Bringing Harrison home
Local couple overcomes obstacles in adoption journey
Photos by Rachel Howard
Sarah and Dustin Shaneyfelt’s journey to parenthood was filled with obstacles and heartbreak. Looking back now, though, Sarah says God’s sovereignty is written all over their story, and it’s one she loves sharing with others.
Their journey began in September 2015, when the Shaneyfelts had been married for a year and decided to try to expand their family. After several months of trying to conceive naturally, the pair sought help from a fertility specialist in Birmingham, who diagnosed Sarah with endometriosis.
At the time of the diagnosis, Sarah said she still felt hopeful the fertility drugs and treatments would be successful. The couple underwent several rounds of both intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization in their pursuit of parenthood.
“I was hopeful because even with endometriosis, I thought ‘for sure’ they would help,” Saah said. “I had read the statistics, and they sounded good. We did have a conversation at the time about whether to pursue IVF or adoption, and we felt led to continue with the treatments.”
“We knew even then that we wanted to adopt,” Dustin added. “It was kind of a timing thing.”
The Shaneyfelts invested $20,000 into three rounds of IVF, two of which were unsuccessful. “I felt like the Lord had given both of us such a strong calling to be parents, so I just knew we would be parents someday,” Sarah said. “I really leaned on scripture and clung to Isaiah 26:3-4, which reads, ‘You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.”
After the second failed IVF, “I told Dustin I didn’t know if I could do it again,” Sarah said. “I started seeing adoption everywhere – on blogs I follow or on Instagram. Then it felt like ‘OK, the Lord is just telling us we need to adopt.”
The couple still had one more round of IVF. Bed rest, around-the-clock shots and changes in diet were all a part of the intensive process. The third round resulted in their long-awaited pregnancy.
It was May 2018 when more heartbreak was in store for the Shaneyfelts.
“I miscarried at nine weeks,” Sarah said. The loss, she said, was hard but gave the couple the answer they needed: The path they needed to pursue was adoption. “I still had hope the Lord was going to make me a mother.”
The couple announced July 1, 2018, that they were planning to adopt. “We hit the ground running from day one once we decided that was the process we were going through,” Dustin said.
The couple underwent home studies and multiple background checks to begin the process. “They literally knew everything there was to know about us,” Dustin said. “Every loan we’ve ever had, every name we’ve ever gone by.”
“Even how we handle disagreements as a couple,” Sarah added.
The Shaneyfelts’ profile book with their adoption agency became active in September 2018. Five weeks later, they were matched with an expectant mother who was 6 months pregnant with a little boy, and the Shaneyfelts were overjoyed.
Four days before the baby was due, however, the expectant mother decided to parent the child for whom the Shaneyfelts had spent months preparing and praying. “That was when I first felt like there was no hope,” Sarah said. “We had been so excited when we matched that we shared the news and had a gender reveal. I wanted to get to do other things pregnant women do.”
“With all the trials we’d been through, it felt like, ‘What else?’” Dustin said. “Sarah and I spent that whole weekend by ourselves … It was hard on me. I knew how Sarah longed to be a mother. In the day of social media, seeing your friends and family having babies and thinking it’s easy, the process of having a child – and here we are, struggling through every step.”
One week to the day after the loss of the child the Shaneyfelts thought would be theirs, they got a call that would change their lives forever. Sarah was at work, and Dustin was at the state basketball tournament in Birmingham. A baby had been born in Corpus Christi, Texas, the night before, and his birth parents had chosen the Shaneyfelts to adopt him. All they had to do was say yes.
Sarah said she was afraid of having to unpack all the baby clothes for a second time, but she knew what her answer was immediately.
The next 24 hours was a whirlwind for the couple who had to repack and rebook their plane tickets. They missed several flights in Atlanta on their journey to their son, and by the time they arrived in Texas, the paperwork had been completed. Harrison was a Shaneyfelt. “That made it even more special, I feel like,” Sarah said.
Sarah said depending on the state, the waiting period can be anywhere from 48 hours to five days before the official termination of parental rights. It’s for that reason she said she was thankful for the long day of travel that kept her mind busy while she and Dustin tried to get to Harrison.
“I can’t imagine being at the hospital and having to wait for 48 hours to see whether the birth parents are going to change their minds,” she said. “Meeting him for the first time, I knew he was my baby.”
It’s been two years, and Harrison is a thriving toddler with dark curly hair. His parents say they keep them on their toes. His adoption is open, and Dustin and Sarah communicate often with Harrison’s birth parents.
“I’ve had people ask if an open adoption makes me uncomfortable,” Sarah said. “That’s not what’s important. If I’m uncomfortable, that’s my problem. It’s all about him, and he’s what comes first.”
Dustin said the way he sees it, true Christian believers “are called to support the adoption process, whether that’s through prayer or financial gifts or actual adoption,” Dustin added. “What a perfect picture of the gospel that adoption represents.”
“We have been adopted into God’s family through the costly adoption process,” Sarah added.
Sarah said she is often asked whether they will tell Harrison his story when he’s older, and to her, the answer is an easy one.
“Absolutely yes. Adoption will not be a taboo topic for us,” she said. “We want him to know he was so wanted and chosen, just like God chose us.”
Learn more about the Shaneyfelt family by following Sarah’s blog at meettheshaneyfelts.com/adoption.