Christmas giving tree it stopped her in her tracks. She knew that it was a sign from God when not only did she recognize the giving tree since it was in her own church, but the father of the baby was also in the photo in the background. We were the family that was meant to adopt her child.
Things moved very fast after that meeting with the adoption agency, and we soon met the expecting teen in person. We were overjoyed that not only were we chosen, but this young teen was from a family that we knew from church and they sat only a few rows in front of us at the same Mass.
We kept in close touch with the birth mom throughout her pregnancy and we were updated with ultrasound photos of the baby and how she was doing. The anticipation of waiting for him to arrive was so exciting to us but also brought some fears too.
When our son Gabriel was born, we were able to visit him in the hospital and hold him in our arms. We truly felt blessed that she had not only chosen life in her unplanned pregnancy, but that she unselfishly decided to give him life with a family through adoption. She could have easily chosen abortion after finding out she was pregnant during her senior year of high school, yet she decided to share the gift of her child with our family instead.
We brought our son Gabriel home a few days later from the hospital and once the adoption was finalized it felt like an answered prayer for both of us. It was overwhelming and exciting all at the same time to have this precious gift of a son in our home and with us.
We have kept in touch with the birth mother through social media and our adoption was a semi-open adoption. Gabriel knows he is adopted, and he calls his birth mom his “tummy mommy” and I am his mommy. We felt like being open with Gabriel and sharing his adoption story with him from the beginning was very important. Gabriel’s birth mom not only graduated from high school, but also went on to graduate from college and has a successful career out of state. Adoption was the right choice for her, and we honor that decision and know one day that Gabriel will want to meet his birth mother and find out more about her.
Our family grew again when we found out we were expecting a baby boy a few years later. After doctors told us that we would not be able to conceive it came as a not only a huge shock but a blessing to welcome another son, Cooper to our family in February 2015. Gabriel quickly became a wonderful and caring big brother and our family of four felt complete and truly blessed.
Our family went through another unexpected and devastating loss in May of 2016. My husband of nine years suddenly passed away at the age of 43. To go through such a loss and become a widow at a young age has been life altering, to say the least. But I can say that having my two wonderful sons in my life gave me a reason to get out of bed each morning when I felt I couldn’t.
I am so thankful and blessed that I am a Mother to Gabriel and Cooper and they are here with me every day and I have the memories of my late husband Brian as a father to our two precious boys.
All families have their ups and downs, including mine. But I am excited to share that I have found love again and recently married last month a wonderful, caring man that I am excited to spend the rest of my life with.
Kristi Evaristo Russell resides in Woodstock, Georgia with her new husband and two sons. Kristi captures and preserves family’s moments as a lifestyle photographer in the Atlanta area and is the owner of Evaristo Photography. When she’s not taking photos or chasing after her two active sons, you can find her running or working out. Despite the many obstacles that life has given Kristi, you can always find a bright smile on her face.