The Greatest Sacrifice

The Greatest Sacrifice

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

The Greatest Sacrifice

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

John 15:13

I have seen the Church TV commercial for LDS Family Services many times. The young pregnant girl who cannot marry, cannot raise a baby alone, a baby who deserves two parents.

“I’m not giving her up,” the girl says, “I’m giving her more.”

It makes me cry every time I see it.

So young, so brave.

And the adoptive parents. So happy, so grateful.

I would never have guessed that one day my own family would find themselves living that commercial in real life.

When our son Richie received his patriarchal blessing just before departing on his mission, the patriarch said something that concerned us greatly: “You will know tragedy in your life.”

What tragedy? my husband and I questioned over the years.

Richie was the perfect son. Always loving, always obedient, always helpful, always a good example to his siblings and friends. A good student, a good athlete, who also played the piano. A great scout, an excellent missionary, who married his teenage sweetheart, Joni.

No tragedies there.

A couple of years into their marriage, Richie and Joni decided to start their family. It was then that the prophesied tragedy came to light. They were unable to have children.

After years of fertility work, and one heartbreaking failure after another, they gave up and moved to Chicago where they began a new life without children.

Meanwhile, another son Jack and his wife, Stefi, gave birth to our first granddaughter, Lily, who became the darling of the family.

When Joni learned of Stefi’s pregnancy, she cried all night.

I cried a lot, too. I am a take-charge mother who makes sure my children have what they need. But I could not fulfill this need.

So I prayed a lot.

And I got mad.

Every time I read or heard of an abused or neglected child, I questioned God, “Why didn’t you send that baby to us where it would have been loved and safe?”

There was no answer.

One night I prayed, “I want you to send a baby to Richie and Joni, and I mean it!

My husband warned me about counseling the Lord.

Sometime later, Richie and Joni decided to adopt, but told no one, not wanting to get anyone’s hopes up, least of all their own.

They met with LDS Family Services, filled out all the paperwork, did all the interviews and inspections, and made a portfolio of their lives that Family Services would use to introduce them to birth mothers.

They began budgeting and saving.

Once everything was in place, they took a long overdue and much-deserved vacation to France, where Joni had served a mission.

Ten days later they returned. It was late Sunday night. They checked their phone messages. There were four from Family Services. They returned the calls immediately, awaking the agency director.

“We just retrieved your message,” Richie said, “and we’re not waiting until tomorrow to learn what you have for us.”

“Well, we have a baby boy for you,” replied the director. “He was born Friday afternoon and has been waiting for you to turn up. Where have you been? And can you be in Minnesota by Tuesday at 1 P.M.?”

Richie and Joni had only recently passed Family Services’ inspection before leaving on their trip. They had not expected to hear from them for weeks or months, maybe even years. Then suddenly, they had only thirty-six hours to prepare for parenthood, without a diaper or a bottle to their name! Because they live in Chicago and use public transportation, they don’t even own a car or a car seat!

They called their bishop whose wife loaned them a car seat and some baby essentials. They rented a car and started the long drive to claim their son from a town very near where I grew up.

Still, they told no one.

As is sometimes the procedure with Family Services, they met the birth mother, as well as her parents, when picking up their son at the home of a stake president.

They learned that both the birth mother and father had separately viewed all the available portfolios and had separately chosen Richie and Joni to parent their baby. Surely, it was inspiration.

Even more interestingly, the birth mother and her parents had kept the baby while awaiting Richie and Joni’s return, refusing to give the baby to anyone else.

“Why us?” Richie asked.

“Because you’ve lived an adventurous life,” the birth mother answered, “and I want my son raised by adventurous parents.”

“We’ve led an adventurous life,” Richie laughed, “because we didn’t have kids!”

“Now, we’ll never do anything adventurous again,” laughed Joni.

They left with their four-day-old son and stopped at the first baby store they passed, buying everything in sight.

After driving for four hours while the wondrous event sunk in, they stopped at a hotel to hold their new son and to call family with the miraculous news.

Richie found me at Jack and Stefi’s house, holding my three-week-old granddaughter Annie Leigh (named after me).

“I’m so sorry I haven’t called and asked about your trip,” I apologized, “but we’ve been preoccupied with the birth of Annie. . . .”

“Mom,” Richie interrupted.

I could tell by the tone of his voice that something serious had happened. Having fasted and prayed for a baby for them for years at that point, naturally I assumed that’s what he was calling about.

“Did you hear from Family Services?” I asked excitedly. “Did someone pick you for parents?”

“I’m holding my new son,” Richie answered.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Stefi grabbed the phone, listened to the news and burst into tears.

Three-year-old Lily groaned at the thought of having to share her grandma with yet another new baby.

Between the two of us, Stefi and I pieced together the miraculous story.

When we prayed that night, we wept with joy and gratitude for the grand and glorious blessing of a baby finally for Richie and Joni.

And then we thanked God for the birth mother, who could have aborted the baby, but who chose instead to give him life and then to give him a family. What a brave girl. What a splendid spirit. What a noble sacrifice. How very grateful we are for her and will be eternally.

We think of her often: wondering how she’s doing, how she’s feeling, how she’s coping with her loss. Wondering if her arms and heart feel as empty as ours feel full. Wondering if she will ever understand and appreciate what she has done for our family, giving us a baby we could not get any other way. A son. Our first grandson. Our namesake. Giving him life when it is so easy these days to take life away. Giving him a family in a day when family is waning. Making the greatest sacrifice of her life, while granting us the greatest blessing of our lives.

We think, too, of her parents, wondering how they’re feeling, if they’re at peace with their daughter’s decision, if they’re missing their grandson as much as we’re loving him. And we feel as grateful for them as we are for the birth mother.

LDS Family Services is one of many adoption agencies in this country, with a twist. They match LDS babies with LDS families, so that baby can have the blessing of the restored gospel and Church in his life, the blessing of endowed parents, the blessing of a big, connected family sealed for eternity.

We visited two weeks later. After holding him for a minute, my husband, Jack, said the sweetest thing: “He doesn’t feel any less like mine just because he’s adopted.”

“Good,” I replied, “that’s exactly how you’re supposed to feel.”

It was some time before Richie and Joni named their son Andie, a spelling they made up, wanting the “ie” in Richie’s name to also be in Andie’s name.

At this writing Andie is eighteen months old. His adoption was finalized two weeks ago and we took him to the temple this past week. Despite the delays, he has felt like ours since the moment we learned of him.

Interestingly, Andie is very much like his father, Richie, was at the same age. Anxious to walk and talk. Cheerful. Inquisitive. Lovable.

How can that possibly be?

God so orders the universe.

Richie used to work for me. His move to Chicago was very hard on me and my business. But Joni is convinced that they had to move to Chicago because that’s where they would find their son.

I think she’s right.

It’s no coincidence that Richie and Joni were living in Chicago when their son was born just north of there.

It’s no coincidence that my grandson comes from my hometown, something we will always have in common.

It’s no coincidence that Joni’s sister Mary, Andie’s aunt, was adopted, a special relationship they will always share.

It’s God putting together a family that He ordained in the eternities.

As He does, in my opinion, with every single adoption on Earth.

Leigh Baugh

(Details have been changed for legal and privacy purposes.)

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