Today I get to introduce you to LeAnne Sofia and her family, who live on the Florida Coast. The first thing that you’ll notice is that LeAnne’s home is GORGEOUS. I literally gasped at some of the photos. So stylish and modern and full of light. It’s really stunning. But as you read LeAnne’s story you’ll fall even more in love. She speaks openly about her struggles with infertility, her miscarriage, and the eventual adoption of her son. She’s open and vulnerable and I’m so glad she decided to share. Welcome, LeAnne!
Hi! We’re Robert, LeAnne, and Jake from Palm Coast, Florida. Robert and I grew up in Central Florida, and that’s where we met on a Wednesday night back in 2002. I was having dinner with my roommate, and after mustering up the courage (at least that’s how he likes to tell the story), Robert walked over to our table and told me that he thought I was stunning. We were married almost exactly one year later.
Robert co-owns and is the CEO of a tech company that does marketing for the financial industry. His company is completely remote so he’s able to have employees that live all over the US and in Canada. People always think he’s super serious when they first meet him, and are surprised to find that he’s actually really goofy. He loves to sing and make up his own song lyrics. Sometimes I feel like I live in a musical. He makes me laugh, and I think his silliness is part of what makes him such a great dad.
I’m an e-designer and occasional blogger for my website Pretty Olive Interiors, but mostly I take care of our son Jacob who we were blessed to have through private domestic adoption. He’s 15 months old, spunky, athletic, and incredibly sweet. He loves anything that has to do with running and throwing or kicking a ball. He also loves to tease our chihuahua Zumi, and laughs hysterically when he gets her to zoom around the house. He’s just beginning to assert his independence so temper tantrums are now becoming more frequent, but fortunately he gets over them pretty quickly and is all smiles again.
I think my favorite part about living with a kid is seeing the world through his eyes. It may sound silly, but watching him discover a fascinating leaf, play with a balloon for the first time, or figure out how to open a door is truly awe inspiring. I’m finding that each new stage comes faster than the one before, and I’m already missing baby Jake. Maybe one day I’ll also miss the explosion of toys I’m constantly stepping over, but I doubt it!
We moved to the east coast from Ocala about 4 1/2 years ago, and could not be happier. We love living ten minutes from the beach! I even love the drive to get there since we have to go over the Intracoastal Waterway. To see the sunlight glinting off the water is a view I’ll never get tired of. To me, Palm Coast is like a little hidden gem. It’s clean and quiet, but still very affordable. In our area the houses range from $250k-$500k.
It butts up against Flagler Beach which has its own charm. The sand is cinnamon colored and full of shells, and depending on the day, the water can look deep sapphire or turquoise. It’s also one of the only beaches I’ve seen here that isn’t hidden by high rises. In fact when you drive down A1A you have an unobstructed view of the ocean, and that’s not likely to change anytime soon.
Every weekend there’s a Farmer’s Market at the beach, and on the first Friday night of each month there’s live music and food. We also have Food Truck Tuesdays at our Town Center, and other fun festivals throughout the year. If you love to be outdoors, there are beautiful parks and tons of walking and biking trails. We don’t have a lot of shopping or restaurant options, but we’re close to cities that have both.
The one drawback to living near the coast in Florida is hurricane season. Since moving here we’ve had to evacuate three times! Fortunately we’ve never had any major damage to our home, but it’s always stressful. We typically take the opportunity to visit some close friends in Alabama, and try to pretend like we’re on vacation while anxiously waiting for the storm to pass.
Our home is in a gated community and has 4 bedrooms and 3 1/2 baths, but it’s not the home we were planning on buying. We were actually in the middle of building a house in a different neighborhood.
One day our builder called to tell us it would be completed earlier than expected, and we needed to put our current home on the market so we could secure the loan for our new one. We did, and to our surprise it sold the very next day.
We had no choice but to put our things in storage, and find a short term rental. The only options were vacation homes on Airbnb, but none of them were available indefinitely, so we had to pack up and move to a new house every couple of weeks.
Our builder began to complain about delays, and kept pushing our closing date back. To add to the stress we were in the middle of adopting Jacob, and he was due in just a few short months. Not having a permanent residence to bring him home to could have hindered the adoption. Out of desperation we began house hunting.
After a particularly fruitless search we stumbled upon the perfect home one day, complete with a separate guest house that Robert could run his company from. We made an offer that evening and by the next morning we were under contract. A month after we moved in we brought our son home for the first time. It was a whirlwind for sure!
Our neighbors are mostly retirees that have already raised their families, and they were thrilled to have a little baby in the neighborhood. After we were home with him, some brought gifts and food, or just stopped by to say congratulations. Everyone knows Jake’s name, and takes the time to stop and greet him when we’re outside.
Many people ask why we chose adoption to grow our family, and the short answer is, it was the best option for the set of circumstances we found ourselves in. When we got married I had no desire to become a mother. My sister has two girls who I adore, and I was happy to share them with her. Robert and I loved to travel. We’d been all over, from the Caribbean to Hong Kong, and had even lived in Budapest, Hungary for a little while. We were selfish with our time and felt no need to change.
Then I entered my early thirties and wham! Baby fever hit hard. It got so bad that sometimes at the grocery store I’d find myself instinctively following the sound of a baby crying. I’d end up in the formula aisle staring at a mother and her newborn, and realize that I probably looked like some crazy stalker. That’s when I knew it was time to talk to Robert about our future. Fortunately he was completely on board, and we began trying to get pregnant right away. I didn’t think we would have any trouble since I was healthy, and to my knowledge no one in my family had any issues with fertility.
No one but me that is.
After months of trying everything my research said to do we were still unsuccessful. I was discouraged, and talked to my doctor who said it wasn’t uncommon to take a year or more to get pregnant. A year went by. Then another.
I watched my friends have multiple children, and wondered what was wrong with me. I was diagnosed with “Unexplained Infertility” —meaning everything seemed fine, but apparently wasn’t. I
became frustrated and ashamed that my body couldn’t do what it was designed to do while everyone else’s could. I began to try natural ways to increase fertility instead of fertility drugs, but to no avail.
My friends and family were supportive, but since they had never dealt with infertility it was difficult for them to relate. I felt broken and alone, and tired of smiling at everyone’s baby showers while wondering when it was going to be my turn to open packages of diapers and cute baby clothes.
After four years of trying to start a family we moved to Palm Coast. At this point I was over the stress and frustration. I told Robert I was done, and didn’t want to try anymore. We were in a new city, and I wanted a fresh start. I threw myself into the move, and getting us settled into our new place. Three months later in August of 2015 I found out I was pregnant.
I’ll never forget that day. I had been feeling poorly for a couple of weeks, and on a whim decided to take a test. I didn’t scrutinize it too closely since I’d already wasted years squinting at them trying to magically make two lines appear. I glanced at it on the way to the trash can, and felt my stomach drop. Could it be? Was that really a second line? It was faint and I found myself squinting again, but this time there was definitely something there.
Years before, I had planned out how I was going to tell Robert. I had bought a funny book about fatherhood and was going to wrap it up along with the positive pregnancy test, and surprise him with it. That didn’t happen.
Instead, I walked out of the bathroom and calmly set the test down next to his cereal bowl. I said nothing, just stared at him. He looked at it and mumbled, “You’re pregnant.” Then he kissed my forehead and went to work. To say we were numb from shock is an understatement! Since we had been trying for so long we told our families right away. My mom and sister cried tears of joy with me. Finally, all seemed right with the world.
We got to hear our baby’s heartbeat at 8 weeks, and were over the moon, but the happiness didn’t last long. When we went back a few weeks later we found out the baby had passed away shortly after that first sonogram, and for some reason my body hadn’t physically miscarried. Oh, you mean my stupid broken body didn’t work again? How astonishing.
They scheduled a D&C for a couple of days later, and we went home knowing our baby was still inside me, but no longer alive. During those days waiting for the procedure I felt like I shed every last tear my body would ever make, and would never be able to cry again. Yet somehow, I cried some more.
Genetic testing to find out what had gone wrong proved inconclusive, but we did find out that it was a boy. He would have been the first grandson for both of our parents. We named him Noah Grayson, and that really helped me begin to heal. He was a person. He deserved a name. He became someone I could talk about.
Then the cards began to show up from friends and acquaintances. Story after story of loss, along with words of encouragement. I was shocked to find out that some of my friends had miscarriages, and never told anyone. But now they were telling me because they didn’t want me to feel the same loneliness and shame that they had. They didn’t want me to minimize my loss.
I began to see that this wasn’t my fault. I had done everything in my power to keep our son safe. Now I had to let go of the guilt. It took another year and a half before we were ready to start the adoption process. I needed the time to grieve, and to research fertility treatments and IVF. Adoption was the better choice for us. After reaching out to several agencies we chose the one we felt was right for us, and signed on with them in August of 2017 (almost exactly two years after finding out we were pregnant). Then began the grueling home study process. In the state of Florida they open up your entire life and pick it apart before deciding whether or not you’re qualified to be a parent. Even your friends and family have to fill out a questionnaire laying bare all of your faults, and they let you know up front that superficial ones like being a chocoholic don’t count.
While we were starting our home study our agency was putting together our profile that would be sent to potential birth moms. It contained pictures of us, our families, and home. Plus we were able to share our story, and what had led us to adoption. If a birth mom was interested she would then let our agency know. It took several months to complete the home study, but finally our license to adopt arrived in the mail. It was a happy day! By that time we had already had two failed birth mother connections. One was especially heartbreaking, because we were with her through two months of her pregnancy before realizing it wasn’t going to work out. I began to wonder how many more failed connections there were going to be.
Then in February of 2018 we got the call from our agency that a young mother had seen our profile, and was interested in talking to us. After that initial call I felt pretty hopeful that this time would be different. We spent the next few months developing a relationship with her, and were even able to travel to her home state and meet her in person.
On July 6th, 2018 our son was born, and we were there to watch him come into the world. Robert cut the umbilical cord and his birth mom asked me to do skin to skin. Nothing had ever felt so right.
Since we adopted out of state we had to go through what’s referred to as ICPC. Basically our two states had to communicate and make sure everything was in order before allowing us to leave with him. It took two weeks. It was such a relief the day our attorney called, and gave us the okay to finally bring him home.
Saying goodbye to Jake’s birth mother was heart wrenching. She came to see him one last time, and when I walked her out to her car we both burst into tears. She gave me a hug and thanked me for giving her son what she felt she couldn’t, and I promised he would always know how much she loves him.
As I watched her pull away, I realized just how bittersweet adoption truly is. At its core is profound loss; her loss, my loss, Jake’s loss, and yet, there’s so much love and understanding there too.
We have an open adoption, and keep in regular contact with her. We set up a social media page just for her where we post pictures and videos of him growing up, and she can post messages for him there too. It takes effort, but I know it will benefit Jake as he gets older to have a connection with his biological family.
My advice to other couples thinking about adoption is to be prepared for the onslaught of emotions that come with it. I think that was the biggest surprise for me during this process.
If you’ve suffered from infertility or miscarriage in the past, you may find yourself grieving all over again. There were times when I was jealous of our birth mom just because she was pregnant. She got to feel the little kicks, and feel someone growing inside of her.
Whatever feelings you have just remember they’re normal, and it’s ok to feel them. Find someone you can talk to whether it’s your spouse, a professional, or other adoptive parents.
Stay busy. It’s easy to get caught up in the waiting game, and put your entire life on hold. Don’t. Visit friends, take vacations, go on date nights. If this will be your first child do all the things you won’t be able to do once you have a newborn. Enjoy your life the way it is now, because it’s going to change!
I wish someone had told me that adoptive parents can also go through Postpartum Depression (commonly referred to as post-adoption depression). My emotions were ramped up for so long that when we finally had Jake I bottomed out. Couple that with the sleep deprivation, and it’s a recipe for complete insanity!
I know now what it was, but at the time it made me question whether or not I should have fought so hard to become a mom, and whether or not I even deserved to be one. I promise it will pass, and eventually you’ll feel human again.
It took almost a decade for us to become parents, but that doesn’t matter anymore. Everything we went through led us down the path to Jake, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s what I hope he always remembers: That his adoption happened not because he wasn’t loved or wanted, but because he is; so very much. And that even though he may face difficult challenges in his life, it can all work out happily in the end.
Thank you, LeAnne! I really appreciate how open and honest this story is. I think it’s such a good reminder that we never really know what is going on behind closed doors with another family. Even if things seem really great on the outside, there is so much more going on below the surface. I can’t imagine the heartbreak of finding out your baby had passed and then having to go home and wait a few days before the D&C.
And I really loved LeAnne’s advice about staying busy and living your life when things aren’t happening the way you want them to be. I think that is good advice in so many situations! It’s easy to get stuck on what we don’t have, or become obsessed with something that we think is missing from our lives, whether it is a kid or a new job or a bigger home. It’s so wise to keep living and trusting the process. Don’t put your life on hold.
Would you like to share your home in our Living With Kids series? It’s lots of fun, I promise! (And we are always looking for more diversity in the families we feature here. Single parents, non-traditional parents, families of color, LGBT parents, multi-generational families. Reach out! We’d love to hear your stories!!) Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org