After losing their second child Blake and birthing their third Ayla, Stephanie and Jeff became foster parents. One week later, they met a baby girl born on Blake's birthday.
Jeff and Stephanie had been married for almost three years before they became parents to their first child, Kenley, in 2014.
But just a year later, they expanded their family when Stephanie gave birth to the couple's second daughter, Blake, who was nicknamed 'Blakey.'
[Left] Baby Blake smiling; [Right] Jeff and Stephanie holding baby Everly with so much love in their eyes. | Source: instagram.com/stillfindingsunshine
Everything seemed alright with the family until the couple noticed that their newborn Blake had issues with her muscles weeks after birth. Their little girl could not hold her head independently, and afterward, the couple aired their concern to a pediatrician who said the newborn just needed more practice.
However, Blake's struggles continued, and at six months old, after probing and searching, Jeff and Stephanie were told that their beautiful baby had a disease called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).
Also, due to her age and not showing any improvements since birth, baby Blake had SMA Type I, which is the most severe. The parents were left heartbroken when they heard the disease was incurable.
BIDDING THEIR DAUGHTER GOODBYE
The news of their baby's untreatable disease broke Jeff and his wife. They could not understand why and how this happened; the couple felt they had failed in protecting their child.
After they had cried for a couple of weeks, the pair realized they had to stay strong for their babies and try to find happiness together if at all possible.
The family of four did everything they could think of, from visiting parks and beaches to camping trips and partying. They tried to suppress their heartache and fear by finding laughter wherever and however they could.
Stephanie would spend multiple nights staring at Blake, dreading when she would stop breathing. Sadly, just one week to her 11 months birthday, Blake took her last breath while listening to music in her daddy's arms.
After Blake's death, her thoughts almost destroyed her mother, who felt empty and heartbroken. However, Stephanie explained that their little girl had given her courage and strength that she was not aware she had.
She and her husband decided to spend the rest of their lives living the way their baby would have wanted by loving people hard and sharing kindness wherever they could.
Jeff and his wife promised they would never stop telling people about her spirit and love and all the happiness she showed while she was alive.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
Six weeks after Blake's death, the couple discovered that Stephanie was pregnant. However, she was terrified she would lose the baby while getting over the loss of Blake.
Ten weeks later, a test was conducted, which to their relief, confirmed that their third baby was unaffected by SMA.
Eleven months after losing their second child, the couple welcomed their third daughter Ayla and gave her the middle name "Blake" after her elder sister.
Stephanie was scrolling through Instagram almost a year later when she came upon a post about adoption. While reading, she discovered an enormous need for safe homes for vulnerable children.
After doing some research, she and her husband decided to get a foster license and offer their family to a child who needed it.
After about four months, they became licensed, and two days later, which was Blake's birthday, the couple stayed home together as a family to remember and honor their girl.
The day after, Stephanie received a call from a social worker who had a baby girl that needed an adoptive home.
However, when Stephanie heard the baby was just a day old, which meant she was born on Blake's birthday, she tearfully called her husband. They both decided to get the baby, Everly Joy, and her adoption was finalized a year later.
Speaking on whether Everly sharing Blake's birthday made her feel better or reduced the pain of losing her second daughter, Stephanie explained that Everly could never replace her elder sister even though she believes the sisters have a special connection.
She also believed that somehow they were meant to meet Everly because she only learned to be open and loving because of Blake, and without that, she would not have met Everly.
Even though she never planned to lose one child and adopt another, being able to love all her children and their daddy has been her greatest blessing.
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