But the journey to get their baby girl home from Uganda was an emotional one.
“I don’t think anyone can fully prepare you for the journey of adopting someone, especially from a third-world country where there are so many different laws,” says Rhett told People. “Every day you wake up with a whole new set of challenges that you never even heard of.”
Back in April 2016, Lauren first met baby Willa when she visited Uganda with 147 Million Orphans, an organization providing the critical needs of children impacted by the orphan crisis and living in poverty.
“When I met Willa, her story was pretty intense,” Lauren said. “All orphans have heart-wrenching stories, but it felt like this specific baby was ours. I think that the Lord knew what he was doing when he did not let us get pregnant.”
Willa was a total orphan and didn’t have any biological relatives, so with that, they began the adoption process.
They ran into a lot of problems along the way, including the requirement to foster her in Uganda over the course of a year prior to adoption. Each time they were there, they were unsure of when they’d return.
“I went over with Lauren in December for about seven weeks, and the room we were staying in with Willa almost started to feel like home,” Rhett says. “The hardest part was never knowing when it was going to end. I’m pretty sure every flight was booked a day before we left either place, because you can’t plan it. We’d get there and realize we had to be there another two weeks. Things moved at a snail’s pace.”
Uganda has very complex adoption laws, leaving Thomas and Lauren to foster the baby in Uganda over the course of a year. They were taking nearly a dozen trips back and forth from the states to the East African nation, not knowing how long they would have to stay because of legal requirements.
Finally, in March, they received the news that they were waiting to hear for a full year: Little Willa would be coming home!
“I think the judge knew my time was running out,” Lauren said, who’s expecting the couples first biological child in August. “He knew how long we had been working with the children’s home and he knew that our family is a family and that our roots are in Uganda too and that we’ll be back. But for a while, I thought I’d be there forever.”
Now the new family is loving life and are sharing every special moment on social media. We can’t wait to celebrate with Thomas and Lauren all over again when we all get to meet Willa’s baby sister.
Everyone meet Willa Gray Akins! I can't believe our daughter is finally home🙌🏼 We have been in this adoption process for what seems like forever and are just so filled with joy that we are all finally home together! Thank you to everyone who prayed every single day for this sweet girl. The Lord blessed us with the most amazing little girl we could have ever dreamed of and we can't wait to watch her grow up! #daddyforreal @laur_akins
so thankful for this sweet little love bug of mine who made me a mommy this Mother's Day 💗 and thankful that I have the best example of a mom in the world @lisaagregory🐝😘 I love you so much mom! And thankful for the best mother in law a girl could ever ask for:) love you @paige_lankford1 💛 I am one blessed mama 🙌🏼😍