Two sisters share in the joy of adoption
The concept of a family varies from household to household. For some, a family can be as concrete as a blood relation, but for others, it extends far beyond that and encompasses individuals who share a kindred spirit. For two local families, the latter happens to be the case. Their bond transcends the traditional notions of a nuclear family, with a foundation built on their intangible love for one another.
For sisters Annie Massanelli and Becca Ohman, the question of adopting was never a question to begin with, but an answer to their prayers and an inkling that they were created to serve a much bigger purpose. Although the sisters did not plan on both of them adopting children, the experience allowed them to share in the joys and hardships that brought their adopted children into their lives.
Annie Massanelli and her husband, Tim, first considered adoption before they even married. They shared a caring nature that eventually led them to adopt their son August and later, his biological sister, Carolyn Christine, “CC.”
The couple chose to go through a private adoption attorney out of northwest Arkansas. Massanelli said the initial process was slightly overwhelming due to the array of options they had at their disposal as far as how they wished to adopt. Massanelli said prayers were sent up on a regular basis and tears came often, but they kept their faith.
“Overall the hardest part of adoption for us was staying patient and keeping the faith while we were waiting,” she said.
Eventually, a friend aware of their desire to adopt steered them in the direction that they felt fit their needs best. Nine months after hammering out all the fine details with their attorney, August Massanelli was born.
“When our son was born, my husband was out of town, so I kept him company until Tim arrived. When I first met him, I put August in the hospital bed with me and talked to him all day and night about his family and how he was our wish come true. Our connection was instant,” she said.
Just a short time later, the couple received word that August’s biological mother was pregnant and wanted the Massanellis to become the adoptive parents of her child once more.
“There was no thought process when adopting CC. The answer was just yes. Our love for August was not stationary. We knew adopting him meant adopting his biological family in a sense,” she said.
This time around, Annie was inside the delivery room when CC was born. Today, the family enjoys a normal life just like anyone else. August is an active 5-year-old who loves sports, building houses just like dad and terrorizing his little sister, while CC enjoys painting her nails, playing in the dirt with her brother and anything that sparkles.
As her sister’s journey through adoption and becoming a mom was ongoing, Becca’s journey was beginning. After the tragic death of her stillborn daughter and the late miscarriage of her son, Becca and her husband Cory were reeling from two devastating losses in the same year.
“Our hearts felt open to growing our family, however God guided us,” said Ohman.
“Our home group at Lake Valley Community Church hosted a Christmas party for the children at Hillcrest Children’s Home the same year of our losses. We met a beautiful young lady, Markeda, that night and it was like she was inscribed on our hearts. We didn’t know it until several months later that we were destined to be a family.”
When they met Markeda, she was a junior in high school. Although she had already experienced the bulk of her young life without them, she still had an abundance of experiences she wished to share with her new family.
Due to her age, Markeda was never formally adopted, but accepted into their family and embraced as one of their own children. At the age of 17, Markeda went to live with the Ohmans as her new host family.
The time they spent together deepened the bond between them. Annie was able to help Markeda prepare for her homecoming court nomination, which solidified their feelings and led Markeda to choose to move in with them upon graduating high school.
“We attended a beautiful graduation party for Markeda and her friends and at the end, Markeda came home to her new home with us. It was a very surreal moment that is difficult to categorize or describe. We all felt from the beginning that although we had no idea where God would take our relationship, we knew our hearts were knitted together,” Ohman said.
“As ‘parents,’ we were open to being whatever Markeda, as a young adult, needed from us, be it mentors, parents, friends or an aunt and uncle. We tried not to label our roles or to place boundaries on them because this was uncharted water for us.”
Today, Markeda serves in the U.S. Army and is expecting her first child with fiancé Travis Widmer. Ohman said she, her husband and two biological sons, Grady and Peter, are ecstatic to welcome the new baby into the world and their family.
“Cory and I had absolutely no idea how to be parents to a 17-year-old young woman who is now a 21-year-old expectant mother. God has stayed true to His word and His provision has been made,” said Ohman.
On the other side of it all, the sisters have both learned valuable lessons from their shared experience, the most important being unconditional, fearsome love. Although their decision to adopt has brought on challenges, each family takes them in stride.
“For us currently raising inquisitive little ones, we are delicately explaining our family story and why we look different than most families we are around,” said Massanelli.
“I struggle with the tragedy that a family was separated but I am humbled and grateful for the privilege to be their ‘mommy.’”