Some say you become a parent the day your child is born, but for Shaina Smith and Amanda Sustaire it was not giving birth to their son that made them parents.
They entered the world of parenthood by way of adoption.
The couple met in August 2011 while working together, and began dating on Oct. 5 of that year.
Sustaire already had three children of her own from a previous marriage, but it was not long before she and Smith began tossing around the idea of expanding their little family.
“We had talked about adoption for a while but wanted to wait until we were both done with college,” Smith said.
Needless to say, since Smith is currently a student of KC, they did not wait quite that long.
A family friend, a girl who was 15 at the time, approached Smith and her partner about adopting her son on the day he was delivered.
As a pregnant teenager, she knew she could not provide her baby with the life he deserved. She asked Sustaire and Smith if they would consider meeting the baby instead of immediately turning down her offer.
“[She] wanted him to have the best life he could have. It was an honor to have her choose us,” said Smith.
James was born at just 33 weeks gestation. The first 29 days of his life was spent in the newborn intensive care unit. But even though he was in NICU the first time the couple saw him, there was an “instant connection,” according to Smith.
“He was so tiny but perfect,” Smith said. “We went to the hospital every three hours to feed him to build a bond. After the third day he already knew our voices. The feeling was amazing!”
The adoption took about seven months to process and was finalized, after numerous background checks, home checks and an endless amount of paper work, on Jan. 27. Both women are listed as parents.
“Our families have been very supportive,” Smith said about their families’ reactions to the adoption. “They all love James, as does anyone who meets him.”
Because he was born prematurely, there has been concern for James’ health over the past seven and a half months. But his pediatrician says that James is reaching every milestone on target and is progressing well.
“Neither of us had ever even been around a premie,” Smith said. “We had to feed him sitting up, holding his head a certain way. With him being a premie, there was concern about germs, so he couldn’t leave the house but for doctor appointments for the first four months. He’s a fighter though.”
Because his immune system is still not as strong as a full-term baby, Sustaire and Smith try not to take James places where there are large crowds.
The couple’s other children, their daughters Keanna (16), Navea (14) and Skylar (10), “absolutely adore” their new little brother.
According to Smith, James makes a perfect addition to the family.
Now seven-and-a-half months old, James is crawling, talking baby talk, and developing like any other baby his age; he is just a little smaller in size.
“He is a happy, healthy baby boy,” Smith said. “James is truly a blessing from God, and we wouldn’t change one bit of [the experience.]”