What do you do when you get a call asking you to consider adopting a child? What if you’re already adoptive parents of two children and the possible third-to-be is the sibling of your 3-year-old?
If you’re Darrell and Michaelle Weathers, you pray together, talk through the financial difficulties you’re experiencing — and then say Yes.
This baby girl will be born late in April, and the birth mother wants Michaelle (pronounced Michelle) in the delivery room with her. But across what should be a smooth road to the adoption there is a big hurdle the Weatherses, who live in Spartanburg, S.C., are facing. But it’s best to start at the beginning.
“We love children so much we really wanted them,” says Michaelle. They were seven years into their marriage when they learned that they would not be able to conceive.
They had no qualms about adopting, but they met resistance at the first agency they tried. “The woman in charge said, ‘Sorry, we don’t deal with Catholics,’” Michaelle recalls.
Their next choice was a better one. The biological mother picked the Weatherses to be the parents of the baby boy she would give birth to. Adoption costs were considerable, but the couple’s hearts were set for all challenges. They made many sacrifices to come up with the $17,000 they needed up front — and have been rewarded with the love of their son, Seth, for seven years now.
When he was 4 years old, Seth drew a picture of four stick figures holding hands — a mommy, a daddy and two children. “Who’s the littlest one?,” they asked.
“He said it was his baby sister,” recalls Darrell. “That was a month before we found out.”
What the Weatherses found out came with a surprise phone call from a friend, Lynn Connolly, after Mass one Sunday. She knew they were interested in adopting another child. “Once a week, at the consecration of the Eucharist,” she says, “I asked Christ for a special blessing for them, to make it financially feasible for them to adopt.”
Then, at a children’s St. Nicholas party at her parish, she bumped into a friend who told her that her daughter was expecting a baby in four weeks. The young lady, already a mother, wanted to put this new baby up for adoption. She and her parents were looking for a Catholic family. Connolly knew the perfect one.
With no time to lose, the Weatherses took out an equity line on their home to raise the $11,000 in fees this second adoption called for. Soon enough, Seth had his baby sister, Rebekah.
Says Michaelle, “God knew they needed a home and made us capable of taking care of them.”
But wait. The story is still only getting started.
Last December, Lynn Connolly learned the same friend’s daughter was expecting, unmarried, and deciding she couldn’t care for another child. They turned to Connolly: Would Darrell and Michaelle like to adopt Rebekah’s half sister?
Enter the biggest hurdle yet. Darrell had been superintendent of a city’s Parks and Recreation department. He took a similar position in a different town in order to allow Michaelle, a dental assistant, to stay home with the children once the adoption loans were paid back. Then, last September, he was laid off. (Currently he’s self-employed as a landscaper.)
Knowing their financial hardship (which also entailed three operations for Seth before age 2), Connolly still didn’t hesitate to ask, because “Darrell and Michaelle are a wonderful couple, so giving in their love for their children,” she says, “and they make a very joy-filled family.”
The Weatherses discussed their situation and prayed hard for guidance. “It’s the right thing to do to keep the sisters together,” explains Michaelle. “Our faith and our trust are solely in God, and he’s the only one who is going to make it possible.”
There’s still some work to do. All costs must be paid before the adoption, which must be done at the same time baby Sarah Elizabeth is born later this month.
“Seth came up with her middle name,” says Darrell. “Michaelle told him he didn’t come from her tummy; he came from her heart.”
The Weatherses are working hard to raise money. They’ve received a discount for the required state papers and from a committed Christian lawyer who has adopted children himself. Yet, while they’ve been able to negotiate costs down to $6,000 (all due before the adoption), as of March 17, they had only $1,500.
Tina Andress, Michaelle’s sister and herself a mother of six, contacted the Weatherses’ diocesan family-life coordinator and proposed starting a foundation to help. But any consideration will take weeks to approve. If the initiative does get approved, it will likely be too late to help.
“We’re trying to humble ourselves and ask people for help; not lose hope; put our trust in God, and pray he will provide,” says Andress. “The beauty of this adoption is that it’s not only bringing the two little sisters together — but it brought the idea for this foundation for other Catholic families in the diocese.”
In Search of Support
Andress has set up the Weathers Adoption Fund website explaining the family’s financial challenge, hoping for contributions.
The family talked over ideas with Father Michael Polewczak, administrator of Jesus Our Risen Savior Church in Spartanburg. He believes the website shows promise.
From watching an uncle and aunt in his own family adopt when unable to have children, Father Polewczak knows what these families go through. He knows the Weatherses are “a very devout Catholic family, very faithful to the Church, and dedicated in the worship life of the parish. They are a family so in love with God and with each other,” he says. “In the example of Darrell and Michaelle, there’s a testimony to how strong and healthy and far-reaching the marital bond of love expresses itself — in how they want to reach out and adopt children.”
Darrell says it’s essential for them to let other people know how important adoptions are.
The Weatherses have faced hurdles before. Explains Michaelle, “When we first started, we never thought we would have one child. Through all the prayers and things we’ve gone through, here comes No. 3. They’re all miracles.”
Now they need another one. Seth is praying for it. He already has big-brother plans for Sarah Elizabeth: “I want to hold her 24 hours a day.”
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
is based in Trumbull, Connecticut.
INFORMATION WeathersAdoptionFund.org (864) 599-1533