Most couples are lucky enough that once they decide to have a family, nature takes its course and nine months later they have a newborn. For Rick and Debra Lee it wasn't that easy. For them, they had to turn to a local adoption agency after more than 10 years of wishing for their own family. The couple's plan was simple: get married but wait to start a family until they were more established financially, about four years. Ten years later, the Lees only had a miscarriage and a number of medical procedures and treatments to show for all their hope of having a child. Adoption was not something the couple considered at first, but after Rick Lee's sister recommended it, they started the long process. Mounds of paperwork, hundreds of personal questions and background checks followed. "If people having babies had to go through this, they probably wouldn't have them,” Rick Lee said. Then more waiting. Once they were approved to be an adoptive family, the Lees waited another two years to be selected by a birth mother. Receiving red-haired Brady, who is into video games and makes straight A's at school, made it all worth it, they said. So much so that after two years they started the process again. Again, several years passed and the Lees resigned themselves to having an only child. Brady was 5 years old when they received word that they were selected to be the parents to Karson, a rambunctious boy who loves toy trucks.
‘You learn to guard your heart'The process can be an emotional roller-coaster as the adoptive parents get calls throughout the process that they are being considered by a birth mother, yet then are not selected. Even when they are chosen, the possibility that the birth mother may change her mind looms large before the adoption is finalized. "You learn to guard your heart,” Debra Lee said. "We played the roller-coaster for so long with our infertility, we knew how to be cautiously optimistic.” It is in those times that the adoption agency staff meant the world to Rick and Debra Lee. The counseling element offered by the agency, for not only the adoptive parents but for the children and the birth parents as well, helped the Lees immensely, they said. Debra Lee would call the agency often, asking if a certain behavior were a sign of a larger issue with the adoption. The Lees also keep in contact with Brady's birth mother, sending her report cards and pictures through the agency. Being able to keep that connection with Brady's birth mother also led to a surprise third child, Spencer, who is Brady's biological brother. Brady's birth mother became pregnant again, and didn't want to keep the child, so she asked the agency to see if the Lees would be willing to take him. "That was a baby dropped right in our lap. How could we say no?” Debra Lee said. "We didn't expect to have one child, but now we have three. It is very fulfilling,” Rick Lee said.
Debra and Rick Lee pose for a photo with their adopted children, from left, Spencer, 4, Brady, 11, and Karson, 5, at Deaconess Pregnancy and Adoption Service Center in Oklahoma City. BY MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN