A mum has told of her heartache of adopting a baby girl and taking her home – before being forced to give her back when her birth parents changed their mind.
Sarah Howell, 31, was given less than a one per cent chance of conceiving naturally, so approached an adoption agency with husband Chris, 32.
They were delighted to be matched with a newborn – just an hour after finding out she had miraculously fallen pregnant naturally.
But just five days after picking the baby girl up from the hospital and taking her into their home, the little one’s birth parents changed their mind.
Registered nurse Sarah was forced to hand her back – and said the heartache was so deep she feared it would induce a miscarriage.
Months later they gave birth to son Noah Howell, and have since adopted Levi, one, and fostered another boy, two months old.
Incredibly Sarah said she has no ill-feelings towards the parents who took back their daughter – and thanks them for making her a mum for a few short days.
Mum-of-three Sarah, from Richmond, Virginia, USA, said: “Saying goodbye to her hurt more than words can adequately describe.
“It felt like an actual death to us because we knew we would likely never see her again. She made us parents. She helped heal a part of our hearts that infertility broke.
“She made me a mum even if it was only for a few days.”
After only 11 months of marriage, Sarah was shocked to be told that the horrendous period pains she’d suffered her whole life were due to endometriosis.
If she wanted to have children she should start trying “sooner rather than later”.
Sarah said: “It was devastating and sent me into a situational depression. We knew we wanted a family. My husband was more positive and was able to often view things from the bright side, but for me it was a major grief process.
“Marriage counselling during this time was crucial and I don’t think our marriage would have withstood that low place in our lives without help.”
Sarah Howell holding adopted ‘ Little Man’, Noah and Chris Howell with Levi
The young couple tried to get pregnant for three years, undergoing multiple surgeries and hundreds of injections, pills, and negative pregnancy tests.
In April 2017, they travelled to a reproductive immunologist in Chicago for a whole day of tests, but were again told that the likelihood of them conceiving naturally was less than 1 per cent, and that door was finally closed.
Sarah said: “Hearing our chances of conceiving were so slim allowed us to move on and begin the grieving process of possibly never experiencing pregnancy.”
Chris and Sarah Howell
She and construction project manager Chris decided then and there that they were ready to adopt a child. They had both always wanted to do it and spoken about regularly since they started dating.
They completed their home assessment and were added to the up to three-year-long waiting list. But to their surprise, on January 31 2018, Sarah felt a bit “off” and took a pregnancy test.
She said: “When I opened my hall closet that morning the pregnancy tests were staring at my front and centre when they are normally tucked away and out of sight. I had been going back and forth on whether to test before this so once I saw them I decided to go for it.”
It was positive for the very first time.
Sarah said: “I sobbed. I cried so hard I could barely breathe. It really was the shock of my life. I remember I asked myself a million times that day ‘how is this possible?'”
And just one hour later, a social worker from the adoption agency to say they had been matched, and could meet their baby girl in just three weeks’ time.
Sarah and Chris picked up their adopted daughter while Sarah was eight weeks pregnant on March 7 2018, and they fell in love instantly.
“When I walked into the hospital room her birth mum was holding her and lovingly placed her into my arms, she said ‘meet your mum, baby girl’,” she said. “We loved each other well and really cared for one another.”
But, after five days of family bliss, they received a devastating phone call.
The birth parents of their new daughter had changed their minds and wanted her back, which they can legally do up to ten days from the birth.
Sarah was distraught and was even worried that her deep pain would trigger a miscarriage.
She said: “I was feeding her when the call came through. I fell to the floor in despair. I kept saying over and over to my husband ‘you’re joking, this is a joke right? I always say the pain we felt that day was worse than our three years of infertility combined.
“We do not hold anything against her birth parents. If we could, we would tell them how much we love them, and how lucky baby girl is to have them as parents.”
In October 17 that year, she went into labour and gave birth to Noah Howell, who weighed 9lbs 6oz.
Sarah said: “It was surreal and felt like an out-of-body experience. When I pulled him to my chest I found myself talking to God thanking him for giving us this miracle and making it to the other side of infertility.”
When Noah was one the family received another call from a social worker, saying that again they’d been matched to a baby boy.
They went up to meet the one-day-old in the NICU at Spotsylvania Regional Medical Center, and named him Levi.
But this happy union did not come without the fear that he could be taken away just as their daughter had been before.
“I knew I wouldn’t be able to prevent this so it felt vulnerable and scary to love a child again knowing they might not stay,” said Sarah.
The Howell family decided to become foster parents to help more children, and took in a baby boy on June 29 this year.
Sarah said: “As a mum of three boys under three I feel like I am forever cleaning up messes, playing referee, and changing diapers.
“I will miss this one day so I remind myself to enjoy the now. It is what we prayed for so long after all. Three under three is certainly an adventure and at times utter chaos. But the giggles, laughter, and joy far outweigh anything else.”
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