Three adoptions in three years
After dealing with fertility issues and facing obstacles with the process of becoming foster parents, the Parrishes decided to pursue adoption in 2014, initially looking to adopt an infant domestically.
Later that year, they came across an advocacy photo posted on their agency’s Facebook page of a 2-year-old Bulgarian boy with Down’s syndrome.
“[Our agency] looked at our file and pretty quickly verified that we met all the requirements to adopt,” Anna said. “We were like, why would we wait for a mom to make an adoption plan for a baby that’s potentially not even conceived yet when there’s a kid sitting in a crib waiting for a family? And we’re a family, why would we not go get him?
“We had never even heard of Bulgaria before this, so it was really cool to go to a new place. And then it was just baffling, like we came at it from such ignorance, like the bliss of youth, to realizing the reality of an orphanage. You have this huge building with 200 beds and it’s silent. The babies, the children have learned that no one answers you when you call. Basically every horrible thing you can imagine, that’s what it’s like.”
Anna said they knew the adoption was meant to be when they first met the boy, Eddie. He soon began to thrive after she and Steven welcomed him home in August 2015.
“It was just wild how fast he went from a tiny little 18 pound 3-year-old to sitting up and moving around,” she said. “Within a year, he was walking and he was eating solid food. He gained 20 pounds and he grew 10 inches. And it was like, wow, that’s all you needed. It’s not like we’re doing anything special. You just needed a family.”
Within a few weeks after bringing Eddie home, the Parrishes were driven to start the adoption process again - this time for a girl.
“We knew that orphanages are full of children who are just sitting there waiting,” Anna said. “It was real soon for us, but it’s not soon for her if she’s been sitting in an orphanage waiting.”
In November 2016, the family adopted Rosa, a girl from the same orphanage who had a cleft lip and a serious heart defect.
A year later, they brought home another member of the family, Victor, who was “very sick” and had several disabilities.
“In the orphanage at the time, his most recent weight they had was 13 pounds at 2-years-old. We told everybody, we don’t know if he’s going to make it home,” she said.
Once home, Victor was able to recover and experienced “great health” in 2018 and 2019.
‘We had a lot of transitions’
Throughout 2018 and 2019, the Parrishes took time to focus on settling in with their growing family and Rosa and Victor had surgeries with successful outcomes.
After an unexpected pregnancy ended in miscarriage in 2018, the Parrishes had their first biological child, Karyn, in September 2019.
“It was such a sweet time of just feeling like, here we are,” Anna said. “We’re in this, we’re loving these kids. We’re doing life together and it’s great.”
In January 2020, Victor suddenly fell critically ill with pneumonia, leading to acute respiratory distress syndrome. After about a month in the ICU, he miraculously pulled through and had stable health for months.
“We came out of that realizing like, okay, he is more fragile than it felt like. A large percentage of children who have a code event die within 18 months. So, that was hanging over our heads,” she said.
After months of stability, Victor suddenly became very sick and died in July 2021.
“We knew he had been sick on and off a lot, but we didn’t realize it was terminal decline,” Anna said. “It was really sad and really hard. And at the same time, knowing you got to be in a family for 106 more days than you were in the orphanage. You got to be loved and cared for. You got to ride ponies and swim in the ocean and go on family vacations and be loved and cherished for who you are. Every kid deserves that.”
The Parrishes were already in the process of adopting a Colombian girl named Maria José at the time. That December, she unexpectedly died before they were able to adopt her.
‘A double rainbow’
After Maria José's death, the family decided to pursue adopting a set of Bulgarian twins, Alexander and Toni, who Anna had been aware of and advocating for since 2016.
“In October , I had a really weird series of thoughts about double rainbows, because a rainbow baby is a baby born after you have a loss. It was so weird because there were no concrete plans, but I felt like we were going to adopt the twins.”
The Parrishes were approved to adopt Alexander and Toni in January 2022. Just a month later, they found out that the twins had a younger brother named Ross.
“It was one of the best days of our lives,” Anna said. “We definitely did not start out like, ‘Oh, we’re going to be those crazy people who have three kids at once.’ But it was like, he’s their biological brother, we’re definitely keeping siblings together. That’s such an important thing.”
They brought all three siblings home last month. Anna said the adjustment process has been complicated yet smooth.
‘We feel so loved and supported’
While the Parrishes were in Bulgaria picking up their new family members, their close friend Bonnie Berl was motivated to start a GoFundMe to fund a much-needed wheelchair-accessible vehicle for the growing family.
“The Parrishes, they lay down their lives in a way that you want to be a part of it,” Berl said. “Their kids are just precious and I have very sweet relationships with them. Anna and I are really close. She’s an incredible person for doing what she’s doing, but also very real. She’s very honest about the realities of what adoption is.
“We’ve walked through a lot of life together. And even while they’re going through really hard things and kind of at capacity, she’s always reaching out to see how I’m doing. It feels like they’re constantly giving.”
Thanks to their community’s support, the GoFundMe surpassed its fundraising goal last week.
“We feel so loved and so supported,” Anna said. “We’ve been talking for months about a new van, and said how are we going to pay it. And I said, God’s going to provide and here we are. It’s kind of mind boggling that that’s actually how it’s happening. People are giving out of the generosity of their heart and people are giving sacrificially. People are giving during the holiday season, which is the time it’s really hard. That’s just incredibly humbling and we’re so grateful.”
Berl and Anna said any additional funds raised beyond the price of the new vehicle will go toward needed essentials like a wheelchair ramp, medical expenses and food.
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