A gift on Mother's Day

by Sonja J. Keith

Ashley Carson received a special Mother’s Day gift this year—a 7 pound, 2 ounce baby boy. Husband Michael not only became a father that same weekend, he also graduated from medical school.

Ashley and Michael make no bones about it. They are smitten with their sweet baby, Oliver James, and appreciative of his birthmother for her gift.

The two met while attending the University of Central Arkansas. He is from Tulsa originally, and the 501 has been Ashley’s home since she was 14.

Led to adoption through infertility, the couple was working with Bethany Christian Services (bethany.org) and had updated their home study in February. Knowing that it could take months or longer to adopt, they were surprised to get a call Saturday, May 11, that there was a baby available for adoption and the birthmother had selected them.

Typically, Bethany works with mothers in their third trimester of pregnancy, showing them scrapbooks assembled by couples interested in adopting. Michael said the agency contacts the couples in advance to see if they are still interested in having their book shown, with plenty of time to prepare if selected.

In the Conway couple’s case, the birthmother delivered a month earlier than expected. “She didn’t have a birth plan but knew she wanted someone to adopt him,” Ashley said. When she was asked by a social worker at the hospital about adoption, the birthmother responded that she wanted her son to be raised by a Christian family. The worker contacted Bethany, who shared with the mother the scrapbooks, and she picked the Carsons.

About 2 p.m. Saturday, while coordinating a wedding, Ashley received a call from their Bethany caseworker, who started the conversation with, “Are you sitting down?” The worker explained that there was a baby in need of a home at a Little Rock hospital, and they needed to know quickly if the couple was interested.

Ashley immediately called Michael, who was playing golf with family in town for his medical school graduation. Not one to make quick decisions, Michael suggested they discuss it when they both were home that night. “This was the biggest decision I would have to make,” he said.

Ashley said she felt that if Michael was still “working on” the adoption when they got together that evening, there was a good chance that the baby would be theirs. “Who isn’t going to give me a baby on Mother’s day?”

That night, the two discussed a recent decision to take a break from the adoption process until after their move to Florida for Michael’s residency. They also made a list of the pros and cons of moving forward and adopting the baby. “We discussed does this make sense for us right now and is it the best for our son,” Michael said.

The two decided to ask for a meeting with the birthmother to help determine if they were making the right decision. It had always been their hope and plan to meet and have a relationship with their child’s birthmother, and even though things had to be decided quickly, they still felt it was a very important part of the process. A meeting was arranged for the next day (Mother’s Day), after medical school graduation.

Michael shared the news with some of his classmates and faculty, who offered encouragement and advice. He said the adoption was “all the buzz” at the ceremony, which he admits is somewhat of a blur because his mind was focused on the meeting with the birthmother. “That’s all I was thinking about was the adoption.”

Going into the meeting, the Carsons and the birthmother were nervous, according to Ashley, adding what do you say to a woman who is “blessing you with her child.”

“She gave us this smile, and I just knew,” Ashley said of the confirmation she felt about their decision. “I cried the entire meeting.”

“We needed for both of us to feel that, and we did right away,” Michael added. “We knew this could go either way. We just wanted some peace about it.”

According to Ashley, the birthmother shared with the couple the type of life she longed for her son, including a Christian home. “She wanted him to love God,” she said. “She wanted him to have the life she couldn’t give him.”

The birthmother also wanted her son to be in a healthy environment with lots of love. “He won’t have a shortage of love,” Ashley said.

The couple had pre-arranged that after the meeting with the birthmother, they would meet privately to discuss whether to proceed. According to Michael, that conversation never took place and wasn’t needed because they both felt it was right.

“It was a very easy decision when we met her,” Ashley said. “She was an angel,” Michael added.

Ashley and Michael are thankful for the opportunity to meet the birthmother, knowing they will tell their son about the incredible woman his birthmother is and the wonderful gift that she gave them. “We really did connect,” Ashley said. “This is about him and what he needs. She was good with all of it. She was pleased with her choice.”

The couple is appreciative of the work of Bethany, whose main ministry is helping birthmothers, according to Ashley. A caseworker was on hand to help facilitate the meeting. “They are amazing. We are so impressed with how they took care of us and the birthmother,” she said.

Ashley and Michael’s families were waiting at a nearby restaurant to hear how the meeting went. There were many tears on both ends of the line when the call came.

Family members joined them at the hospital, where Ashley and Michael were introduced to their son. “When we walked in that room and saw him, it was love at first sight,” Ashley said. “He was just perfect.”

Michael said when he met Oliver, it was like a switch had been turned. “I’m a dad now.”

The following day, the couple returned to the hospital to take their son home. They had made a quick trip to Babies“R”Us to get the necessities, including a car seat. “We had nothing,” Ashley said.

“My mom couldn’t put things in the buggy quick enough,” Michael said with a smile.

The couple chose the name Oliver James for their son. Oliver is a name that Ashley has always liked, and James is a family name. Ashley said the name Oliver means peace. “We were praying all weekend for peace,” she said.

The following week, they were in court to finalize the adoption. The day after their adoption court date, they had another opportunity to see the birthmother, who held Oliver and fed him, affirming that she had made the right decision.

“She gave such an amazing gift,” Ashley said, adding that the birthmother said, “I know he’s where he needs to be.”

The couple will soon be moving to Daytona Beach, Fla., where Michael will be doing his family practice residency. But instead of two, there will now be three making the move. “We’re excited about it,” Michael said.

While the adoption was sudden, the timing was perfect for the Carsons. Michael had a month between graduation and the beginning of his residency—30 days to spend time with his son. “God is so good in this,” Ashley said. “Who gets a month to do nothing? This really is the perfect time.”

Michael is excited that the first rotation in his residency will be pediatrics.

In three years, after completion of his residency, the Carsons plan to return to the 501. “If all goes as planned, but we’ve learned not to plan too much,” Ashley said, with a smile.

Ashley and Michael became parents in less than two weeks. “We didn’t know it, but it was perfect timing,” he said. “I became a dad and a doctor; it was a big life-changing weekend.”

And Ashley has a little one who will call her mom. “It was a wonderful Mother’s Day,” she said.