By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
“A child will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankrolls smaller, homes happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten and the future worth living for.”
Nobody is quite sure who penned those words, but they certainly reflect the thoughts of many, many parents.
Tom and Marissa Palmer, however, have actually lived it.
In the quest to become parents, this Effingham couple has experienced the ultimate in emotions – from the highest of the highs to the lowest of the lows.
“We knew our purpose in life wasn’t to just work all the time,” Marissa said. “We wanted to be parents, but we knew it would happen in God’s time. We knew He had a plan for us. We just needed to be patient.”
Their patience – and perseverance – was rewarded. They have much to be thankful for during this Thanksgiving season. They are now parents with two wonderful children.
But they have certainly endured their share of challenges the past 3½ years.
Tom, an assistant buyer at Rural King in Mattoon, and Marissa, a pharmacist at Andes Health Mart Pharmacy in Effingham, were married seven years ago.
“When we first got married, we decided to take the first year and just enjoy being married,” Marissa explained. “We went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and took an Alaskan cruise. During that time, I told Tom I was interested in adopting and asked him to consider it.”
“I had never really thought about it until then,” Tom replied. “But I looked into it and thought about it. I realized it didn’t really matter to me. I just knew I wanted children.”
After that first year, they tried to have a baby, but with no success. So Marissa began seeing a fertility specialist. They had also contacted an adoption agency and began the process of being eligible to adopt.
“We didn’t know if either would work for us,” Marissa said.
But early in 2013, Marissa found out the in vitro process was a success. She was pregnant with twins – a boy and a girl.
Sadly, all the excitement, plans and dreams that go hand-in-hand with news of a first child, was short-lived.
She was only able to carry the babies 21 weeks and 6 days. Katelynn and Wilson were born on July 28, but lived only a few minutes each.
“The doctors knew I would deliver early,” Marissa recalled. “They tried to get me to 24 weeks. That would have at least given us a little bit of hope.
“As you can imagine, we were discouraged,” she added. “It was one of those ‘Why God?’ moments. It didn’t make sense that we weren’t meant to be parents. There were a lot of prayers during that time.”
But three months later in October, Tom and Marissa went back to the adoption lawyer and asked what they needed to do to improve their chances of adopting a child. They were initially on the list for a white newborn baby. After this visit, they were added to the list for African-American or bi-racial babies, plus older children.
Ultimately, that decision proved to make a difference.
Toward the end of December, Marissa received a phone call from the lawyer. She was told about a three-month-old baby girl and that the birth mom wanted to meet with her and Tom.
“We met with her and things went well,” Marissa said. “But we didn’t know how long it would take before she would make her decision.”
The weekend before Christmas, Tom and Marrisa were on their way to Logansport, Indiana, to celebrate the holidays with Tom’s side of the family. Just as they reached Plainfield, only a few miles from Indianapolis, they received another phone call from the lawyer.
“She told us to turn around and come back,” Marissa recalled. “The birth mother had chosen us.”
Obviously, they quickly turned around. Their first stop was at Babies R Us to get some needed baby supplies.
“We knew it was a risk, but we couldn’t pass up the chance,” Marissa admitted. “This could be our daughter.”
“I thought we had been through enough. Surely, this would work out for us,” Tom added.
“We were dreading Christmas that year,” Marissa said. “It was exactly what we needed at exactly the right time. We believed God had answered our prayers.”
But only a couple weeks later, everything changed. The birth father contacted the adoption agency and said he wanted his daughter back. Ultimately, that resulted in Tom and Marissa giving the baby girl back to the agency.
Again, there was disappointment and sadness in the home.
But again, Tom and Marissa refused to give up. Their desire to be parents wouldn’t allow it.
Unfortunately, they were matches for two more adoptions that didn’t work out. In one case, the birth mother went to a different hospital and let the state take her baby. In the other, Tom and Marissa didn’t feel comfortable and broke ties with the mother.
October 17, 2014, however, was a day they will never forget. In addition to celebrating their fifth wedding anniversary, a two-year-old boy named Aidan came to live with them.
“The agency had grandparents come to them about their grandson,” Marissa explained. “They wanted to find a family that was receptive to open adoption so they could remain a part of his life. You can hardly adopt a child anymore unless it’s open. You just won’t get chosen.”
But that has not been a problem in this case. The grandparents are still involved in Aidan’s life.
“They love him,” Marissa said. “We have a great relationship with them.”
A little more than a year later, on Dec. 22, 2015, the adoption was finalized.
“I don’t think it really sunk in for awhile,” Marissa admitted. “I had to get up and testify and it was very emotional. In my heart, I was already a mom. But then I officially became a mom. It was a great, special day.”
“For some reason, I was more nervous that day than any other day,” Tom added. “I got choked up, too.”
But their story was far from over.
On Sept. 12, after breaking ties with a birth mom, the couple was admittedly exhausted. They talked about the possibility of foster care. They also discussed doing in vitro again. They had no idea that another prayer was about to be answered.
On the very next day, Sept. 13, the phone rang again. It was their adoption lawyer in Indiana.
“He told me there was a healthy baby girl born that morning and then said ‘she’s yours,’” Marissa recalled. “I just sat there for a couple minutes and then I called Tom at work.”
Amelia was born at 8:09 a.m. At 8:30 that same night, Tom and Marissa were holding her at the hospital.
“I think we were more scared than excited,” Tom admitted. “Honestly, after everything we had been through, I figured something would happen and it wouldn’t work out. What would go wrong this time?”
But nothing has gone wrong. Amelia has been with Tom Marissa for nearly three months. Her adoption is scheduled to be finalized in January.
“We had all but given up on adopting a healthy baby,” Marissa said. “We had accepted the fact that wasn’t going to happen. But she’s 100 percent healthy and Aidan is great.
“I didn’t realize how much stress we were under,” Marissa said. “When we got Mia, our stress was gone. We’re ready to move on with our lives.”
To say the least, the adoption process has been challenging for Tom and Marissa.
“To pursue adoption, you have to be dedicated,” Tom said. “You have to really want it, both emotionally and financially. There are a lot of ups and downs.”
“Despite everything we’ve been through, it’s an amazing process,” Marissa added. “We would do it again in a heartbeat.”
The couple is thoroughly enjoying their roles as parents.
“I’m happy being a parent – 99 percent of the time,” Tom said with a smile.
“There are good moments and bad moments. We knew it wouldn’t all be a bed of roses,” Marissa said. “But it was worth the wait. For the first time in three years since we lost the twins, my heart is full again.”