Infertility led Cypress Campus members Colin and Katy Sproule down a parenting path they never expected. God did more than add to their family through the gift of adoption; He laid on their hearts a burden to parent-shepherd young women who are making the difficult decision to place their babies for adoption.
“Infertility has been hard and emotionally painful for us as a couple,” said Colin, who with Katy “would privately be crushed” as they celebrated with other friends who learned they were expecting a child. “I was beginning to be filled with anger and resentment, and I was upset all the time. It was then that I realized that we were struggling with grief.”
In 2010, the Sproules received a call from New Life Adoptions with overwhelming news. “‘God has answered’ — that’s what Elliana, our daughter’s name, means,” said Katy. As overjoyed as they were to receive the gift of a beautiful daughter, they would not forget the look on the birth mother’s face as she handed Elliana to the couple. “There was not a lack of love for the baby, but an understanding that she could not give her the kind of life that she wanted to,” said Colin. “She loved our little girl so much that she made the ultimate decision of love to place her with us.”
Katy and Colin were thrilled to add this daughter to their family, but grieved for the birth mother at her pain and feeling of loss. Along the road to adoption, the couple had become active in Legacy 685, the adoption, foster and orphan care ministry at Houston’s First, and had attended seminars and classes about adoption and parenting. “The classes we had taken taught us about birth moms,” said Katy. “God gave us a passion for helping them.”
When their daughter was about 18 months old, New Life Adoptions contacted them about becoming a shepherding home for expectant mothers. Colin and Katy learned they were to provide a safe place to stay and to guide young women for a period of time, usually during pregnancy and immediately following. “I remembered our daughter’s birth mom and thought it would be nice for us to repay the love she had given by extending our love to a young lady who needed support and encouragement,” said Colin.
The Sproules were in their late 20s when Heather came to live with them in the spring of 2012. The 19-year-old was just two months from delivery and had an adoption plan in place to present her newborn daughter to adoptive parents within 48 hours of birth.
“We had to come up with family rules,” said Katy. It was something the young couple had never done before. “It was difficult at first to adjust to another person living in our house and changing our routines,” said Colin. “I had to learn my place and my role in our new family model. I learned quickly that my role was to support my wife, give the family structure, and to show this young lady that not all men are hurtful and set on taking advantage of them.”
The couple says it was interesting to be on the other side of the adoption process — to see things from the birth mother’s perspective. “Heather really became part of our family,” said Katy. Colin agreed. “We helped her get ready for the baby and watched a placement through the mom’s eyes,” he said. “We had to learn how to support her, help, love, and even discipline her as we tried to guide Heather to the next step in her life.”
The Sproules took Heather to college and helped her get set up in her dorm. Though Heather was going to school, it was Colin and Katy who received the education by hosting Heather for five months. “It was definitely not easy,” said Katy. “But we learned a lot — and our marriage grew stronger.”
In 2012, the Sproules began the adoption process for their son, Anthony, who was born in November. They opted for an open adoption, so they began forming a relationship with Anthony’s birth mother before he was born. “It was better than we had hoped,” said Katy. “She sees him two or three times each year. It is good for him to know her, where he comes from, and that it was a hard decision for her.”
When Anthony was nearly two, New Life Adoptions again called on the Sproules to open their home. This time, it wasn’t for an expectant mother. It was for Julie, a mother raising her son who had come to the point she could not continue supporting him and had begun steps to create an adoption plan.
“We knew we needed to ask for help so we could help Julie,” said Katy. “I had support from people at the Cypress Campus who were praying for us — the staff, our small group, and the people who provided transportation when we needed someone to call on.” Katy and Colin also learned more about grief by carefully watching counselors at the agency and by taking classes.
“We took on the role of mother and father for Julie,” said Katy. “She knew we adopted our children and saw how much we love them, and what joy they bring us. She saw what a gift she was giving the people who were becoming her son’s adoptive parents.” Julie placed her son in October, but stayed on with the Sproules until December.
Colin and Katy keep in contact with both girls and tried to stress to both young women where their value and worth lie. Katy says they know God loves them and that she is willing to be a mentor when either is ready.
“Through all our journey, God has taught me that life will have many turns and challenges, but if we look to Him He is sovereign over all of it,” said Colin. “Out of pain there can be something beautiful, but it is only God who knows how pain and beauty fit together.”