The Taylors are a family of five. Dan and Erin have three little boys, Will, Noah and Jake. At the writing of this article Will is a bright almost 2-year-old who loves music and dancing. Noah is only 5 months old, yet with seemingly superhuman strength is already crawling, a twinkle in his eye as he bustles across the floor. Jake is 4 months old and comes with a husky little voice that hints at the man he will be one day.
That is where the Taylor story stands today, in the summer of 2013. But just three years ago children were a thought and a prayer for Dan and Erin. There was no telling how tumultuous life on their adoption journey was about to become.
The Taylors were irresistibly drawn toward adoption. Dan had worked for Anderson Public Schools, and the experience of knowing and loving children from difficult home situations touched his heart. Erin, an associate pastor at her church, had attended a Christian leadership conference at which the theme of adoption as ministry challenged her.
“We wanted to be a part of that,” Erin says.
The Taylors’ first home study was in 2010. It was with an agency that at that time wasn’t doing many placements and in prayer the couple felt led to look elsewhere. They found Adoption Connections in the phone book. They read about the agency online, called and felt an “instant connection.” They became a waiting family with Adoption Connections in early 2011.
They soon heard that their profile was being viewed. Excited and hopeful, they met with a birth mom, but she later decided to keep the baby. The Taylors continued to wait.
Soon after that they were selected again. They met with the birth mother several times. They went to a doctor’s appointment with her. It wasn’t until about two weeks before the delivery date that it became clear the birth mother had no intention of going through with the adoption. The Adoption Connections staff believed that she had never intended to do so, instead motivated by the short-term support she was receiving. The Taylors were disappointed and hurt.
Around this time Dan’s stepfather Otis died. His mother had remarried just the year before. She is Caucasian, her new husband and his family African-American. The marriage had brought together families that looked very different from one another, but that now mourned together as one.
“We told Rebecca [Bruce] we still wanted to be matched, we were just emotionally raw,” Erin says. She and Dan asked that they not be informed if the agency was showing their profile book, only if they were chosen.
In July of 2011 the Taylors were in a heavy place of grief. Meanwhile, in accordance with the couple’s wishes, Adoption Connections did not inform the Taylors that another birth mother was looking at their book and was motivated to make an adoption plan. She was concerned with a number of placement factors, including race. As an African-American she felt more comfortable placing her child with African-American parents.
Still, the birth mother liked enough about the Taylors that Adoption Connections decided they should be informed they were under consideration by a birth mom who was essentially due to give birth at any time. When they learned that race was a concern, Dan – who is a teacher in an inner city school that whose student population is predominantly African American – wrote a letter to the birth mother explaining that their profile book did not reflect the diversity in their family. Dan’s deceased stepfather had brought his family into their lives and they were now a great source of love and support. They were as close to the Taylors as brothers and sisters.
That was all the birth mother needed to hear. The next 48 hours would be a whirlwind.
Adoption Connections informed the Taylors on a Thursday in early August not only that they were selected, but that the hospital was inducing labor over the weekend. The Taylors were in a joyful daze over the news that they would have a child within a few days.
Friday morning Adoption Connections called with an update. It would not take the weekend after all – the baby was coming today! The Taylors rushed to the hospital. The news was such a surprise they hadn’t had time to get a diaper bag or car seat. They had nothing with them but Erin’s purse.
Less than an hour after his birth on August 5th, 2011, Dan and Erin met their new baby boy. They fell in love with him instantly. They had a wonderful time bonding with the birth mother, and had an idea for a name they wanted to share with her.
“Her eyes lit up when we said Will,” Erin says. The name William Otis Taylor was nothing short of perfect, because in addition to the homage it paid to Dan’s stepfather, the birth mother informed them that BOTH Will and Otis were family names within the birth mother’s family!
Friends came and lent the Taylors a car seat so they could take him home. They borrowed a pack n’ play to put him down in, gathered the other essentials they needed and were thrust – joyfully – into the tasks of parenting.
The mission had been accomplished. Their prayers had been answered. Over the next several months the Taylors lost touch with the birth mother who had pulled away from communication with them and with Adoption Connections, despite the connection they made with her in the hospital and their desire to have an open adoption. Over time, as they watched Will grow, the Taylors had to accept that it seemed clear she preferred to keep her distance.
Months passed and the Taylors began trying for a second child. They discovered in the summer of 2012 that Erin was pregnant. Will would have younger sibling. They would be a happy family of four. End of story.
Or rather, just a brief pause.
Adoption Connections called Erin in October of 2012 to tell her that the birth mother was pregnant again and wanted to know if the Taylors were an option. Erin was shocked to learn this, and the agency was also shocked to learn that Erin was pregnant! However, Adoption Connections told Erin that given that the birth mother had specifically requested that the agency offer Dan and Erin the chance to adopt Will’s sibling, the agency would allow them to proceed to be matched with her again IF both Dan and Erin wanted to proceed AND the birth mom still wanted to do so as well after learning that Erin was pregnant.
Erin said it was a lot to think and pray about and that they would need a couple of days. She considered that this call had come while she was attending the very same Christian leadership conference where she’d been the last time she felt a clear spiritual call to adopt. She and Dan had been talking about adopting again in the future, believing it would be meaningful for Will to have an African-American sibling.
“Our hearts were already in that direction,” Erin says. “It just wasn’t the timing we had envisioned.”
She and Dan also realized that they were about to move into a new house with more space. “It felt like the Lord was saying, ‘What I call you to, I’ll provide for,’” Erin says. So, with a deep breath, they agreed that they wanted to proceed to adopt Will’s biological younger sibling.
The next step was making sure that the birth mother still wanted them to adopt after learning of Erin’s pregnancy. The agency contacted her and the birth mother herself was a bit shocked. However, she agreed to meet with Dan and Erin to talk with them personally. A meeting was set up. Dan and Erin offered to bring Will – whom the birth mom had not seen since she left the hospital after giving birth to him – and the birth mom agreed. The visit between the Taylor family and Will’s birth mom was a huge success. Dan and Erin enjoyed seeing Will’s birth mom, and Will’s birth mom loved catching up with Dan and Erin and seeing Will. After the meeting, the birth mom said: “I would absolutely love for you to adopt this baby, too.” After the meeting, she told Sue, the agency’s Birth Parent Support Case Manager, that she was perfectly at peace with her decision to place a baby with the Taylor family … again.
Noah James Taylor was born on January 17th, 2013 and his new parents welcomed him into the world just moments after he took his first breath. A month later, Erin gave birth to her third son, Jake, on February 21st.
Since then life in the Taylor household has been as hectic as it is joyful. Erin describes dealing with more diapers than she’s ever seen in her life. She says she never would have planned it this way. “Three kids under two – how do you even do that?”
Yet, she says, all three of her kids are amazing. She enjoys her boys’ different personalities. She loves seeing them interact with one another and looks forward to watching them grow up as peers so close in age.
Erin is doubly humbled, that the Lord trusts her and Dan with such responsibility, and by the birth mother’s courage in making the decision to give up her children. “It’s amazing to be a part of a story that helps a woman make such an incredibly loving and courageous decision,” she says. “I have never seen that kind of love in action before.”
Before embarking on this journey, Erin knew that there would be lots of paperwork and understood the basic steps of the process. She even knew it would be spiritually significant, but she just couldn’t fully grasp the emotional and spiritual components that made it such a “huge internal journey” until she was in it.
“I can’t imagine going through it without knowing the Lord,” she says.
Erin is thankful for the support Adoption Connections provided throughout the process. “It’s a vulnerable experience, hoping and waiting, and every person we’ve encountered at Adoption Connections is someone we can trust our hearts with. They understand how the process is emotionally difficult. Knowing that we were being prayed for is awesome, and it is priceless to go through something intense with safe, loving people.”
“It can be an emotional rollercoaster,” she says, “but like many things in life it’s the hard experiences that are so worthwhile.”
-Written by Matt Bloom