Epilogue: A Word of Dedication and Eternal Gratitude

Thank you, with every fiber of our being, for playing such a supportive, loving, prayerful, unflinching, incredible backbone in this journey. It truly does take a village, and we will never forget you or your loving kindness.

There are a multitude of people to thank, so please forgive me if I missed anyone!

—To our parents, for taking Sarah in as their own from the beginning. For the countless sympathy and tears when the road was rocky, and for pulling in every prayer chain along the way to back us with the Holy power of God. We are blessed to have you all here for this moment!

—To my dad for stripping an old door of all the lead paint so we could install it free of worry for the kids. Also, for the hats, mittens, and chili.

—To Gramma and Grampa Stollsteimer for the handmade stuffed animal, unicorn paint book for Paige, and for the recent, beautiful custom-made name bracelet with emerald birthstones for Sarah. 

—For our siblings (Matt, Julie, Annette, Holly, Beckie) who babysat willingly, with and without oxygen tanks in tow, sometimes for days, and for all the sinus infections and flu viruses you caught from our children in between (Still sorry about that, Gandy!). And, for the bottomless hand-me-downs, and the Christmas and birthday gifts you bought as if she were your niece from the start. Most of all, thank you for the prayers for this sweet girl, that God’s will be done.

—To Joann Cutrarah, my Mom’s BFF, who had a cross from Jerusalem blessed and engraved with Sarah’s birth name in the stone. The cross reads, “Saranova, you are loved.”

—For the lovely visit from cousins Sue (from Chicago) & Kerry Lyons, and for the adorable baby outfits and generous artist books for Paige!

—To Natalie Campbell for the sweetest late-night texts of excitement and support, and for the super generous Target GC.

—To our neighbor, Colleen Ingham, for giving us her super fancy baby monitor, and for the tears when she heard our story. <3

—To Tim and Laurie Bruderek for not only hosting us in NYC, for five days in the rain, the week before we inherited a newborn, but for your genuine excitement about our news, and for flooding our mailbox with the sweetest gifts upon our return: bath tub, bottle set, best formula dispenser ever, and an I heart NY bib. <3

—To my former coworker, Tia Senour, who is the aunt of a million nieces and nephews, who gave us a foldable baby bath, fancy baby shampoo, and paid for a night of babysitting, courtesy of her friend, Hannah Wilson.

—To Sarah’s Grandpa Mike for the hand-knitted blanket from his girlfriend, and for the adorable jungle gym with the light-up toucan, which Paige and Sarah still play with, from time to time. 🙂  

—For Andrea Starosciak who checks up on me weekly, and prays for us regularly, despite her own full-time work load and homeschooling as a devoted mother of two. Thank you for coming to the baptism, for brainstorming ways to cope when it seemed impossible, and for praying incessantly. 

—To our college (and beyond) friends, Ty & Kristin, Jess & Erik, Josh & Ashley, Jeff & Meghan, and Andrew and Monica Gingerich for all your support the day we broke the news at J & E’s BBQ. All the hugs spoke volumes. And, to Jessica Sebold and her mom, Kris Jenstad Nelson, who burst into tears (more than once) and gave us the most loving response we had ever received about this impending adoption news. I will never forget your kindness and support, and for your bravery in babysitting our two handfuls in addition to your three boys on the night our babysitter bailed. 

—To Ty and Kristin who came over for dinner (which they bought and brought all the fixins), and, after our grill pathetically failed before what would have been a fantastic steak, ordered pizza for us all and refused any financial assistance. Kristin, I’ll never forget how lovingly you handled Sarah when I couldn’t calm her at your house. Reflux is real, and yet, you had the magic touch, that day. 

—To Father Brian for your words of encouragement about baptism, for baptizing Sarah on our family’s favorite day—December 22nd—the same date Justin proposed to me 11 years prior, and the same date Paige was baptized, 5 years prior. And, thank you for all the prayers, and for loving Sarah and Paige so much from the start! They adore you!

—To Father Mike for all the talks, all the immediate prayers when you saw her oxygen tank at the first Mass you celebrated in the Lourdes gym (!), and for telling me what I needed to hear vs. what I wanted to hear, in the most trying times. “You don’t know if she’s meant to rise from a position of adversity, so just trust in the Lord that He knows her path.”

—To Mary and Morgan Rogers for the fresh pizza delivery, all the prayers, the wonderful treatment of Sarah as the precious gift that she is, and for arranging an incredibly generous gift from the staff at Our Lady of Lourdes! Also, to Mary for acting as a constant sounding board for the dramatic events that ensued on this journey. 

—Along those lines, thank you to my coworkers at Our Lady of Lourdes for the incredible gift, and for the steadfast support of the best interest of Sarah and her baby brother. It means the world to have support of such faithful people!

—To our small group Bible study friends, thank you for the countless times you listened to our woes, and for holding us so closely in your prayers and entrusting us with your own personal intentions. You pulled us through more than you’ll ever fully realize.

—To my moms group, who was there in a heartbeat with support, meals, & texts, and who always invited me along no matter how often I had to say no, or how long it had been between visits, and who even got me out of the house to see Bohemian Rhapsody at IMAX for the very first time, and for a night of fancy chocolate dining and music, which changed my life.

—To my cousin, Susie Harkins, for checking in periodically to make sure we’re taking care of our mental health with all the stress of the situation, when the court interactions and threats of reunification with Mom were harrowing. 

—For all the meals after we brought Sarah home from the NICU, and crash landed into sleepless nights for the next seven months: Tom & Annie Burgess (Uber Eats GC), Emily Bianco (white bean chicken chili & pumpkin bread), Jess and Erik Sebold (Beer Brat meal with all the fixin’s), G&G Bilstein(ey) (chili), Jeff & Meghan (BBQ Pork and Pizza), Cristina Russell (homemade pasta & the most beautiful bread (!), salad, and ice cream), Guila & Adam Bickford (Lasagna & tater tot casserole, and for organizing the small group meals), Sarah Enfante (chicken bean chili and biscuits), Brittany LoSasso (Uber Eats GC), Jen Baribeau (taco salad, chocolate strawberries, puzzle & bear for Paige, and huge bag of baby clothes/toys for Sarah [!]), Julie Behrman (for paying a visit and delivering a delicious meal that I forgot to write down!), Tara Bauman (whom I did not know at all, at the time, who heard our story and brought breakfast muffins, asparagus soup, & diapers), Maggie Sweeney (chili), Georgia Kristan (tacos, and separately, a fabulous chicken pot pie meal and bottle of champagne when we found out Sarah was free to adopt!), & Lindsay Kroonenberg (Spicy Basil GC).

—To A-A-Ron & Jess Brill, for bringing us a delicious meal while very pregnant with their second baby. You brought us lasagna and caesar salad and dessert, with adult beverages, and you sent a pizza delivery when we got the flu on Christmas, 2018!

—To Sarah Lugo, for the door-drop delivery of a bassinet when we were desperate! 

—To Cristina Russell, for watching Sarah during a few court hearings, after a scary encounter with Sarah at one of them (mentioned above—thank you, Archangel Michael, for your protection that day). And, for all the countless prayers, and venting sessions over your delicious coffee, during the most tumultuous times of this adventure.

—To Sarah Rector for the door drop of the most adorable onesies I’ve ever seen—just because! And for attending the baptism, and your prayers for this sweet babygirl.

—To Ross and Cynthia, for always providing optimism and support throughout this adventure, and for the very generous meals you provided for our family.

—To all the incredibly dedicated state and county who helped us along the way. Kate, Karen, Mandi, Hannah, Lorrie, Val, Shawna, Louann, Stacy, Kathy, and countless others.

—To Alexander and Ivy for always, always, always supporting us, in all our wild life decisions, and for spoiling our children with the most wonderful gifts, and for spoiling us with many a Cajun and green chili rendezvouses.

—Last, but certainly not least, to Shawn and Jenn for all the love you showed Sarah from the very beginning—both in the NICU, when you complemented our visits and covered us while we were in NYC, for the dedication you showed to taking her in as one of your own, for your forgiveness when we made our decision, for your willingness to be godparents to both of our girls, for your openness to taking on two other foster girls at the same time, later two boys, and ultimately, for your joy in taking Sarah’s little brother, Bodhi, with a two-hour notice! Unbelievable friends, and after tomorrow, officially family; officially home.