Every parent goes through a bizarre but fulfilling journey when they have a kid. This might be true but let us just say that this was even truer for Rachel and Aaron Halbert than most! But why is that?
Rachel and Aaron Halbert grew up differently. She was raised in the Mississippi Delta and did not know much about racial diversity. He was the blonde, blue-eyed son of evangelical missionaries and grew up in Honduras. During her young adulthood, she went on mission trips to Haiti. Everything changed then!
The couple met when they went on a blind date. This happened back in 2004! Both of them were humble missionaries who wanted to spread the gospel. They both knew that they had found the one for them. However, they took things slow, continued to go out, and got closer while working together.
Taking It Slow
On the missionary trips, Rachel and Aaron got to know each other on a new level. They then went steady and exclusive! The two of them also bonded over the fact that they wanted to adopt. Aaron said, “When we were still dating, a common bond that drew us together was the fact that Rachel and I both wanted to adopt.”
They felt that it was the more Christian thing to do. “While we were fertile, we were both deeply convicted that one of the ways to be pro-life is to involve ourselves in adoption,” Aaron shared. Soon enough, he proposed to Rachel. Can you guess what she said? She told him, “Yes.”
They were lucky because they did not need to spend years looking for each other. On top of that, they were also the perfect match! They got married in 2006. Even though they wanted children, they decided that it could wait. They wanted to work, which would just complicate things.
The couple went to Honduras for a mission after they got married. Aaron could not wait to return, but Rachel felt nervous on top of being excited. Over there, the missionaries taught English at a school based outside the capital. This was not a traditional honeymoon, but it was the perfect choice for them.
They were able to pinpoint what the community was lacking. The churches had to spread the gospel! The couple knew that they needed to help out some more. However, they had to go back to the United States. Even though their plans changed, they were not going to forget about the community.
They were able to settle into their old routine. Aaron decided to do something he always dreamt of, which is to get his Master of Divinity degree. He studied at the Reformed Theological Seminary, which is located in Jackson, Mississippi. Around the same time, the couple wondered if it was time to have kids!
Rachel was a schoolteacher at a local school. On the other hand, he was a youth director and intern serving at the Second Presbyterian in Yazoo City. They talked about their goal of adopting children. He said, “We see the protection of children not as charity, nor as part of a political agenda, but as something near to the heart of God.”
They wanted to go back to Honduras too, which was why they accepted a mission held by the Presbyterian Church of America. Around the same time, Aaron and Rachel went to a Mississippi adoption agency. This was the beginning of their quest to start a family of their own.
This convinced them that it was the right thing to do. Because non-Caucasian children had it harder, they did not want to take in a fully Caucasian one. They believed that God was telling them to have their own if their application was rejected. “We did this with the deeply held conviction that if the Lord wanted us to have a fully Caucasian child my wife would conceive naturally,” Aaron said.
The agency found several children for the two of them, but they were smitten with Ford and Catherine. They were a pair of children with African-American ancestry. In the end, they just adopted both because they could not choose just one! This also meant that they were going to be a racially diverse family.
They also had to talk about another thing after this. You see, they both wanted more children! At the time, it was hard enough to raise Ford and Catherine, so they had to wait. However, the suggestion of a friend turned out to be a pivotal moment for them. Their friend told them to look into embryo adoption.
They tried to read up on the topic as much as they could. Aaron and Rachel were shocked by what they learned. “We live in a world with hundreds of thousands of embryos frozen in the United States alone,” Aaron reported, “Most who aren’t selected by their biological parents are donated to science or destroyed or kept frozen.” A lot of embryos go to waste, but this process can help prevent this.
They knew that this was the best course of action. Rachel would carry out the pregnant and deliver their children! Aaron also explained, “If Christians – or others – really believe life begins at conception, it follows that we should respond by being willing to support embryo adoption and even take part in it ourselves.” After deciding, they started the process by visiting the National Embryo Donation Center.
Rachel was excited, but she was also nervous and scared. She had to take treatments that prepped her for the embryo adoption. It all went well, so she started the in-vitro fertilization process in September 2015. After this, it was the waiting game. Of course, they hoped that everything was going to be all right.
There were many things that they had to do for the operation. On top of that, they had to rely on luck as well! Mind you, the implantation only had a 10 percent success rate. What makes this even wilder is the fact that every attempt cost them $10,000 to $15,000. Most insurances won’t cover this process either.
When they did this, they were already set to fly to Honduras for their missionary duties. They were unsure if the implantation had been a success. Aaron and Rachel, together with their kids Ford and Catherine, rode a plane bound for Honduras. Six weeks after they implanted the embryo, they went to a local hospital. They were ready to hear if the embryos took or not.
The doctor was confused and asked them how many embryos had been implanted. They replied that they got two embryos. Even though the doctor confirmed that it was successful, there was something else that he needed to tell them. What could he possibly want to tell them?
Aaron and Rachel figured out after seeing the ultrasound screen. Rachel did not only have one or two fetuses growing inside of her but three! They were getting triplets and expanding the family from four to seven. They were thrilled about the big news. It was a sign that God wanted them to have a big family!
Rachel and Aaron were excited to hear this, and so were Catherine and Ford. Aaron wrote a Facebook post that read, “I felt sheer delight during this pregnancy watching my son and daughter, with his dark brown skin and her with the ringlet hair and slightly tan skin, kiss my white wife’s growing belly. Each evening they said goodnight to those three growing little girls in her belly.”
In 2016, Rachel gave birth to Ryley, Whitley, and Anne. It was not their plan, but it was even better. They were blessed by the birth of these angels. “Oh, how thankful we are for God blessing us with these sweet little ones He has placed in our care,” Aaron said, “As I look at my growing family, I prefer to take it a step further, daring to hope that our family picture is a little hint of Heaven.”
Even though they were not the birth parents of the kids, it did not matter to them. “The beauty of a multi-ethnic family is found there, in the fact that the differences are the very thing that makes ours richer and fuller. It forces you to think in a new way about the way you think, speak, act and live,” he said, “There is something beautiful and enriching being the only white face sitting and chatting with some of my African-American friends as my son gets his hair cut on a Saturday morning.”
They get a lot of support from their loved ones! “It’s been heartening to see virtually all of our friends and family express overwhelming support for our family and the unusual ways we’ve built it,” he said, “In our minds, we are just living out our dream. A dream that may not look like the average family, but one that we are thankful could come true in light of our country’s history.”
However, not everyone does. “We knew, especially in the South, that a white couple with non-white children would draw a myriad of different reactions. There will always be the older white woman in Walmart who stared at us with sheer disgust or the African-American mother who looked at us and just shook her head,” Aaron recounted, “There was also the young black girl who wept when we told her this little boy with her skin color was our son, and the older white doctor who lovingly prayed over him and held him so tenderly.”
They Don’t Mind
It is not easy, but they can handle it. “One of the central themes of Christianity is, after all, that God, through His Son, is calling people from every tongue, tribe, and nation. Grasping diversity will make the world stronger as we marvel at God’s creative genius on display through His people’s varying pigments, personalities, and proficiencies. Our differences are cause for celebration, not scorn,” Aaron shared.
“Embryo adoption can also be very difficult for the donor family. I know the decision to donate your frozen embryos for adoption is probably the hardest you’ll ever make,” Rachel said. She added, “It can be so painful to know that someone else is raising your biological children. For some reason, whether medical or family size or financial or age, you are unable to have any more transfers.”
We are glad to hear that Aaron and Rachel had a great experience with embryo adoption. They had triplets and even experienced a pregnancy of their own. Rachel said it had been “beautiful and unique.” She has also expressed gratitude for the “brave and selfless” people who donated their embryos.
They believe that embryo adoption should be as big as normal adoption. Not many people know about it even though there are so many embryos out there. The ones they used were stored for 12 years! “We were not saying that those lives are any more important than the lives of the babies and children waiting to be adopted all across the world. No, they are not any more important, but they are no less important either. All of our children’s lives are valued,” explained Rachel.
Mother Of Five
Do not be a parent if you want a lot of free time! Luckily, Rachel likes to care for the kids. “I would imagine that my life as mom looks a whole lot like the life of any mom. My days are filled with feeding five hungry kiddos, changing lots of diapers, tending to household duties, shepherding little hearts, loving on and playing with all five, doing/learning how to do hair of four beautiful girls and one handsome little guy, and finding a minute or two to eat some food myself,” she narrated.
Rachel and Aaron Halbert adopted these children with open hearts, and they were glad that they did. She always thought that four or five kids would be ideal, but she had no idea it would come this fast. The entire family is always full of happiness and love. We are glad to hear that it worked out for the best!
Rachel and Aaron do not know if they want more children. She answered, “We’ll see what the future holds. For now, we are enjoying this phase of life right now.” It must be hard to raise five kids already. The couple hopes that more people will try embryo adoption when they hear about this story!
The entire family moved to Tegucigalpa after the triplets came into this world. Aaron and Rachel are still making sure to help the needy even though they now have to raise five children. Rachel is now a full-time mom, which makes sense since there are so many little kids in the house!
Rachel and Aaron work as missionaries in Tegucigalpa. The kids like growing up both in Honduras and America. Their family portraits are not traditional ones, but they all love one another. Isn’t that what family is truly about? The couple has shown us that they practice what they preach! With their kids, they have shown us the extent of their humanity. Truly, they have one amazing family story!