Life doesn’t always go according to plan. Tracy and Junji Umezu came to know this all too well when they lost multiple children in a span of two years.
Tracy has always dreamed of having a large family, but after experiencing so much grief, she began to question if that would ever happen. They already had one child, 9-year-old Sophie, and for a while Tracy accepted that she was the only one they were meant to have… until a trip to Israel changed everything!
In 2014, Tracy gave birth to their second daughter, a little girl named Charlotte. Charlotte was born with a rare form of epilepsy called SCN2A, and while Tracy and Junji did everything they could to give her the best life possible, she tragically passed away in 2016.
Despite their heartbreak, Junji and Tracy were determined to try again. Due to infertility issues, they began fertility treatments, and Tracy soon became pregnant with twins. One of them died in utero at 10 weeks, while the other, Maggie, passed away at 34 weeks.
At that point, Tracy was advised to not become pregnant again, so Junji suggested that they try adoption. Although Tracy wasn’t against the idea, she just didn’t feel ready.
“I had to come to a place where I didn’t define my worth by the number of living children I had and knew I was still a good mom whether I had one living child or five,” she said. “I got to a place where, while it wasn’t the life I’d dreamed of, I knew there was more we could give our daughter if she was our only living child we had. I knew I would be OK if we just had Sophie.”
Then came the trip to Israel. Tracy visited the country in 2019 with her church parish and the priest who counseled her through her grief. While there, she experienced multiple attention-grabbing coincidences.
First, her nurse was on the trip. Second, the group Tracy was with met a doctor who supports people through the adoption process. Before she knew it, the mom found herself reconsidering her husband’s suggestion.
“I felt like I was being told adoption was for us,” Tracy said. “I came home knowing I wanted to adopt, but thinking if it worked it would be an amazing journey and if it didn’t work I would come out OK and be fine. I’d be disappointed, but I’d be OK.”
Life doesn’t always go according to plan, but that often leads to things falling into place in ways we could never have imagined. On the week of the anniversary of Charlotte’s death, Junji and Tracy received the final approvals they needed in the adoption process. Three months later, they got the phone call they’d been waiting for!
A 2-day-old boy in the NICU at a hospital in Florida needed an adoptive family, and Tracy and Junji were more than happy to take him in. They were even able to speak to his birth mother, who asked if they would keep the name she’d given him: Jacob Benjamin. They said yes.
“Jacob is the name we have always had in mind for a boy,” Tracy said. “It was a pretty telling piece that this was meant to be for both her and for us.”
Ever since then, their life has been indescribable. There are bittersweet moments when Tracy thinks of her children who passed away while doing small things like feeding Jacob, but nonetheless, this special baby has helped heal her and her family.
Tracy says the pain they’ve gone through together has helped them appreciate the simple things in life more than ever.
“Knowing that life can come out typical and normal and healthy is so awe-striking to us after all we’ve been through,” she said. “To look at him and know he has a brain that isn’t seizing and lungs that are breathing and a heart that is beating is such a miracle to us. It’s an overwhelming joy.”
Now that’s what we call a beautiful family! They’ve been through so much, and they’re still showering each other and the world with love.
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