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From the first time she began teaching at a local community college, Adrian Douglas knew that lives could be changed for the better. She had seen the difference that higher education could make in someone's life, and she was happy to be part of that process. She liked to help others.
"I am a faith-based decision maker," explains Adrian. "And I told God a long time ago I would take advantage of any opportunities He would provide for me."
One opportunity that God did not seem to be providing, however, was a baby. Happily married to a loving man (Bruce) and with a doctorate in hand (Colorado State University), Adrian experienced her first big loss: a sudden pre-term delivery of a baby girl she and Bruce named Angel.
"In 2006 I became pregnant but delivered the baby at 6 months," recalls Adrian. "After that we relocated to Dallas to help take care of my mom. She was very sick, and in Texas my brothers could help Bruce and I share in her care."
"There was a lady at the pool with two little girls," says Adrian. "I went to say hello and complimented her girls. She said they were 4 months apart. And I thought, 'How did that work?' Turns out one little girl was her biological child and the other little girl was adopted. I was shocked. I really thought they were twins."
Adrian spoke with Bruce, and the two decided to adopt. Exactly one week later, the following Saturday, Adrian received a special phone call. It was a woman from Adrian's Infant Loss Support Group calling to see if Adrian would like to adopt her baby granddaughter once she arrived.
"I felt like my mom had passed away, gone to heaven and immediately went baby shopping," laughs Adrian. "She probably said to God, "My daughter has been waiting a long time for a baby. Can we get one of these?"
Adrian's husband, Bruce, had a much different reaction. He felt the news was almost too good to be true. But it wasn't. The mother did want someone to adopt her child and, to get around interstate adoption laws, moved from New Mexico to Texas to have the baby. She lived with the Douglas family for three weeks.
"We got a chance to know her, she got a chance to know us, and see the environment the baby would be in," says Adrian. "And I think that really helped her with the decision. She felt her baby would be loved and in a home where it would be safe."
Adrian and the momma-to-be would go for long walks and talk about baby Braelyn. The birth mom wanted to know what Adrian would tell her little girl about her biological mom.
"I am going to tell her that you loved her enough to let us love her too," Adrian assured her. "Braelyn is going to know that she is adopted. I don't plan to keep anything from her."
On Labor Day of 2009, Braelyn Joanna Douglas was born at Parkland Memorial Hospital. Right away Adrian and Bruce got to cut the cord and hold their newborn baby. The experience was surreal for Adrian. She finally was a mother to a perfect, beautiful little girl. And now she was spending "quiet bonding time" rocking her and examining her tiny feet and hands.
"I was able to feed her and be with her at the hospital," remembers Adrian. "And after two days we brought Braelyn home."
"We ended up going through the adoptive parent nightmare," says Adrian. "The biological parents later decided they wanted to keep the child, so we went through this long, three-year custody battle to try and keep Braelyn. It was horrible."
In moments like these, adoptive parents do not have many rights. The court typically sides with the birth parents. But the Douglas' family attorney assured the couple that baby Braelyn would not be going anywhere. The birth mother's two boys were both delayed with their walking, talking and eating of solid food, especially the 18-month-old. And this caused concern about their home environment.
Bruce, Braelyn and Adrian Douglas, a tight-knit and loving family of three.
In the Douglas family, communication comes first. Adrian continues to introduce things that are age- appropriate to Braelyn, including pictures of her birth mom hanging out with Adrian and Bruce. The family talks about things openly.
"In 2012, [when Braelyn was three], I lost another child," says Adrian. "Braelyn saw the scar on my tummy, and it was an opportunity for us to have another conversation about how mommy cannot grow babies in her tummy. It is amazing that no matter how hard, all of it was destined by God to happen, and even scars have become [a beautiful thing]."
Braelyn Douglas, now age 7, loves remembering her "Gotcha Party." The day symbolized the beginning of her "Forever Family" and the fact that Braelyn truly is Adrian and Bruce's daughter forever.
"Motherhood is one of the hardest jobs you can have, but it is also one of the most rewarding," says Adrian, beaming. "Braelyn is the apple of our eye. I could not love her any more if I had given birth to her. And my husband feels the same way. I don't think he believed it was possible to have that deep, deep love for an adopted child. But he is completely head-over-heels in love with her. And I love to watch them together."