‘We were going to name her Annie.’ She called the morning of her flight asking for taxi money. ‘She never boarded,’ the airline told us.’: Woman uses failed adoption as inspiration to help other families afford to adopt

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“There is a box tucked away in my attic full of polka dot dresses and lacey bows that I never got to see a baby girl wear.

We were going to name her Annie.

It’s been five years since I learned what it means to go to hell and back for a person, because I did it for a little girl I would never get to raise. No one tells you how to grieve the loss of someone who never really belonged to you, but somewhere out there is a girl who will never know how much I loved her and fought for her and hoped for her. No words can explain the complete obliteration I experienced when the woman who asked me to adopt her baby never got on the plane and left me with a broken heart and an empty bank account. Even though she was only growing in my heart, I still feel her missing there all the same.


The adoption world becomes very small when you’ve done it a few times and connections are made all over. We adopted our two boys through agencies and had never experienced a private adoption until a friend called one day to tell us that there was a woman looking for a family for her baby girl and wondered if we were interested in adopting again. We said yes, grateful for the opportunity, knowing it would be much more affordable to adopt privately and trusting that we could navigate our way through the process without the walls of an agency there to guide us. Our friend passed along our blog information and called the next day to let us know that this expectant mom took one look and knew we were the right family for her baby.

And so we leapt.

Cleverlee Photography
Cleverlee Photography

We started the slow and steady process of background checks, paperwork, phone calls to lawyers, case workers, insurance and doctors. We exchanged phone numbers with her and started having weekly conversations to get to know each other better. She still had five months to go until her baby was due. She sent texts with pictures of her ultrasound and baby bump with sweet messages like, ‘that’s your baby in there, she can’t wait to meet you.’ Or ‘I already love you guys so much, this baby will be so lucky to have you for her parents.’ She insisted that I be in the room with her when she delivers so that I could see ‘our girl’ come into the world. I made a video to surprise our boys with news of a baby sister and to let our family and friends know. I got the nursery ready, I bought the lacey outfits and dreamed of having a girl in the house. I was speechless at the thought of coming from a place of not knowing if I would ever be a mother to even one baby, let alone arriving a few years later at a place where I was about to be the mother of three. I was so grateful for this woman and that she chose me and it all felt so very meant to be. I let myself fall hard and fast for her. And to say I was wearing my heart on my sleeve was the understatement of the year.

My heart was showing everywhere. It was an open target…free for the breaking.

Photo by Joy Prouty

Gradually the weekly phone calls and sweet texts turned into daily, sometimes hourly pleas for help. Everything was a desperate emergency from her rent needing to be paid, to phone bills, groceries, bus passes to get to the doctor and so much more that opened my eyes to just how much hard people are dealing with in the world. We told her we only had a certain amount of money to help her with pregnancy-related finances and counseling from a social worker. After only two months and still two more until her flight to our state, she had exceeded our budget. Our savings was gone, but the calls kept coming. I started mailing her food from our own pantry and paying for her rent on our credit card because without it she said she would have to live on the street. Without the help of an agency or a middle man we were charged with the emotional task of becoming adoptive parents, provider, supporters and counselors to an expectant mother whose life was in shambles. I spent hours talking her through situations I have never imagined could happen to a person and I stayed up late listening to horrendous stories of her life that I had only ever seen in movies.

Each night I went to bed with a heavy and broken heart wishing I could do more to help her and other women in her similar situation. And not just because of the promise of a baby, but because I genuinely loved and cared about this woman. I was living one wild heart beat to the next until this eternity came to what I desperately hoped to be a happy ending for all of us. I kept telling myself that the most beautiful and worthwhile outcomes in my life have come from the messiest experiences. I marched into this ‘brutiful’ mess determined to find the beauty in it, and I was holding onto the hope that I would be able to tell this sweet girl that she was worth every heart-aching, soul-stretching moment.

Photo by Joy Prouty

Finally after four intense months, it was time for her to fly out to us to have her baby. (We had to do it this way because her state adoption laws wouldn’t allow us to assist her in any way) She called the morning of her flight asking for money for a taxi and we sent it trusting that she would be coming. As the flight time came and went without a word from her, we called the airline and were told she never boarded. I hung up the phone and crumbled to the floor as the devastation set in along with the realization of what this experience had cost me physically, mentally and emotionally. A few hours later she was calling again with apologies and requests for more money and another plane ticket. But we had nothing left to give. We were struggling to pay our own bills at this point and the situation had become unbearable. Our friend tried to find another family with the means to bring her out and adopt her baby, but she didn’t board the plane for them either and it was discovered that she never intended to for anyone. A police report was filed by my friend, and I grieved hard and heavy for the girl I would never have.


The vulnerability of loving another woman’s baby during an adoption process isn’t talked about often. It’s a side of adoption that is painful and I would never want to ‘scare’ anyone away from the beauty of allowing your love for someone else’s child to grow in your heart. But when it doesn’t work out how you hoped and even more so when you have been taken advantage of, it is devastating. It sucks standing in line at H&M to return the striped leggings and polka dot dresses and start crying when I have to explain to the poor guy with pink hair at the register that I didn’t have my receipt because I never thought I would be here, returning all these adorable outfits for the girl I would never get to raise. It sucks when you can’t make it through ‘hush little baby’ while you rock your youngest to sleep at night without bathing his face in tears. It is the worst when you rely on your children’s hugs to hold you together and think you might just be fine because you’ve gone a while without breaking down, but then your oldest asks out of the blue, ‘didn’t she know I would’ve been a good big brother to her?’ It doesn’t make any sense to miss someone that was never yours to miss, but pain is pain. Loss is loss. And grief is grief.

Photo by Joy Prouty

My best friend was just weeks away from delivering her own baby when this happened. It was her fourth child and it was a girl. We were going to have girls together. But when our adoption ended, the chance I had to witness one of my own children come into this world was lost with it. I called my best friend that day with a broken heart at the thought of going through life without ever knowing that experience. So like all best friends who show up for us, she invited me to be in the room when she delivered her girl. Even though she wasn’t sure how to help me navigate my own pain during her joy, she gave me the closest possible experience to knowing what it was like to have and raise a baby girl and I will love her forever for it.

At the beginning of this journey I told everyone that this adoption was going to be beautiful. I pride myself in being a beauty-seeker after all, and even though my heart was shattered as I packed up Annie’s tiny clothes and lacey bows and unraveled all the hope I had for her, I knew that someday I would be able to extract the beauty from this experience. And now I know for certain that a broken heart is not the end of anything. It is the beginning of everything.


Little did I know that this experience would be the beginning of something I had never imagined. Fast forward five years and that best friend of mine approached me with an idea to start a children’s clothing line that would help bring families together through adoption or infertility treatments. She had been there during all my years of infertility. She saw how much it broke my heart each time she and our friends would tell me they were pregnant with their second and third when I was still waiting for one. She was there for all of my adoptions and knew how emotionally and financially taxing it was. She wanted to find a way to help those women longing for a child to have the chance to become a mother with the proceeds from our clothing. Over the next year we scribbled clothing designs in a notebook and when the ideas started coming together for a girl’s jumper, we knew we had to call it ‘the Annie jumper.’

Cleverlee Photography

My best friend carried me through so much heartache that year, and is still doing it to this day by honoring the little girl I never had. That sweet Annie girl will never know how much I loved her and hoped for her, but I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had to try. Our company, Cleverlee Co. (@cleverleeco) will be launching the jumpers and other items along with it in August 2019. I can’t wait to see little girls everywhere wearing our ‘Annie jumper’ in her honor, reminding me that while we wait for the miracles God has in store for us, we can rest assured that He is making something beautiful out of us and our heartache. I could have never imagined that this would lead to my passion for bringing families together through the beauty of adoption…For wanting others to know that there is more than one road that leads to motherhood. Roads paved with love and heartbreak and hope and a desire to help others find and someday even fund the road that leads to their child.

No matter how rough or smooth the journey, through adoption, fostering or infertility treatments; we want for those best friends, sisters and mothers with a loved one who may be experiencing the heartbreak of infertility or miscarriage or even a disrupted adoption to have a way to offer their support. And we want mothers everywhere to see our clothes on their little girls and boys and know that they played an important part in placing a child in another mama’s arms.

Photo by Joy Prouty

‘My’ Annie girl, my beautiful dream, is forever etched in my heart and a blessed reminder that there is always an upside to heartache. That life is about love and truly experiencing and finding the beauty we are meant to know.”

Photo by Joy Prouty

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kortni Miller of Utah. You can learn more about her adoption journey on her Instagram, born.from.my.heart. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

Read Kortni’s adoption backstory of her son here:

‘Eli and his biological brother who went to another family have lived 45 minutes from each other for their entire lives, and have never met. Until now.’

‘For us, he was only ever our son. Not our black or adopted son. Even though most folks find him adorable right now, they might feel differently when he dates their daughters.’

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