The Perfect Surprise - Joe, Carlie, Jalen and Hallie's Adoption
Joe, Carlie and their 11-year-old son, Jalen, were sleeping soundly in a rented Manhattan apartment until 5:30 a.m. when their phone rang.
Carlie quickly snatched the phone and answered it. Indeed, this was it - this was the phone call they had flown all the way from Kansas to New York City for.
She knew the news would be good, but what she heard was even better. What was said to her were the sweetest, most unexpected words she had ever heard in her life. Right then and there, she was proven something she had always thought to be true: things do happen for a reason.
Building the Foundation
“Pretty much right away, we were kind of a family,” Carlie said, thinking back to when she first started dating Joe back in 2001.
Joe immediately made a connection with Jalen, Carlie’s son from another relationship who was 1 ½ years old when they met.
“I’ve always been kind of a magnet toward kids,” Joe said. “Once we started dating, I really took to Jalen. I think that made us stronger.”
Joe didn’t always see himself as a father until he became more serious with Carlie and continued to bond with Jalen. Joe’s budding relationship with Jalen reminded him of how much he enjoyed being around kids, and how much he actually did want to be a dad. As for Carlie, she was one of five siblings, all brothers, so naturally she hoped to be a mother to several children, with hopefully at least one of them being a daughter. And last but not least, Jalen was becoming antsy – he wanted a sister as well.
The couple became engaged, and once Carlie was about to graduate from nursing school, the two started thinking about adding to their family.
In 2008, their lives were exactly how they had hoped: Joe and Carlie were now happily married, and Joe and Jalen shared an increasingly growing father and son bond. About a year later, Joe would make their father-son relationship official and adopt Jalen.
The only thing that hadn’t gone according to plan was becoming pregnant. Weeks of trying to conceive turned into months. Then before they knew it, a year had passed.
Joe and Carlie sought a fertility specialist, who opted for Carlie to have laprascopic exploratory surgery to see why she was not conceiving. The surgery indicated that Carlie’s tubes were blocked, and their only chance at pregnancy was through in vitro.
In 2009, the couple attempted two in vitro fertilizations, both of which were unsuccessful.
“It was a weird up and down rollercoaster of meds,” Joe said. “I had to give her shots every night. It was really hard on both of us.”
But then after their third attempt at in vitro, their dreams become true: Carlie was finally pregnant.
Joe and Carlie’s emotional high did not last long, however. Over the next several weeks, Carlie’s body didn’t handle the pregnancy well and she became more and more sick. After losing 18 pounds, Carlie had to be hospitalized.
“Never again. Next time, we are adopting,” a weakened Carlie, in tears, would tell her husband.
Sadly, Joe and Carlie’s fears were realized as they suffered a miscarriage.
“Here we were at a fork in the road,” Joe said. “Do we continue putting our emotions and finances on the line to try and have our own baby? Do we find a gestational carrier to help us have a baby? Do we adopt a baby? Or do we come to the conclusion that we are not ever going to have another baby?”
Help From a Neighbor
In February 2010, Joe and Carlie decided it was time to abandon the infertility treatments and look into adoption. Within only a few days of researching adoption agencies on the Internet, they were at American Adoptions’ home offices, which just so happened to be within minutes from their own home in Kansas.
Because American Adoptions works with adoptive families in 47 states, many of them never get to meet the people who facilitate their adoption, other than over the phone. For Joe and Carlie, they were able to meet every Adoption Coordinator, Adoptive Family Specialist and Birth Parent Specialist involved in their adoption.
“They made the whole process so easy,” Joe said. “Any paperwork or any questions, we were there. It was great.”
When completing their Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ), Joe and Carlie came across the question of whether or not they were gender specific. Joe and Carlie, having already had a boy and wanting a girl, decided that this would be the only time in their lives where they could choose the gender of their child. Thus, they opted to be gender specific.
Within a month of deciding on adoption, Joe and Carlie were active with American Adoptions.
But the next couple of months were difficult for Carlie. She was not working at the time, and constantly found herself thinking about the adoption. She kept asking herself: “Why aren’t we getting picked?” “Is our adoptive family profile receiving enough exposure?” “Did we make the right decision being gender specific?”
“We hadn’t heard anything in a few months, and I was just probably being a little anxious,” Carlie said. “I thought we should just switch. Whatever is meant to be will be. So after a few days, Joe said let’s go ahead and switch it, and we did. It turned out to be a good idea.”
Just three months later in July, refreshed after a trip to Hawaii, Joe and Carlie received a voice mail from American Adoptions’ Lara Sandusky while they were at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. Joe put his phone on speakerphone for everyone to hear and immediately returned the call.
Among the poor cellphone reception, Lara told Joe and Carlie of a birth mother who lived in New York City, whose hospital was just blocks away from Times Square. She was due to give birth to a baby boy in just five days.
“It was the best news of my life and I could hardly hear it through the static,” Joe said.
However, the message itself was clear: Soon, they would once again become parents.
“I was just in shock,” Carlie said. “I just could not believe this was happening. Our family members were down there and everyone was freaking out. They were so happy for us.”
Joe and Carlie returned home from the lake and immediately began packing for their trip northeast. All of the girl clothes, pink blankets and other accessories Joe and Carlie received while being gender specific were stored away, and newly bought boy clothes and blue blankets were added to their suitcases.
Even though they originally wanted a girl, Joe said there was absolutely no decline in their excitement. Jalen was excited to have a brother too and even helped pick out a few outfits for him. Quite simply, they all could not wait to meet their baby boy.
Little did the family know, however, the real excitement was soon to come while in New York City.
A Welcome Wakeup Call
“IT’S A GIRL!” Carlie’s yell echoed through the Manhattan apartment. “OH MY GOSH, IT’S A GIRL!”
Joe grinned from ear to ear. Carlie cried and jumped out of bed with the phone still in hand and the hospital social worker still on the other end.
“Jalen! Jalen! It’s a girl!
Jalen threw the blankets over his head, disappointed that he bought a couple of boy outfits that he was excited to dress his brother in. His disappointment would not last long, however.
Beyond thrilled to finally meet their baby girl, the family arrived at the hospital that afternoon, just two blocks from Times Square. They went into the birth mother’s hospital room and met her for the first time. Immediately, they absolutely loved her for who she was and what she did for their family. She then called for their baby to be brought in.
And that was it, the first time Joe and Carlie laid eyes on their baby daughter, Hallie Rose.
“She was beyond what I ever expected,” Carlie said. “Joe was balling. I was in disbelief. She was so perfect. I couldn’t believe she was our baby.”
Of course, Jalen was excited too. He finally met the sister he always wanted ever since he was much younger – the boy outfits he picked out were more than an afterthought. In fact, Jalen was one of the main reasons why Hallie would be his sister: The birth mother chose Joe and Carlie partially because Jalen reminded her of her own brother.
Joe, Carlie and Jalen spent the following night site-seeing in New York City, getting ice cream, riding the enormous ferris wheel inside of Toys R Us, all of which would be their last memories as a family of three.
On Friday morning, the papers were signed and Hallie Rose was officially a member of their family. Their journey had culminated and there would be no more uncertainty and no more surprises. Joe and Carlie could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
“Going through the adoption process, you constantly have something in reserve, more excitement, because you aren’t quite sure if it’s real,” Joe said. “You get a little bit more excited each time. You get the call, you are excited; you get the call she is going into labor, you are a little higher; then you are at the hospital and you are more excited; and for us, which was icing on the cake, we got the call that it was a girl. Then you get there and it just keeps going up and up and up, and when the papers are finally signed, it’s just a big, welcomed relief.”
A week later, following ICPC clearances, the new family flew back to Kansas where dresser drawers full of girl clothes awaited Hallie that would not be returning to the stores as previously thought.
Hallie is Home
Throughout everything that happened, including their struggling with infertility, choosing to be gender specific and then changing their minds, Carlie believes to this day that Hallie was always meant to be a part of her and Joe’s family, and those were just the steps required to bring her home.
“We have learned that everything happens for a reason,” Carlie said. “The reason I was having second thoughts about being gender specific was because we wouldn’t have little Hallie Rose had we continued our request for a baby girl, since they originally thought she was a boy. Our advice to parents going through this tough process is to be calm, go about your daily life, pray about what you want to happen, trust your instincts, trust American Adoptions, and know that whatever is supposed to happen is going to happen.
“Knowing what we know now, and finally having our little Hallie Rose, we would have waited a lot longer for her. The road to get where we are now was not easy, but if we made it, anyone can. Our family is now complete.”
Their experience with adoption was so great that they hope to adopt again one day. However, they don’t know how they could ever top this one.
“Hallie is so perfect, I don’t know if this could happen again,” Carlie said. “And maybe every parent feels that way, like they got the perfect child, but we really feel like we did.”