So happy to be a family


As I sit at my desk, typing, a sweet little boy sits and plays with toy trucks at my feet. He is two years old, his name is Paul Matthew, and he is my son.

He is adopted.

My wife and I adopted Paul in 2014, after a year and a half of working on the process. This is why November is special to me. November is National Adoption Month, which makes it special to many families around the country.

Families such as Tony and Nicole Kelbert of New London, Wisconsin. Adoption was not a backup plan for them; it was Nicole’s preference.

“I’ve always know I was going to adopt, even when I was little,” said Nicole. “It just always felt like what I was supposed to do, and that feeling never changed. I never felt like I wanted to have biological children; it felt more natural that I would adopt. So when Tony and I got married I brought that up often to see how he felt and he was totally on board, which was amazing!”

One Sunday in church, Nicole got the feeling that it was time to adopt. She discussed it with Tony, and by Monday morning, they were calling adoption agencies. They settled on one in Georgia.

The story of Mark and Sarah Gough was different. Due to past surgeries, Sarah found out that scar tissue had damaged her fallopian tubes.

“I kept asking ‘why me?’ and I didn’t know what to do to make myself feel better or figure out what we should do next,” said Sarah, owner of a Detroit photography business. “For a solid chunk of time I gave myself room to grieve. Grieve the dream I had that wasn’t going to happen, or at least how I thought it would anyway.”

The only biological option for Sarah and Mark was in vitro fertilization, which they both felt wasn’t right for them. Adoption was a plan that did feel right.

“Next came research, and a feeling of complete loss of control,” said Sarah. “We went to multiple adoption agencies, we asked friends, we researched online. We felt we would know the right place when we found it. We decided we wanted to do domestic adoption. This meant inside the United States, and we wanted to choose an agency in our own state for multiple reasons, one being financial. We signed on with a Michigan agency Adoption Associates and got to work on a massive to-do list of fingerprinting, background checks, personal references, bank statements, personal interviews, and opening up our entire lives to the process.”

Background checks, home inspections, and other processes are necessary but challenging. The process can be necessarily intrusive and expensive, and families can begin to feel somewhat bitter, questioning why they have to go through these checks and inspections when biological parents do not.

Afterward, the waiting and hoping can be even more difficult.

“It is really tough, no lie,” remembers Sarah. “Some days I thought I was losing my mind. There wasn’t anything I could really do except prepare somewhat and wait for us to be chosen by an expectant mother.”

The Kelberts weren’t satisfied with the service they received from the Georgia agency they’d hired, and after eight months, they made a change to another agency, settled on the Midwest-based American Adoptions in March of 2015.

Adoption, by its very nature, requires a huge emotional investment by most of the parties involved. This can lead to painful situations. Both the Kelberts and the Goughs had to cope with the experience of being matched, and then having the birth parent back out.

“We got the call that we had been chosen by a birth mother and she was expecting a little girl. She was due Sept. 15 and living in Florida!” Nicole remembers. “We were so excited and so we waited a very long three months to go get the baby and went down to Georgia so we were closer around her due date. September 15th came and still no word that she was in labor. When the agency finally called and asked to talk to us both, I knew right away they had bad news. I wasn’t by Tony so I just told her to tell me and she said that the birth mother had delivered the day before, and that she had decided to parent. I was crushed. And Tony was crushed. And my parents.”

The Goughs had two similar experiences, first with a mother who changed her mind when she found out she was having a boy instead of a girl, and second with a safe-delivery baby relinquished at a Michigan hospital when the birth mother petitioned to get the baby back.

The grief in that situation is indescribable. “I couldn’t breathe. It was a nightmare come true. I don’t remember large pieces of that day,” admits Sarah. “All I know is that I held him as long as I could and then when I had to let him go, I gave him to the adoption agency manager, she walked out of the room and I just collapsed into Mark’s arms. I knew we would never see him again.”

For both families, however, the nightmares became dreams again, and their long stories have happy endings.

Sarah and Mark adopted their daughter Zoe in May of 2015, and Nicole and Tony were matched with their son Sully in November of the same year.

“The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Tony was at work and I was at the hunting cabin with my nephews and nieces and dad,” recalled Nicole warmly. “I was in the tree stand and kept checking my phone, and noticed a missed call from Kansas, and I just knew it was ‘the’ call. They were already on the phone with Tony when I called back and I thought they were going to tell us she was in labor, but they told us she had already had him!”

The Kelberts packed and were headed to Louisiana, where Sully was born, in less than an hour. “We made it down to Louisiana when Sully was 23 hours old. When they handed him to us we bonded immediately, and we’re so thankful and couldn’t believe he was actually here and ours!”

Both families are happy, and adore their new additions.

“We couldn’t be happier with our little boy,” Nicole said. “He is the center of our lives and we are so thankful we are finally a family.”