FREDERICKTOWN – Baby gates, bibs and toys are the first signs all is “Wright” with Eric and Jessica.
A little more than a year after their daughter, Lillian, was stillborn, Eric and Jessica Wright were blessed not once, but twice.
Their sons, Levi and Owen, were born 11 months apart, and both were somewhat of a surprise.
“It is so nice to sit down,” Jessica said while seated at the dining room table in the couple’s Fredericktown home just seven weeks after Owen’s birth. “What a year we have had.”
When Lillian was stillborn, Jessica was diagnosed with thrombophilia, a genetic abnormality that increases the risk of blood clots. Doctors believe Lillian most likely died when a blood clot cut off her oxygen supply. In addition, Jessica was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that attacks anything foreign in her body, such as an embryo. She was given just a 10 percent chance of carrying a child to term.
The Wrights were understandably upset, but they weren’t discouraged; they had too much love in their hearts not to share it with a child.
So, they decided to adopt.
That’s how Levi came into their lives.
But before the adoption became final, Jessica learned she was pregnant.
And that’s how Owen came into their lives.
Today, the Wrights are the March of Dimes Ambassador Family, and once again will enter a family team, Lillian’s Legs for Life, in the March for Babies to raise money for the organization that’s dedicated to improving the health of mother and babies.
“It’s all been manageable,” Jessica said. “We’ve prayed for this for years.”
The wait begins
When the couple applied for adoption through Adoptions by Choice, a Christian-based agency in Erie County, in September 2011, they were told it would take from two weeks to seven years for them to adopt a child.
Eric and Jessica, both 33, were prepared for a lengthy wait.
But it took less than four months to learn they were about to become parents – and rather quickly at that. They received a phone call Jan. 18, 2012, the day they returned from a trip to Las Vegas, telling them that a young, single mother liked their online profile and had selected them to be her child’s parents.
However, the birth mother was 8 1/2 months pregnant before she selected an adoption agency, and she had received little counseling.
“It was a real risky adoption,” Jessica said. “They gave us every reason to be cautious.”
Levi finally arrived Feb. 11, 2012, weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces.
Even though they left almost immediately for Erie after learning the birth mother had gone into labor, they got stuck in a snowstorm and missed Levi’s birth by about an hour.
“They took us right to the nursery, and wheeled him into our room,” Jessica said.
The Wrights were then left alone as the nurses tended to the birth mother in another room.
“We waited so long for this. Now he’s here, and we’re absolutely clueless,” Jessica said.
Levi’s birth mother had 30 days to change her mind. There was every indication she wouldn’t, but she continued to delay signing the papers. She wasn’t second-guessing her decision, the Wrights were told; it was just a matter of logistics.
Meanwhile, Eric and Jessica were dealing with an infant who was suffering from colic and acid reflux. Levi never smiled, and he began to develop such a serious glare that his parents have nicknamed him Winston Churchill.
“That boy did not crack a smile until he was 3 months old,” Jessica said. “He cried every night for the first three months. I cried every night for the first three months.”
Then Jessica took a home pregnancy test, and the emotional roller-coaster intensified. After two miscarriages, Lillian’s stillbirth and the recent death of Jessica’s stepsister from pancreatic cancer, the couple couldn’t deal with another loss.
“They told us it was not going to happen,” Jessica said. “I cried, I was so worried.”
But Jessica’s mother, Bonnie Lindley of Scenery Hill, was not.
“I can’t explain it. I wasn’t scared at all,” Bonnie said. “I believe Levi was meant to be with us, and then to have Owen. … I’ve learned over my lifetime there will be difficulties and sad times. You really appreciate the good times.”
A new beginning
Finally, 49 days after Levi was born, the birth mother signed the adoption papers.
“It was torture,” Jessica said. “We were trying not to worry, but it was hard for family and friends to get excited. It was hard for them to get attached to Levi.”
Turns out, the final adoption papers were the first of many good things to come.
At every appointment with her obstetrician, Jessica received good test results, she experienced no complications, and the immune issues she so desperately feared no longer were a concern.
“Nothing made sense. It’s a miracle for us,” Jessica said.
But it was Owen who was the most calming influence.
“I didn’t accept the pregnancy until I felt him move. If I felt him moving, I knew he was OK,” she said. “He never stopped moving. He had the hiccups constantly. The doctor said that was a good sign that all systems were working. It was like the Lord said, ‘Let your mom know you’re OK.’”
Three hours after Jessica went into labor on Jan. 25, 2013, Owen was born. He weighed 6 pounds.
The first few weeks were difficult, but the couple has an extensive support system.
Four weeks after giving birth, Jessica returned to work part time. She owns a home-based business, and with a little help from her mom two afternoons a week, she’s able to put in a few eight-hour days.
“I had my children 13 months apart,” Bonnie said, “so I knew what she was getting into.”
Owen, too, has been cooperative.
“He eats, sleeps and poops,” Jessica said. “If we had another Levi on our hands, we’d be in trouble.”
Ties that bind
Jessica has saved everything from Levi’s hospital stay, and occasionally has sent his birth mother pictures. Since it was a semi-open adoption, the Wrights are obligated to send Levi’s birth mother one letter a year on his birthday until he’s 3 years old. Otherwise, the birth mother wants no contact.
However, Jessica did write her when the couple learned Jessica was pregnant with Owen. She wanted to reassure her that Levi was every much their son as Owen, and he would receive the same unconditional love and attention.
The couple plan to tell Levi about his adoption, and they are already reading him books about adoption.
He also has his biological brother’s Tigger, a gift from his birth mother. Levi carries it everywhere. In fact, it’s so worn, the Wrights had to buy another one so Levi would have one for home and one for the road.
The Wrights have talked about adopting another child, “but not anytime soon,” Jessica laughed.
“Levi’s been such a blessing,” she said.
But she doubts they will have another biological child.
“I feel as though we’ve almost pushed our luck,” Jessica said, “and there are so many children who could use a good home.”
And she’s sure her sons would welcome another sibling into the family.
“Levi loves his baby brother,” Jessica said. “He’ll get out of the crib and say, “Oh, Oh.”
He’ll then go into Owen’s room, give him a kiss and go on his merry way.
“Life has changed for the better,” Jessica said.
Donations for Lillian’s Legs for Life family team can be mailed to: Lillian’s Legs for Life, Team Captain Jessica Wright, March of Dimes - West Penn Division, 5168 Campbell’s Run Road, Suite 101, Pittsburgh, PA 15205. Donations also can be made online at http://www.marchforbabies.org/s_team_page.asp?seid=1861276.