Evelyn sat on her mom’s lap, with a toothless grin on her face. A little spit up came out, and her new dad, Virin, jumped to get a burp cloth to clean the mess.
Evelyn arrived in August, and the Vedders are getting used to the early feedings and the late nights once again.
“I’m thankful for her 50 times a day, every day. Your heart just expands fivefold. Her smiles just brighten your day,” said Kristie, holding back tears.
Families come together at this time of year and remember what’s important. The Vedders have even more to be thankful for this year as their family gathers in their comfortable home. The Vedders are among three families that adopted children in 2010 through Catholic Charities Pregnancy, Parenting & Adoption program. The waiting list is now closed until the backlog of families has been cleared.
Originally from Ohio, the Vedders are college sweethearts. They both have teaching backgrounds, although Kristie now is a mom who stays at home. Virin, who is 37, is an assistant principal for the Gwinnett County public school system.
They were globetrotting young professionals, seeing the sights from Paris to South America. They enjoyed good restaurants at the time, but now they are more interested in family-friendly restaurants than those with white tablecloths.
What’s funny for Kristie is that while her friends, who had kids, were jealous of their lifestyle, she longed to raise kids.
After multiple miscarriages, the Vedders decided to take another route to having a family. “We just came to the conclusion that God has different plans for us,” said Kristie, 39, who worships, with her husband, at St. John Neumann Church, Lilburn.
Their son, Corey, who is 2 1/2, was adopted. And in 2009 the couple was ready to expand their family once again with the help of Catholic Charities’ program. They put together a book of interests—lists of favorite actors, restaurants, foods, along with lots of family photos. The book tells birth parents about their history—how they’ve known each other since college, how they long for a second child so their son has a younger sibling, and how they’d raise the child in the Catholic Church.
They were prepared for a long wait since their first son had taken many years to arrive.
“We were just waiting for the right couple to come along,” said Kristie, sitting in their comfortable home in a leafy neighborhood of Georgian-style brick homes in Lawrenceville.
Heather Smith, the coordinator of adoption resources, said Catholic Charities has a waiting list of 15 couples. Families can wait as long as two years, depending on the requests of the birth mother, she said.
“We are presently not taking any more new applicants as we would like to get placements made with the families that are waiting,” she said.
For the Vedders, the right couple came along quickly. They were at a rest stop in North Carolina on a road trip in July when a phone call told them a couple had selected them to parent their child. It was unexpected. They figured they’d be waiting for months, like they had the first time. Virin had just taken apart Corey’s crib.
“This was not at all on our radar,” he said.
The birth parents were teens. “Drew,” 16, and “Willow,” 15, looked at profiles of five couples and chose the Vedders. They liked that their daughter would have an older brother, as well as the pictures that showed a happy Corey and the details about the Vedders’ life together.
“It may not be the best for us, but it was for her,” said Willow, who has blue eyes and likes to paint. She and Drew live near Alpharetta. (The names of the teen couple have been changed to protect her privacy.)
Soon the couples met, introduced by the staff at the adoption agency. These meetings can have a feeling of an awkward first date, with everyone on their best behavior. But the uncomfortable feelings melted away.
“It’s a click. It fit,” said Virin.
A second meeting on Aug. 2 was scheduled. But that night, Evelyn Marie, at 7 pounds and 12 ounces, was born. The couples met a second time at Northside Hospital where the Vedders got to see their daughter shortly after her birth.
Two days later, Evelyn was brought home. Kristie, tearing up, called the experience a “bittersweet” moment. The birth parents had their goodbyes, then Kristie and her husband left the hospital with their daughter.
“It was hard,” said Willow. “I cried five days straight.”
But because it is an open adoption—in which contact between birth parents and the child continues after an adoption is finalized—the birth parents get to experience milestones. In fact, when Evelyn rolled over for the first time, Kristie captured it on her iPhone and texted the video to the birth parents.
Virin said they are pleased with the arrangement. It is natural for a child to know their family tree, he said, and birth parents have the option to get to know their child.
Indeed, even Evelyn’s name was given to her by her birth parents and the Vedders embraced it. The name means “little bird,” which is a childhood nickname for Willow and her middle name—Marie—is shared with Kristie’s mom.
The open adoption helps Willow.
“If we’re having a bad day, sometimes we’ll get videos. We can look at the videos and see that she’s happy,” she said.
Drew, who is Catholic and involved in arts in his high school, said, “Evelyn will probably get to see the world with them.”
Three months on, the milestones have begun. The couples and the children have met, gathering at Shorty Howell Park in Gwinnett County for an afternoon. Corey got trucks and toys from Drew and Willow.
Evelyn was baptized in October. Both she and her older brother are being raised in the Church.
The teens, too, say they have much to be thankful for this year.
“I’m thankful that she’s with such a great family,” said Willow, who expects to maintain a relationship with the Vedders, even though she knows it’ll change.
“The Vedders are so sweet to us. They always tell us what is going on. We never miss a diaper change,” said Drew.
Virin wakes up early now for a feeding, while getting ready for work. Kristie looks forward to the bedtime ritual of story time and meeting with her Mom’s Circle at their parish.
“We are just beginning our journey,” Virin said.
Printed with permission from the Georgia Bulletin, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Atlanta.