Marty and Jeni Cross of Cleveland said their love for children and desire to provide a loving family for less fortunate children has proved to be a blessing for their household.
The childhood sweethearts have been married 22 years with two biological sons, Mason, 20, and Avery, 18. But the close-knit couple said they really enjoy raising children and felt adoption would be ideal for their family as their own sons were reaching adulthood.
“I guess you could say we’re both kid crazy,” Marty said. “We had considered adoption after the boys had gotten older. But after checking into it, it was a very difficult process. It was either very expensive or very difficult. So we gave up on the idea.”
But someone had not given up on them. In 2005, Marty and Jeni were able to adopt a beautiful newborn baby boy named Noah.
“One of the greatest gifts we received is the knowledge that all children, not just those biologically connected to us, are precious gifts from our Creator,” said Jeni.
“Jesus said the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to such like ones. They make us better. They make us more patient, more empathetic, more giving, more forgiving and to love more unconditionally.”
With so much love flourishing in their household, Marty and Jeni said they found immense pleasure spending time with their new son, Noah — caring for his physical and spiritual needs — reading the Bible to him, praying and playing together.
Three years later, Marty and Jeni were contacted by a different young mother who asked the caring couple if they would be willing to adopt her child after it was born.
After prayerful consideration, the couple said they happily agreed and were “excited” to add a little girl to their family. But to their surprise, the infant arrived so prematurely — in only 23 weeks — that doctors at Erlanger Hospital feared the worse. On July 30, 2008, Marty and Jeni were informed of some horrible news.
“The physician and one of his co-workers in the neonatal intensive care unit took us into a room alone and told us he found out we were going to adopt this child,” said Marty.
“He said ‘I’m going to be very straightforward with you and let you know this child is probably not going to survive. If she does survive she very likely will have mental problems. She could easily have Down syndrome.
“‘She will most likely have lung and breathing problems, heart problems —’ he went through quite a list. He said, ‘Her survival rate is so slim she probably won’t make it at all. I would be very surprised if she made it.’”
Marty, an elder in the Cleveland congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, admits they were devastated by the news and saddened by the likely diagnosis outlined by the well-meaning physician. But Marty said their decision to share their life and love with the child had nothing to do with how healthy she would be.
“Although we had not signed any papers at the time, we had already agreed to the adoption,” Marty explained. “In our minds we were already committed. We had decided we were doing this. Just because the doctor said this was going to be bad — we weren’t going to say ‘never mind.’”
The couple thanked the doctor for his opinion but respectfully stuck with their plans to adopt the frail child if she survived, even though the complications, risks and sacrifices were unimaginable.
After months inside an incubator and on a ventilator in the neonatal intensive care unit, Marty and Jeni were finally able to take their daughter, Lydia, home while connected to a portable heart monitor 24 hours a day due to an irregular heart beat.
“We also came home with a stack of papers about 2 inches thick from Erlanger to give to her primary care physician,” said Marty. “The very next day after she came home we had an appointment. They made it for us.”
According to Marty, the doctor was amazed at what he witnessed in contrast to what he had read about little Lydia.
“The first thing the doctor does is he looks through these papers,” said Marty. “So when he came in the room he said, ‘Is this Lydia?’ We said yes. He says, ‘Where’s her ventilator?’ We said she doesn’t have one. He said, ‘Is this monitor all she has? We said, yes.
“He said, ‘Well, where’s her list of medications?’ We said she’s not on any medications. He said, ‘Well, why isn’t she taking medicine for her heart?’ We said, ‘She’s never had to take medicine for her heart.’
He says, ‘You mean to tell me that she’s not on any medications whatsoever — she’s not having to use a ventilator —’ and he goes through all these things and says, ‘This is unbelievable! A child born this early? Hold on a minute!’ He goes and gets the other doctors. They were amazed at how well Lydia was doing to have been born so early.”
The couple said they consider it “a blessing from Jehovah” that Lydia is as healthy as she is to this day. Marty, owner of Auto Works in Cleveland, and Jeni, a stay-at-home mom, said they feel privileged and blessed that Noah, 5, and Lydia, 2, became a part of their family and the word “adopted” no longer applies.
“I am forever grateful to Noah and Lydia’s birth parents; for whatever reasons they could not care for them and chose life,” said Jeni. “I know they loved them and it wasn’t an easy decision. When they were born they were not ours. But from the moment you hold them and look into their innocent eyes something miraculous occurs.”
Marty agreed. “It takes almost no time at all before you feel they are your own children. There’s no difference. It’s amazing. That connection is just the same as your biological children. They’re yours,” he said.
“Like a lot of things, you really don’t know until you experience it personally,” Jeni explained. “The two of you begin a metamorphosis and it doesn’t take long. They really become your child. Your life is now intertwined with theirs. In a sense it even feels like they become yours biologically.”
“How can you give more than giving your life to a child?” Marty asked. “We don’t feel like it’s a coincidence that Lydia has turned out to be so healthy. We feel Jehovah has blessed us because we were willing to take this child and devote our lives to raising her and Noah.”
Marty, 41, and Jeni, 40, said they would recommend to anyone who loves children and whose circumstances allowed it, to experience the joys of adoption and its win-win situation.
“At Luke 6:38 Jesus Christ said to practice giving and you would get back an overflowing measure,” said Jeni. “This principle is one we as Jehovah’s Witnesses are encouraged to live by. Anything we have given has already come back to us tenfold. So we have experienced the truth of Jesus' words.”
For further information regarding adoptions, visit www.myadoptionagencies.com.