catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 10, Num 15 :: 2011.09.02 — 2011.09.15



Photo: Drew, Jill and Alice Warden on adoption day.

I click rewind on the 48-second video my sister Jill posted on Facebook. The video shows Jill’s 20-month old daughter Alice, playing with her stuffed monkey — named Debby — laughing and kissing the monkey’s face. I see Alice, dressed in an orange cotton halter dress, running from Debby, calling “Tickle!” then coming back to Debby. I hear Jill’s off-camera voice calling to Alice with the two of them laughing together. The video is too short for me so I play it repeatedly, enjoying the silliness, joy and love enveloping my sister and my niece.

I am not the only person who watches and re-watches the video. Indeed, I am part of the larger group who loves Alice and the story of how she came to be part of Jill and her husband Drew’s family. The miracle of Alice would never have come about except through community.

My sister and brother-in-law married young, anticipating a household of children. But by their 18th wedding anniversary, there were no children. After three surgeries and additional procedures it became clear that Jill had a problematic uterus and her grief over her infertility was deep.

They explored their options of in-vitro fertilization which costs thousands of dollars without guarantee of working; or adoption, which is also expensive.  They live on modest incomes with Drew as a public school teacher and Jill as a professional belly-dancer and teacher. They simply didn’t know if they could ever save enough money to seriously explore either of these possibilities to fulfill their heart’s desire for children.

Jill shared this dilemma with her belly-dancing friend and colleague, Julia, who decided to organize and host a fundraiser involving the belly-dance community in the Los Angeles area. Jill and Drew’s story was told far and wide and additional circles of people became involved with the fundraiser, all for the purpose of enabling Jill and Drew to realize their dream.

Shortly after the fundraiser, in the late spring, one of Jill’s students, Mindy, declared after class one day that she was going to grow her hair back to its original hair color and take pre-natal vitamins to enhance her hair growth. Mindy is in her early forties and began to brag how she apparently reached early menopause because she hadn’t had her period for a while.

Six months later Mindy realized it was pregnancy and not early menopause that disrupted her periods.

She was shocked, especially since her daughter was already a young adult and Mindy was uncertain if she and her husband wanted to start over again with another baby. But they knew Jill and Drew were ready to start a family and Mindy wondered: Had God placed this baby in her womb for Jill?

On December 14, they briefly talked with Jill and all agreed to continue the conversation after Christmas. But on December 16, Mindy delivered a baby girl born ten weeks early. Mindy’s husband called Jill from the hospital and said, “I hope you have a name for the baby because she is here.” 

Alice began breathing on her own the day she was delivered but stayed in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit for six weeks until she weighed four pounds. Because Jill and Drew were not ready at all for a baby, family, friends and acquaintances quickly responded to Alice’s unexpected arrival with baby furniture, supplies and enough baby clothes that Alice wore a different outfit every day during her first nine months of life.

On June 1, 2011, Alice was legally and finally adopted by Jill and Drew. Mindy said Alice was always Jill and Drew’s daughter — it was just that her womb worked whereas Jill’s didn’t. But the entire miracle couldn’t have occurred without Jill becoming vulnerable with her friend, her friend’s initiative, the extensive community responding to Jill and Drew’s longing and one particular family willing to see God’s work in an unexpected pregnancy.

Because Jill firmly believes that God worked through her community, she continues to share Alice via photos and videos on Facebook for Alice’s virtual community who love and celebrate her.

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